Downplaying Levine

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It took a half hour or so before Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid J. Schar began referencing star prosecution witness Stuart Levine in his closing argument.

While Levine clearly spent the most time on the witness stand during Rezko’s corruption trial, it is the statements of other witnesses — from former Illinois Finance Authority Executive Director Ali Ata to former Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board Chairman Thomas Beck to Rezko business associate Charles Hannon — that show Rezko was a willing participant in trying to defraud Illinois taxpayers out of millions of dollars, Schar is telling jurors.

He also is taking steps to blunt statements that Rezko’s defense attorney, Joseph Duffy, is expected make in his upcoming closing. During the trial, Duffy hammered at Levine’s admitted drug use and involvement in several complex criminal schemes.

“I expect . . . Mr. Duffy is going to come up and talk to you in great detail that it was all Stuart Levine,” Schar said. “Let’s be clear about Stuart Levine: He is the embodiment of corruption and, beyond that, arrogant and unlikable.”

But then Schar pointed to “the independent and other evidence” prosecutors put on.

“In Stuart Levine’s case, you have a wiretap that lays out the vast” majority of the evidence “at a time nobody knew the government was listening,” Schar said, also reminding jurors that Levine’s ability to get a reduced prison sentence in exchange for his cooperation is contingent on him telling the truth on the witness stand.

Besides downplaying Levine, Schar is making “good government” a central theme of his closing — based on a statement that Duffy made during his opening statement.

When the trial opened, Duffy told jurors that Rezko declined opportunities to invest in restaurants at Illinois Tollway oases to avoid any appearance of impropriety in Gov. Blagojevich’s administration.

Now – when Schar outlines Rezko’s alleged involvement in rigging votes on state government boards to benefit himself – Schar is reminding jurors that there was no talk of good government, instead painting Rezko as a “corrupt insider who again and again tried to benefit himself.”

During the morning break, Duffy objected to Schar referencing his opening remarks in the case. “I did not testify in this trial,” he told Judge Amy J. St. Eve.

St. Eve overruled Duffy’s objection.

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Natasha Korecki

Natasha Korecki is the Federal Courts Reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, covering federal news, corruption investigations and trials.

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This page contains a single entry by admin published on May 12, 2008 11:39 AM.

Government kicks off closing arguments in Rezko trial was the previous entry in this blog.

To close or not to close? is the next entry in this blog.

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