Judge: Rezko can go free on bond

June 4, 2008 1:51:26 PM PDT
A judge has ordered indicted political fundraiser Tony Rezko freed on bond while his trial continues. Rezko walked out of court about 4:30 p.m. Friday. The judge released Rezko, but he still faces several restrictions.

Family and friends of Rezko put up more than $8 million in property and cash to secure his release. He's charged with taking kickbacks in exchange for state contracts.

The judge called this $8.5 million one of the highest bonds ever posted in the Dirksen Federal building.

Rezko had been detained since January 28, after violating his first bond in his corruption case. It's also extraordinary that a criminal defendant is granted bond mid-trial in the midst of the prosecution's case.

Family members and friends came from as far as Florida and New Jersey to join a group of property owners who posted just over $8 million in personal real estate to secure his bond. The judge warned the defendant that, "If you fail to comply with this court, the government will foreclose on each of these 30 individuals and take what in many cases is their life's savings."

Rezko's lawyers praised the judge's rulings.

"We are extremely pleased with the judge's decision. We are happy that Mr. Rezko will be able to spend the evening with his wife and children at home," said Joseph Duffy, Rezko's head lawyer.

The judge set conditions on the bond. They include house arrest and electronic monitoring. Rezko may leave home only to attend court and may not leave the federal building, even for lunch, and must report any financial transaction exceeding $5,000.

His earlier bond was revoked after he received a $3.5 million wire transfer from overseas. His wife added $380,000 in cash to the bond total.

In response to questions from the judge, wife Rita Rezko revealed the Rezkos had not made a mortgage payment on their mansion since September.

Also during her ruling, Judge Amy St. Eve commented on how Rezko family members had loyally attended every session of court. Five, 10, sometimes as many as 15 Rezko family members and supporters are in the gallery every day watching the proceedings.

This new bond comes only three days after the government's star witness, Stuart Levine, finished some three weeks of testimony in this case. That testimony was supposed to be very critical to the government's case. "See that he gets to court Monday morning," St. Eve told his wife, Rita.

"I will, your honor," she replied.

Prosecutors said they would not seek a stay of St. Eve's ruling.

Rezko was a major fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, neither of whom has been accused of wrongdoing.

Prosecutors say Rezko parlayed clout with the Blagojevich administration stemming from his fundraising activities to control the state boards that decide what hospitals will be built in Illinois and which money management firms get to invest the assets of the pension fund.

Rezko denies that he took part in any such scheme.

But Levine, who was a member of both boards, has pleaded guilty and testified on behalf of the government in hopes of a lenient sentence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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