The on-again, off-again sentencing of Tony Rezko has been postponed again because of the possibility that the onetime political fund-raiser could act as a witness in the retrial of Rod Blagojevich and the trial of downstate businessmen William Cellini.
Meanwhile, a pale, thin Rezko spoke briefly at a federal court hearing this morning, telling U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve: "These have been very tough times."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner said only that it was both in the prosecution's interest and in Rezko's to delay sentencing and implied that witness decisions still had to be made.
Rezko was a onetime adviser to Blagojevich as well as a political fund-raiser to now-President Obama.
But Rezko's lawyers said after a court hearing this morning that the possibility of his testifying is open.
"It's the government's preference that Rezko not be sentenced. It's a possibility that he could be called as a witness in the retrial of Blagojevich as well as Cellini," Joseph Duffy said. Cellini's trial is scheduled for August.
If prosecutors use Rezko as a witness, it would mean a major game change since the first trial. In that trial, prosecutors generally stayed away from witnesses with considerable baggage.
Duffy said Rezko wanted to reap the benefits at sentencing for his cooperation.
However, Duffy said if there are further delays in either trial beyond next September, he will simply ask to be sentenced.
"The hardship is too severe," Duffy said.
Rezko was not called during Blagojevich's first trial, which ended in August with the former governor being convicted on just one of 24 counts.
Rezko appeared in court today, wearing a gray-blue prison shirt with a white long-sleeved shirt underneath. His appearances in court have been rare.
Rezko told the judge he's suffered much hardship since he's been in prison. He's being held in a county jail, he said, where he is not allowed to go outside and take in fresh air.
"I've not seen the outside," since he was convicted in June 2008, he said. "I have no contact with my family since I've been moved."
He asked if he could skip his next court hearing because the transport from the county facility to the federal courthouse was too difficult.
After he began his cooperation with prosecutors and complained about being held in solitary confinement at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, Rezko was moved to a county facility in late 2008.
Duffy said the jail is a holding facility, not equipped to allow prisoners typical time they would receive outside at a federal prison camp -- a place he'd be staying if he had been sentenced. Duffy said Rezko has "no personal contact," with family. His visits with them are brief and he can only see them through glass.
At the same time, Rezko is challenging his 2008 conviction on charges of corruption under Blagojevich's administration saying a U.S. Supreme Court decision limited a law used in his prosecution.