Robert Blagojevich has seen it all.
He grew up in closely-knit family in Chicago. He was trusted with the nation’s secrets in the Army, when he was assigned to help protect nuclear missiles in Europe. He built a successful real estate career in Nashville.
And he was indicted along with his famous brother, the former governor, Rod Blagojevich.
But Robert Blagojevich beat that rap, and this week, stepped in as guest lecturer at the Chicago Kent College of Law, to present himself as a living, breathing, cautionary tale, about what it’s like to take on the awesome power of the federal government.
“A superpower!” he said. “A goliath, that you and your attorneys are having to go up against—the unlimited resources that they have!”
Blagojevich told the would-be lawyers that he had firmly believed that if he simply went down to the courthouse, he could explain everything and the government would be satisfied. His lawyer, Michael Ettinger, stopped him in his tracks.
“The government,” Ettinger said, “is not your friend!”
After that, Blagojevich jumped into trial preparation, even as his more famous sibling clowned on the Apprentice and hosted his own radio show in Chicago.
“I love my brother,” he said, “ I believed we were in it together, but I realized from a legal standpoint, that I had to separate myself.”
After a near flawless performance as a witness in his own case, Blagojevich’s jury was hung, and the government chose not to retry him. His brother was retried, convicted, and is now serving a 14 year sentence in Colorado.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals threw out five of the former governor’s conviction counts, and he is awaiting resentencing which could come at any time. Robert Blagojevich told the law students he remains estranged from his brother, but he is hoping for the best.
“People who still recognize me on the street ask me how he’s doing, and wish the best for him, because they think his sentence was so over the top,” he said. “And they hope it gets substantially reduced.”