Today, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve set the convicted businessman's new date for Nov. 22.
It was supposed to happen Oct. 21.
Prosecutors said with the trial of Springfield businessman William Cellini beginning today, they could bump right into Rezko's sentencing. Prosecutors did not want to be in the position where Cellini's jury could be deliberating and big news comes out of Rezko's sentencing.
Rezko, a Blagojevich adviser and fund-raiser, was convicted in 2008 of using his influence with the former governor to profit off of state deals. Cellini is accused of conspiring with state board member Stuart Levine, Rezko and the late Blagojevich adviser Christopher Kelly to extort a businessman seeking state business.
St. Eve asked for position papers on Rezko's sentencing by Nov. 1st.
When Tony Rezko was on trial for corruption under Rod Blagojevich, the feds secretly sat down with a sitting U.S. Congressman with some questions.
The FBI queried U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez in the spring of 2008 about free upgrades he received on a riverfront town house he bought from Rezko. The unit cost less than his neighbors and sold for 40 percent more than for what he bought it.
Former political fund-raiser Tony Rezko's name will likely be invoked numerous times in Rod Blagojevich's trial -- but chances are, jurors won't ever see his face.
Sources with knowledge of the government's case say prosecutors are worried that Rezko is too risky to put on the stand.
According to the sources, prosecutors fear Rezko brings with him much baggage of his own, could create a distraction, and worry that he'll "go off the reservation" if he testifies.
Rezko was convicted on his own corruption charges in 2008. Earlier that year, he accused prosecutors -- the same trio gearing up to try the Blagojevich case -- of pressuring him to lie about Blagojevich and then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Federal prosecutors may reindict former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to help avoid problems with a possible U.S. Supreme Court decision, prosecutors said in a court filing today.
The high court is looking at three cases dealing with the honest services statute -- something Blagojevich is now accused of violating.
Oral arguments in one of the cases is scheduled tomorrow before the court.
Blagojevich's defense team had asked for a trial delay to see how a Supreme Court's ruling may affect his case.
Prosecutors said instead of considering a trial delay, they'll just charge the ex-governor with something new.
"To avoid any unnecessary delay in the June (2010) trial date, the government anticipates requesting the grand jury return a second superseding indictment in the instant case towards the end of January 2010," prosecutors wrote today. "At this time, it is anticipated that any new charges would be based on the underlying conduct that currently encompasses the pending charges."
Dr. Robert Weinstein, who was the behind-the-scenes deal-maker with key government witness Stuart Levine, is scheduled to plead guilty tomorrow, according to court records.
Weinstein is a long-time friend and confidante of Levine, who testified for 15 days in the trial of onetime gubernatorial fund-raiser Tony Rezko. Levine said he used Weinstein as a conduit to hide money.
Weinstein didn't testify at Rezko's two-month trial, but he and
Levine's conversations about illicit state schemes -- covertly caught on tape -- were played to jurors in the case.
Weinstein was charged last year in a scheme that raided the Chicago Medical School and North Shore Supporting Organization, a charity, of millions of dollars.
Weinstein, who has homes in Northbrook and Delray Beach, Fla., is
accused of siphoning $6 million from NSO with Levine and diverting
money from a development project at 2020 W. Ogden, according to charges.
On Friday, prosecutors charged Weinstein in a superseding information, which usually precedes a guilty plea. His court docket indicates a guilty plea is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Levine and Weinstein were trustees of the medical school and NSO.
The medical school is now known as Rosalind Franklin University of
Medicine and Science in North Chicago.
Levine and Weinstein misused their trustee positions and pocketed
money belonging to the organizations, prosecutors charged. Levine
has pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with the government
By Natasha Korecki
Federal Courts Reporteremail@example.com
Convicted businessman Tony Rezko -- who is poised to become a crucial witness in the massive corruption case against ex-Gov. Blagojevich -- was quietly moved out of a downtown jail and into another facility last month, the Sun-Times has learned.
