Springfield businessman William Cellini, a longtime Illinois political insider, was convicted on two federal felony charges today in Chicago.
Cellini was accused of attempting to extort campaign contributions for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich from Thomas Rosenberg, an investment firm owner and movie producer, in exchange for business handling pension investments for the state. Blagojevich was convicted on 17 corruption counts in June.
A jury found Cellini guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding and abetting bribery. He was found not guilty on two other charges, attempted extortion and mail and wire fraud.
Cellini’s lawyers painted him as and innocent go-between, saying he had nothing to do with any plans to squeeze campaign funds from Rosenberg but only delivered information to him. “We made our points. Obviously I’m very grateful that the jury appears to have agreed and at least has thrown out the most serious charges against Mr. Cellini,” Attorney Dan Webb told reporters in Chicago today.
“Shaking someone down and threatening them with loss of business is a crime,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said today in Chicago. He said the conviction should make power brokers in Springfield and Chicago think twice before committing any illegal backroom deals. “The fact that Bill Cellini was convicted today sends a very, very loud message there.” Fitzgerald said that the investigation dubbed "Operation Board Games" — which led to the convictions of Blagojevich, his confidante Tony Rezko, Stuart Levine, who testified against Cellini, and others — is not officially closed because some defendants have appealed their convictions. However, he said he was not “predicting anything in the future” in regards to the investigation.
“I think clearly the whole corruption problems that occurred under the Ryan administration and then under Blagojevich — we have to root out every single manifestation, and that’s what I’ve tried to do since January 29 of 2009,” Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters in Chicago today. “We’ve passed ethics laws. We’ve established strong standards of conduct, and we enforce them,” Quinn said that “more than anything,” his “mission” is to “clean up Illinois government.”
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