In April 2004, Stuart Levine invites Tony Rezko into a private room for dinner at the exclusive Standard Club downtown. Over dinner, Levine and Rezko talk about a series of deals on a state board that could bring them millions of dollars.
“I told Mr. Rezko that there was an opportunity for a lot of money to be made,” Levine said.
At the end, Rezko would make $3.9 million, according to Levine. They dined in a private room on a table that seats six. But only Levine and Rezko dined that night.
Natasha Korecki: March 2008 Archives
In April 2004, Stuart Levine invites Tony Rezko into a private room for dinner at the exclusive Standard Club downtown. Over dinner, Levine and Rezko talk about a series of deals on a state board that could bring them millions of dollars.
What are the odds?
Stuart Levine is heard on tape played this afternoon in court telling businessman Sheldon Pekin: "I'm going to the Cubs opener today."
This obviously isn't in the present. The conversation goes back to April 12, 2004.
But today, Monday, really is the Cubs opener.
That is, if the rain doesn't keep interrupting the game.
Defense lawyers say it isn't fair for the prosecution to replay the same recordings with different witnesses.
In this case, the prosecution just played a tape of Stuart Levine and Sheldon Pekin talking. Levine is on the stand now, but when businessman Pekin was on the stand the jury heard the same tape.
In the meantime, the government says power-broker William Cellini will not be called as a government witness.
Stuart Levine said that Bill Cellini asked him for help in getting money through an investment firm for Blagojevich's father-in-law Dick Mell. The firm wanted to win a state board investment and the finder's fee would go to Sheldon Pekin, who was friends with Levine. Levine would kickback half the fee to Mell.
"Mr. Cellini called me and told me that he and I might have a big opportunity to do a big favor for Mr. Rezko and Mr. Kelly," Levine said.
"Mr. Cellini indicated very directly that he knew that Mr. Rezko and that Mr. Kelly were getting a lot of pressure from the governor's father-in-law, Dick Mell... for Dick Mell to make money.
And Mr. Cellini indicated to me that in the event that he, Mr. Cellini and I -- or I -- could help him solve this problem, it would greatly ingratiate us with Mr. Kelly and Mr. Rezko," Levine said from the stand.
Ultimately though: "As these conversations continued, I was told that Mr. Mell was not going to participate."
Stuart Levine returns from lunch and discusses his extensive drug use.
Levine said he regularly did cocaine but switched to Crystal Meth and Special K.
Levine said he snorted the drugs in their powder form, including while he worked at his offices at the Hancock Building downtown and in his Deerfield office.
"I’d prepare them in lines ... 1/2 inch long and very, very narrow," Levine said.
The effects of euphoria and lowered inhibitions lasted several hours, he said.
Levine said he withdrew nearly $10,000 in cash every week to help pay for drugs. From 2000-2004 he had spent $1 million on drugs.
He pretty much stopped his drug use in May of 2004.
Why? The FBI had paid him a visit about his illegal dealings on state boards.
"I was afraid of being caught," Levine said.
Tony Rezko's defense lawyers have subpoenaed Sheri Levine, the wife of top prosecution witness Stuart Levine. Levine has been on the stand for the last two weeks talking of multi-million dollar illicit deals, and dropping names of high-profile businessmen and politicians.
Sheri Levine's lawyer moved to quash the subpoena today, according to court records. She is protected by marital privilege, her lawyer argues.
Before the lunch break, Stuart Levine talks about a new ethics ordinance that Gov. Blagojevich put into place that in part banned ex-parte communications, or private talk by board members about board business.
Levine said Tony Rezko told him not to worry about the ethics ordinance because no one "of any consequence" would abide by the new restrictions, "They were just for show," Levine testified Rezko told him.
Today TRS Executive Director Jon Bauman takes a beating. Stuart Levine says of Bauman:
“Jon has a couple of personality traits that are problematic: He’s an arrogant guy and he’s stupid,” Levine is heard saying on a recorded phone call.
While reading the transcript of the call, a male juror laughs out loud, though quietly, putting his hand to his face and shaking his head. Levine also says Bauman is like a moth to a flame, calling Chris Kelly the flame.
The morning starts off with a bang as usual with Stuart Levine on the stand.
Within minutes Levine and prosecutor Chris Niewoehner have this exchange:
“What is your understanding of why Mr. Rezko and Mr. Kelly would recommend investment firms?” Niewoehner asks.
“In order to reward campaign contributors,” Levine says.
