Star Witness Testifies in Rezko Trial

The Government's star witness, Stuart Levine, took the stand Monday in the corruption trial of Tony Rezko. He's a defense dream for a witness.

Levine was charged with corruption along with Rezko but pleaded guilty and agreed to testify. Technically, Levine could be sentenced to life in prison, but he said he hoped prison time would be limited to about 51/2 years in return for his cooperation with the government.

Levine dressed for and sounded the part assigned to him by the Government:

He displayed the demeanor of a practiced public speaker and lawyer and hardly the picture of a strung-out drug abuser that Rezko's attorneys hope will damage his credibility.

What about that drug use? [More...]

"I experimented with LSD, marijuana, cocaine, quaaludes, Ecstasy, crystal methamphetamine, ketamine," answered Levine, explaining that his drug use spanned from 1972 to 2004, when federal agents confronted him about corruption.

How many times was he interviewed by the Government? More than 100.

Levine said he agreed to cooperate with the government in January 2006 and was interviewed "certainly more than 100 times" by federal prosecutors and agents. Levine said he initially lied in those sessions to protect [former Chicago Ald. Edward]Vrdolyak but ultimately decided to be straight when he realized federal agents were on to his deception.

Vrdolyak has separate federal criminal charges pending. His lawyer, Michael Monico (full disclosure, he's a long time friend)blasted Levine's allegations as false today.

"It's hard to imagine a witness with less credibility than Stuart Levine," said Monico, adding that he was upset that the allegations were leveled during the Rezko trial when Vrdolyak was not present. "It was unfair," Monico said. "We had no opportunity to defend ourselves."

Levine laid out his own bad deeds -- decades worth of bribery and other political misconduct.

Levine said he also quietly slipped money through straw donors to some Democrats over the years. Levine said he did so at the request of Vrdolyak, whose political allegiances have flip-flopped between the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Niewoehner asked Levine what he expected to get in return for his secret donations. Levine had a one-word answer: "Access." Levine explained how he had become wealthy by carefully cultivating access to politicians and the levers of power.

Sounds like we're going to hear a comparison to Rezko soon. And here it is.

[Levine] has served on three state regulatory panels spanning the administrations of two Republican governors as well as Blagojevich, a Democrat.

He resigned one board position but remained on "one that regulated hospital expansion and one that invested state teacher pension money." Prosecutors say Blagojevich reappointed him to both boards at Rezko's request.

Levine also had a real estate tale to tell about Rezko. He had been trying to buy a property. At a dinner party,

...Levine complained to his dinner partners that he was having trouble closing the sale on the Scholl building. Rezko then admitted that he was the one gumming up the works, trying to line up his own deal for the property, Levine said. Rezko promised to back off, and he quickly did, Levine said.

According to prosecutors, that was the beginning of their beautiful friendship:

Prosecutors say that was the start of a corrupt relationship between the two men that fed off Levine's board positions and Rezko's clout with Blagojevich.

The defense should have a field day with Levine's purchased testimony. Nonetheless, there are some takeaways.

Why do men like Rezko and Levine bribe and contribute to political campaigns? For access. They are groomers. They carefully cultivate the politicians by raising money for them and lavishing attention on them, get themselves in the door, and then ask for their payback. Does anyone believe men like Rezko and Levine do the fundraising and bundling of contributions out of the goodness of their heart?

If the jury doesn't decide that Stuart Levine is too much of a slimeball to believe, the person that will likely take the biggest hit in the Rezko trial, after Rezko, is Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Levine is scheduled to be on the witness stand for several days.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Very interesting. I read earlier, in (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:42:33 AM EST
    the Chicago Sun-Times, that Rezko's attorney made a motion for Levine to be required to provide samples for tox. testing whilst Levine has been incarcerated pending Rezko's trial.  

    Oh, and the trial judge granted the (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:49:33 AM EST

    This is not limited to Chicago (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:44:34 AM EST
    This kind of manipulation of local government goes on every day.  There are specialists in each city or county.  Everyone knows who those people are if you are in local government politics.  

    Stellaaa, I'm thinking we should take (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:49:05 AM EST
    leave w/o pay and sit in on this trial in Chicago.  

