Star witness testifies in Rezko trial

March 18, 2008 4:42:12 PM PDT
In the corruption trial of political fundraiser Tony Rezko, the jury heard Tuesday from the prosecution's star witness, Stuart Levine.Levine was Rezko's co-defendant. He pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

On the witness stand at 4:21 p.m., the last person to testify before the evening recess was Levine. He spent the nearly 40 minutes basically telling the jury his criminal resume, so to speak, what a bad person he has been since the early 1970s.

Dressed in a dark suit, like the lawyer/businessman who a few years ago made millions of dollars a year, Levine now works as an $800 a week messenger delivering packages.

Having already pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud, extortion and money laundering, the 62-year-old Levine has agreed to testify against Rezko, who Levine says was a co-schemer in an effort to shakedown companies who wanted to do business with the state of Illinois.

Prosecutors spent all of Levine's first 40 minutes of testimony putting their star witness' criminal resume on the record. Levine told the jury he began using hard drugs right after law school in 1972: LSD, marijuana, Quaaludes, cocaine, ecstasy, crystal methamphetamine and ketomine.

He said he took his first bribe as a young lawyer in 1976, helping a tire company get a contract with the city of Chicago Streets and Sanitation Department and subsequently made hundreds of thousands of dollars in more bribes to get Chicago Public Schools contracts for a bus company.

He admitted alleged criminal conspiracies with former Chicago Alderman Ed Vrdolyak and told the jury he gave and raised money for both Republican and Democratic political candidates to get access to them after they were elected.

Before he ended his testimony, he remembered meeting defendant Rezko at a dinner party in 2003 after which the men allegedly began a relationship.

On Wednesday, prosecutors will begin leading Levine through his claim that using Levine's membership on two state boards, he and Rezko set up kickback schemes. Rezko's lawyers say Levine is a drug-addled con man who is dropping their client's name trying to avoid a life prison sentence for all the crimes he's committed during the past four decades.

Testimony resumes Wednesday morning at 9:15.


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