Two dozen witnesses have taken the stand so far in the Tony Rezko trial, but none choked up before this afternoon.
Steve Loren, an attorney who conspired with Stuart Levine and who served as counsel for the Teachers' Retirement System, struggled through portions of his testimony today. At one point, his voice cracked as he fought back emotion. He leaned back in his chair, slightly shook his head and at another point, looked away from jurors and pressed his fingers up to his eyes.
What Loren was describing wasn't emotional. It was about his own wrongdoing.
"It was a mistake on my part to acquiesce to it," Loren said, then choked up.
Loren said Stuart Levine told him that in some cases, finder's fees from firms seeking state business would be portioned off to people designated by Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly.
Loren said it was Levine's way of repaying the two for getting the Blagojevich administration to stop the consolidation of TRS with another pension fund.
"I acquiesced to what he was telling me ... thinking ... these monies are not being paid by the system," Loren said. And he rationalized that if TRS stayed independent than that it would be OK.
Loren also talked about giving in to Levine's pleas to write up a draft sham consulting contract to be used by Pekin. Pekin was to get a placement fee for not doing any work tied to a state contract. Loren said he was bound by his duties as the TRS counsel to notify the board of the contract. But he didn't.
"The TRS board should have known about this if I knew about it," he said.
At one point, Loren asked Levine who Pekin split his fees with. Levine told him it was supposed to go to Ald. Dick Mell.
"I said: 'how can these people be so stupid?" When prosecutor Carrie Hamilton asked Loren what he meant, he explained it was an obvious conflict for the governor's father-in-law to be signed on to get consulting money off a state deal.
"I think it speaks for itself," Loren said.