CHICAGO – Jailed political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko's lawyer made an emotional plea for his release from a federal lockup Wednesday, saying he is being held in "degrading" conditions where inmates must share underwear.
"It's disgusting, judge," chief defense counsel Joseph Duffy told U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.
Rezko, 52, a millionaire developer and formerly a fundraiser for both Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is being held without bail awaiting the scheduled March 3 start of his political corruption trial. He is accused of joining with millionaire lawyer Stuart Levine in a scheme to use political influence to shake down companies.
Duffy told St. Eve that Rezko's living conditions at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center are so horrible that some means must be found to get him out.
"It's a very degrading way for people to even try to serve time," Duffy said.
He said that while general population inmates have their own supplies of underwear, Rezko and others held in solitary must share.
Rezko, who was born in Syria and has extensive connections in the Mideast, had been free on $2 million bail but St. Eve revoked his bail and ordered him jailed Jan. 28 after prosecutors disclosed he had received $3.5 million from an overseas businessman without informing the court.
Duffy said that if Rezko is released, the defense will pay a security firm to put guards in Rezko's Wilmette mansion 24 hours a day to make certain he doesn't try to flee.
"They will physically deliver him to the courtroom every single day," Duffy said.
The judge said she already had asked the correctional center about Rezko's living conditions and said she was told he was not being singled out. She noted he was being held on a floor where high-profile defendants are kept while authorities assess any risk to them from being in the lockup's general population.
Levine has pleaded guilty and is expected to be the government's star witness at Rezko's trial.