Gov't . Seeks 11 to 15 Year Sentence for Tony Rezko

Now that the last of the Chicago corruption cases related to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has concluded (with the conviction of William Cellini last week), it's finally time for Antoin (Tony) Rezko and Rod Blagojevich to learn their fate.

Today the Judge scheduled sentencing for Rod Blagojevich for December 6. The Government has not yet filed its sentencing statement. Tony Rezkco's sentencing is November 22 and the Court recently unsealed Rezko's sentencing position and ordered the Government's to be filed publicly. The Government filed its statement last Thursday, seeking 11 to 15 years for Rezko, which includes a reduction for cooperation and his harsh conditions of confinement. Rezko is seeking time served (44 months.)

I've just read through the 100 pages of pleadings. This post is long, but it contains both sides' arguments and is a lot shorter than the 100 pages filed by the parties. If you're so inclined, read through, and tell us what sentence you think Rezko should or will receive. [More..]

There's compelling arguments on both sides, and factoring in that the Government is only seeking 67 months for Stuart Levine, I think the judge will end up in the middle -- somewhere between time served and 11 years. (Rezko's guidelines according to the Government and probation are life in prison.)

Rezko was convicted in 2008 of 16 counts of fraud, bribery, and money laundering. In 2010, he pleaded guilty in another case to his role in a multi-million dollar loan fraud scheme that victimized the General Electric Capital Corporation.

The Government says it agrees with the Probation Department that Rezko's sentencing guidelines are life in prison. Rezko is seeking a sentence of time served. The Government is asking the Court to sentence Rezko to between 11 and 15 years. (Case No. 05-cr-00691, Document #739, Filed: 11/03/11, available on PACER).

The government’s recommendation takes into account Rezko’s extensive history of corruption, including the crimes discovered after his trial, ensures that Rezko’s sentence will be fair relative to other defendants in this case, and takes into consideration his efforts to cooperate with the government and other mitigating factors

In the 48 page brief, the Government lays out the role of all the co-conspirators, including Rod Blagojevich. Even Patty Blagojevich isn't spared:

Rezko hid his payments to Blagojevich by disguising them as real estate commissions to Patricia Blagojevich, which she did not earn, and by paying her a salary, which she did not earn. From 2003 through May 2004, when Rezko’s payments to Patricia Blagojevich stopped (shortly after Levine was confronted by the FBI), Rezko paid Patricia Blagojevich over $150,000.

The Government also addresses the issue of Rezko's cooperation:

Rezko argues that he should receive a sentence of time served because he is similarly situated to others who cooperated with the government and received sentences less than 45 months. No government cooperator or other defendant Rezko mentions, however, approaches the level of criminal conduct in which Rezko engaged in except one – Stuart Levine. But Levine, whose criminal culpability is roughly equivalent to Rezko’s, provided cooperation that was dramatically more valuable and timely than Rezko’s. As a result, Section 3553(a)(6) also weighs in favor of the significant sentence recommended by the government.

The Government says in some ways Rezko's conduct was worse that chief cooperator Stuart Levine:

From the very beginning of Blagojevich’s regime, Rezko had been actively plotting with Blagojevich, Kelly, and Monk, literally sitting in a room with the Governor of Illinois criminally scheming how they could make millions of dollars together. Rezko had access and influence in a way that Levine could only dream about, and Rezko abused that access and influence on a scale that surpassed even what Levine planned to do at the Planning Board and TRS.

Rezko, in his statement, says Blagojevich induced him to commit fraud. The Government disagrees:

Contrary to Rezko’s suggestion that he engaged in fraud only because he was invited to do so by Blagojevich, part of Rezko’s fraud against the state was done without Blagojevich’s knowledge and to benefit only Rezko.

The Government also notes that Rezko's cooperation was of limited value compared to Levine's:

Rezko has neither testified, been subject to invasive cross-examination on the totality and minutia of his criminal conduct, nor agreed to forgo the protections in his proffer with the government.

It continues:

The major difference between Levine and Rezko is that Levine’s cooperation with the government has been truly remarkable, while Rezko’s has not. For his many faults, Levine’s cooperation is directly responsible for convictions in difficult and important cases against, among others, Rezko, William Cellini, and Edward Vrdolyak. Levine cooperated pro-actively, wore a wire, did not obstruct his investigation or prosecution, and did not put the government through a trial before choosing to cooperate.

