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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.