* Considering all the recent reports that Tony Rezko is talking, possibly related to some of Ali Ata’s stories about alleged corruption involving the governor, the timing of this story seems like a bit of a coinkydink…
Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration has canceled a lucrative office lease with a convicted former state agency director who testified in the corruption trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko.
The decision, announced Friday, came four months after the Tribune reported that Ali Ata had failed to disclose the names of his partners in that lease and three old leases, as required by law.
Ata was in line to receive up to $13 million under a contract extending to 2018 for a South Side office building used by the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Ata was a onetime associate of Rezko, the Blagojevich fundraiser convicted on federal charges that he used his political clout to orchestrate a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme.
* This next one just doesn’t surprise me. Another splashy gubernatorial press conference to announce a sexy initiative that has a totally bungled follow-through…
With deaths on the rise in highway construction zones, the state cracked down four years ago by mandating stiff fines for motorists caught speeding by high-tech photo enforcement.
Yet so far this year, Cook County has not recorded a single conviction carrying the hefty fines and court costs, a Tribune analysis of court records has found. The vast majority of offenders saw the charges dismissed outright or reduced to a regular speeding ticket with much smaller fines and penalties.
Enforcement of the law appears spotty in DuPage County as well.
The supervising judge over Traffic Court in Chicago expressed surprise at the results, while Cook County prosecutors blamed poor photo quality for many of the cases being thrown out by judges or passed over for prosecution.
* The Post-Dispatch runs a very well-researched story today about alleged spending abuses in the Illinois Capital Litigation Trust Fund…
— The fund has become a magnet for investigators and experts who travel to Illinois from all over the country to participate in trials, and a full-time income source for area professionals. One Springfield investigator’s website states that the fund “created an opening … to go into business” for himself.
— Defense professionals routinely charge private-sector rates to the tax-funded system, sometimes billing hundreds of dollars an hour for making phone calls, driving, flying — even packing suitcases. Many have earned six figures from the fund; a couple have approached the $1 million mark.
— Prosecutors, too, have been allowed to bill the state fund for death penalty trials, a fact that some critics believe encourages them to seek the death penalty in murder trials, pushing costs onto the state instead of their home counties. Records show some prosecutors used death penalty trials as justification to bill the state for office equipment, computers and inmate medical care, all normally county expenses.
— Three years after the Legislature revised the fund’s rules in response to reported abuses, there remain few limitations on how much can be billed, and for what. Cost control rests with presiding judges who, swamped with stacks of bills and hesitant to taint their trials, are under pressure to approve just about any voucher that’s put in front of them.
* An accompanying article takes a closer look at one beneficiary…
A Metro East private investigator has been the biggest beneficiary of the state’s death penalty fund.
Alva Busch, a retired Illinois State Police crime scene technician prone to wearing an Indiana Jones-style hat and suspenders, has billed the Illinois death penalty fund more than $920,000 over about five years through his company, Metro Investigations.
A Post-Dispatch review of records show Busch, 60, has worked on more than 20 death penalty cases from Belleville to Chicago.
His billing hours range from as many as 49 hours (a total of $3,185.00) billed on one day to a quarter of an hour ($18) to send an e-mail.
On a Cook County death penalty case, he billed 1.5 hours — the time it took him to prepare billing statements for the previous two years. On April 16, 2007, he billed $65 — or one hour —to send trial exhibits through UPS. […]
Busch was allowed to bill for hundreds of dollars in “out of pocket” expenses, but rules governing the fund don’t require itemized receipts.
* And check this out…
$88,000 - Charge for bringing in Harvard psychiatrist as a witness
$10,000 - Cost to build mock-up of crime scene that was never used
$9,500 - Bills for “attempts to locate witness,” at $75 per hour
$360 - Charge for 80 minutes it took expert witness to pack for flight
$97 - Bill for 90 minutes spent making $17 in copies at Kinko’s
$18 - Investigator’s bill for sending an e-mail
Go read the whole thing.
*** UPDATE *** Oops. Forgot to add the “somewhat related” links…
* Illinois’ Human Services Network Anticipating Layoffs
* Budget issues far from decided
* State budget mess far from fixed
* Lawmakers: Budget revolt aimed at governor, not laws
* Lawmakers continue tussle with Blagojevich
* Blagojevich’s ‘double dippers’ law just might be unconstitutional