Rezko jury alters work schedule

Published: 5/27/2008 8:43 AM | Updated: 5/27/2008 10:52 AM

The federal court jury deliberating charges against political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko has told the judge it plans to work late two nights this week "to help conclude our decision."

The jury handed U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve a note last week saying it wanted to break off deliberations at noon Tuesday but work until 5:50 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

The jurors said that would "help conclude our decision." St. Eve brought attorneys into court Tuesday to put the note on the record.

Attorneys said the phrase "conclude our decision" did not necessarily mean the jurors were promising to come up with a verdict Thursday and that the note could be read various ways.

Rezko, 52, a major fundraiser for Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is charged with fraud, attempted extortion, money laundering and aiding and abetting bribery. Neither politician is charged with any wrongdoing.

The indictment accuses Rezko of scheming with political fixer Stuart P. Levine to get a $1.5 million bribe from a contractor who wanted state permission to build a hospital in Crystal Lake, northwest of Chicago.

He also is charged with scheming with Levine to pressure kickbacks out of money management companies wanting to invest the assets of a $40 billion state fund that pays the pensions of retired school teachers.

Prosecutors say Rezko developed enormous clout with Blagojevich by raising campaign funds for him and used his influence to control the state boards that decided on hospitals and pension investment.

Rezko denies he took part in any such scheme. His lawyers say Levine, who has pleaded guilty and was the government's star witness, lied on the stand at the nine-week trial.

If the jury continues to deliberate beyond Thursday, it will resume next Monday.