Rezko trial witness gave $100K a year to drug pals

CHICAGO Defense attorneys spent another day trying to attack the credibility of Stuart Levine during cross examination.

It was Levine's last day on the witness stand. Levine has admitted he made millions cheating others, he said at one time of the year, he used to spread the wealth.

He's a self-admitted conman cheater, liar, tax cheat and drug abuser. But when it came to Christmas, he acted like Santa Claus.

The key witness in the trial of fundraiser Rezko, told the jury he would hand out $50,000 in cash gifts. He testified, "I gave to people that gave me excellent service."

Levine said he would give doormen $200, waiters $500 and business associates, including former alderman Ed Vrdolyak's secretary between $200 and $500, and he gave $100 in cash gifts.

He spent hours detailing the years of drug use, including all night parties with male friends at area hotels. Despite large amounts of cash he took out of the bank every month, the 62-year-old said he spent $20,000 a year on drugs, a figure the defense implies is understated.

The defense theory is that Levine's memory has been altered by years of heavy drug use and therefore, should not be trusted as a witness. He says he and Rezko schemed together to extort bribes and kickbacks from those doing business with state boards.

Rezko's attorney brought up a statement that Levine made to the government before the trial, where he said he quit drugs cold turkey and stopped all criminal activity after FBI agents first visited him on May 20, 2004, but under questioning Tuesday by chief defense counsel Joseph Duffy, he admitted that after the FBI visit, he lied on a $15 million life insurance policy application and he testified, "It it is my recollection that it is possible that after May 20th there may have been a time or two that I did illegal drugs."

Besides trying to catch Levine in lies or tripping up his memory, the defense went through hospital deals that Levine was involved in. Levine said in court, that when he served on those state boards, he felt, "drunk with power."

A juror was dismissed after he called in sick. That makes two jurors that have been dismissed. There remain four alternates. Rezko, 52, who raised millions of dollars in campaign contributions for Sen. Barack Obama, Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other Illinois politicians, is charged with scheming with Levine to shake down firms trying to do business with the state and split a $1 million bribe. Neither Obama nor Blagojevich are charged with any wrongdoing.

Rezko denies he took part in any such scheme, but Levine has pleaded guilty and taken the stand as the government's star witness in hopes of getting a lenient 5 1/2-year sentence when the trial is over.

For days, Duffy has been battering at Levine's credibility, focusing especially on Levine's drug binges with a group of male friends. Duffy is barred by court order from expanding his questioning to include what prosecutors have called Levine's "personal social life" and defense attorneys have described as his "secret life."

But Duffy has explored the periphery of the subject, getting Levine to admit he was almost always the one who paid for the drugs and that he showered his companions with hefty cash gifts.

He said his friends were particularly concerned after stories about Levine and his ties to corruption began appearing in the newspapers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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