Star witness testimony continues in Rezko trial

Levine describes chartered flights with Blagojevich, Rezko
March 19, 2008 4:55:13 PM PDT
The government's star witness in the Tony Rezko trial was back on the stand Wednesday talking about Governor Rod Blagojevich.Stuart Levine mentioned the governor's name 30 times during testimony Wednesday morning.

Governor Blagojevich has not been charged with wrongdoing in connection with the Rezko case.

At one point in Wednesday's testimony, Levine told the court he had discussed with Rezko a Blagojevich run for president.

The day after admitting to public corruption and heavy drug abuse spanning four decades, Republican Stuart Levine began trying to convince a jury that just before he was arrested. He worked his schemes with Democrats, including Illinois' sitting governor.

The 62-year-old Levine, who now works as an $800 a week messenger as he awaits sentencing on his guilty plea, recalled the days five years ago when he was a multimillionaire businessman and member of two Illinois state boards.

He testified that he spent more than $15,000 to charter a private jet in 2003 to fly Governor Blagojevich, Democrat money man Chris Kelly, himself and others to a Blagojevich fundraiser in New York.

On the return flight, Levine told the jury that he thanked the governor for re-appointing him to the hospital planning board. Levine said the governor responded, "never discuss any state board with me. Discuss them with either Tony Rezko or Chris Kelly. But you stick with us, and you'll do very well for yourself."

Businessman and Democratic fundraiser Rezko is accused of scheming with Levine to extort kickbacks from a contractor trying to do business with the hospital board and from a company that wanted to invest money controlled by the teachers retirement system, another state board on which Levine sat. In return for his testimony against Rezko, Levine expects a lesser sentence.

"He is obviously going through quite a bit. This is an important situation for him. And he is managing it at the very best he can," said Jeffrey Steinbeck, Levine's lawyer.

Levine testified that he and Rezko met frequently after Blagojevich took office in January of 2003. He said Rezko and Republican fundraiser Bill Cellini and their wives were passengers on a private jet Levine and his wife chartered for a trip to Washington. All three couples attended a White House reception with President George Bush.

Levine also recalled conversations during which Rezko allegedly said "he had raised a great deal of money for Governor Blagojevich and that he had great hopes and expectations that Governor Blagojevich would run for president. And although he knew it was a long shot, he was working toward that end."

A Blagojevich spokeswoman said that "Stuart Levine's assertions about the governor are wrong. As we've said before, that's not how the governor does business."

Rezko's lawyers say Levine is testifying in an effort to save himself from what could amount to a life prison term.

The testimony is quite confusing at times. Levine gets dates and years mixed up frequently and cannot always recall the exact occasions when certain things were said.

Load Comments