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Rezko trial breaks just before discussion of city real estate scheme
By Rob Olmstead | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/4/2008 2:26 PM | Updated: 4/4/2008 9:11 PM

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The Antoin "Tony" Rezko trial ended with a cliffhanger Friday, with Stuart Levine about to recount his attempt to tape record a player in an allegedly crooked real estate deal.

Before ending for the day, however, Rezko attorney Joseph Duffy did elicit that Levine attempted to record separate conversations with former Chicago aldermen Edward Vrdolyak and William Singer. But more than that was left for discussion when the trial resumes next week.

According to the government, Vrdolyak was part of a scheme with Levine to defraud Rosalind Franklin University. Vrdolyak has pleaded innocent and faces trial in September.

According to the government, Levine was on the Rosalind Franklin board, and pushed through a sale of the school's Scholl Building at 1001 N. Dearborn in Chicago to Smithfield Properties. Levine did so, the government contends, because he had arranged for Vrdolyak to receive a finder's fee from Smithfield from the sale, which Vrdolyak would then share with Levine.

Singer was a consultant on the deal and is under investigation but has not been charged with any wrongdoing, nor was he referenced in Vrdolyak's indictment.

But as Duffy questioned Levine Friday, he indicated that the government's theory of the case is that Singer was to give Levine money in the deal.

The plan was that "you (Levine) would go to Mr. Singer's neighborhood … and 'accidentally' bump into him?" asked Duffy.

Levine confirmed that was the plan and that Levine would then try to get Singer to say something incriminating on tape.

This particular attempt was not the first time Levine had tried to tape someone, he noted. He had already done it "a number of times."

That particular day, Levine was wearing a coat that concealed a recorder and was controlled by an on/off switch located in the coat pocket, he admitted.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner objected to the question, asking Duffy to specify which device he was referring to, Duffy told Judge Amy St. Eve he was trying to avoid revealing prosecutors' methods.

St. Eve told Duffy to go ahead, that prosecutors had opened the door.

Duffy started up again, but Niewoehner objected again.

"The questions are being asked as if there's "a device," Niewoehner said, implying there might have been a second device.

The attorneys then held a sidebar, out of earshot of jurors and spectators.

At the time Levine began cooperating with the government, it was well-known that he was under investigation, and anyone approaching by him might have been suspicious that he was being recorded.

Having a device that could be turned off for show might have been a way to try to make someone feel comfortable, but jurors would have to wait until Monday to find out if that was the plan with Singer, as St. Eve dismissed everyone for the weekend after the sidebar.