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Witness: Obama attended Rezko party

/ Source: The Associated Press

The government's star witness at the fraud trial of Antoin "Tony" Rezko testified Monday that Sen. Barack Obama and his wife attended a party four years ago at the home of the indicted political fundraiser.

Stuart Levine said the party took place in April 2004 and was held to honor Iraqi-born Nadhmi Auchi, a London-based billionaire who was visiting the United States at the time.

Rezko, 52, was a major fundraiser for Obama and Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and the trial has been closely watched because of Obama's presidential campaign. But very little has been said about the senator thus far.

Neither Blagojevich nor Obama has been accused of wrongdoing. The Obama campaign has now given to charity nearly $150,000 in contributions received by Obama's House and Senate campaigns that came from Rezko, his employees, his associates and his family

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said Monday that the senator "does not recall meeting Nadhmi Auchi at any time or on any occasion," and that Obama and his wife do not remember attending the party.

Auchi's attorney, Alasdair Pepper, has said his client doesn't remember meeting Obama.

Neither Blagojevich nor Obama has been accused of wrongdoing.

Rezko is charged with scheming with Levine to squeeze money management firms wanting state business for kickbacks and split a bribe. Rezko has denied that he took part in such a scheme.

But his bond was revoked and he was jailed by the trial judge after federal prosecutors discovered a wire transfer of $3.5 million in 2007 to his attorneys from Auchi by way of a bank in Lebanon. Rezko had told Judge Amy J. St. Eve that he had no money, no way of getting money and was living off the charity of friends and relatives.

Levine has pleaded guilty to the charges and taken the stand as the government's star witness in hopes of getting a lenient sentence.

Levine said very little about the party at Rezko's home or Obama's presence there.

He said he had flown Rezko's family back from Mexico the same day so that they would be in Chicago in time for the party.

"Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was there?" Rezko attorney Joseph J. Duffy asked.

"Yes, Sir," Levine answered.

"Mr. and Mrs. Obama were there?" Duffy asked.

Levine agreed with a Duffy statement that "the governor was a no-show."