In contrast, the best that can be said of Rezko’s cooperation is that, after obstructing the government’s investigation and his court proceedings and going to trial, he helped the government develop several witnesses who testified against Rod Blagojevich. The timing, quality, and utility of Rezko’s cooperation pales in comparison to Levine’s.

As a result, while Rezko and Levine are roughly equivalent when it comes to their past crimes, Rezko deserves a significantly higher sentence than Levine because Levine’s cooperation was so superior to Rezko’s.

The Government outlines Rezko's cooperation. It's giving him credit for contributing to the decisions of three others in the scheme to cooperate against Blagojevich: Joseph Aramanda, Lon Monk and John Wyma. The only things Rezko personally did didn't amount to much:

Rezko made several covert recorded calls, asked others to provide vicarious cooperation on his behalf, and answered questions he was posed about others. Ultimately, however, none of those efforts yielded any useable additional evidence, let alone charges. As a result, the government does not view those additional efforts as being worth any additional discount.

Rezko says he should get credit for being available as a witness, although never called. The Government says:

The government ultimately chose not to call Rezko, largely because it believed that the value of the information he could have provided was overwhelmed by the attacks that could be made on Rezko’s credibility.

As to his credibility, the Government says:

Rezko’s cooperation was heavily tainted by the timing of when he decided to cooperate, by his repeated lies to judges, and by his pervasive and sustained lies made to the government over the first several months of his purported cooperation with the government.

Rezko once maintained he never did anything wrong with Blagojevich:

Rezko obstructed justice by lying during the bond proceedings in this case. His lies under oath to this Court would provide obvious fodder for cross examination.

Rezko compounded this perjury by writing a letter to the Court which he tried to win his release from jail by falsely claiming 1) that he had done nothing wrong with Blagojevich; and 2) that the prosecution was putting pressure on him to lie about Blagojevich. Not only was this a false statement to a judge; it was a false statement exculpating one of the key people against whom Rezko might have cooperated;

...Rezko began proffering to the government in July 2008. In the course of his first 19 interviews with the government, Rezko consistently denied that he tried to obtain money for himself through his relationship with Blagojevich or through the State of Illinois (with very limited exceptions that the government had proven at his trial)

Rezko argues he deserves a lesser sentence due to his harsh conditions of confinement. He spent 9 months in solitary confinement. The Government agrees he should get some reduction for this, but says its request of 11 to 15 years includes this consideration. It also cautions others should not expect such a concession from the Government and says Rezko only deserves a break because of the reason he was in solitary:

To be clear, the government would not normally agree that a defendant placed in solitary confinement would be deserving of a reduction in his or her sentence. Rezko’s situation is unique in that he was placed in solitary for his own protection in the context of an extraordinarily high profile investigation involving the Governor of Illinois, and not because of any misdeed in custody on his part or because of the nature of the crime he committed (e.g., because he was a corrupt police officer or had committed a sexual crime against a minor).

It disagrees Rezko should get extra credit for time spent at the Dodge County jail:

The fact that Rezko is a white-collar defendant, which makes his situation less common, does not warrant a departure. There are not two classes of jails: ones acceptable to white-collar defendants and another class for everyone else.

And here's a interesting pronouncement by the U.S. Attorney, in discussing why Stuart Levine's drug use was not as big a deal as Rezko claims (see page 35, Footnote 10):

Nor is it the practice of the United States Attorney’s Office to prosecute individuals for their own personal drug use or for user-quantity drugs that they give away for free to their friends.

Rezko has been incarcerated for a little over 44 months, all of which his lawyers say have been either in solitary or at a county jail. It says he went 3 1/2 years "without a breath of fresh air.") (Doc. #735, 9/30/11.) They review his life in a section entitled "A Young Immigrant Seeks a Voice", saying he came to this country from Syria alone in 1974. (Since Rezko's filing is not text rendered, I can't cut and copy quotes, so I'll summarize except for a few lines I re-typed.)

In the political section, Rezko says he used to support Republicans. He was invited to the White House Christmas party during George W. Bush's administration to recognize his multi-million dollar fundraising for Bush. He also raised money for the Clintons, and says

"And, of course, Mr. Rezko was a friend, advisor and early supporter of a young politician named Barack Obama."

