[Updated and bumped up.]
*** UPDATE 1 *** The feds explain why they didn’t have Stu Levine secretly record any of his conversations with Bill Cellini…
“It was our understanding that Mr. Cellini was represented (by an attorney),” FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain testified. “It is the policy of the FBI not to record when a person is represented in the investigation.”
That’s an interesting little loophole.
*** UPDATE 2 *** According to a reporter in the courtroom, Ali Ata just testified in Tony Rezko’s trial that Lon Monk, Chris Kelly and Rep. Jay Hoffman were in the room when he and Rezko handed over Ata’s $25,000 campaign check to then candidate Rod Blagojevich in August of 2002. Ata testified that Blagojevich then asked if he and Rezko had discussed a state job.
*** UPDATE 3 *** The Sun-Times has a story up on this…
Ata said he arrived at Rezko’s Elston Avenue office in 2002. In the back conference room sat Blagojevich’s kitchen cabinet, including, Blagojevich campaign manager Lon Monk, fund-raiser Chris Kelly, Rezko and Jay Hoffman.
“I learned that Mr. Hoffman was part of a select group of advisers that were referred to as the kitchen cabinet,” Ata said.
Soon, Blagojevich, Ata and Rezko were alone in the room as the other men stepped outside, he said.
With the check on the table, the conversation started. […]
“Mr. Rezko stated that I had expressed interest in serving in the administration. Blagojevich stated again that I had been a supporter and a friend and asked Mr. Rezko if I had identified job opportunities and Mr. Rezko said yes,” Ata said.
*** UPDATE 4 *** Ata testifies that Rezko boasted of how he allegedly controlled Kelly King, a former Rezko employee who he installed as executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority….
Ata said that Rezko told him that King had rebuffed hiring a Rezko relative at a real estate management company that was linked to Springfield power broker William Cellini and under the control of her state agency.
What did Rezko say about that?
“That he had delivered a message through the chairman of the board of her agency congratulating her on her new assignment,” Ata said.
And the new assignment was that she was about to be unemployed, Ata said, for “not acting as a team player.” It was a significant lesson, Ata said, that he carried with him when he led the Illinois Finance Authority.
* Some have wondered where Ali Ata got the cash to allegedly funnel over $100,000 to Tony Rezko and Gov. Blagojevich. Ray Hanania explains…
In one case, Ata was involved with other Southwest Side activists, purchasing a property from the State of Illinois that the State of Illinois later leased. That dramatically increased the value of the property and it was then sold to another investor for a $3.2 million profit in a short period of only a few weeks.
Making sure the state kept that lease going appears to be another prime motivation for Ata. He and his pals then allegedly conspired to make it appear that Ata didn’t owe the IRS short-term capital gains, which saved him a ton of money in the short term, but caused the G to come knocking on his door. The US Attorney dropped that tax charge in exchange for Ata’s guilty plea.
* And that’s not all that the feds may have chosen to forgive…
Prosecutors filed a court petition [yesterday] asking that Judge Amy St. Eve bar the defense from asking about the criminal past of a witness’ nephew. They also say that the witness, Ali Ata, should not be asked about another investigation into his business that ended without charges. […]
Separately, prosecutors also say Ata shouldn’t be asked about a separate structuring investigation into his business, Jenin Distributors. Structuring is the act of purposely handling sums of cash less than $10,000 to avert a government requirement to disclose such transactions. A bank had flagged Jenin to the government, saying it was under suspicion of structuring. The feds investigated but say that they concluded in 2006 that there was no wrongdoing — that’s well before Ata cooperated.
But the defense will likely try to argue that Ata is cooperating against Rezko (he pleaded guilty just last week) in part because they did him the favor of not prosecuting him in another case.
There’s been quite a bit of speculation, including from former assistant US Attorney Patrick Collins that the feds are a bit freaked out by the way the Rezko trial is going. Stu Levine was an utter disaster. Collins noted on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight last week that the judge’s decision to allow Rezko out on bond may have been a signal to the prosecution that its case is weak. Therefore, Ata’s rather generous guilty plea had to be done in order to keep the case on track.
* Ata is expected to take the stand today. Here’s a brief update from the Sun-Times…
On the stand is FBI Agent Charles Willenborg, who is testifying about spreadsheets he developed tracing Rezko’s phone calls.
The charts show the frequency and length of calls between Rezko and some key players in the trial — William Cellini, Stuart Levine, Chris Kelly, among others.
* More from Hanania on Ata and his ilk…
These Arab community “leaders” would tell the community that if they bought tickets to their “candidate’s nights,” their organization fundraisers or donated through them to local politicians, these politicians would respond by giving the Arab American community empowerment.
They said the politicians would give the Arab Americans a voice in their governments.
In truth, these political leaders lied. They did get jobs, contracts and clout but the people who benefited were not members of the community but rather the relatives, children, friends and business associates of these leaders.