    Oculus (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Stellaaa on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:54:52 AM EST
    I worked enough years in California big city politics, I paid my dues.  I smell them from miles away.  There is a certain, I don't know, air about them.  I remember those types coming to milk the local governments to do affordable housing deals.  They thought it would be easy money.  

    What a stench those guys have.  Everyone I knew in the Community Organizing could smell them-- for the life of me, I don't get it.  


    quite the umbrage taken: (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 02:33:39 AM EST
    "It's hard to imagine a witness with less credibility than Stuart Levine," said Monico, adding that he was upset that the allegations were leveled during the Rezko trial when Vrdolyak was not present. "It was unfair," Monico said. "We had no opportunity to defend ourselves

    what i fail to see is a statement catagorically stating that mr. levine's testimony, with respect to mr. vrdolyak, is actually not true. must be that carefully cultivated lawyer-type talk. :)

    not to be too cynical (oh, what the hell, why not?), but why else would a wanna be mover and shaker contribute to the political aspirations of a successful candidate? hmmmmmmmmm, let me think now, think, think, think! oh, the thinks i can think!

    time's up. alex, i'll take "access" for $100 please! oh look, it's "double jeopardy"!

    good thing you're not a lawyer, or (none / 0) (#16)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:01:44 AM EST
    a translator, you'd starve to death.

    there were many ways he could have politely said what you assert he did. he didn't. not even close.

    he didn't say "mr. x's statements are not supported by the facts."; quick, blunt, to the point, polite and not subject to any misinterpretation.

    no, instead he whined about his client's not having been there to "defend" himself. if the witness' statements were lies, his client needn't "defend" himself, merely point to the truth, supported by evidence.

    my claim stands.


    Actually, I think you are both correct (none / 0) (#18)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:22:52 AM EST
       Saying someone is a liar, who would say anything is not inconsistent with your original point.

    I hope. (none / 0) (#1)
    by Arbitrarity on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:34:51 AM EST
    I hope Rod Blagojevich goes to jail.

    Terrible, terrible governor.

    Oooh (none / 0) (#21)
    by tek on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:34:56 PM EST
    you sound like my son whose in law enforcement. Hates Roddo.

    So how is this Levine guy instrumental, exactly?


    Hmm (none / 0) (#2)
    by Steve M on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:42:22 AM EST
    His name's not Dennis, is it?

    It's Stuart Levine (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:56:42 AM EST
    We had a big white collar case here  with a Dennis Levine, I got the names confused. Fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out.

    LOL (none / 0) (#11)
    by flyerhawk on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 06:44:26 AM EST
    He "experimented" with drugs for 32 years.

    Replication of results (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by ruffian on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 07:46:48 AM EST
    is paramount to the validity of the experiment.

    He was trying, again and again, (none / 0) (#15)
    by scribe on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 10:30:15 AM EST
    to get it right.

    Whatever "it" was.


    he was gathering data (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:03:28 AM EST
    for a scientific study, to be released, um, sometime.

    Hey.... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 02:55:44 PM EST
    I'm 14 years into my experiments...I don't see an end to them anytime in the near future.

    Some of us take our experiments very seriously:)


    Beware (none / 0) (#13)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 08:02:57 AM EST
     of media coverage--of any trial. What you see on TV and read in papers almost without fail distorts, at best, what is happening in the courtroom and its import. Maybe counter-intuitively it seems that the more coverage of a case the worse the distortions.

      Attempting either to  predict an outcome or to evaluate the correctness of a verdict based on media reporting must be done with great caution and a lot of caveats.

      Word to the wise-- often a slimeball star witnesses testimony is corroborated to a greater or lesser extent and the nature, quantity and and quality of the corroboration is often more important than the slimeball's intrinsic credibility.

    Rezko's (none / 0) (#20)
    by tek on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:33:27 PM EST
    clout with Blagojevich. Ouch!  Sorry I gave that guy money, but he was so charismatic.

    Vrdolyak (none / 0) (#22)
    by DaleA on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 02:45:27 PM EST
    Who here can pronounce this name? Hint: R is a vowel in the language it comes from. He used to be known as 'FastBuck Eddy'. He was acussed of stealing an alley. Ahh, Chicago politics.

    well there is no V in Polish (none / 0) (#24)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 03:21:56 PM EST
    so i'll assume that was phonetically anglicized and it something like: Vehduhliuk