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Wednesday, June 11, 2008 01:40 am

Rezko’s guilty verdict

Making sense of the conviction of the governor’s fundraiser

Untitled Document Some random thoughts about Tony Rezko’s guilty verdict in his federal corruption trial: • After Rezko was convicted on 16 of 24 counts, both Gov. Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama expressed sadness at the verdict and gingerly danced away from their former friend and fundraiser. Some in the media criticized the two men for not being tougher on the guy. There are plenty of reasons that those postconviction statements weren’t more judgmental or harsh. The first that came to my mind was that Rezko is theoretically facing 300 years in prison. A guy caught up in such a predicament might say anything, true or false, to avoid spending the rest of his natural life behind bars. It’s probably best not to rile him too much. Discretion is the better part of valor in such a situation. • Is Blagojevich next on the federal hit list? Plenty of reports since the Rezko verdict have quoted insiders in the U.S. Attorney’s Office saying that the multiple criminal investigations against Blagojevich and his campaign are going full speed ahead. “Speed” and “U.S. Attorney” are usually not things you see in the same sentence. They like to take their sweet time, so don’t get impatient. The feds will put another Blagojevich fundraiser, Chris Kelly, on trial later this year. Actually, Kelly is not just a fundraiser — he’s a close Blagojevich friend — plus there’s another trial pending against Rezko. So, as I said, be patient. It’ll happen when it happens. • Why did Rezko immediately surrender himself to authorities when his official sentencing date isn’t until September? He’s been out on bond for a few weeks, since the judge sent him to a holding facility for receiving some money from overseas without informing her. He whined and whined when he was in jail, so why did he volunteer to go back? Several reasons have been offered, including the possibility that he fears for his life, he’s ready to flip on Blagojevich, or he’s showing the feds that he’s a tough guy who won’t flip on anyone else. I don’t think the answer is any of these. A commenter at my blog had what may be the simplest explanation. Rezko’s friends and family put up millions in cash and property to spring him from that jailhouse. Going back to behind bars meant that the judge’s hold was taken off all the money and property. It was most likely just a decent thing to do by a guy who has done some very indecent things. • Will Rezko flip on Blagojevich? Call me a rat if you want, but if I were Tony Rezko and were facing all that prison time, I’d flip like Nadia Comaneci on steroids. I’d flip so much that I could open up my own IHOP franchise. I’d be another Flip Wilson. “They call him Flipper, Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning,” would be my new theme song. I’d . . . well, you get the idea. I can’t read Rezko’s mind, but I do believe that if he has something to say, he will. • Do Illinoisans really care about Tony Rezko?
Shortly after it was announced that a verdict was on its way, the Web sites of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times were so overwhelmed with visitors that they both crashed. I don’t think that’s ever happened before. So, yes, people are very interested. • What was the most overlooked part of the Rezko verdict? The media has been covering one aspect of the trial for months: Rezko and others were accused of conspiring to squeeze a $1.5 million campaign contribution for Blagojevich from an investor. Rezko’s defense lawyers claimed that there never was any such plan. It was all a fantasy concocted by star prosecution witness Stu Levine, they said. The jury declared Rezko not guilty on those counts, apparently believing the defense contention that no such conspiracy ever existed.

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com. 
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