Tony Rezko: May 2008 Archives

Rezko's gambling previously unknown

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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.

Read today's story: Rezko wanted in Vegas

Jury Note

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After a four-day weekend, the court announced this morning that Judge Amy St. Eve will address a note from the jury at 9:30 a.m.

Updates to come.

The law the jury must follow

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No, jurors in the Tony Rezko trial couldn't bring back transcripts with them into the jury room.

But besides their notes and "collective recollection" jurors have a specific set of guidelines the judge ordered them to follow.

Here they are: jury instructions

Rezko trial: First jury question

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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.

Rezko trial: Finally, the real indictment

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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.

Here's the real indictment:
Rezko indictment

Rezko trial: Jury's deliberating

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The jury is all here this morning to start its first full day of deliberations.

Rezko calling

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Tony Rezko was smart enough not to do business on the phone, several people testified at his trial.
Still, prosecutors found some interesting connections after examining his phone records.

Who called Rezko the most? Who did Rezko call most often? Read more in today's Watchdogs

Rezko trial: Feds hit back

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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.

Rezko trial: Tony on tape

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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.”

Levine's $1.3 million in cash and 806 calls

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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.

For the prosecution: Reid Schar

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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.

Rezko trial: Tension building

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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.

Rezko trial: A Rezko review

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Why is Tony Rezko on trial? What were some of the key moments over two months of testimony?
How does this all culminate in today's closing arguments?

Read today's story "Rezko Recap," for a reminder of some of the major events that played out in court.


While meeting with lawyers in a jury instruction conference this afternoon, Judge Amy St. Eve
said it wasn't a certainty that witnesses who pleaded guilty will receive shorter prison time.
"There's no guarantee any of them will get reduced sentences," St. Eve said.

No Tony Rezko activity today. Lawyers on both sides are preparing for their closing arguments and for Wednesday's hearing to discuss jury instructions.

Here's today's story: Defense calls no witnesses

Rezko trial: Last moments are light and loose

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Everyone in the courtroom knows the trial is about to come to a close. We're just waiting for the jury to come in so they can hear the news.

As we wait, a loose, "it's finally over," feeling falls over the courtroom.

Rezko lawyer Joe Duffy and an IRS agent are chatting in the back of the courtroom about restaurant recommendations.

Prosecutors Reid Schar and Carrie Hamilton both laugh loudly -- something about rubber bands, but it's tough to hear. Schar, his face red, swivels in his chair, toward, and then away from Tony Rezko. Hamilton, standing a few feet away from Schar, looks on laughing loudly too. Rezko, wearing a light grey suit and a yellow tie, smiles wide and chuckles. He looks at the prosecutors and snaps a rubber band around his notebook and keeps laughing.

It's a light ending to this two-month trial.

Having sat through the marathon trial of former Gov. George Ryan, I can tell you, this kind of congeniality between the prosecution and defense never happened.

Witness: I wore a wire after I was threatened

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Ali Ata, the prosecution's closer witness, testified moments ago he came to the government to cooperate this spring because he was threatened.

Ata said he wore a recording device and recorded conversation for the government on a separate case:
“Yes, for one person who delivered a threat to me,” Ata said.
Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton asked Ata if it were fair to say he didn't suddenly plead guilty last week so he could rush onto the stand in the Rezko corruption trial.
"You were not coming in to cooperate when you cooperated so you could testify at this trial?" Hamilton asked
"Correct," Ata said.

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.

Trial could wrap up earlier than planned

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Tony Rezko's lawyers originally said they would take weeks to present their defense case. Then they said it could take days.

Today, his lawyers said the whole thing could be done in an afternoon, or possibly a day and a half.

The prosecution said they will likely rest Monday. Rezko lawyer William Ziegelmueller said the defense could be done by late Monday, maybe Tuesday.

It is typical for a defense not to put on much of case, saying most of the work is done through cross examination.

Defense: Was Rezko really that powerful?

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Defense lawyer Joseph Duffy works to downplay witness Ali Ata's contention that Rezko held vast influence in the Blagojevich administration.

Duffy asked about Ata's contention that Rezko told him not to worry about talking to the feds because Rezko was working with his friend Bob Kjellander to change the U.S. Attorney.

Duffy asked Ata if he thought Rezko had influence over the President of the United States, the person who appoints the U.S. Attorney.

Rezko trial: 'He was being watched'

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Witness Ali Ata said Tony Rezko warned Ata in the time preceding his indictment that the feds were watching.

Ata said Rezko told him: “We should be careful speaking on the phone, he was being watched,” Ata said.
Ata said Rezko told him he had a company sweep for bugs and Ata saw there were little electronic boxes that were bug detectors in Rezko's office.
And, in the middle of 2005, while sitting in Ata's car, Rezko allegedly asked Ata if he had been approached by the FBI. "He mouthed the FBI," Ata said.

Mr. Ata justta wrote me a letter

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Tony Rezko was a fund-raiser and adviser to Gov. Blagojevich.

But while in his state job, Ali Ata said he was directed to report to Rezko on his duties within his post.
At one point, Rezko asked Ata to use his official position with the Illinois Finance Authority to sign a letter that would help Rezko's pizza businesses and a loan Rezko was seeking, Ata alleged on the stand.

Rezko trial: Ata takes the stand

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The last significant witness in the Tony Rezko trial took the stand moments ago.

Ali Ata, a former Blagojevich administration official, got right into his explosive testimony, saying that he passed a $25,000 check to the governor in Tony Rezko's office.

Witness: Rezko's checks bounced

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Tony Rezko's 10-year friend, Semir Sirazi, said two checks from Rezko in 2003 -- for $48,000 and $66,000 -- bounced. Sirazi provided consulting services for Rezko's Rezmar companies.

Rezko issued another $48,000 check, which cleared.
When the other check bounced, Sirazi said he met Rezko at the Wilmette Walker Bros. Pancake House to talk about it. Rezko gave him a signed, blank check and apologized.
It bounced too.
They talked again, and Rezko said he'd wire Sirazi's company, Mardini Inc., the money.
The $66,000 wire transfer that paid off Rezko's debt did come through. But at tax time, Sirazi said he realized the wire didn't come from a Rezko company.

Rezko trial: Back today

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After a two-day break, the Tony Rezko trial started up again this morning.
What will make big news today is the testimony of Ali Ata, former official in the Blagojevich administration. Ata, expected to give explosive testimony about cash bribes to Rezko and broader allegations about pay-to-play tactics in the Blagojevich administration, will take the stand sometime after several brief witnesses.

Natasha Korecki

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

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tony Rezko category from May 2008.

Tony Rezko: April 2008 is the previous archive.

Tony Rezko: June 2008 is the next archive.

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