Tony Rezko didn’t trust Stuart Levine until Bill Cellini vouched for him, according to documents filed by Rezko’s lawyers in federal court on Thursday.

Tony Rezko didn’t trust Stuart Levine until Bill Cellini vouched for him, according to documents filed by Rezko’s lawyers in federal court on Thursday.


Levine, then a member of the Teachers’ Retirement System board and an associate of Cellini, approached Rezko, a fundraiser and adviser to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, about getting “finder’s fees” from firms that got state business and then directing the fees to people in the Blagojevich administration, according to the sentencing memo.


The memo argues Rezko should be sentenced only to the time he has already served in prison.


Rezko was prepared to testify during Cellini’s trial, which ended Tuesday with Cellini’s conviction for conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding and abetting a bribe, both federal felonies. Cellini for decades was a Springfield businessman and fundraiser with statewide political connections.


A finder’s fee is the term defendants and their attorneys used instead of “bribe” in the Operation Board Games probe into corruption in the Blagojevich administration.


“Mr. Rezko did not trust Stuart Levine when Levine first approached him, and it was only after Bill Cellini vouched for Levine that Rezko proceeded …” the filing said. “Rezko knew Cellini was the ultimate insider during the 26 years of Republican administrations that preceded Blagojevich, and Rezko knew that Cellini had made tens if not hundreds of millions from state business during that time period.


“Cellini had in place for years the apparatus that Blagojevich wanted Kelly and Rezko to build, and Levine was practically begging to maintain and even increase his thoroughly corrupt influence,” the memo says.


Cellini was convicted of conspiring with Levine, Rezko and the late Christopher Kelly to extort a campaign contribution from Hollywood movie producer and real estate investor Thomas Rosenberg in order for Rosenberg’s real estate investment firm, Capri Capital, to receive $220 million in Teachers Retirement System funds to invest.


The filing says Rezko cooperated with federal prosecutors and his sentence should reflect that cooperation, even if the government did not call him as a witness.


The filing says Rezko agreed to stay in solitary confinement in two different prisons and delay his sentencing on the chance that he might testify in the trials of Blagojevich and Cellini. It adds that federal prosecutors told lawyers for Blagojevich and Cellini that Rezko might be called to testify.


Rezko was not called in Cellini’s trial, and Cellini's attorneys told jurors Rezko's absence pointed to weakness in the government’s case.


 


Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.