Authorities seeking Rezko's cooperation pushed for the move after Rezko complained about being held in the tough confines of solitary imprisonment, known as "the hole," even as he was providing information to prosecutors, sources said.
U.S. Bureau of Prisons records show Rezko was released from the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown on Dec. 16.
Kim Widup, the U.S. Marshal in Chicago, said Rezko was relocated.
"He is still in marshal service custody," Widup said. "We have moved him into another institution."
Widup wouldn't specify the new lockup, but the Marshal's Service uses space in more than half a dozen county jails in Illinois and Wisconsin in addition to the MCC.
Rezko's relocation is a sign that even with thousands of taped conversations of the governor, investigators still highly value Rezko's potential as a witness. The MCC is considered by some inmates to have harsher conditions than county jails.
Upon his conviction in early June of schemes involving state deals, Rezko went to jail voluntarily, saying he wanted to start serving his time. Then, in August, the Sun-Times first reported that the 53-year-old Wilmette resident began meeting with prosecutors.
Rezko, who served as an adviser and fund-raiser to Blagojevich, provided authorities with substantial information involving the governor and bolstered pay-to-play testimony by former Illinois Finance Authority director Ali Ata, as well as talking about other alleged deals.
But the talks hit a stumbling block when Rezko grew frustrated at being held in solitary at the MCC. In late November, Rezko's lawyers asked a federal judge to sentence their client -- a threat to stop talking. Cooperating defendants usually aren't sentenced until after they testify. But after that move, the two sides appeared to find a resolution. On Dec. 16, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve indefinitely postponed Rezko's sentencing -- that was the same day he was moved to another jail.
Tony Rezko may have seen the train leaving without him and wanted to jump back on.
His sentencing is off again as it appears the businessman is talking again with authorities about alleged misconduct under Gov. Blagojevich's administration.
The back and forth concerning Rezko's sentencing happened as Rezko grew tired of being locked up in solitary confinement. Rezko demanded to be sentenced immediately even though he hadn't yet signed on to a cooperation agreement with the government.
But he apparently reconsidered following last week's revelation that Gov. Blagojevich was recorded for six weeks and that a member of his inner circle, John Wyma, was also talking to the feds. There is no future sentencing date set and there is no status in Rezko's case until next year.
In August, he was the clandestine informant, secretly leaving his jail cell to meet with prosecutors and give them information.
In October, lawyers asked to indefinitely put off his sentencing. Today, things changed.
Political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is now weeks away from being sentenced.
This morning, Judge Amy St. Eve set a Jan. 6 sentencing date and prosecutors did not object. Later this month, prosecutors and defense lawyers will file papers to argue what kind of sentence Rezko should receive.
Rezko's lawyers wouldn't comment on Rezko's discussions with federal prosecutors.
But sources say Rezko has grown frustrated with his current accommodations -- solitary confinement and the prosecution's apparent unwillingness to push for his release on electronic monitoring.
At a second hearing this morning, a prosecutor said she was producing additional discovery in the second case against Rezko and a business partner -- one involving loan fraud and his personal pizza business. That case, before Judge James Zagel, is supposed to go to trial next year, but today, one defense lawyer said he might have a conflict in early February.
Lawyers will discuss the trial schedule at a status set for December.
Talks between the government and political fund-raiser Tony Rezko appear to have hit a stumbling block.
Late today, Rezko's lawyers filed a motion with U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve asking her to "set the earliest possible date for his sentencing."
Just last October, both Rezko's lawyers and prosecutors agreed to indefinitely delay his sentencing because, according to sources, the former adviser to Gov. Blagojevich and fund-raiser of President-elect Barack Obama began providing information to prosecutors.
Rezko was convicted in June of wideranging corruption tied to state deals.
If Rezko signed on to cooperate with the government, he more than likely would not be sentenced until after his cooperation was completed. That usually involves testifying before a grand jury or at trial.
Rezko is being housed in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center -- something that appears to be a sticking point with Rezko.
"Mr. Rezko has remained in solitary confinement at the MCC since June 4, 2008, the day of the jury's verdict, and can no longer agree to delay sentencing," his lawyers wrote in the court papers.
