Wednesday, June 04, 2008

 

Tony Rezko Guilty On 16 Of 24 Counts

Will he flip?

The Sun-Times reports:
The verdict, reached after deliberations that spanned 12 days, could give federal authorities new ammunition in their probe of the governor’s campaign and his administration. They already have subpoenaed Blagojevich’s campaign fund, scrutinized his donors, looked into his wife’s real estate dealings and questioned potential witnesses about whether they were promised anything in return for campaign contributions, sources told the Sun-Times.

Now, facing the prospect of prison time in the corruption case, as well as two additional criminal trials on unrelated charges, Rezko is under pressure to cooperate with the continuing investigations.
Curiously, Rezko chose to begin serving time immediately.

All 6 counts on which Rezko was acquitted involved Public Official A, whom Judge Amy Saint Eve identified as Blagojevich. Nevertheless, former federal prosecutor Pat Collins comments:
The Justice Department’s prosecution of Antoin “Tony” Rezko was always about prelude, never about climax. The jury’s conviction of Rezko on Wednesday on 16 criminal counts is one more point on a long investigative arc—an arc now pointed straight at Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other of his associates.

That arc reaches beyond the horizon to points none of us can see. But prosecutor Christopher Niewoehner unequivocally—and forcefully—told the Rezko jurors during closing arguments where federal authorities now are concentrating: “This is a crime that involves the highest levels of power in Illinois.”

All of us have seen before how the office of U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald follows these investigative arcs in pursuit of official corruption (among others, see Ryan, George, and Sorich, Robert, both in extended engagements with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons). The feds now can exploit Rezko’s conviction to learn whatever he or other political players will divulge about the Illinois culture of political sleaze.
Can Governor Blagojevich survive? He is very unpopular in Springfield, particularly for using his power to call the state legislature into special session as a political weapon, a tactic which may backfire on him if he tries it this summer. Impeachment talk has already started. And, as I've posted before, Adlai Stevenson, whose term ended in 1953, was the last Democrat to be elected governor of this state who managed to stay out of federal prison.

I wonder if legislative leaders might be amenable to cutting a deal with Lt. Governor Pat Quinn. I just saw Quinn's reaction to the verdict. He criticized Blagojevich for publicly championing Quinn's recall proposal while working behind the scenes to kill it. He described his relationship with the Governor as "non-existent." We all know he wants to be governor. Will he try publicly to force Blagojevich out?

Rich Miller, who blogs about Illinois politics here, has many good posts on the trial and its ramifications.

UPDATE: The last sentence was edited for clarity. Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to point out that nobody in Illinois under the age of 76 has ever voted for a Democratic governor of this state who managed to stay out of federal prison.

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