Citing ruling, Rezko plans to challenge convictions

By Michael Tarm
Friday, November 5, 2010

CHICAGO - A lawyer for Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a former fundraiser for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, said Thursday that his client will challenge his conviction on charges of demanding kickbacks from people who wanted state business.

The attorney, Joe Duffy, told a federal judge that the challenge will be rooted in a recent high court ruling that curtailed so-called honest services laws, which were used by prosecutors for years to try to root out corruption in both business and government.

A jury convicted Rezko in 2008, and U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve said Thursday that she would sentence him Jan. 28. Before setting that date, St. Eve asked Duffy if Rezko wanted to be sentenced before Blagojevich's corruption retrial starts in April.

"That's Mr. Rezko's wish," Duffy told her. Rezko did not appear in court.

Earlier sentencing dates had been postponed, suggesting that Rezko was sharing secrets with prosecutors in hopes of getting a reduced sentence. He was convicted of wire fraud, mail fraud and other charges, and several of the counts carry maximum 20-year prison terms.

Duffy declined to explain after the hearing why Rezko wanted to get the sentencing over with or what that might say about the chances he cut a deal with the government.

Rezko, who also once raised money for Barack Obama, did not testify at Blagojevich's first trial. But Duffy has said his client, if asked, was prepared to testify at the second.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that aspects of the honest-services law were too broad and unconstitutionally vague, and it ruled that the law could be applied only in instances of bribes and kickbacks.

Duffy mentioned in court a decision last month by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn some of former media mogul Conrad Black's fraud convictions because they derived from honest services law. He didn't elaborate.

Others hoping to have convictions tossed based on the court's ruling include Jeffrey Skilling, former CEO of Enron, and imprisoned former Illinois governor George Ryan.

- Associated Press

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