It was Rezko who volunteered to surrender to jail immediately.
Sources say there have been some hangups in talks with Rezko, including the government suspecting his attempting to minimize his role in potential wrongdoing he's telling them about.
They say the latest request may be a game of chicken with Rezko trying to force the government into advocating better accommodations for him if he's to cooperate.
Rezko's lawyer, Joseph Duffy, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
A federal judge this morning officially postponed the sentencing of political fund-raiser Tony Rezko as he continues his discussions with the government.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve indefinitely postponed Rezko's Oct. 28 sentencing date and told the parties to meet again for a status in the case in December.
The sentencing, originally scheduled just before the Nov. 4 election, was likely to bring unfavorable publicity to Rezko's onetime friend Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Prosecutors and Rezko lawyers said this morning they did not want to set a future date for sentencing.
Rezko lawyer William Ziegelmueller said they sought the delay to: "work together to agree to otherwise narrow differences at sentencing."
The delay comes as evidence mounts that Rezko is providing information to federal prosecutors. The Sun-Times first reported Rezko's meetings with the feds in August and sources close to the investigation later confirmed the talks last month.
Ziegelmueller said this morning there was presently no deal in place otherwise "today would have been different." Ziegelmueller said Rezko remains in solitary confinement in the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
If a deal is worked out with the government, Rezko could prove to be the most valuable witness yet in an ongoing probe into state corruption under Gov. Blagojevich's administration.
On Tuesday, Blagojevich said he hoped Rezko "tells the truth" and said he wasn't worried about his former adviser and fund-raiser talking about him.
The governor pointed to a letter Rezko sent St. Eve earlier this year saying he wasn't going to make up lies about Obama and Blagojevich.
Ziegelmueller said both the letter and the governor's comments speak for themselves.
"I think everyone else can draw their own conclusions," he said.
Blagojevich pointed to a letter Tony Rezko wrote to U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve earlier this year saying he was under pressure to say "the wrong things" about Blagojevich and Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.
"Tony Rezko sent a letter to a judge. In that letter, he expressly states neither Sen. Obama nor I did anything wrong," Blagojevich told reporters this morning.
"That letter is a pretty strong statement. It speaks for itself."
Shortly after the letter was publicized, Rezko's lawyers said Rezko had never spoken to prosecutors.
That changed following Rezko's June conviction on corruption charges.
If Rezko does cut a deal with the feds, that letter -- sent to a federal judge -- will no doubt haunt him as a witness.
As we reported in an earlier story, it isn't necessarily a deal breaker.
Former prosecutor Zachary Fardon noted in a June 16th story Scott Fawell, former chief of staff to Gov. George Ryan, wrote a similar letter, saying he wouldn't make up lies about Ryan.
Fawell was the star witness in Ryan's trial.
"Do I think he could effectively be crossed on this letter? Yes," Fardon said. "Does that mean they can't call him or use him [as a witness]? No."
There's evidence that at least one of the things Tony Rezko is talking to the feds about is Gov. Blagojevich and allegations related to his campaign fund. They've been calling up witnesses and asking them to talk -- or expand upon -- information Rezko has provided them, defense lawyers tell the Sun-Times. The calls have come in the weeks since Rezko first started meeting with federal authorities. Federal investigators have been probing Blagojevich's administration for some time. That includes investigating whether Blagojevich traded state posts or contracts in exchange for donations.
We first saw signs in August that Rezko covertly visited the federal courthouse from his recent residence at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Federal prosecutors just asked a judge to strike Tony Rezko's Oct. 28, sentencing -- acknowledging for the first time they are undergoing discussions with the political fund-raiser.
That could be good news for Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, since the previous sentencing was likely to bring unfavorable publicity about his former fund-raiser just days before the election.
In a motion filed hours ago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar asked a federal judge to set a status hearing in the case in December, saying it was something the government and Rezko agreed on.
