Tony Rezko, onetime fund-raiser to Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich, is asking that a federal judge sentence him to time served later this month.
In his federal court filing, unveiled Thursday, Rezko — who has been in jail since his conviction on corruption charges in 2008 — argues that he’s served enough time already.
In making his case to get out, he 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 the now ex-governor that 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, his retrial and he was 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.
“In total, as of October 21, 2011, Mr. Rezko will have been incarcerated for 44 months,
which, when good time credits are considered, is the equivalent of a 51-month sentence. Mr. Rezko has spent every day of that sentence either in solitary confinement at the MCC or in a special housing unit of a county jail,” his attorneys wrote. “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.”
Rezko is being held in a county jail in Wisconsin that does not allow inmates to go outside or to have personal contact with visitors, attorneys say.
“Mr. Rezko has existed for years under conditions usually imposed only temporarily on the most violent or mentally disturbed inmates, and he has subsisted for years on diets intended to provide only short term sustenance,” the attorneys wrote.
In asking a judge for time served, lawyers detailed Rezko’s acts throughout his life, beginning from helping his family “escape” from Syria to Canada to the United States, to working his way up from being a “poor immigrant” to a successful businessman and a successful fund-raiser.
“Whether by hosting fundraising galas for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or by buying an extra burrito for the homeless man in front of a restaurant, Mr. Rezko’s generosity is a characteristic remarked upon by almost everyone who wrote a letter on his behalf,” lawyers wrote. “Mr. Rezko’s son Danny says that his father’s ‘greatest quality has always been altruism.’”
Lawyers said Rezko’s own success in business led him to branch out and support numerous national, state and local politicians.
“And, of course, Mr. Rezko was a friend, advisor, and early supporter of a young politician named Barack Obama,” they wrote. “ ... Mr. Rezko viewed fundraising, like voting, as a way to
have his voice heard, along with the voices of the many racial, ethnic, and religious minorities
whom he encouraged to participate in the political process over the years.”
Federal prosecutors are expected to file a position on Rezko’s sentencing later Thursday.
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