CHICAGO — — A witness at former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's initial trial testified Wednesday at the sentencing of a Chicago-area businessman convicted of bribing doctors for referrals to surgery centers, describing "panic" among some political fundraisers after Blagojevich's 2008 arrest.
The testimony came on the first day of Raghuveer Nayak's sentencing, which was expected to last at least two days. Nayak, 58, of Oak Brook, pleaded guilty last year and faces up to 23 years federal prison for paying bribes to physicians for patient referrals and filing false federal income tax returns.
Rajinder Bedi, a director of international trade under Blagojevich, testified about allegedly accepting tens of thousands of dollars in checks from Nayak and providing him a steady flow of cash in return. Nayak used some of that cash in his bribery scheme, prosecutors say.
At Blagojevich's 2010 trial, Bedi said he attended a meeting with then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Nayak to discuss Blagojevich naming Jackson to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Blagojevich is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence on multiple corruption counts, including 11 linked to seeking to sell or trade the Senate seat.
Nayak was a leading contributor to both Jackson's and Blagojevich's campaigns.
On the stand Wednesday, Bedi mentioned Blagojevich only briefly, describing the reaction of Nayak and some other campaign fundraisers to the then-governor's arrest on Dec. 9, 2008.
"That created a panic in the Indian community, especially fundraisers for politicians," Bedi said. Both Bedi and Nayak emigrated from India.
Nayak was never charged in Blagojevich's case. But prosecutors say Nayak offered to raise $1 million for Blagojevich's campaign if he named Jackson to Obama's vacated Senate seat, and they argued in a recent filing the sentencing judge should take into account that Nayak had "corrupted the political process" by the offer.
The testimony by Bedi and other witnesses at Nayak's hearing is meant to help the judge determine an appropriate sentence. He can, under certain circumstances, take into account wrongdoing Nayak was never indicted for, like that alleged checks-for-cash scheme.