Blagojevich henchman takes big fall

Blagojevich henchman takes big fall

The wage of sins can sometimes be generous, but not for convicted politico Antoine "Tony" Rezko.

Rezko, who conspired with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to get rich through their government connections, was probably praying Tuesday that he'd be a free man by the end of day.

Lawyers for Rezko, who has already spent 3 1/2 years behind bars, asked for a sentence of time served, and Rezko himself pleaded for "God's forgiveness and the court's mercy."

But it wasn't going to happen. As a point man in one of the biggest political scandals in Illinois history, Rezko was almost guaranteed more time in the joint.

And he got it.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve sentenced Rezko to 10 1/2 years in prison, giving him credit for the 3 1/2 years he already has served. Seven years in prison is a long time for anyone, but more time behind bars will be particularly tough for the 56-year-old Rezko.

As bad as things are for Rezko, they could get worse. In addition to being a corrupt political operative, Rezko also was a corrupt businessman. So he awaits another sentencing hearing for his criminal behavior over the bogus sale of his pizza restaurants.

It was a long, hard fall for Rezko, once one of Chicago's leading political and business operatives. In his heyday, Rezko courted political comer Barack Obama, famously helping to subsidize Obama's purchase of a stately mansion in Hyde Park.

Now he's just another crook caught up in Blagojevich's vast criminal enterprise, an entity most people refer to as Illinois state government.

Rezko was a key man in Blagojevich's enterprise. He approved people for jobs, collected cash on the governor's behalf and oversaw appointments to powerful state boards like the Teachers Retirement System and the Hospital Facilities Planning Board.

Then he used his influence to extort payoffs and campaign contributions in exchange for state contracts or favorable regulatory decisions.

Rezko is the first of the real higher-ups in Blagojevich scandal to be formally sentenced.

Next up will be Blago himself. He's due in court on Dec. 7, and he also can expect a significant term behind bars.

Other lesser-knowns — Stuart Levine, Lon Monk and John Harris, among others — will continue the parade of corruption. They all were prominent and powerful some years ago. Now they've reduced themselves to footnotes in the legends, lists and lore of Illinois' political corruption.

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