Rezko claims he was "shocked" when Rod Blagojevich "expressly directed him" to work with Chris Kelly to find ways Blagojevich, Kelly, Lon Monk, and Rezko could make money from state action.

When Mr. Rezko stepped across the proverbial line, he did so at the direction of Rod Blagojevich..with the knowledge and encouragement of Blagojevich's closest advisors....

Rezko met with the government for 16 days during July and August, 2008. Since December, 2008, he met and provided information to the Government on 12 additional days. He says during the transport on each of those 12 days, he was "handcuffed to a bar facing sideways in the windowless cage in the back of a vehicle" despite the fact that he gets carsick.

His solitary was at MCC, where he spent 276 days in the Special Housing Unit, confined 23 hours a day in a 6 × 10 cell. His meals were pushed through the door to his cell and his only contact, other than 4 hours a month of family visits (and legal visits) was with SHU guards.

At the Dodge County Jail, his cell was 9 × 5 feet with blacked out windows so he wouldn't know if it was day or night. He was in a special pod called "the bubble". The other inmates all had mental health or behavioral issues. He spent 12 1/2 hours a day in his cell, and the time he was allowed to be other inmates, it was only those mentally and behaviorally challenged inmates in "the bubble."

Rezko has lost 80 pounds at the Dodge County Jail. He now weighs 154 pounds. The food is terrible, he only gets one piece of fruit every two weeks. He only gets to see his family twice a week for 30 minutes -- through a bullet-proof glass window.

The other inmates in his pod have written letters to the Court and call him "the pod father" saying he has helped them and even in one case, saved an inmate's life.

Rezko says he has been treated much more harshly than the other co-conspirators who have been allowed to remain on bond. He also says the other conspirators are getting bigger breaks from the Government. The Government is only asking Alonzo Monk, Blago's former Chief of Staff, get 24 months. It's asking for 35 months for John Harris and 67 months for Stuart Levine.

Rezko says he began cooperating within one month of his conviction, and aside from not receiving 3 points for acceptance of responsibility, he should not be penalized for going to trial. He says his 29 days of cooperation took 360 pages for the Government to summarize.

Had Rezko not cooperated, he'd be looking at life in prison and there's no parole in the federal system -- or good time off a life sentence. You come out in a box.

I can't help but wonder what this portends for Blagojevich, who will not get a cooperation reduction. It will be interesting to see how Probation and the Government calculate his guidelines. Even though the guidelines are advisory rather than mandatory, they are still the starting point for judges in determining sentences. The media says lawyers in Chicago are predicting 10 years for Blago. But that's for another post, this one's about Rezko.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Thanks for the lengthy wrapup (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Towanda on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 01:33:36 PM EST
    and analysis.  Just a note to let you know that it was read and appreciated.

    I cannot spend another second worrying (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 08:55:26 PM EST
    about Rezko, whom I was adamantly informed, is irrelevant (re Obama/primaries).

    Sentencing is a tough call (none / 0) (#1)
    by KeysDan on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 09:27:06 AM EST
    and I am glad that I do not have to make it.   However, as an exercise I would go more toward the government's recommendation of 11 to 15 years than time served (about 45 months) as proposed by Tony Rezko.

    To me, neither the crimes nor the degree of cooperation between Stuart Levine and Tony Rezko are equivalent, and the government is seeking 67 months for Levine. Rezko's life was one of insinuating himself into political inner circles for purposes of criminal opportunity. Rezko's political nurturing and financing had the aim of entering the governmental system and conspiring with politicians, so as to corrupt both and illicitly enrich himself.  Rezko was on the lookout for politicians willing and able to participate, with Rod Blagojevich a blatant and ripe candidate for partnership. (Even the name of Barack Obama surfaces in the political section and we learned earlier that Mr. Obama regrets his "boneheaded" interaction with Rezko) .

    The treatment and conditions of Tony Rezko while in confinement are difficult to understand, with solitary confinement a curious and mitigating component, to be taken into account in sentencing.

    Hence, I come down on the side of  a sentence of 11 years, the lower level of the government's proposal, with credit given for time already served (45 months).

    A sentencing judge should give at least (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Peter G on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 04:59:29 PM EST
    double credit for 22/7 solitary confinement with no outdoor air and hardly any fresh food.  There's no justification for that.