Rezko, serving a 10 ½ year sentence in a federal prison in Downstate Pekin, said Blagojevich handed out political appointments in exchange for campaign contributions. Rezko said he himself was tried and convicted on crimes he did not commit. But Rezko admitted to other crimes.
The former Wilmette businessman expressed surprise at the Senate seat charges involving Blagojevich; namely that the former governor wasn’t more careful in his telephone conversations.
He called the disgraced governor’s 14-year prison sentence “ridiculous.”
While he denounced a judicial system that rewarded serial conman Stuart Levine for cooperating with the government, Rezko said he ultimately blamed no one for his predicament but himself.
And Rezko was adamant that Blagojevich knew of the pay-to-play politics in his administration, including the trading of political appointments for campaign contributions.
“Yes, he did,” Rezko said of Blagojevich’s knowledge of pay-to-play. “We would have the discussions. X, Y and Z made a $50,000 [contribution] and looking to be placed on a board, where should we place that person if that person specifically requested to be placed on board. Yeah. We had these discussions.”
The accusation that Blagojevich sold appointments — which the governor repeatedly denied — was first made public by Ald. Dick Mell (33rd), Blagojevich’s father-in-law, sparking a feud that still divides the family . . .
Rezko said he never bribed the now-imprisoned Blagojevich and said Patti Blagojevich did do work in exchange for the more than $12,000 a month Rezko’s realty company paid her. He also said there was no wrongdoing tied to the rehab of Blagojevich’s home, which was done by Rezko companies. “I’m not aware of him getting cash from anybody,” Rezko said of Blagojevich.
Rezko seemed to back up trial testimony by former Blagojevich chief of staff Lon Monk that the ex-governor took part in private meetings in which the three of them and the late Christopher Kelly discussed how to make money off of state deals.
But when pressed, Rezko declined to give details.
“We did have meetings. Quite a few times, where it was me and Chris Kelly and Rod. I do not recall specifically things he said. But yeah, we had meetings like that,” Rezko said when asked of Monk’s testimony. Rezko said the scheme did not happen “in the way that I read about in the paper.” When asked for additional information, Rezko would not answer, saying: “Let’s go to a different topic.”
In 2008, Rezko was convicted on 16 of 24 counts that accused him of corrupting two state boards and using his influence in Blagojevich’s inner circle to squeeze cash from firms seeking state business.
“I was shocked. At no time I thought they’d give me 10 ½ years,” Rezko said. I was indicted, tried and convicted on a crime I did not commit … I have done things that I could have been indicted and tried for. I’m not saying I’m an angel,” Rezko said. “I did do things that were related to play-to-play. But I did not do what they indicted me and convicted me of.” . . .I think what Rezko says about pay-to-play not being easier to do in Illinois than any other state is spot on. It's standard operating procedure in Indiana, particularly in the City of Indianapolis. The individuals convicted in Operation Board Game did nothing anymore criminal than what occurs daily in Indianapolis. It's just that in Indianapolis we don't have persons in the mainstream media willing to shine a light on it or an FBI office and U.S. Attorney's Office that will investigate and prosecute the crimes as there has been in Chicago.
Rezko did confirm he handed out cash payments to Monk under the table after Monk complained he wasn’t making enough money. Monk testified Rezko gave him $70,000 to $90,000 in cash.Rezko initially did not tell prosecutors about the money, something prosecutors cited as they sought a stiff sentence against Rezko last November. Rezko though, said he didn’t ask for favors in return — saying he didn’t need any.“I did admit I lied to them about Lon Monk… I thought, the guy has young children, he has already indicted and why do I pile [on] more? I knew something that could have damaged him more, “ Rezko said. “I guess he told them … and it backfired on me.”Looking back on his crimes, Rezko said he regrets his actions.“Of course. I’m here. I never thought one day I’ll be incarcerated.”Asked if carrying out pay-to-play was easy to do in Illinois, Rezko laughed heartily.“I think it is not easier in Illinois than it is in New Jersey, or California, or any other state. I don’t know, I guess that’s the Democratic system. It’s better than what’s out there but it’s not pure,” he said. “Isn’t that part of the world we live in?”
I'm not surprised at Rezko's reluctance to talk about the bribes he paid to Obama. "In a wide-ranging telephone interview from prison with the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday, Rezko refused to talk about his former friend who went on to be elected president," Korecki writes. Rezko hopes to get out of prison alive and not be rubbed out like Chris Kelly, who only the naive believe decided to end his life by swallowing rat poisoning. The Sun-Times has an audio clip of part of Korecki's interview with Rezko here. It doesn't include any questions she tried to ask the convicted political fixer about his relationship with Obama.