Former political fund-raiser Tony Rezko's name will likely be invoked numerous times in Rod Blagojevich's trial -- but chances are, jurors won't ever see his face.
Sources with knowledge of the government's case say prosecutors are worried that Rezko is too risky to put on the stand.
According to the sources, prosecutors fear Rezko brings with him much baggage of his own, could create a distraction, and worry that he'll "go off the reservation" if he testifies.
Rezko was convicted on his own corruption charges in 2008. Earlier that year, he accused prosecutors -- the same trio gearing up to try the Blagojevich case -- of pressuring him to lie about Blagojevich and then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Dr. Robert Weinstein, who was the behind-the-scenes deal-maker with key government witness Stuart Levine, is scheduled to plead guilty tomorrow, according to court records.
Weinstein is a long-time friend and confidante of Levine, who testified for 15 days in the trial of onetime gubernatorial fund-raiser Tony Rezko. Levine said he used Weinstein as a conduit to hide money.
Weinstein didn't testify at Rezko's two-month trial, but he and
Levine's conversations about illicit state schemes -- covertly caught on tape -- were played to jurors in the case.
Weinstein was charged last year in a scheme that raided the Chicago Medical School and North Shore Supporting Organization, a charity, of millions of dollars.
Weinstein, who has homes in Northbrook and Delray Beach, Fla., is
accused of siphoning $6 million from NSO with Levine and diverting
money from a development project at 2020 W. Ogden, according to charges.
On Friday, prosecutors charged Weinstein in a superseding information, which usually precedes a guilty plea. His court docket indicates a guilty plea is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Levine and Weinstein were trustees of the medical school and NSO.
The medical school is now known as Rosalind Franklin University of
Medicine and Science in North Chicago.
Levine and Weinstein misused their trustee positions and pocketed
money belonging to the organizations, prosecutors charged. Levine
has pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with the government
In August, he was the clandestine informant, secretly leaving his jail cell to meet with prosecutors and give them information.
In October, lawyers asked to indefinitely put off his sentencing. Today, things changed.
Political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is now weeks away from being sentenced.
This morning, Judge Amy St. Eve set a Jan. 6 sentencing date and prosecutors did not object. Later this month, prosecutors and defense lawyers will file papers to argue what kind of sentence Rezko should receive.
Rezko's lawyers wouldn't comment on Rezko's discussions with federal prosecutors.
But sources say Rezko has grown frustrated with his current accommodations -- solitary confinement and the prosecution's apparent unwillingness to push for his release on electronic monitoring.
At a second hearing this morning, a prosecutor said she was producing additional discovery in the second case against Rezko and a business partner -- one involving loan fraud and his personal pizza business. That case, before Judge James Zagel, is supposed to go to trial next year, but today, one defense lawyer said he might have a conflict in early February.
Lawyers will discuss the trial schedule at a status set for December.
Talks between the government and political fund-raiser Tony Rezko appear to have hit a stumbling block.
Late today, Rezko's lawyers filed a motion with U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve asking her to "set the earliest possible date for his sentencing."
Just last October, both Rezko's lawyers and prosecutors agreed to indefinitely delay his sentencing because, according to sources, the former adviser to Gov. Blagojevich and fund-raiser of President-elect Barack Obama began providing information to prosecutors.
Rezko was convicted in June of wideranging corruption tied to state deals.
If Rezko signed on to cooperate with the government, he more than likely would not be sentenced until after his cooperation was completed. That usually involves testifying before a grand jury or at trial.
Rezko is being housed in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center -- something that appears to be a sticking point with Rezko.
"Mr. Rezko has remained in solitary confinement at the MCC since June 4, 2008, the day of the jury's verdict, and can no longer agree to delay sentencing," his lawyers wrote in the court papers.
It was Rezko who volunteered to surrender to jail immediately.
Sources say there have been some hangups in talks with Rezko, including the government suspecting his attempting to minimize his role in potential wrongdoing he's telling them about.
They say the latest request may be a game of chicken with Rezko trying to force the government into advocating better accommodations for him if he's to cooperate.
Rezko's lawyer, Joseph Duffy, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
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.
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.
In 37 pages, U.S. prosecutors on Monday gave a federal judge numerous reasons why Tony Rezko's guilty verdict should stay intact.
Nowhere did they acknowledge that Rezko has been sitting at the table with them.
The court filing comes as a legal answer to a request by Rezko's lawyers to throw out the jury's verdict, or order a new trial -- a pretty standard request. Rezko's lawyers said the case relied too heavily on a shaky witness, Stuart Levine. But prosecutors pointed to secret recordings and the testimony of numerous additional witnesses as corroborative evidence.
Even as publicity increases over Rezko's possible cooperation, the filing illustrates that, for now, Rezko's post-trial issues, including his Oct. 28 sentencing, remain on track regardless of his recent conversations with the prosecution.
Last month, the Sun-Times reported the possibility that Rezko was meeting with the feds. This weekend, sources close to the investigation confirmed to the Sun-Times that Rezko is in the midst of intense talks with prosecutors.
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.
Lawyers for political fund-raiser Tony Rezko are asking a federal judge to throw out his conviction, saying his case relied too heavily on an unreliable witness.
In a 25-page motion filed Friday in federal court, defense attorneys also said prosecutors never showed Rezko had an interest in a key kickback scheme at issue in his case and failed to prove a mailing happened in one of the mail fraud counts.
Rezko, 53, of Wilmette was convicted in June of widespread corruption tied to state deals. He is a former top adviser and fund-raiser to Gov. Blagojevich and a fund-raiser to Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Central to Rezko's trial was testimony from cooperator Stuart Levine, who sat on two state boards and said he held a corrupt relationship with Rezko. Defense lawyers say Levine can't be believed because his own crimes and substantial drug use motivated him to lie.