"The parties agree that the Oct. 28, 2008 sentencing date, as well as dates related to sentencing filings should be stricken while the parties engage in discussions that could affect their sentencing postures," Schar wrote.
The Sun-Times first reported Rezko's possible cooperation in August. Last week, sources close to the investigation told us the feds were in the process of vetting information from Rezko.
FBI agents have focused their corruption efforts on Gov. Blagojevich's 2003 home renovation in their ongoing investigation into his administration and his personal finances.
Rezko's company did the work. The feds want to know who paid for it.
Read our exclusive coverage: Did Rezko pay for governor's home rehab?
A federal judge has frozen about $105,000 of Tony Rezko's money, saying it will more than likely end up going to the government.
The money is a portion of the funds put up with the court to secure the political fund-raiser's bond earlier this year.
Rather than return it now that Rezko is in jail awaiting sentencing, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve froze it, agreeing with prosecutors that the money is traceable to proceeds from the sale of Rezko-controlled property.
Rezko is to be sentenced Oct. 28.
Rezko, who served as a top adviser to Gov. Blagojevich and fund-raiser to Blagojevich and Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, has broken his silence and began talking with prosecutors in recent weeks.
In 37 pages, U.S. prosecutors on Monday gave a federal judge numerous reasons why Tony Rezko's guilty verdict should stay intact.
Nowhere did they acknowledge that Rezko has been sitting at the table with them.
The court filing comes as a legal answer to a request by Rezko's lawyers to throw out the jury's verdict, or order a new trial -- a pretty standard request. Rezko's lawyers said the case relied too heavily on a shaky witness, Stuart Levine. But prosecutors pointed to secret recordings and the testimony of numerous additional witnesses as corroborative evidence.
Even as publicity increases over Rezko's possible cooperation, the filing illustrates that, for now, Rezko's post-trial issues, including his Oct. 28 sentencing, remain on track regardless of his recent conversations with the prosecution.
Last month, the Sun-Times reported the possibility that Rezko was meeting with the feds. This weekend, sources close to the investigation confirmed to the Sun-Times that Rezko is in the midst of intense talks with prosecutors.
Just weeks before he is to be sentenced, political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is in the midst of intense discussions with federal investigators, sources close to the investigation confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times.
There's no question federal authorities are interested in Rezko, a former top adviser and fund-raiser to Gov. Blagojevich, as a federal witness. But one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, warned it's too early to call the discussions full-fledged cooperation.
But already, Rezko has provided information to the feds who are in the process of vetting it, sources say.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported the liklihood of Rezko's cooperation one month ago, following accounts from various sources who saw Rezko being brought into the federal courthouse from the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Rezko had no court appearances during that time. One source, who asked not to be identified, told the Sun-Times in the Aug. 28th report that Rezko was twice seen inside the U.S. Attorney's office following his conviction. Rezko's lawyer, Joseph Duffy, called that contention of Rezko inside the prosecution's office, "bogus."
On Friday, Rezko's lawyers could not be reached for comment.
The implications of Rezko's cooperation are innumerable. His reach as a businessman, political adviser, real estate mogul and political fund-raiser has the potential to take federal authorities from Springfield to Iraq. Rezko not only was privy to inside meetings with the governor, but engaged in numerous real estate dealings with his wife, Patti.
The governor's office has denied that the first lady's business dealings with Rezko had anything to do with his influence in her husband's administration.
Federal authorities have long sought Rezko's cooperation in their ongoing probe into the governor. A few months before his conviction, Rezko wrote a letter saying prosecutors were pressuring him
to give them information on Blagojevich and White House hopeful Barack Obama. At that time, Duffy told the Sun-Times Rezko had never met with, or spoken to prosecutors.
One source with knowledge of the investigation into the governor and into his wife, Patti Blagojevich's, real estate dealings say the probe is going "at top speed."
Rezko is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 28. He then faces two more trials, including another in Chicago federal court next year.
Lawyers for political fund-raiser Tony Rezko are asking a federal judge to throw out his conviction, saying his case relied too heavily on an unreliable witness.
