Bill Cellini trial, Illinois Republican political boss, Springfield insider, Blagojevich Rezko Obama, Judge James Zagel
From John Kass of the Chicago Tribune October 2, 2011.
“Cellini flies into court under the radar, and that’s the way he likes it”
“Will this week’s federal corruption trial of longtime Illinois Republican political boss and gazillionaire William Cellini get as much media coverage as the trial of former Gov. Dead Meat?
Of course it won’t. And that’s unfortunate, since the Cellini case appears to be the last in the federal government’s Operation Board Games investigation into bipartisan Combine sleaze.
When Gov. Dead Meat was on trial, the media flocked to cover him. There were dozens of news cameras in the lobby of the federal building. Weird, desperate groupies hung outside, begging Dead Meat to acknowledge them, to touch them, to sign their skin.
But Bill Cellini?
Cellini has been charged with extortion and other crimes, for allegedly using his political influence with government officials (both Democrats and Republicans) to squeeze people.
His attorney, the distinguished former federal prosecutor Dan Webb, has dismissed the prosecution’s case, calling it weak. And Webb also makes the valid point that while Cellini is indeed a wealthy man, there is nothing illegal about becoming wealthy and knowing politicians.
Cellini has made fortunes in state-licensed casino gambling ventures, real estate development with state and Chicago City Hall connections, and management of state pension funds.
So it was probably just an amazing coincidence that a rather timid-looking former high school physics teacher made a killing in all these high-powered, politically leveraged businesses.
Is it a miracle? Or is this just another political story with an Illinois happy ending?
Webb had hoped to narrow the scope of the trial, to have it focus strictly on whether Cellini did or did not use his connections on state pension boards to muscle a Hollywood producer for campaign cash for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The Hollywood producer is Tom Rosenberg, and he’s no shrinking violet, and no stranger to hardball Illinois politics.
But U.S. District Judge James Zagel signaled that he will allow — at least in the early stages of the trial — more background and context. That will help jurors fully understand the extent of the political muscle involved.
Unfortunately, I’ve got a feeling that Cellini on trial won’t generate the publicity buzz he deserves.”
Perhaps part of the reason involves titles of great prestige. Blagojevich, a Democrat, got oodles of publicity before, during and after his corruption trials.
Dead Meat was, after all, a governor. So he had a title. He worked closely with President Barack Obama’s real estate fairy and convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko. And Dead Meat had big hair.”
“For four decades now, Bill Cellini has worn many magic hats in Springfield. One gave him remarkable power over governors. Another was his hat as boss of Springfield. And then there was the cunning cap of media invisibility.
But he also wore a road builder’s hat. It’s more like a crown. For years, Cellini was the boss of the road builders. The kings of concrete and asphalt would flock to him for advice on “shovel-ready projects.”
And so Republican Cellini told the guys they should give money to Democrat Blagojevich.
But after the fundraiser, an amazing thing happened.
Glynn testified that Blagojevich’s senior adviser, Christopher Kelly — the same fellow who was later indicted and then committed suicide — came to see her.
Kelly asked her to wipe Cellini’s name from the fundraiser, and give credit instead to Rezko and former state Sen. James A. DeLeo, D-How You Doin?
Glynn said Kelly wanted her to call it the Rezko-DeLeo-Roadbuilders fundraiser for Blagojevich.
“Chris Kelly told us to call it that,” Glynn testified.
Combine? What Combine?
Good hair or bad hair, jury selection in the Cellini trial is scheduled for Monday.”