Recently in Gov. Blagojevich Category

Governor not worried about Rezko

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A day after prosecutors revealed his former adviser and fund-raiser is in talks with them, Gov. Blagojevich says he isn't worried.

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."

Feds checking out Rezko's story

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singing Higgins cartoon

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.

Judge freezes Rezko money

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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.

Rezko's "intense" discussions with feds

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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.

Witness: Rezko shook me down for cash

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Witness Ali Ata testified that Tony Rezko asked him for cash four different times for a total of $125,000.
Ata went to his brother-in-law's company, Jenin Distribution, and removed huge sums of cash from the safe. On the first occasion, Rezko told him he needed $25,000 for Gov. Blagojevich's home. Contractors were going to slap a lien on the home if the money didn't come through, Ata said.

Another request for money came in the fall of 2004.
"He needed $100,000 ... he was being pushed, he had a lot of obligations and he needed $100,000 in cash," Ata said Rezko told him. Ata had half of that.
Rezko allegedly showed up at Ata's Lemont home and told him to get in the car. With $50,000 in a bag in the car, the two drove to the house of Blagojevich fund-raiser Chris Kelly.


In the months before Ali Ata was appointed to a state post, Tony Rezko hit him up for a $50,000 campaign contribution for Blagojevich. " I said: 'No, I can only give $25,000.' ”
That was on top of previous contributions totaling $60,000.

Later, Ata spoke with the governor at a summer fund-raiser at Navy Pier.
“Mr. Blagojevich thanked me for my continuing support. He indicated he was aware of myself making another contribution and said he understood I was considering a position with the new administration. (He) said that it better be a job where I could make some money.”
Ata later told Rezko of the conversation with Blagojevich.
"I said I was surprised that the governor would make such a statement," Ata said. "Mr. Rezko said he wasn’t surprised."

Governor's response to home lien accusation

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1-2 podgo blago 3.JPG

Gov. Blagojevich's spokeswoman, Abby Ottenhoff, responds to an allegation that Tony Rezko shook down former Blagojevich official Ali Ata to pay an impending lien on the governor's home.

Ata said he gave Rezko $25,000 in cash after Rezko told him he needed to pass the money to contractors who were about to place on a lien on the governor's home.

“We can’t comment on alleged conversations that the governor was not a party to,” spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said today. "As we said last year, the Blagojeviches personally paid for the work to renovate their 14-by-20 family room out of their checking account."

Ata, the former $127,000-a-year head of the Illinois Finance Authority, gave $60,000 in contributions to the governor's campaign fund before winning his post. Rezko's lawyers say there is nothing to back up Ata's accusations. Ata is expected to take the stand in Rezko's trial Thursday.

Blago hired Rezko firm for home renovation

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In 2007, the Sun-Times exclusively reported that the governor used contractors from Tony Rezko companies to renovate his Ravenswood Manor home.

Read the story: Blago renovation

Witness: Rezko wanted cash bribe for Blago home

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Here's a summary of today's events in court related to Ali Ata's expected testimony Thursday:
Rezko sought cash to avoid lien on Gov's home

Witness: Rezko needed cash to fix gov's home

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In court today, prosecutors say that Tony Rezko asked former state official Ali Ata to give him cash to help prevent a lien on Gov. Blagojevich's Ravenswood Manor home.

There is no trial today, it is the first of two days off. The free days are designed to give the defense some time to prepare for Ata's testimony since he just came on as a witness last week.

Rezko trial: Predictions

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Tom Rosenberg recalled hearing of pressures the governor's people were putting on a state board to reward political donors.

He once told GOP power broker Bill Cellini predicted that the way a state board operated, people could end up in court. Rosenberg called up Cellini when he had business stall with the Teachers' Retirement System board. Rosenberg had a feeling that his old nemesis Stuart Levine, who was on the TRS board, was behind torpedoing the deal.
So he called up Cellini, "Because he always knows what was going on.”

Blagojevich back in the hot seat

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This didn't come up at the Tony Rezko trial.

But it will.

Ali Ata, a Rezko associate and co-defendant in Rezko's other case -- a loan fraud indictment that's still pending -- said he was in Rezko's Chicago offices with the governor when he handed over a $25,000 campaign check.

More details in the story we just posted online: Ex-aide pleads guilty

Ali Ata
Ali Ata leveled some serious allegations against the governor today.

A former top official in Gov. Blagojevich administration pleaded guilty this afternoon to charges tied to a loan fraud scheme involving Tony Rezko.

Ali Ata, 56, of Lemont is expected to plead guilty in a criminal information including making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and a tax-related count.

Ata is the former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority.

Rezko trial: Blago once had higher hopes

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Joseph Cari gave some pretty compelling testimony his first day on the stand Tuesday.

Read Chris Fusco's story today: Rezko witness: Gov. Dreamed of White House

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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