Star witness Stuart Levine is expected to take the stand this morning to continue his testimony. This week, Levine will talk about an attempted extortion plot against a Hollywood producer.
It appears the prosecution wants to play a recorded conversation between powerful Republican William Cellini and Stuart Levine, the government's top witness, who is expected to get back on the stand Monday morning. Cellini talks about two Blagojevich fund-raisers and the possibility of an investigation into trading board posts for campaign cash. The defense filed a motion over the weekend trying to keep out portions of that May 8, 2004 recording. They say it has nothing to do with
The answer the governor gave last night to reporters: "Let me answer that question with an answer. I'm not a party in that trial."
"I'm not following the trial. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on a trial I'm not a party in," Blagojevich said.
Reporters then pressed Blagojevich on whether sworn testimony at Tony Rezko's trial was accurate. Witness Stuart Levine said the governor told him "stick with us and you'll do very well for yourself."
Blagojevich was asked if that testimony was true.
"You know, that's a good question," Blagojevich said. "I'm not a party in that trial; I'm not in a place where I think it's appropriate for me to comment on a trial that I'm not involved in."
Watch the video and report by Channel 5's Phil Rogers:
Channel 5's report: Watch the video
Today a federal judge set a trial date for Chris Kelly, former fund-raiser to Gov. Blagojevich.
Kelly's trial is set for Nov. 10.
Unlike Rezko, Kelly's charges have to do with personal, rather than public business. Kelly's accused of illegally paying his gambling debts.
(Also, prosecutors today said they expected Rezko's trial to end sometime in May.)
By Natasha Korecki
Federal Courts Reporter
At one point last week during his testimony, Stuart Levine said he talked with Tony Rezko about negative headlines that were stirred up from an unpopular board vote.
When Levine brought up the critical newspaper articles, Rezko gave him a “dour” look, Levine testified. Levine interpreted the look to mean that Rezko didn’t want to hear any criticism about that vote, which Rezko’s accused of orchestrating.
Listening from the defendant’s table that day, Rezko quietly laughed to himself and shook his head as if to say: “you gotta be kidding me.”
There's no trial this week, testimony starts back up Monday.
Son of Nation of Islam founder files a lawsuit against Tony Rezko, accusing the fund-raiser, who's now on trial, of bilking him out of his South Side mansion.
Read today's story: Rezko lawsuit
After passing down voting orders for a state board, Tony Rezko tells top prosecution witness Stuart Levine not to discuss the conversation with board chairman, Tom Beck.
"Tom should not know you and I are having this conversation," Rezko can be heard telling Levine on tape.
Prosecutors only played a portion of the phone call and are expected to play the rest later in the trial.
Here's the transcript and recording.
Click here to read transcript and hear Rezko-Levine call
The recording, at its most basic level, shows a relationship between Levine and Rezko and that they had an arrangement regarding the health planning board for at least a few months.
Tony Rezko comes up as a "sleazy fund-raiser" as New York Times columnist looks at Obama's speech on race.
Maureen Dowd: Obama's fund-raiser
Jurors have heard recording after recording so far in Tony Rezko's three-week trial. On Friday, they heard Rezko himself for the first time.
Read today's story: Jury hears Rezko calls
I guess my speculation yesterday was right.
A day after it was clear we had one less juror sitting in the panel, Judge St. Eve formally announced a juror was dismissed because of illness. I reported in the blog yesterday that we were down to 17 of 18 jurors. That happened after a juror complained she felt ill on Wednesday, which ended the day at noon. On Thursday, the same juror didn't return.
St. Eve made the announcement Friday after the Sun-Times left a message the day before with her chambers asking why a juror appeared to be missing.
Stuart Levine continues to drag big names into the Tony Rezko corruption trial. And before we ended for the week this afternoon, he set off some more fireworks bringing in the names of political heavyweights Bill Cellini and Robert Kjellander. Levine said he did a favor for Kjellander by getting a $150 million investment for the Carlyle Group with the Teachers' Retirement System board. Levine sat on the board. Kjellander represented Carlyle. Levine said he didn't expect anything in return -- but he later got it.
After the TRS board approved the investment, Levine said Cellini paid him a visit. Cellini told Levine that he no longer had to pay Kjellander $75,000 for work Kjellander did on behalf of a company Levine represented. "I was very pleased with that," Levine told prosecutor Chris Niewoehner.
Levine said the forgiven debt amounted to a personal benefit he never disclosed to TRS -- even though he was supposed to.
The government played three conversations today between star witness Stuart Levine and Tony Rezko.
