EXCLUSIVE: Former federal prosecutor Carrie Hamilton sworn in as Cook County judge

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Former federal prosecutor Carrie Hamilton was sworn in as a Cook County judge Friday. (WLS)

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
From arguing in front of the bench of justice to sitting on it, Carrie Hamilton was sworn in as a Cook County judge Friday, one day after leaving her longtime position as a top federal prosecutor.

Hamilton was sworn in by State Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman. This comes just one day after leaving her position as a top assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago for 14 years.

She helped prosecute ex-governor Rod Blagojevich and started the proceedings to send ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert to join him. Now, Ms. Hamilton is moving from arguing cases to deciding them.

"This is definitely what I wanted to do next and obviously not something you choose, people choose you," she said.

Hamilton was tapped to be a county judge at the peak of her career as a federal prosecutor, from working gang and drug cases and police corruption to an early terrorism case against Muhammed Salah.

"It was fascinating. It was unlike any case I had ever done or will ever do. The fact that we were able to go to Israel and meet with ISA agents is, doesn't happen. I thought, 'I'm never going to do anything that fantastic and interesting and compelling again,'" Hamilton said.

That changed when the Northwestern Law School graduate was assigned to public corruption, prosecuting crooked business tycoon Tony Rezko, then taking down Rezko's power partner, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich - even though it took two trials.

"It's difficult anytime you have a hung jury and you have to retry a case. It's hard. I think the best thing we did, we didn't spend a lot of time saying 'Was it just one juror hung up?' We pretty quickly decided that we could do a better job," she said.

Just as she was assigned to the team prosecuting the explosive Hastert case, then came the judge offer and swearing in.

"I know it's going to be an adjustment for me, to listen in a different way. I think it will also be challenging to not lawyer and instead to understand that it is their case, they know what they want to bring to the court and I have a different role," she said.

Several years before prosecuting Blagojevich, Hamilton remembers running into the governor, a chance meeting when Blagojevich was running for re-election and she says he worked her over to vote for him; an awkward encounter between strangers that lasted too long.

A few years later, at his first court appearance the morning he was arrested, she said he saw her across the courtroom, walked up to her and said: "It's really nice to see you again. I'm really looking forward to you doing your job."

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