You don't know me
Rezko and Odinga are important persons in their own right, but it is their connection to Barack Obama that has the press interested. First, Kenyan PM Raila Odinga is not going to meet with Obama when he visits the US. "Mr Odinga has said he is a cousin of Mr Obama’s, although the senator’s representatives deny that the two men are related. The Kenyan-American presidential candidate may wish to avoid meeting with the PM due to concerns that such contact would be used to stoke rumours intended to wound Senator Obama politically. ... Right-wing extremists have been circulating baseless claims on the Internet that Senator Obama is closely allied with Prime Minister Odinga, who is described by the Obama-haters as both an Islamist and a socialist.".
Over in Chicago, Tony Rezko says prosecutors pressured him to talk about Barack Obama. The prosecutors deny it. "In a letter to a judge publicized last week, political fund-raiser Tony Rezko said 'overzealous' prosecutors pressured him to tell them "the wrong things" about presidential hopeful Barack Obama."
The actual text of the letter, which Rezko wrote while seeking bail before his conviction is at this link. In it Rezko denies he is a criminal, portraying himself instead as the epitome of a loyal American. He said:
I am simply an honest, humble immigrant who believes in the American dream. ... I am a die-hard Bears fan ... The White Sox are my baseball team because they are my son's team. Until recently, I was also a season ticket-holder for the Bulls.
But Rezko's apple pie had strange and persistent Middle Eastern spices. The Sun-Times wrote: "Rezko was indicted in October 2006 while on a trip to Syria, and he had returned to face the case. He remained free on bail until Jan. 28, after prosecutors raised an alarm with the judge that Rezko had received a $3.5 million wire transfer from Lebanon. [Judge] St. Eve jailed him until April, when family and friends put up $8.5 million to secure his release."
The $3.5 million was sent by Nahdmi Auchi of all people. The Sun-Times continues.
Rezko opened his letter by apologizing to St. Eve for not informing her of the $3.5 million, which had come to Rezko through Beirut from General Mediterranean Holding SA, a company led by Auchi. He said he took the money in because he was under "tremendous pressure" to pay his legal bills.
Even the $8.5 million bond raised by his Chicago friends had a connection with Iraq. It included $1.9 million put up by Rezko's old classmate and onetime fugitive Aiham Alsammarae. Alsammarae was a former "Iraqi Electricity Minister ... who in 2006 fled from Iraqi prison. Alsammarae's $1.9 million equity in his Oak Brook home and two other properties made up more than one-third of the $8 million in properties postes to ensure Rezko's bond. Rezko was ... arrested Jan. 28 after failing to disclose an overseas wire transfer."
In the letter explaining why he did not disclose the wire transfer, Rezko said he had been told by his attorneys that since the money from Auchi was a "loan" he had no obligation to disclose it to the judge. At any rate his heart was as pure as only a Bears fan could be. "However, your Honor, the thought of making plans to leave the country never crossed my mind." Rezko portrayed himself as just an innocent immigrant who was being pressured by unscrupulous prosecutors to say bad things about honest and decent men.
Your Honor, the prosecutors have been overzealous in pursuing a crime that never happened. They are pressuringme to tell them the "wrong" things that I supposedly know about Governor Blagojevich and Senator Obama. I have never been party to any wrongdoing that involved the Governor or the Senator. I will never fabricate lies about anyone else for selfish purposes. I will take what comes my way, but I will never hurt innocent people. I am not Levine, Loren, Mahru, or Winter. I am simply an honest, humble immigrant who believes in the American dream.
The Sun-Times thinks the letter, written before Rezko's conviction, was his way of saying that he didn't want to make a deal. But now that Rezko is facing a long stretch in jail, he may regret his decision.
The letter sent a clear signal that Rezko was not interested in making a deal. But Rezko's situation changed dramatically after his June 4 conviction. He not only landed right back in jail, but faces significant prison time. Beyond that, Rezko still faces two other criminal trials. If Rezko were to have a future change of heart, the note he sent could end up backfiring on him, legal observers say.
The Chicago Sun-Times is probably right in thinking Rezko was signaling that he wasn't going to make a deal. But the Sun-Times may be wrong to assume the signal was being sent to the prosecutor. As the Sun-Times itself notes, the prosecutors claim they never approached Rezko on the subject. So who was the signal in the letter meant for? Maybe Rezko was signaling To Whom it May Concern on the Outside. The world of Tony Rezko has gotten very small. An Illinois jail is a very confined place for anyone who plans on snitching on powerful allies. Nor is there any safety in fleeing to Lebanon or Syria if he crosses Auchi. Dollars to donuts says Auchi has even more friends in those parts than Tony Rezko. So at all events Rezko has to be the stand up man. It would have been nice if the Judge hadn't found out about the money Auchi sent; the money Rezko wasn't going to use to skip. Then he could have been free and in the good graces of his friends. Maybe. All in all, given the complications of the situation maybe the best Tony Rezko can hope for is life imprisonment in jail. It's possible that there's nothing Fitzgerald can threaten Rezko with that would remotely compare with the downside of making a deal. Which is probably why the prosecutors have denied asking Rezko to turn in any associates.
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