Rezko begins serving time immediately
June 4, 2008 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Guilty on 16 counts of corruption, political fundraiser Antoin 'Tony' Rezko has surrendered to authorities.
Rezko, who is scheduled for sentencing in September, surprised even his attorney by opting to begin serving his time immediately.
"I didn't choose that. Mr. Rezko chose if he was convicted to immediately start serving," said Joe Duffy, Rezko Defense Attorney. "That was just the desire he expressed to us, and it was his decision."
Rezko was found guilty on 16 counts of corruption charges related to a kickback scheme for companies that do business with the state.
"This is a pretty significant victory for the prosecution. Tony Rezko has been convicted on 16 counts of mail fraud and wire fraud. It was described by the U.S. Attorney as a pay-to-play on steroids," said Jay Stewart, Better Government Association.
"We are obviously disappointed in the jury's verdict today. We strongly believe in Mr. Rezko's innocence, as does he. It is our intention to pursue certain post trial matters," said Duffy.
The jurors -- 10 women and 2 men -- reached a verdict after 22 days of deliberations in a 13-week trial. Judge Amy St. Eve read the verdict at 3:45 p.m. in federal court Wednesday, June 4, 2008.
Rezko, 52, pleaded not guilty to taking bribes from companies wanting state contracts. The jury's mixed verdict acquitted him on some of the most serious charges, including attempted extortion.
Rezko's wife, Rita, who attended every day of testimony, was not there for the verdict. Rezko's sons and other male relatives were present.
"We the jury on the Rezko trial have made our decision on the evidence presented to us during this lengthy trial. The task before us was a difficult and challenging one. It was with caution and great care that each juror reviewed the evidence presented," said Susan Lopez, juror.
Rezko was found guilty on 16 of 24 counts.
Breakdown of Counts
Rezko was a prominent fundraiser for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Illinois Senator Barack Obama, with whom he was involved in a 2005 real estate deal. Testimony during the nine-week trial barely mentioned Obama but instead focused on shakedowns Rezko arranged while a top adviser to Blagojevich.
Neither Obama nor Blagojevich are accused of wrongdoing.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald would not comment on whether Rezko could catch a break in his prison time if he cooperates in other cases related to government corruption.
"I'm not going to address the specific of what would happen if Mr. Rezko cooperated. Any defendant has the opportunity to seek to cooperate. That is a decision under the law they make, not me. As far as I know they have never given us the power to decide what they want to do and that is unfair for us to answer a hypothetical question," said Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney.
Rezko will be sentenced September 3 at 10 a.m.
Republican Stuart Levine, an admitted career criminal and illegal drug abuser who served on both panels Rezko was accused of rigging, pleaded guilty and testified that he schemed with Rezko to get kickbacks from companies who wanted state business.
Rezko's lawyers said they plan to appeal the convictions despite their client's courtroom surrender to the U.S. Marshall service.
There is a Nevada warrant out for Rezko for not paying Las Vegas gambling debts. If he had remained on bond until his federal sentencing, it's possible he would have been arrested and jailed in Nevada, a long way from Wilmette.
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