Opening statements, 1st witness in Rezko fraud trial

March 6, 2008 8:59:12 PM PST
Following a delay because a juror arrived late to court, opening statements began Thursday in the political corruption trial of Tony Rezko.The prosecutor denounced Rezko as the mastermind of a scheme to steal millions of dollars.

The first witness to take the stand Thursday worked in the first campaign of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

That witness was 34 year old Kelly Glynne, the finance director during Blagojevich's first campaign for Illinois governor.

She described defendant Rezko as one of the top "bundlers" of campaign donations and recalled that on November 6, 2002, the night after Blagojevich's first election, the governor elect attended a private party at Rezko's mansion in Wilmette.

Earlier, in his opening statement, Rezko's attorney, Joseph Duffy, downplayed the relationship, saying:

"Once the governor was elected, Tony was one of many, many people involved in the transition".

The indictment charges that Rezko used his influence to control appointments to state boards that governed hospitals and the teachers' pension fund and that he led a scheme to demand kickbacks from companies who wanted to do business with the state.

Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton said of Rezko's relationship with the Blagojevich administration:

"He made a number of recommendations. And more often than not, those people were appointed to those boards."

The government also confirmed that much of its case is built around the upcoming testimony of Republican fundraiser Stuart Levine, a former member of both boards in question, who has plead guilty in the case.

Duffy told the jury that Levine is a drug-addicted liar, adding:

"You'll see that Mr. Levine hasn't worked an honest day of labor in 25 years."

But Hamilton said the Republican Levine needed Rezko's influence in the new administration to make the kickback schemes work.

"Defendant Rezko was the man behind the curtain pulling the strings," he said.

The name of Illinois Senator Barack Obama was also mentioned Thursday by defense attorneys. They listed Obama as one of the many politicians for whom Tony Rezko has raised money over the years.

Duffy also said Rezko met Obama when the senator was a student at the Harvard Law School and was so impressed by the young lawyer that, at one point, he offered him a job to be general counsel of Rezko's real estate development firm.

The first witness was a former Blagojevich campaign aide, who testified about the governor's relationship to defendant Rezko.

The woman's name is Kelly Glynn. She was the finance director during Blagojevich's first campaign for Illinois governor in 2002.

On the witness stand, she called Rezko one of the top "bundlers" of Blagojevich campaign cash that year and implied that he was so important, that on November 6, the night after the election, the governor-elect attended a party at Rezko's mansion in Wilmette.

But defense attorney Joseph Duffy downplayed the relationship, saying "once the governor was elected, many, many people were involved in the transition."