Rezko to be sentenced Jan. 6

CHICAGO Rezko had requested an early sentencing in a motion filed last week, saying he had remained for a long time in solitary confinement at the government's Metropolitan Correctional Center. The motion suggested he might prefer to be in a regular federal prison.

"He wants to get on with his life -- no one likes living in the MCC," chief defense counsel Joseph J. Duffy said of Rezko, convicted in June on charges of using clout with Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration to help launch a $7 million kickback scheme.

Rezko was a prolific fundraiser who helped bankroll the governor's election races. He also raised money for President-elect Barack Obama's campaigns for the state legislature and Congress, but not for Obama's presidential campaign.

His sentencing had been postponed indefinitely, giving rise to widespread speculation he was talking to prosecutors -- who most often want to delay sentencing for a defendant who is cooperating until that cooperation is complete, often until after he has testified against others charged in the case.

But it took only a few minutes Tuesday to set an early sentencing date. Rezko was not in the courtroom for the brief hearing.

"I'm assuming you have no objection?" St. Eve asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner.

"No, Your Honor," Niewoehner said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, Randall Samborn, said the government would have no comment.

Losing Rezko's cooperation could severely hurt the government's efforts to investigate alleged influence peddling, and possibly other corruption, on state boards and commissions that make decisions involving millions of dollars.

Rezko was one of the key insiders in Blagojevich's campaigns for governor and remained close to the administration after he was elected.

But rebuffing the government also could be a problem for Rezko, who remains in deep legal trouble. It is unclear how much time he will receive for his conviction but the sentence St. Eve imposes is likely to be harsh.

Rezko is set to go to trial early next year on unrelated charges that he swindled the General Electric Capital Corp. out of $10 million in the sale of a group of pizza restaurants. He also allegedly owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling debts.

His legal and financial woes could multiply unless he cooperates, while making a deal with the government could ease his plight considerably.

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