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  With Rezko verdict, Blagojevich could be next
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Last Editedev  Jun 04, 2008 07:42pm
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MediaNewspaper - Quad-City Times
News DateThursday, June 5, 2008 01:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionSPRINGFIELD, Ill. — With a guilty verdict in hand against political fundraiser Antoin ``Tony'' Rezko, the government could soon be knocking on Gov. Rod Blagojevich's door, legal experts say.

A jury convicted Rezko — one of Blagojevich's closest political pals — of a majority of counts Wednesday in a trial that included allegations that the governor was aware of some illegal conduct.

``These cases are done in stair steps, meaning I'm building a case, looking for the elected official,'' said Bryan Blaney, who prosecuted federal public corruption cases in New Jersey and now is a defense attorney.

The jury found Rezko guilty of money laundering, mail and wire fraud, and bribery charges — 16 of 24 counts. And even though acquittals came on other, serious charges including attempted extortion, Blaney said the verdict should encourage U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to push Rezko for testimony that could point to others, such as Blagojevich. Fitzgerald would not comment Wednesday on that possibility.

``It's enough of a win that if he can be motivated to come in from the cold, he's looking at the kind of jail time that will cause him to do that,'' Blaney said of Rezko.

Blagojevich has not been charged with a crime and denies knowledge of any illegal activities. Rezko was convicted of attempting to pump kickbacks and campaign contributions for Blagojevich and Sen. Barack Obama out of companies seeking state business or regulatory approval. Obama has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Testimony at Rezko's nine-week trial put Blagojevich at meetings with fundraisers where witnesses said he promised favors in return for contributions. Most damaging was a claim by Ali Ata, former head of the Illinois Finance Authority, that Blagojevich twice discussed a state job with him after Ata had made two $25,000 contributions to the governor's campaign.

That and other direct testimony makes for a ``pretty strong case'' against Blagojevich, s
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