The closing week of the prosecution’s case was pivotal in bolstering its contention that Blagojevich fund-raiser Tony Rezko pulled the strings in state government. At the same time, witnesses painted a picture of a Rezko who needed money and made demands for campaign cash. That gives motive to prosecution’s contentions that Rezko pocketed kickbacks from firms seeking state contracts.
Prosecution to rest today: Prosecutors say they will rest their case after calling one more witness after Ali Ata.
Defense not far behind: Rezko lawyers say their case will be brief -- possibly beginning and ending today or Tuesday.
Read on for highlights of witness testimony last week.
Ali Ata: Testified that Rezko asked him to contribute to Gov. Blagojevich’s campaign fund before Ata landed his post as Illinois Finance Director. He then said Rezko shook him down for $125,000 in cash -- some of it, he said Rezko told him, was allegedly used to pay off debts for the governor and a governor fund-raiser Chris Kelly. He also testified that Rezko told him of a plot to oust U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and that Rezko told him not to talk to the feds because of it.
Semir Sirazi: Important but overlooked testimony came from 10-year Rezko pal Sirazi, who testified that he did consulting work for Rezko’s company, Rezmar. But he wasn’t paid. Sirazi told of several meetings with Rezko, in which Rezko promised payment. But his checks bounced. Finally, Rezko said he’d wire the money into Sirazi’s account. The wire for $66,000 came from JAA Enterprises, LLC -- an entity Sirazi didn’t know. Turns out that’s the same JAA belonging to Joseph Aramanda. Earlier in the trial, testimony indicated money from a kickback scheme went to JAA investments and was meant for Rezko. Sirazi connected the dots for jurors, showing Rezko used Aramanda to move money.
Elie Maloof: Maloof was a Rezko associate who said when he received a grand jury subpoena, Rezko told him not to talk to the feds. Maloof said Rezko told him:
“The federal prosecutor will no longer be the same federal prosecutor ... Patrick Fitzgerald would be terminated and Dennis Hastert will name his replacement. The investigation will be over.” What’s more significant is what Maloof didn’t testify about: allegations that Maloof was a straw donor to Barack Obama’s Senatorial campaign. Obama has since donated the Maloof money to charity. Lawyers in the case -- and the judge -- were careful to never bring up Obama’s name. Rezko once served as an Obama fund-raiser.