Another spin-off from Everybody Loves Barack ends happily. I don’t watch this one regularly but Ed does, so check back here for his commentary later once he’s done with his radio show. The takeaway: No convictions on extortion and no connection to Obama in any of the charges, but if you’re looking for something to knock the “Age of Aquarius” coverage of the Messiah’s clinch last night off the front page, you can do worse than this.
The jury convicted Rezko of wire and mail fraud, money laundering and aiding and abetting bribery. He was acquitted of attempted extortion…
Testimony at the trial produced a series of stunning allegations of misconduct that went well beyond the scope of the criminal charges against Rezko.
Former state official Ali Ata told jurors he bought his post with bribes to Rezko and campaign contributions to Blagojevich. Ata was also one of several witnesses who said Rezko talked of a plot to kill the criminal probe against him by pulling strings with the Bush White House to get U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald fired.
The trial also provided ample fodder for cynics who see Illinois politicians as members of a cozy club motivated more by greed than altruism or ideology…
Rezko befriended many Illinois politicians and was a major fundraiser for some, most prominently Blagojevich and Obama. The criminal charges against Rezko had nothing to do with his connection to Obama. But that link still proved a nagging headache for Obama during his Democratic presidential run, especially in the wake of Tribune revelations that tied Rezko to a 2005 real estate deal involving Obama’s South Side home.
Exit question: Bye bye, Blagojevich? While you mull that, here’s how America’s go-to newsman, currently residing in the tank marked with the magical “O” logo on the side, is prioritizing the news. Maybe I spoke too soon about the Age of Aquarius. Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment…
Update (Ed): AP did a great job in highlighting this. Rezko got 16 convictions out of 24 counts in the indictment, including conspiracy to extort, two counts of aiding and abetting bribery, two separate counts of money laundering, and multiple counts of wire and mail fraud. Put those all together, and it spells a lot of prison time for Rezko.
The Rezko conviction itself provides an indirect shot at Barack Obama for the moment, showing the kind of people with whom he associated while a Chicago politician. Over the last three months, we have seen Obama’s associates such Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger “damn America”, while his relationship with unrepentant domestic terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn — both of whom still talk about “overthrowing capitalism” — shows Obama to be mighty comfortable around radical anti-American sentiment. Now we can add a convicted crook to that circle of associates, especially since Rezko raised over a quarter-million dollars for Obama during the same period in which he committed the crime and corruption for which he was convicted today.
That could change between now and Rezko’s sentencing. Rezko’s defense chose not to call any witnesses, arguing that the prosecution hadn’t proved the case. The wire and mail fraud counts can bring 5 years each alone, and it’s probable that Rezko will get a sentence that will keep him in prison for life. If Rezko wants to avoid dying in prison, he’ll start cutting deals. The primary target for those kinds of deals would be Governor Rod Blagojevich, who got tied to a specific bribe during the trial. If Rezko knows where bodies are buried with Obama, this ceases to be an indirect problem and starts being a potential political catastrophe.
So far, Obama has been lucky in regards to Rezko. The conviction changes that considerably.
Update: Rick Moran has followed this case closely and posts his assessment of the conclusion here:
In short, while the governor and other top politicians in the state almost certainly should be worried about what Rezko might tell the prosecutor, no one can say for sure if Rezko would have anything of interest to spill about Barack Obama.
The trial never touched on matters involving Obama, but that’s not really the point, either. If Rezko starts talking and taking down the Democratic machine, it can’t help but reflect on Obama and Dick Durbin, as well as every other Illinois Democrat.