"The court should order a new trial on the ground that the record in this case, polluted as it is by the inherently unreliable testimony of Levine, leaves such a strong doubt as to Rezko's guilt that it would be a miscarriage of justice to let the verdict stand," wrote one of Rezko's lawyer, Mariah Moran.
Rezko is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 28.
As his sentencing nears, speculation that political fund-raiser Tony Rezko may be cooperating with the feds is running rampant through the federal courthouse -- and in political circles.
Sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times that Rezko has been seen at the federal courthouse as many as a dozen times since his June conviction. And one source says he's been inside the U.S. Attorney's Office twice. He's been held since then at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago.
A new filing unsealed in the Tony Rezko case shows that the feds interviewed Gov. Blagojevich on "multiple occasions," and he denied telling two government witnesses he'd trade state work for campaign cash.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve partially released the $8.5 million in property and cash that once secured Tony Rezko's bond. She ordered that about $100,000 in cash be left behind after prosecutors sought a restraining order on the money to fulfill forfeiture they will seek in the future.
Rezko surrendered to jail upon his conviction last week, releasing liens held against 27 properties posted by friends and family members supporting the North Shore businessman. Rezko, a former fund-raiser for Gov. Blagojevich and U.S. Senator Barack Obama, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 3.
After a long weekend, jurors are back in Monday morning deliberating.
Will they return a verdict today, after lunch?
Today is the 10th time the jury has met to deliberate, but their accumulated time behind closed-doors amounts to 7 1/2 days, when you combine their half-day sessions.
Speculation by reporters is that the school principal is the foreperson of the 10 woman, two man jury, and she's meticulously making the panel go through each piece of evidence. Of course, this is just speculation.
The revelation that Tony Rezko was a high-roller in Las Vegas casinos was not widely known in Illinois -- before Thursday, that is. Authorities there announced they had a warrant for Rezko's arrest for allegedly skipping out on $450,000 in debt.
Two casinos -- Bally's and Caesar's Palace -- knew him well enough that they allowed him to write checks for tens of thousands of dollars. Sources say Rezko took trips to Vegas with businessmen, politicians and fellow Gov. Blagojevich fund-raiser Chris Kelly.
The 12 jurors in Tony Rezko's trial just sent a note to Judge Amy St. Eve asking if she could give them a transcript of testimony from witness Michael Winter. Winter's testimony is relevant to the first count in the indictment -- though it is a lengthy count involving a complex scheme.
After two years, the real Tony Rezko indictment -- without all the cloak and dagger of "Individual I" or "Firm A" references -- is made public.
In a pretty unusual move, prosecutors kept secret the individuals represented in the indictment right up through Rezko's corruption trial.
All of the allegations came out in court, so this isn't anything new. But this is the first time prosecutors put it in black and white for all the public to see. The Sun-Times before the trial did its own ABCs of the government proffer, because that too was written in code.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner hit Tony Rezko hard in the closing moments of Rezko's corruption trial, telling jurors Rezko was part of a "corrupt ring of insiders."
Read today's summary: Feds hit back as case goes to jury
There's no trial today because a juror had a previous conflict. Tomorrow, jurors meet for their first full day of deliberations.
U.S. Prosecutor Reid Schar highlighted more than a dozen audio recordings where Tony Rezko is referenced or in a rare instance, actually talking himself.
Here's what a government wire tap caught Stuart Levine and others saying on the phone. They did not know they were being recorded.
•On 4/17/04 Levine says Rezko told him:
“It’s like, find us whatever you can...just do it, make it happen Stuart.”
•On 4/17/04 Levine says Rezko told him:
“What do you need to proceed?”
Levine says he answered: “Your permission.”
•On 4/18/04 Levine tells construction company owner Jacob Kiferbaum
“(Rezko) wants us to take whatever we can.”
•On 4/21/04 Levine tells Kiferbaum
“He’s got the power boy.”
•On 4/21/04 Levine tells his friend Bob Weinstein:
“(Rezko) wants to make as much money as he can, while he can.”
•On 5/18/04 Rezko tells Levine:
“Tom will carry the ball and nobody will know.”
Tony Rezko lawyer Joseph Duffy repeatedly called prosecution witness Stuart Levine a liar, saying he caught Levine in lies right on the stand.
"He lies so much, I don't think he knows when he's lying," Duffy said. "It's that bad."
Levine admitted to 30 years of drug use, including some heavy-duty drugs, such as Crystal Meth, Special K and cocaine.
Here's a little background on the prosecutor who is giving today's closing in the Tony Rezko trial.
(from an earlier posting in the trial).
Reid Schar, 35, is deputy chief of public corruption in the U.S. Attorney’s office. Schar joined Hamilton in the Muhammad Salah Hamas fund-raising trial. Other prosecutions include a Chinatown extortion, a major gang case from Chicago Heights and Oak Forest corruption. Schar is a Stanford Undergraduate and Northwestern Law School graduate. He clerked for U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo. He worked at Sidley & Austin at the same time as Niewoehner. Schar has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern Law since 2002.
The line this morning to get into Tony Rezko's trial is halfway down the hallway.
Rezko entered the building early today, and waits inside a witness and attorney room off the hallway on the 12th floor. Today, he wears a navy blue suit and a striped tie.
In line is apparently family members (possibly a brother and parents?) of Prosecutor Reid Schar, who will be delivering this morning's summation. As Schar walks toward the courtroom, he pauses and gives them a nod to get out of line. They follow him in before the rest of the crowd.