Saturday, November 5, 2011

Four, versus 15

That’s what it seems the plight of Antoin Rezko has come down to these days.
It seems like ancient history

Federal prosecutors say he needs to be locked away for 15 years in a correctional center, while his attorneys claim the nearly four years he has already served is enough punishment.

EVEN THOUGH THERE’S a certain logic to what Rezko’s attorneys are claiming, no one ought to be under any delusion that they will prevail in this fight.

It may well turn out that prosecutors upset they didn’t get convictions on all charges against William Cellini and that they had to go through two trials (at taxpayer expense) to get ample convictions against Rod Blagojevich will want to see at least one person squirm to maximum capacity.

And that person will be Tony Rezko – the man who once was thought would take down all of government as we know it, and would prevent Barack Obama from ever becoming president.

Then again, that was probably just the pipe dream of conservative ideologues and was never in line with reality.

AT STAKE IS the sentencing for Rezko, who pleaded guilty many years ago to corruption charges and has been kept on hold ever since. Prosecutors kept him waiting to be punished, on the grounds that his fate ultimately would be determined by how cooperative a witness he was in testifying against people like Blagojevich.

The only problem is that Rezko never got called to testify against anybody. It may well be that prosecutors thought he had such a stink about him that jurors would be turned off by the concept of having to trust such a person’s word.

Then again, that didn’t stop prosecutors from using Stuart Levine as a key witness in so many of these cases. Because when one is dealing with criminal acts, it often means consorting with people who are less than ideal in a social sense.

But all that is over. The trials are done. So now, prosecutors will have to proceed with dealing with Rezko, who has been kept throughout the years at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago and also at assorted county jails – with the federal government reimbursing the locals for the cost of incarcerating him.

BECAUSE HE IS such a high-profile person (from a prosecutorial perspective), he has been kept isolated for years. Which means he’s not getting some “country club” environment.

And this matter has dragged out for so long that he already has three years and eight months of time served. When one uses the federal guidelines for computing “good time” toward early release, he will  have to be credited with four years and three months of prison time already served.

There have been many people convicted of various types of government corruption whose prison time hasn’t come to that long a stint.

Which is why Rezko’s attorneys are arguing that the judge should sentence him to a 51-month prison term. That literally would be the equivalent of the time he already has served.

HE’D BE ABLE to walk out of the courthouse on that very day. No more time to serve. He’d probably get hit with fines that would ensure he’d be busted financially for the rest of his life.

But he’d be able to get on with his life.

Which is the last thing that prosecutors would want to happen. They came back with a recommendation that says Rezko should serve somewhere between 11 and 15 years in prison. They want him to have to face the prospects of another decade of incarceration – only now at a federal correctional center rather than in isolation at a county jail somewhere.

Then again, these are the same people who made a recommendation saying that Blagojevich should be sentenced to a prison term ranging from 30 years to natural life for his behavior – a concept that is so over-the-top and outrageous that only the most hard-core ideological Blagojevich haters will expect it to occur.

WHICH MAKES ME wonder if the suggestion of another decade in prison is nothing more than federal retribution to Rezko for daring to suggest that he ought to be released from prison right now.

Then again, when you have someone who has rotted in assorted jail cells for nearly four full years, it isn’t exactly out-of-line to suggest that his time has been served. Because rarely does a case (or series of cases, as this whole Blagojevich-centered investigation has been) drag on for so long.

This is a bizarre set of circumstances that certainly wouldn’t be setting any precedent for future cases in the U.S. District Court. That is, unless federal prosecutors plan to continue to leave possible suspects incarcerated for years while they decide whether or not to trust them on the witness stand.

After all, how many times do you have a criminal defendant who winds up owning the house across the property line from a future U.S. president? And how long has it been since anyone gave serious thought to that Rezko/Obama tie?


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