Tony Rezko's attorneys are doing their best to chip away at the credibility of Ali Ata, one of the government's key witnesses. According to the defense, Ata didn't go through Rezko to get his state job. So, Friday, Rezko's defense team had the jury focus on Ata's relationship with Governor Blagojevich.
Tony Rezko's corruption trial is now focused on Ali Ata, who didn't stop to talk to reporters Friday afternoon as he hurried past the cameras. Ata has testified that he bought his state job with $50,000 in campaign contributions to Governor Blagojevich and that Tony Rezko was the intermediary.
Friday, Rezko's attorney, Joseph Duffy, spent most of the morning establishing Ata's relationship with the governor. Ata agreed that he has known the governor for more than a dozen years and that he has close ties to the governor's wife Patricia and her father, Alderman Dick Mell.
Ata also said he has helped raise money for the governor on several occasions, going back to the 1990s when Blagojevich was running for Congress. On one occasion, Ata said, he even picked the governor up at the airport and took him to a fundraiser. With that kind of relationship, Rezko's attorneys argued Friday, Ata certainly didn't have to go through Rezko to try to get a state job from the governor.
Duffy asked Ata Friday: "You didn't have to go to Mr. Rezko's office to meet the governor and give him a check, did you?" Ata replied, "I was told the governor would be there on that day and to bring a check."
Ata also told the jury Friday he wanted his state job as the director of the Illinois Finance Authority in part because he wanted to have the highest position in the Blagojevich administration of anyone in the Muslim community. Ata said the salary was not important and admitted that at the time he was appointed to the position he was worth more than $12 million.
Ata's testimony is crucial to the outcome of the trial. He is the first witness to put himself in the same room with Governor Blagojevich, Tony Rezko and a check for $25,000 that Ata says bought him a state job. The Blagojevich administration continues to deny any wrongdoing on the part of the governor.
Ali Ata takes the stand again Monday morning.