Rezko, free on bond, returns to his trial

June 4, 2008 1:51:34 PM PDT
Tony Rezko returned to court Monday morning for the first time since his release from jail on bond last Friday. The political fundraiser is on trial for allegedly taking kickbacks in exchange for big state contracts.

With Rezko no longer in custody, this trial has a very different feel to it. There is not as much security inside, and immediately outside the courtroom, the defendant is moving freely from home to the federal building.

For the first time during his now seven-week-old corruption trial, Tony Rezko arrived at the courthouse through the lobby security. He was accompanied by his wife Rita, who along with an estimated 30 other relatives and friends, posted $8.5 million in real estate and cash to secure Rezko's bond.

In the courtroom, several jury members dozed while a former staff member of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System testified. Political fundraiser Rezko and former TRS board member Stuart Levine are accused of scheming to extort kickbacks from companies trying to get state business.

Investment company owner Richard Driehaus told the jury that he met the defendant during a party in 2002 in Winnetka at a Lakeside estate called Casa del Lago. Driehaus said Rezko made him uncomfortable when he kept asking about political contributions and "finders fees" that Driehaus' company might pay for access to large amounts of state money to invest.

Rezko's attorney, Joseph Duffy, implied a different version of what fueled the conversation, repeatedly asking Driehaus if he enjoyed the wine served at the dinner party. Driehaus responded, "There was very good wine there and I enjoy good wine very much."

Under the conditions of his bail, Rezko is not allowed to leave during the breaks or lunch break. At one point there was an unusual scene in the courthouse cafeteria as high-profile defendant Tony Rezko had lunch with 10 family members.


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