Just one of the tapes has some real substance to it. In it, Rezko can be heard directing Levine on how to arrange votes on the hospital planning board.
Star witness Stuart Levine tells the jury today that he wrote a check for $3 million -- and forgot.
He saw a copy of the check and started an inquiry with his secretary to find out how his signature got on it. Um, he was the one who signed it.
Levine testified this happened in 2004. That's the same year that FBI agents approached him. Before that, Levine said he regularly abused a significant amount of drugs.
The defense will certainly use the revelation of an example of Levine's questionable memory as he testifies against Tony Rezko.
Witness Stuart Levine tells us in near breathtaking detail about his millions of dollars of misdeeds.
But how much money will he turn over to the feds as punishment? $5 million. How much has Levine turned over so far? $1.8 million. Sounds like a lot at first blush.
But after the millions of dollars Levine talked about handling in various not-for-profits, it seems like chump change.
Levine testified he and his wife, Sheri, have assets of more than $4 million. but he didn't expect to benefit from her share of the assets. Sounds like she's filed for divorce, but just before prosecutors talked about that, the defense stepped in so the jury didn't hear.
Levine has not been wearing a wedding ring. However, it sounds like Levine hasn't worn a ring in years ...
The Rezko trial is on this morning and Stuart Levine, whose testimony grows more interesting by the minute, is back on the stand. We're expected to start off this morning with another lengthy recording played in court.
Judge St. Eve promised jurors the day will end by 1 ...
Read today's story: 'Bribe talk got Rezko to back hospital'
Here are a series of recordings caught on an FBI wiretap. They capture Stuart Levine and others plotting a kickback scheme, then laughing about it later, among other misdeeds.
Levine-Kiferbaum call on April 17, 2004 at 3:23 p.m.
Levine-Hurtgen call on April 17, 2004 at 4:48 p.m.
Levine-Kiferbaum call on April 18, 2004 at 10:04 a.m.
Levine-Kiferbaum call on April 18, 2004 at 11:50 a.m.
Levine-Loren call on April 19, 2004 at 5:14 p.m.
Levine-Loren call on April 19, 2004 at 7:02 p.m.
Levine-Kiferbaum call on April 20, 2004 at 4:52 p.m.
Levine-Loren call on April 21, 2004 at 8:03 p.m.
Victor Reyes, who has wielded clout as an Hispanic Democratic Organization leader and former Mayor Daley patronage chief, added to the list of political heavyweights involved in an $81 million controversial deal to approve a suburban hospital.
Reyes was a lobbyist for Mercy Hospital in 2004 -- the same time Rezko and businessman Stuart Levine were allegedly putting in the fix to pass the project and make money on the side.
Levine essentially testified today that Reyes was used.
Her offense: cell phone went off.
Not sure what was the bigger offense, that she forgot to turn off her phone or that her ring tone was set to: "Love, Love me do..."
Judge Amy St. Eve has said if a phone goes off in court, the person will not be allowed back in for the remainder of the day.
The power Tony Rezko wielded over the governor's office was unprecedented, witness Stuart Levine told Rezko jurors today. And Levine said this after having a pretty lengthy history of working in Illinois' corrupt system, as he's described in court.
For more: Rezko's clout
Amid the shakedowns, bribes and kickbacks overheard on an FBI wiretap in Tony Rezko's trial, Stuart Levine could be heard referencing "Spartacus" who was just about to march into Rome.
When prosecutor Chris Niewoehner had Levine explain the reference to the jury, Levine smiled:
"I was watching the movie Spartacus and I didn't want Steve (Loren) to come in at an exciting part."
Loren is the lawyer who Levine said he could "control" when he was hatching a $1 million bribe scheme.
Tony Rezko trial witness Stuart Levine jokes on tape that in an arranged meeting set up to impress an investor, he'll bring all the necessary people.
Besides himself and a connected lawyer, Levine quipped: "Why don't I bring the governor?"
We know this because the words were captured on an FBI wiretap and played in court today.
Levine was then asked to explain. Was he serious?
Appearing to try to keep a smile off his face, Levine responded: "This was strictly jokes."
Rezko looked on. He did not appear amused.
Prosecutor Chris Niewoehner played a recording today at Tony Rezko's trial where star witness Stuart Levine could be heard laughing and joking as he schemed with another man to make money off a hospital project.
"We will be so protected, you cannot imagine," Levine could be heard saying on tape.
The irony, of course, is the FBI caught them on tape. We're hearing his words played in a courtroom, with more than a dozen reporters scribbling down notes. And Levine's explaining the conversation from the witness stand.
