Politics

Both sides rest at Rezko trial

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Closing arguments will begin next Monday in the corruption trial of political fundraiser Tony Rezko.

Shortly, after the prosecution rested it's case Monday the defense rested without calling any witnesses.

For those watching this trial since the first week of March, the defense move was not entirely unexpected. Rezko's lawyers believe that during their questioning of prosecution witnesses, they already have raised doubts about the government's case:

When Rezko arrived at the courthouse, he and lawyer Joseph Duffy already knew the evidence phase of the corruption case was virtually ended.

After prosecutors rested, Duffy told Judge Amy St. Eve he would call no witnesses for the defense, explaining later that any testimony to rebut the government's case was unnecessary.

"We do not believe the government has met the burden of proof in the charges against Mr. Rezko, thank you," said Duffy.

Duffy and his partner William Ziegelmueller conducted lengthy and sometimes spirited cross-examinations of controversial prosecution witnesses who either had pleaded guilty or had been granted immunity in the case. They included Republican Stuart Levine, an admitted swindler and drug abuser who served on two state boards. Levine, who bargained for a lesser prison term, testified that he schemed with Democrat fundraiser Rezko to extort money from contractors trying to get state business.

Duffy spent more than two weeks questioning whether drugs had affected Levine's memory and attacking the witness's credibility.

"He's not going to ask the jury to choose between the government's case and his case. He's going to go to the jury in closing argument and say, 'You know what's wrong with the government's argument? It's unbelievable,'" said Leonard Cavise, DePaul College of Law.

Before the prosecution rested, Duffy finished the cross examination of former Illinois Finance Authority director Ali Ata, who testified that Rezko arranged his state appointment in return for campaign contributions to Governor Rod Blagojevich. Ata, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents and tax violations in return for a lesser sentence, was asked by Duffy, "Sir, you are a convicted liar aren't you?"

Ata's one word answer was "yes."

Before releasing the jury, Judge St. Eve again asked the panel not to watch, read or hear news reports on the trial.

Closing arguments in the Rezko trial begin at 9 a.m. Monday, May 12.

Sixteen people are still sitting in the jury box. Of course, four of them are alternates, so we will not know the jury's makeup until after the arguments are finished next week.

Attorneys plan to spend the rest of this week fashioning verdict forms and the instructions that U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve will give the jury.

The trial began March 3.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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