Rezko: I won't lie about Blagojevich, Obama to stay out of prison

 
 
  • Tony Rezko, right, leaves the Dirksen Federal building with attorney Bill Ziegelmueller.

    Tony Rezko, right, leaves the Dirksen Federal building with attorney Bill Ziegelmueller. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Published: 6/12/2008 12:38 PM | Updated: 6/12/2008 8:07 PM

Before his conviction on corruption charges, former political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko told a federal judge he would not tell "lies" about Gov. Rod Blagojevich or U.S. Sen. Barack Obama to get out of prison.

"I will take what comes my way, but I will never hurt innocent people," Rezko said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve.

The two-page letter, entered into the court record earlier this week, was written by Rezko to persuade St. Eve to let him out of jail on bond in April. His bond was revoked during trial because he didn't tell the judge about $3.5 million he received from an international billionaire.

Rezko, who has rarely talked to the press, detailed the pain the arrest and trial caused his family, declared his innocence and assured the judge that he knows nothing the governor or senator did wrong.

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"Your Honor, the prosecutors have been overzealous in pursuing a crime that never happened," he wrote. "They are pressuring me to tell them the 'wrong' things that I supposedly know about Governor Blagojevich and Senator Obama. I have never been a party to any wrongdoing that involved the Governor or the Senator."

Even as Rezko professed his innocence, he predicted he would be convicted in the landmark corruption trial brought against him.

"Despite my belief in my innocence, I understand I may well lose this case," he wrote. "If I do, I am prepared to serve my sentence."

Rezko immediately relinquished himself into custody June 4 after a jury found him guilty on 16 of 24 counts ranging from wire fraud to bribery. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 3.

The letter indicates for the first time that federal authorities may have asked about Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. But aside from Rezko's assertions, there remains no other public indication federal authorities are mounting an official investigation into Obama's actions.

Rezko has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Chicago Democrat and bought property next to his Hyde Park home in a joint land deal.

Obama's presidential campaign issued a statement Thursday disputing any inference he is under federal investigation.

"There has been absolutely no suggestion at any point during the entire course of this trial that Sen. Obama was involved in any improper action or conduct involving Tony Rezko, and at no point has Sen. Obama been contacted for an interview or for any information about Tony Rezko," the statement said.

Meanwhile, Blagojevich's administration remains the target of federal investigations into illegal hiring and contracting practices.

As a key member of Blagojevich's inner circle, Rezko recommended appointments to high-level state positions and steered millions of dollars in donations to his campaign.

Rezko used his clout to infiltrate obscure state boards and strong arm millions of dollars in kickbacks from businesses seeking to invest teacher pensions and build suburban hospitals.

After last week's verdict, Blagojevich called Rezko his "friend" and expressed sympathy for him and his family.

Rezko still faces another set of charges alleging loan fraud in connection with his pizzeria chain. Plus, he faces a Las Vegas arrest warrant on charges he skipped out on $450,000 in gambling debts.

Rezko's attorneys could not be reached Thursday.

Meanwhile Thursday, St. Eve held off ruling on the government's attempt to seize about $100,000 of Rezko's bail money in restitution for his crimes. She gave Rezko's attorneys until July 9 to respond to the government's request.