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Rezko talking in hopes of reduced term

Stephens and Johnson write for the Washington Post.

A footnote to the 76-page criminal complaint and affidavit charging Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, a Democrat, with soliciting bribes confirms what has long been rumored: that a former longtime friend of and fundraiser for President-elect Barack Obama is talking to federal prosecutors in hopes of a reduced sentence.

Antoin “Tony” Rezko’s offer to provide authorities with evidence of others’ wrongdoing is “not complete,” and prosecutors are working to corroborate the claims he has made so far, the footnote says.

Rezko, a 53-year-old developer, was convicted in June on 16 criminal counts, including fraud, money laundering and abetting bribery. He is in custody awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors depicted Rezko at trial as a fixer for Blagojevich and the man to see to secure a high-level appointment with the governor’s administration. Rezko had been a longtime fundraiser for Blagojevich and other Illinois politicians, including Obama.

Obama was not implicated in the months-long trial, and he has said that Rezko sought no favors from him.

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At a news conference Tuesday, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, went out of his way to dampen speculation about Obama.

“I should make clear, the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever,” Fitzgerald said. “We make no allegations that he’s aware of anything, and that’s as simply as I can put it. . . . There’s no reference in the complaint to any conversations involving the president-elect or indicating that the president-elect was aware of it. And that’s all I can say.”

Experts said it was unusual for a prosecutor to make such a blanket statement while an investigation was continuing.

The investigation is sure to present political complications for the Obama Justice Department, because advisors close to him are referenced in the criminal complaint and will be interviewed by federal prosecutors, legal analysts said.

Fitzgerald was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush, but he is a political independent. Obama could retain Fitzgerald, lending an element of continuity to the Blagojevich case and insulating himself somewhat from accusations that he is seeking to remove a dogged prosecutor from a case targeting Illinois Democrats.

Over Obama’s political career, Rezko raised funds for him and introduced him to powerful aldermen.

Rezko even offered real estate advice when Obama bought a house.

Nearly half of the criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday deals with allegations that members of the Blagojevich administration offered access to jobs and state contracts in exchange for campaign cash. Blagojevich was not charged in those alleged plots. Several of the fundraisers testified at Rezko’s trial.

Fitzgerald said authorities did not “rely upon” information from Rezko in the complaint. Joseph Duffy, a defense lawyer for Rezko, did not return calls Wednesday.


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