In a 25-page motion filed Friday in federal court, defense attorneys also said prosecutors never showed Rezko had an interest in a key kickback scheme at issue in his case and failed to prove a mailing happened in one of the mail fraud counts.
Rezko, 53, of Wilmette was convicted in June of widespread corruption tied to state deals. He is a former top adviser and fund-raiser to Gov. Blagojevich and a fund-raiser to Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Central to Rezko's trial was testimony from cooperator Stuart Levine, who sat on two state boards and said he held a corrupt relationship with Rezko. Defense lawyers say Levine can't be believed because his own crimes and substantial drug use motivated him to lie.
"The court should order a new trial on the ground that the record in this case, polluted as it is by the inherently unreliable testimony of Levine, leaves such a strong doubt as to Rezko's guilt that it would be a miscarriage of justice to let the verdict stand," wrote one of Rezko's lawyer, Mariah Moran.
Rezko is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 28.
As his sentencing nears, speculation that political fund-raiser Tony Rezko may be cooperating with the feds is running rampant through the federal courthouse -- and in political circles.
Sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times that Rezko has been seen at the federal courthouse as many as a dozen times since his June conviction. And one source says he's been inside the U.S. Attorney's Office twice. He's been held since then at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago.
By Natasha Korecki
Federal Courts Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org
A federal judge postponed the sentencing of political fund-raiser Antoin "Tony"Rezko, by nearly two months, after his lawyers said they need more time to put together a complex package for what could be a contentious hearing.
The sentencing date now stands at Oct. 28 -- one week before U.S. Sen. Barack Obama faces John McCain in the presidential election. Rezko is a onetime friend and former fund-raiser to Obama. It had been scheduled for Sept. 3.
"This motion is not being brought for purposes of delay," Rezko's lawyers wrote in a court motion. "But rather to allow the defense to present its legal arguments in an efficient, complete, and thorough manner."
Rezko, 52, of Wilmette, has been housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center since his June conviction. A jury convicted him of wide-ranging fraud, connected to taking kickbacks from state deals. Rezko was a top adviser and fund-raiser to Gov. Blagojevich and a fund-raiser.
"The current sentencing date is simply not realistic given the number of issues that must be briefed in the parties' sentencing memoranda, the number of witnesses that must be prepared to testify at sentencing, and the number of letters that must be gathered from family and friends," lawyers for Rezko wrote.
Neither the government, nor the defense have publicly disclosed the sentencing range they will argue Rezko should face. But other defendants convicted of similar crimes have been sentenced to numerous years in prison.
The trial of Chris Kelly, another ex-aide and ex-fund-raiser to Gov. Blagojevich, has been postponed from November to Jan. 20. Kelly faces charges he cheated on his taxes by allegedly lying about gambling proceeds. U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo moved the trial at the request of Kelly's lawyer, Michael Monico. Monico cited a timing conflict as he also is representing former Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak this September. Vrdolyak faces charges he took part in a kickback scheme involving the sale of a Gold Coast property with Stuart Levine. That means the Vrdolyak trial will see the same character who played a huge role in Tony Rezko's trial. Levine spent 15 days on the stand in Rezko's two-month trial.
In January, the Sun-Times reported that a portion of the Tony Rezko case led to Barack Obama's campaign fund. Obama isn't accused of doing anything wrong. But Rezko allegedly used straw donors to kick into Obama's campaign fund during his run for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
While none of that came out at trial, today, for the first time, a filing recently unsealed shows the government's initial intent to call witnesses about that aspect of the case. The judge in the case, Amy St. Eve, ruled that the prosecution could bring up Obama's name. But they never did. And references to Obama were not only kept out of the trial during his run for the primary -- it was kept under seal. Until today.
The filing indicates that the prosecution wanted witnesses to talk about Rezko's prowess as an Obama fund-raiser and his influence in getting two others -- Joseph Aramanda and Semir Sirazi -- to donate Rezko money to Obama's campaigns in their names. The money kicked into Obama's campaigns came from an illicit kickback scheme. Obama has since donated that money to charity.