CHICAGO — This time, Robert Blagojevich is on the outside looking in – hoping for the best for his kid brother.
For days, the businessman has been regularly checking the Internet for word that jurors deliberating at the corruption retrial of impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich have reached a verdict.
"It's a very anxious time," he told The Associated Press on Tuesday from Nashville, Tenn. "Despite whatever little problems he and I may have personally, he's my brother. I don't want him to go to prison."
At the first trial last year, Robert, 55, sat just behind his year-younger sibling in court as a co-defendant accused of helping his brother try to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. He was heard on several FBI wiretap recordings speaking about fundraising with his brother.
But after that trial ended with a hung jury, prosecutors dismissed all charges against Robert, in part to make the case less complex. Some jurors also said that Robert, a retired Army officer, cut a sympathetic figure and threw the focus off the impeached governor.
Jurors at the retrial deliberated for a third day Tuesday. Shortly before going home, they sent their first note to the judge, regarding different numbers of pages in one transcript of an FBI wiretap. But there was no indication if they were close to a verdict on the 20 corruption against Rod Blagojevich.
Robert Blagojevich said he had wanted to travel to Chicago to attend his brother's retrial – or even, possibly, to testify. His lawyers advised against it, though, saying prosecutors could theoretically attempt to recharge him.
"There was no evidence to begin with – and I think I'm safe," he said. "But the caution was – `Don't kick the hornets' nest. They could still go after you again.'"
Not going to Chicago, he said, upset him.
"I wanted to help my brother," he said. "There was just not more I could do. That's hard."
Robert Blagojevich took the stand in his own defense at the first trial, while his brother had vowed to testify – and then didn't. At the retrial, the former governor did take the stand for seven days.
Robert Blagojevich said he thought his brother was right to testify.
"I thought Rod would knock it out of the park, and I think he did," he said.
In his own testimony last year, Robert Blagojevich spoke in to-the-point sentences – a contrast to his brother's long-winded answers that veered onto unrelated topics from boxing history to crowds booing at a Chicago Cubs game.
"None of that's contrived," Robert Blagojevich said. "He really does just talk too much."
The strained relationship between the brothers was all too evident at the first trial. Even though they sat feet from each other, the two – raised by Serbian-American parents in a blue-collar Chicago neighborhood – rarely spoke.
At the time, Robert's attorneys confirmed that the legal morass they found themselves in had put stress on the family bond.
Robert Blagojevich declined to talk Tuesday about any reconciliation, saying only when asked about how often they have spoken in recent months, "We've been in touch just a little bit."
The Democratic governor had asked his brother, a lifelong Republican, to serve as a fundraiser in August 2008 – when it was widely assumed federal investigators were tightening the noose around Rod Blagojevich. At the time, Robert Blagojevich was a successful banker living comfortably in Nashville with his wife of more than 30 years.
Four months after Robert Blagojevich accepted the job, their lives went into a tailspin: the governor was arrested at home and led away in handcuffs; his brother also was soon charged.
After the charges against Robert Blagojevich were dismissed, he told reporters he wanted his old life back.
He said he's achieved that only in part, and is thankful for the time he now has with his family and friends. He's also thrown himself back into his commercial real estate work.
But he and his wife still feel ripples from last year's trial – not least of all because of an $850,000 legal bill that he's still struggling to pay off.
He said he continues to wake up both "relieved and outraged" by his nearly two-year legal saga. And his voice rises as he decries what he calls "overreaching, overzealous prosecutors."
"I get agitated when I talk about this, sorry," he said, stopping, then lowering his voice. "But I am optimistic. There are worse things that can happen in your life."
One of them, he goes on: "I could be in prison right now."