Thursday, November 3, 2011

Crony Capitalism (Updated)

William Cellini from Springfield was found guilty last week in a courtroom in Chicago. It is the same courtroom that ex-Governor Blagojevich was found guilty in a couple of months ago.

The Peoria Journal Star had this editorial on the Cellini conviction.

I am sure Cellini has well heeled supporters not only in Springfield and Chicago but in Peoria too. See this article in the Peoria Journal Star.

And John Kass, the Tribune columnist has been following friendships from Peoria with Cellini for several years. See this Kass column too which was written last week after Cellini was found guilty.

Michelle Malkin is kind of rough on our leadership and its love of crony capitalism also.

Did ex-Governor Blagojevich's 400 million dollar loan from the Illinois Finance Authority to OSF in Peoria happen because he was so interested in health care in Peoria? In retrospect, it does not seem like Blago did much of anything for "free".

The entire lot of them--Blago, Rezko, Levine, Cellini, and others closer to home do seem pathetic now. But the Illinois taxpayer has been burned.

The article below by Michael Tarm/The Associated Press is about Tony Rezko trying to get out of prison.


November 3, 2011


A convicted political fixer and onetime fundraiser for impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants a federal judge to set him free at his sentencing hearing later this month, arguing that he has already served more time awaiting sentencing — and under harsh conditions — than others convicted in related schemes have or expect to.

Tony Rezko — once described by prosecutors as "the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings" in Blagojevich's administration — has spent much of his more than 3 1/2 years in jail in solitary, rarely getting fresh air and subject to a diet that has resulted in him losing 80 pounds, according to a defense filing unsealed Thursday.

"With his dramatic weight loss, Mr. Rezko has shrunk from a robust, somewhat overweight man to a frail and gaunt shell of his former self," the filing says.

In arguing for a sentence of time served, the document insists the 56-year-old Rezko accepts responsibility for his wrongdoing. But it also hastens to suggest Rezko didn't engage in criminality on his own initiative but at the urging of Blagojevich and his other confidants.

"When Mr. Rezko stepped across the proverbial line, he did so at the direction of Rod Blagojevich, he did so with the knowledge and encouragement of Blagojevich's closest advisers," it says, adding Rezko was "shocked" when the newly elected governor asked him to explore ways to profit from his state decisions.

Rezko's name was mentioned frequently during Blagojevich's initial trial and his retrial, which ended with a jury convicting the ousted governor of corruption including trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Blagojevich's sentencing was postponed and a new date hasn't been set.

Rezko also raised campaign funds for Obama, who has never been accused in the case of any wrongdoing. The filing also notes Rezko's past connection to Obama.

The sympathetic portrayal of Rezko in the defense filing as a family man and eager philanthropist contrasts with the picture painted by prosecutors at his trial of a ruthless schemer with no qualms about using his access to the levers of power for personal profit.

A jury convicted Rezko in 2008 on 16 of 24 corruption counts, including fraud for scheming to squeeze campaign contributions or kickbacks from firms seeking state business. Several counts carry maximum terms of 20 years.

Rezko's sentencing before U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve is set for Nov. 22. Prosecutors are expected to offer their own recommended sentence in a court filing within a matter of days.

More than a dozen co-conspirators have been convicted since authorities launched an investigation of the Democratic governor's administration nearly a decade ago. Most never went to trial, choosing to cut plea deals that call for drastically reduced prison terms.

Rezko's lawyers singled out co-conspirator Stuart Levine, who pleaded guilty to money laundering and fraud. He agreed to testify against Rezko in exchange for a recommended prison term of 5 1/2 years. He has been free on bond as he awaits sentencing.

"Mr. Rezko has already served nearly as much time in jail as will one of the most despicable career fraudsters ever to darken the halls of the federal building," the filing said about Levine.

The crimes Levine pleaded guilty to, the filing continues, are a fraction of the crimes the former state board member has actually admitted to — most of which Rezko played no role in. Levine has admitted to abusing illegal drugs over three decades, the document adds.

Even though he wasn't asked to testify at any either of Blagojevich's two trials, Rezko's lawyers say he had been more than willing to. They say in the filing that Rezko provided enough detail to investigators of wrongdoing in Blagojevich's administration to fill 360 pages.

St. Eve delayed an October sentencing date for Rezko to avoid a conflict with the trial of businessman and political powerbroker William Cellini. He was convicted this week of conspiring with Rezko and two others in 2004 to extort a Hollywood producer for a $1.5 million campaign donation to Blagojevich.

A notice on the court's website did not say why St. Eve decided this week to unseal the defense filing, which was submitted in September. But she issued the order just one day after Cellini's trial ended.

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