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Rezko ‘shocked’ by Blagojevich request

Rezko former fund-raiser for Rod Blagojevich President Obamwas convicted trial 2008 wide-ranging corruptiinvolving state boards commissions under Blagojevich.<br>

Rezko, a former fund-raiser for Rod Blagojevich and President Obama, was convicted at trial in 2008 of wide-ranging corruption involving state boards and commissions under Blagojevich.

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Updated: December 6, 2011 8:13AM

In court papers asking a judge to free him from jail later this month rather than having to do more time, convicted political fund-raiser Tony Rezko said that after spending 20 years in Chicago politics, he was still taken aback by a request that allegedly came from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“Mr. Rezko was shocked that Blagojevich explicitly directed him to work with [adviser] Chris Kelly to find ways for Blagojevich, [adviser Lon] Monk, Kelly and Rezko to make money through state action,” Rezko’s filing on sentencing said. “When Mr. Rezko stepped across the proverbial line, he did so at the direction of Rod Blagojevich.”

An attorney for Blagojevich blasted the remarks.

“That is a complete, utter lie,” Blagojevich’s attorney Sheldon Sorosky said Thursday. “The proof that this man is a liar is that the government would not call him in either the [William] Cellini or either of the Blagojevich cases, because the government wouldn’t vouch for him.”

The government did not disclose why it did not call Rezko, 56, in its trials, even though he immediately began cooperating with authorities after his 2008 conviction. Rezko’s attorneys say the government did not call him for “tactical reasons” and that he indefinitely delayed his own sentencing at the government’s request because he was prepared to testify at those trials.

Rezko is to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve on Nov. 22 but still faces sentencing in a separate case before U.S. District Judge James Zagel.

The filing did give new insight to the extent of Rezko’s cooperation with the government, saying he had met with authorities 29 separate days over the three years following his conviction and that memo summaries of his interviews fill 360 pages.

Lawyers said that it was Rezko who initially implicated Monk, who was charged, and government witness Joe Aramanda. Rezko also implicated lobbyist John Wyma, they say, and Wyma gave the feds probable cause to wiretap Blagojevich’s phones.

A onetime fund-raiser to Barack Obama, Rezko had voluntarily surrendered to prison after he was convicted on 16 of 24 counts to begin immediately begin his sentence.

Rezko was convicted of using his clout to control state government and direct kickbacks from government deals to himself and others.

He spent 276 days in solitary confinement at the downtown lockup, something that the jail typically does with high-profile inmates. He was later moved to a county jail in Wisconsin and has lost more than 80 pounds since he’s been locked up with his “weight dipping to a low of 154 pounds.”

“With this dramatic weight loss, Mr. Rezko has shrunk from a robust, if somewhat overweight, man to a frail and gaunt shell of his former self,” his lawyers wrote.

“He has not enjoyed a breath of fresh air or a ray of sunlight for nearly three and a half years, and he has not been allowed to hug his wife or daughter since he left the MCC nearly three years ago.”

In making his case to get out, Rezko says he was a philanthropic businessman who spent 20 years in Chicago politics supporting politicians like Blagojevich and Obama because he was impressed they could have influence in the American political system.

“The underlying motivation for Mr. Rezko’s political activities was never ideology, greed, or the desire for power,” the filing says. “Rather, Mr. Rezko was genuinely fascinated by the notion that a poor young immigrant like himself could participate in the political process, influence politicians, and impact policy.”

Lawyers said Rezko’s own success in business led him to branch out and support numerous national, state and local politicians.

“And, of course, Mr. Rezko was a friend, advisor, and early supporter of a young politician named Barack Obama,” lawyers wrote.

Federal prosecutors are expected to file a position on Rezko’s sentencing late Thursday and sources say they are expected to ask for a sentence greater than the 5 ½ years that co-conspirator Stuart Levine is slotted to get under his plea deal.

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