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Blagojevich prosecutor leaving U.S. attorney’s office for law firm

Attorney former federal prosecutor Reid Schar.  |  M. Spencer Green~AP

Attorney and former federal prosecutor Reid Schar. | M. Spencer Green~AP

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Updated: July 7, 2012 8:25AM

As the lead prosecutor who won corruption convictions that sent former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to prison, Reid J. Schar asked one of the most infamous questions ever posed to a witness at Chicago’s Dirksen Federal Courthouse:

“Mr. Blagojevich, you are a convicted liar, correct?”

Schar posed the question during Blagojevich’s retrial in June of 2011, which set off a dizzying, confrontational exchange with Blagojevich, who took the witness stand in his own defense. Jurors who voted to convict the former governor on 17 of 20 charges later said that it was at that moment when the case turned for them.

Schar, 40, who’s been a federal prosecutor in Chicago for 13 years, said Monday he’s leaving the U.S. attorney’s office to go into private practice. He’s joining the law firm Jenner & Block in Chicago next month as a partner in its white-collar criminal defense and investigations practice.

Schar is just the latest high-profile prosecutor to leave Chicago’s office. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s announcement that he was leaving after more than 10 years is the biggest sign of a changing of the guard that’s been happening throughout the office over recent months.

Also leaving is Brandon Fox, who prosecuted former Ald. Ike Carothers and politically-connected businessman Calvin Boender. Fox is headed to Los Angeles to be a prosecutor in the Central District of California.

The associate chief of the office’s Criminal Division, Vicki Peters, recently retired after 34 years. And longtime prosecutor Christina Egan, who was deputy chief in gangs and narcotics, recently left to go into private practice.

Meanwhile, there are also rumblings that another big name is in line for a private law firm job.

All of the changes has meant a reshuffling at the top of the six major criminal divisions within the office.

“The office is right now is populated with incredibly talented, younger lawyers who have every right to take hold of large investigations and cases,” Schar said. “Older lawyers also need to step aside and give those who are younger the opportunity.”

Schar’s departure will no doubt be a loss to the office. He was a key player in the Operation Board Games investigation and part of the trial team that prosecuted Tony Rezko in 2008.

David Weisman, who prosecuted former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and left the office last year to join Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP., said the change at the office is typical after a certain number of years. The latest crew, however, stayed on a bit longer than typical, he said.

“Many of the recent announced departures are simply a product of timing, an improved economy, and individuals’ choices to take on new professional challenges,” Weisman said. “That many of these people have stayed for 10-plus years is a tribute to the positive environment and opportunities that Pat Fitzgerald created at the office.”

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