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Charges dropped against Blago's brother
Feds zero in on ex-governor in corruption case
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff

Robert Blagojevich, brother of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich


Associated Press

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Published: 8/26/2010 11:15 AM | Updated: 8/26/2010 6:21 PM

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In a surprise move, federal prosecutors Thursday dropped charges against Robert Blagojevich and plan to focus entirely on Rod Blagojevich in the former Illinois governor's corruption case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar told federal Judge James Zagel at a hearing Thursday that he was dropping the case against Robert Blagojevich, at least for now. But he quickly added, "We absolutely intend to proceed with the retrial of Rod Blagojevich."

Zagel set that retrial to start the first week of the new year.

The former governor was convicted on the felony charge of lying to federal agents last week. But the jury could not reach a verdict on 23 other corruption charges, including four he shared with his fundraiser brother, and a mistrial was declared.

Schar argued for the "earliest possible (retrial) date." But Zagel said the questionnaire process of early jury selection could take eight weeks, and then if the trial began in October, deliberations could take place over Thanksgiving. Any delays could push the retrial deep into the holiday season. He set Jan. 4 as a possible trial date.

Schar also said the delay into the new year would allow the "flurry of publicity" from Rod Blagojevich's post-verdict media blitz over the last week to "dissipate."

Michael Ettinger, lawyer for Robert Blagojevich, left court immediately upon Schar's announcement and made a brief phone call to his client. He told the Nashville, Tenn., business executive, "You're free." He said Robert Blagojevich responded, "Oh my God, you're kidding!"

Federal prosecutors said their decision was based on Robert Blagojevich's less central role in allegedly scheming to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat, and to pressure people for campaign donations.

Jurors had said they were split on the charges against Robert, and some said they did not want to see him retried.

The brothers have denied any wrongdoing.

Ettinger said Robert Blagojevich does not intend to testify against his brother. He said he would have to obey any subpoena, but that he could invoke the 5th amendment to avoid self-incrimination.

Barrington Hills attorney Andrew Stoltmann said removing Robert Blagojevich from the case made sense. "The prosecutors want to streamline the second case and eliminate any potential roadblocks," he said. "The jurors did not seem to dislike Rob. I think he came off well on the cross(-examination) and became the face of the case, so to speak. To remove him from the case, at least as a defendant, was a wise move."