Barack Obama's name pops up unexpectedly in Rezko trial
Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama's name came up unexpectedly again at the Antoin "Tony" Rezko corruption trial today in Chicago and in a way that earlier filings in the case did not telegraph.
Stuart Levine, the prosecution's star witness, said he and Obama were at a party Rezko threw at his suburban Chicago Wilmette mansion on April 3, 2004, for Nadhmi Auchi, a controversial Iraqi-born billionaire whom Rezko was trying to get to invest in a South Loop real estate development.
Auchi, now a citizen of the United Kingdom, has faced criminal charges in Europe. He also figured in the revocation of Rezko's bond early this year after attempting to wire him more than $3 million. Upon learning of that attempt, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve declared Rezko a flight risk and ordered him held in a federal jail in the Loop.
The Rezko party in 2004 was designed to induce Auchi to pour money into the South Loop investment. Obama's presence at the party of one of his major early fundraisers and political supporters was not previously known.
At the time, Obama was fresh off a surprise win in the Illinois Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate and was riding a crest of national publicity. The freshman Illinois senator is not accused of any wrongdoing, but this is yet another unknown aspect of his relationship with Rezko, which Obama has said he now regrets.
The Tribune has a nonstop Rezko trial blog here.
-- Bob Secter
Bob Secter writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau. Photo Credit: AP/Nam Y. Huh