Intelligence Report: Blagojevich prosecutor Reid Schar in first TV interview

June 5, 2012 4:26:07 PM PDT
One year ago today, former governor Rod Blagojevich was undergoing a blistering cross-examination during a case that would end with him going to prison.

In this Intelligence Report: The first TV interview with federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who questioned Blagojevich.

Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Reid Schar have two things in common. They all struck out their first time at the plate and then went on to have grand slam careers. And like any good ballplayer, Schar knows when it is time to leave the lineup.

Since losing his very first case as a federal prosecutor, Schar has been on quite a winning streak, and after 13 years he is leaving the U.S. attorney's office for private practice.

"I think it is fair to say that the U.S. attorney's office is an equal opportunity prosecutor of public corruption," said Schar.

From city officials, to a sitting governor, Reid Schar has prosecuted public employees from all levels of government since joining the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago in 1999.

Schar's most publicly notable role: Lead prosecutor in both of the Rod Blagojevich trials, the last one with Blagojevich himself on the witness stand.

Schar asked Blagojevich about a Jesse Jackson Jr. fundraiser offering $1.5 million if Jackson were named to the U.S. Senate.

"What they were offering was a bribe," stated Schar.

"It was not a bribe," replied Blagojevich.

Schar: "If it wasn't a bribe, what would you call it?"

Blagojevich: "They were offering a campaign contribution."

"Ninety-nine percent of public officials and government employees at various levels, whether it is the city, county, the state, or federally, are honest hardworking individuals," Schar said. "There have been a number of high-profile individuals. For those individuals, we can say for sure, they didn't get the message."

During the I-Team's interview Tuesdays afternoon, Schar declined to directly discuss the Blagojevich case because the now-imprisoned governor has appealed his conviction.

There is an upside to Chicago's seemingly endless parade of corrupt politicians, according to Schar: The public tolerates it less and reports it more.

"We have seen, I think, an uptick in the number of complaints and individuals who have written in or have called in," said Schar.

As for losing his very first federal case -- involving gun thefts from an O'Hare warehouse -- Schar says the loss proved to be a valuable incentive.

"It's not the worst thing in the world to lose your first trial, because thereafter you'll be as motivated as you could possibly be to never, ever, lose a trial again," said Schar.

Schar will join the Chicago-based law firm of Jenner and Block. He will be handling their white collar criminal defense group.

Jenner and Block Chairman Anton Valukas is a former U.S. attorney himself.

The current United States attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, is also leaving office. No word yet on where or what he will be doing.


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