Chicago Sun Times Does Hit-and-Run on Obama-Rezko Payoff Lead
Last July, two Chicago Sun-Times reporters noted an allegation of "payments made by Rezko to Obama" that surfaced in a deposition involving former Rezko business partner Daniel T. Frawley. Since then, the only follow-up coverage from the Sun-Times has been the sound of crickets.
An article dated July 11, 2011, entitled "Ex-Rezko partner's sentencing delayed," announced that Daniel Frawley's sentencing for bank fraud had been postponed, yet again. He came up for sentencing again this week, and -- surprise! -- there's been another postponement.
So, how were Frawley and Rezko business partners?
It started when Ayham al-Samaraie, an Iraqi-American, college friend of Tony Rezko, was appointed electricity minister of Iraq in September 2003. Rezko's company was then hired to build an electricity-generating plant in Chamchamel, Iraq.
Ayham al-Samaraie awarded a $50-million contract to Companion Security to train security guards for the facility. Rezko and Frawley owned Companion Security. Daniel Mahru, who along with Rezko, introduced a young Barack Obama to Chicago, was the company's attorney.
The story goes on to include Al-Samaraie being imprisoned in Iraq for corruption and his arranged escape from prison, plus the involvement of a Democrat candidate for Congress on behalf of Companion Security. You can read more here.
Back to Frawley and the Sun-Times.
In February 2011, Frawley pled guilty to defrauding a bank out of $4.4 million. In the Sun-Times article linked above, staff reporters Chris Fusco and Tim Novak note that "federal prosecutors are seeking a reduced sentence for Frawley - of a year and a half in prison, rather than the 35 years he could face - apparently because Frawley has been secretly cooperating since at least 2006 in their investigation of Rezko[.]"
"Secretly cooperating" means that Frawley wore a wire on Rezko for the feds. But he never testified in the Rezko trial. What's even stranger is that the statute of limitations on the crime to which Frawley pled guilty had expired. So why does he confess to a crime for which he can't be tried, and then agree to pay $4 million? Hold that thought.
As the Sun-Times reported in August 4, 2011:
The conduct [bank fraud] charged is beyond the statute of limitations and his plea deal indicates Frawley agreed to waive the statute as part of a deal. Frawley could have faced more than five years but prosecutors will recommend 18 months, according to his deal. Frawley's lawyers can ask for less time as part of the agreement. [So less time is better somehow than no time?]
Frawley's attorney, Thomas M. Durkin, would not comment on the agreement.
Frawley must make some $4 million in restitution, according to his agreement. He's scheduled to be sentenced June 1. [Now delayed indefinitely.]
The story continues: when Frawley learned that his lawyer, George Weaver, was also representing Rezko, he filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against Weaver charging that Weaver was not representing his, Frawley's, best interests.
Quoting from a December 1, 2010 deposition wherein Weaver's attorney, Daniel F. Konicek, questioned Frawley in the presence of his, Frawley's, attorney, Charles R. Franklin, the Sun-Times reported:
Later in the deposition, Weaver's lawyer, Daniel F. Konicek, asks Frawley about what specific information Weaver is supposed to have told Frawley to withhold from federal authorities.
'I'm assuming the information is about the payments made by Rezko to Obama, so we know we're talking about the right conversation, right?' Konicek asks Frawley.
Frawley doesn't answer. So Konicek presses him: 'Am I correct it was about Obama being paid by Rezko?'
Frawley replies: 'I'm not answering that question, based upon my attorney's instructions.'
Nobody directly involved with the deposition -- including Frawley and his lawyers, Weaver and his lawyers, and the FBI and U.S. attorney's office -- would comment.
Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Obama's presidential campaign, called Konicek's suggestion that Rezko might have made any cash payments to Obama 'utter nonsense.' [Emphasis added.]
If you read the deposition over the holidays, keep eggnog close. It is 65 pages of mind-numbing dialogue that finds, at one point, the opposing attorneys arguing over the meaning of the word "this."
So, to summarize:
o A former key business associate of Tony Rezko pleads guilty to a crime after the statute of limitations had expired.
o Frawley agrees to pay a whopping $4 million in restitution, with no apparent means to do so. If, miraculously, he comes up with the four million, ask yourself: who benefits the most?
o His lawyers hope that his cooperation will mean a lighter sentence for a crime that was past the statute of limitations to begin with. Did the feds have something else on Frawley that they used as leverage?
o Frawley allegedly provides useful information on Rezko, but we don't know what that was about. He didn't testify at Rezko's trial. How come?
o One last question, in an episode full of questions: did the Sun-Times back off this lead because of its continuing support for Barack Obama?
In a December 5, 2011 e-mail, this writer asked Tom McNamee, editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, if the paper stood by its 2008 endorsement of Obama for the presidency. McNamee responded:
When we write editorials, including updates on earlier editorials, it will be for Sun-Times readers, Mr. Cary. Keep reading the paper, as I'm sure you now will, and we will continue to weigh in on President Obama from time to time.
Hearing that as a non-answer, the question was forwarded to Andrew Herrmann, managing editor of the paper. He responded:
The paper endorsed Obama for president. He was elected president. Since then, we have critiqued his decisions regularly -- some good, some bad. But we have never expressed any regret or reversal of our endorsement editorial.
No regrets from the Sun-Times. Just hit-and-run journalism.