* Take some caution with this one…
Tony Rezko asked an official in Gov. Blagojevich’s administration to pay him $25,000 so Rezko could use the money to keep construction contractors from putting a lien on the governor’s home, federal prosecutors said in court today.
Prosecutors got a judge’s OK for Ali Ata — former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority — to be allowed to tell jurors in Rezko’s corruption trial about the cash payments.
Rezko told Ata “this is going to be embarrassing to him [Blagojevich]” if the contractors put a lien on Blagojevich’s Ravenswood Manor home, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.
* The reasons you should be careful about assuming too much are several-fold, including this one…
“Ata claims that he gave or lent cash to Rezko on four or five occasions . . . and estimates the total cash disbursements amounted to $125,000,” Rezko’s lawyers wrote. “Ata alternatively stated he did not know what the cash was for, then proceeds to say he supplied $25,000 in cash to pay certain contractors who were threatening to put a lien on another individual’s [Blagojevich’s] home.
“Ata recounted these alleged cash transactions in a suspiciously dramatic way, including meetings on ‘narrow streets’ in Chicago with ‘black plastic bags’ of cash.”
First, this is Tony Rezko allegedly telling Ata why he wanted the money. We don’t know if Rezko told the truth to Ata or if Ata concocted the story to help hi stay out of prison. And even if Rezko did tell the truth, there’s no guarantee that Blagojevich knew about it.
* But the judge will allow the testimony…
[Judge St. Eve] said such testimony was relevant because it showed the relations between Ata, Rezko and Kelly.
She did bar the prosecutors, however, from bringing in such atmospheric embellishments as “black plastic bags” and “narrow streets.”
* And, of course, there’s more…
Prosecutors said Ata will say Rezko extracted four bribes from him, including the one to avert the lien. Another involved a $50,000 payment that Rezko allegedly said was destined for Blagojevich fundraiser Chris Kelly.
Ata said the money was passed in cloak-and-dagger fashion as he and Rezko drove to Kelly’s house in the southwest suburbs. “The cash is in the car when they go down there,” Hamilton said. “And when they leave Mr. Kelly’s house, the money isn’t there any more.”
Kelly, who faces criminal charges in an unrelated case, denied the allegations through his lawyer. “If Mr. Ata is saying he gave large amounts of cash to Mr. Kelly for political purposes or to get some state position, that is simply incorrect,” said Michael Monico, Kelly’s attorney.
Notice there was no denial that Kelly might have received cash for other purposes.
* And the governor’s statement…
“We can’t comment on alleged conversations that the governor was not a party to,” spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said today. “As we said last year, the Blagojeviches personally paid for the work to renovate their 14-by-20 family room out of their checking account.”
Man, this is crazy stuff.