The female juror who was seen coughing yesterday does not appear to be here today.
I'm counting 17 jurors, instead of 18 today. The trial ended early yesterday -- at noon- after a juror gave Judge St. Eve a note. St. Eve never announced a reason behind the early end to yesterday's trial.
Speculation: juror was still sick today but no one wanted to hold up everything any longer.
Stuart Levine takes the stand again this morning. What will come out of his mouth today?
Another name came up pretty often Wednesday in Stuart Levine's testimony: Chris Kelly.
Kelly is another former Blagojevich fund-raiser who was indicted in a tax scheme late last year.
Unlike Rezko, Kelly wasn't charged in connection to his state business. But Levine's testimony Wednesday put Kelly in the room during many conversations. "(Rezko) told me that Mr. Kelly was very close fried and he had no secrets from Mr. Kelly," Levine said.
Stuart Levine, the top witness in the Tony Rezko trial, has been on the stand for just a little more than three hours over two days and already he's done considerable damage. He's dropped bombshells on Gov. Blagojevich and Ed Vrdolyak, and told of various bad deeds committed by old friends.
Taking the stand is one of the toughest things Levine has ever had to do, his lawyer said.
"This is obviously a very difficult situation he's in and he's handling it the very best he can," Levine's lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback said after court Wednesday.
Levine's cooperation helped him cut a deal to serve just 67 months in prison when he could have faced up to life.
Star witness Stuart Levine testified from 9:30 until noon and lowered the boom, talking about conversations with the governor and his staff, private jet trips to New York and Mexico with Rezko.
But before we could hear more, we broke for the day. Judge St. Eve said it was due to a juror issue but didn't explain why. However, a female juror this morning was coughing and using tissues.
Star witness Stuart Levine said Tony Rezko had "great hopes and expectations" in the early days of Blagojevich's time as governor. Rezko told Levine he hoped Blagojevich "would run for president ... although it was a long shot." Levine said Rezko told him that Rezko and the governor had "a very long and close relationship."
Star witness Stuart Levine says he chartered a jet to New York and Gov. Blagojevich was a passenger.
Levine thanked Blagojevich for appointing him to a state hospital board.
Blagojevich allegedly replied:
“Never discuss any state board with me. You discuss them with Tony Rezko or Chris Kelly, but you stick with us, and you’ll do very well for yourself.”
Levine told the jury how he interpreted that statement: “I took it to mean I would have an opportunity to make a lot of money.”
Tony Rezko's attorney Joseph Duffy jokes with reporters this morning minutes before trial is about to start. Duffy said to a long line of reporters waiting to the get into the courtroom...
Click here to read today's story: Star Rezko witness says he paid Vrdolyak bribes
Main witness Stuart Levine talks about helping a Chicago firm get a big-money contract with Chicago Public Schools.
Star witness Stuart Levine's allegations that Ed Vrdolyak took bribes is the first time ...
Edward "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak came up in Tony Rezko's trial today. He retired from Chicago politics years ago. But it seems he still knows the players, given testimony in today's trial.
Within minutes of taking the witness stand late today, Stuart Levine tells of alleged bribes to Vrdolyak:
Read the online story: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/rezko/848854,levinetest031808.article
In opening minutes, Stuart Levine wakes up courtroom
Stuart Levine, the prosecution's star witness in the corruption trial of businessman and political fund-raiser Tony Rezko, took the witness stand at 4:12 p.m.
Early in his testimony, Levine began detailing how he paid bribes to help companies obtain government contracts. Among those he paid was former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak, he testified.
Levine said it was his understanding that the bribe money would be passed by Vrdolyak to others.
More to come as details are available.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald dropped in on the Tony Rezko trial earlier today.
Cross examination of Molly Phalen at the Tony Rezko trial slows to a crawl.
Sounds like Tony Rezko's chief witness in the trial, Stuart Levine, will be up soon.
A wealthy businessman says he worked with middleman on kickback scheme and never met Rezko.
A witness talking about kickbacks in the Tony Rezko trial says insider controlled deals.
Read today's story about Gov. Blagojevich's father-in-law Dick Mell.
Sheldon Pekin, who told of a kickback scheme with Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine, will face defense questioning today.
Rezko trial: With Ald. Dick Mell coming up in Rezko's trial today, I thought I'd revisit another interesting post from a few weeks ago.
Stuart Levine, star witness in the Tony Rezko trial, sounds somewhat panicked at times in a recorded conversation with a businessman.
