Updated 11/04/2011 at 3:00 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko was convicted on corruption charges more than three years ago, but still hasn’t been sentenced and has been in jail ever since.
Now, attorneys for Rezko have asked a judge to sentence him to time served and release him. The onetime fundraiser for then-future President Barack Obama and convicted ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he has served enough time already.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve is set to sentence Rezko on Nov. 22. Federal prosecutors filed their own sentencing recommendations; not surprisingly, their opinion differs and they’re seeking significant prison time.
In making his case to get out, Rezko claims he was a philanthropic businessman who spent 20 years in Chicago politics supporting politicians like Blagojevich and Obama because he was impressed they could have influence in the American political system.
“The underlying motivation for Mr. Rezko’s political activities was never ideology, greed, or the desire for power,” the filing says. “Rather, Mr. Rezko was genuinely fascinated by the notion that a poor young immigrant like himself could participate in the political process, influence politicians, and impact policy. To Mr. Rezko, the idea that a black man could be elected mayor of Chicago, or that a man named Blagojevich could be considered a presidential candidate, was proof of the greatness of America’s political system.”
He says it was actually Blagojevich who first asked him to find ways to profit from state business.
“Mr. Rezko was shocked that Blagojevich explicitly directed him to work with [adviser] Chris Kelly to find ways for Blagojevich, [adviser Lon] Monk, Kelly and Rezko to make money through state action,” Rezko’s lawyers wrote.
Rezko, in an unusual move, had voluntarily surrendered to prison to begin immediately serving his sentence in June 2008. He also began immediately cooperating with authorities.
He’s put off his sentencing on numerous occasions, awaiting the government to call him at Blagojevich’s trial and retrial. He was also prepared to testify in the case of power broker William Cellini.
Rezko was initially held at the downtown lockup, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, under solitary confinement. His attorneys say as of Oct. 21, he had been incarcerated for 44 months either in solitary confinement at the downtown facility or at a special housing unit of a county jail in Wisconsin.
“He has not enjoyed a breath of fresh air or a ray of sunlight for nearly three and a half years, and he has not been allowed to hug his wife or daughter since he left the MCC nearly three years ago,” the filing said.
Federal prosecutors say Rezko deserves to spend up to 15 years in prison and that he damaged his own credibility by lying to the court.
Prosecutors for the first time publicly addressed why they never called the convicted political fund-raiser to the witness stand after he began cooperating in 2008. They say in more than 19 meetings with them, he did not fully tell the truth about his own wrongdoing until he was confronted by agents with new information. Prosecutors said juries would never have accepted his word.
“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,” prosecutors wrote.
In 2008, Rezko was convicted on 16 counts accusing him of scheming to get kickbacks out of money management firms wanting state business. Several counts carry maximum 20-year prison terms.
The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.
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