After Barack Obama dominated headlines this weekend, judge asks jurors if they're obeying her order.
Read more about Ald. Dick Mell surfacing in the Rezko trial and his response...
Greenbacks and green on their backs...
But businessman has much to say -- even if we can't understand it all
Businessman talks of sham deal in Tony Rezko's trial
Businessman Sheldon Pekin to take stand next
One board member told another to stay the course
Keeping Rezko away from the planning board
Defense downplays Rezko influence on board
We could see Stuart Levine this week
Barack Obama's take on Tony Rezko and other issues
Jurors in Tony Rezko's trial are not supposed to listen, watch or read the news. But Obama's recent comments might be tough to ignore.
Obama says Tony Rezko never asked him for a favor and he still considers Rezko a friend even as his trial is underway.
Barack Obama tells the Sun-Times today Tony Rezko raised more for him than previously thought
No trial today. Everyone returns Monday.
Tony Rezko once appointed to same board at issue now in his trial.
Another look at a former hospital board chairman's testimony
Former Metra chair Jeff Ladd testifies Rezko held power
Former Metra board chairman Jeff Ladd testifies against Rezko in trial
Doctor tries to dodge photographers after Rezko trial testimony
Let's recap some payments at the Tony Rezko trial.
Lutheran General Hospital pathologist takes stand at Tony Rezko trial
Witness at Tony Rezko trial talks about his connections
Thomas Beck continues testimony in the Tony Rezko trial
Listen to a recorded phone call played at the Tony Rezko trial. (Click here to play recording.)
Board chairman says in Tony Rezko's trial he refused a political vote. Then he flipflopped.
In today's trial, Tony Rezko lawyer tries to explain controversial Mercy hospital approval
Witness in Tony Rezko trial said Rezko gave state board marching orders.
FBI agent in Tony Rezko trial names people caught on recording
This morning in Tony Rezko's trial, Judge Amy St. Eve immunized Thomas Beck
Anne Murphy back on the stand this morning in Tony Rezko's trial
It was the place to meet on "most" Mondays
It was once rare for a governor to be indicted
Lawyer talks about reaction to controversial vote
State Rep. Jack Franks comes up at trial
Prosecutors want to play recorded phone calls between Stuart Levine
Rezko jurors were asked for their positions on the governor and warned Obama's name ...
Today in the Rezko trial, Barack Obama, as a state senator, was consulted on the makeup of a state board...
Susan Lichtenstein left Blagojevich's administration abruptly in 2004.
Just one person raised more money than Tony Rezko, evidence at trial showed.
The trial will usually run Monday through Thursdays.
Defense calls key witness "the most corrupt individual you'll ever see in your lifetime."
An FBI agent reveals today that Tony Rezko raised far more than previously thought for the governor.
Defense lawyer Joseph Duffy tells jurors about Rezko's work as an Obama fundraiser.
Now its the defense's turn
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Carrie Hamilton begins opening statements for the prosecution.
Here's a little more background on the lawyers involved in the Tony Rezko case ...
Allegation of a $1.5 million bribe surfaces
But we don't know who they are.
That’s the number of people left in the jury pool. Jury questioning for Rezko’s corruption trial officially ended late afternoon Tuesday.
So U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Public Official A’s father-in-law meet in a courtroom hallway...
After the Sun-Times reported in today's paper and in yesterday's blog that Barack Obama's campaign sent a court watcher to Tony Rezko's trial...
As Obama faces questions on the campaign trail, questioning starts for the next round of Rezko jurors
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve read the witness list in court Monday. Here’s some highlights from the more than 35 names.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has someone attending the Tony Rezko trial.
A woman sitting in on jury selection was identified as attending court "for Obama," when a courtroom security officer asked all the people in an overflow courtroom to identify their organizations.
Just minutes into the Tony Rezko trial this morning, the first rumor hit — that Rezko's lawyers plan to call U.S. Sen. Barack Obama as a witness. Not true, said Rezko's lawyers, dismissing the idea. Rezko was a campaign fund-raiser for Obama during his successful 2004 run for the U.S. Senate.
As jury selection got underway this morning, a federal judge for the first time revealed the list of people expected to testify at the trial of businessman and political fund-raiser Tony Rezko.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve quickly read from the list, which appeared to lack any political bombshells.
Included was Thomas Rosenberg, a Hollywood producer allegedly shaken down for a political contribution as he sought state business.
Rezko appeared somewhat relaxed in court this morning. He smiled wide, whispered and at times chuckled at friends and family sitting in courtroom benches behind him.