Ex-Ill. powerbroker sentenced to year in prison

William Cellini, once known as the "King of Clout," sentenced in corruption trial

Published October 5, 2012 1:11PM (EDT)

CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge sentenced former Illinois powerbroker William Cellini to a year in prison Thursday for conspiring to shake down a movie producer, capping off the last trial to stem from the investigation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Cellini, 77, was once known to political insiders as the King of Clout for his behind-the-scenes influence in state government. He was convicted last year for his role in trying to get a $1.5 million campaign contribution for Blagojevich from Thomas Rosenberg — the Oscar-winning producer of "Million Dollar Baby" — in exchange for state business.

Judge James Zagel sentenced Cellini to one year and one day in prison.

Defense attorneys had asked Zagel for probation, pointing to Cellini's poor health and the limited time period involved in the wrongdoing.

Prosecutors recommended a 6 1/2- to eight-year prison sentence. They too asked Zagel to take Cellini's health into account, but noted the crime was serious because it involved public officials.

Cellini suffered a heart attack in June while undergoing a medical procedure.

"Mr. Cellini is in the twilight of his life," defense attorney Dan Webb told Zagel.

His attorneys also pointed to hundreds of letters of support for Cellini, including one letter from former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who said he never saw Cellini act improperly.

Cellini sat quietly during Thursday's hearing, occasionally closing his eyes for brief periods and sometimes taking notes.

During Cellini's trial last year, prosecutors painted a picture of a multimillionaire who formed ties with high-level politicians of both parties going back decades and used that influence to further his businesses.

Despite his wealth and influence, Cellini maintained a low profile and rarely spoke in public. It was his association with Blagojevich that drew him into legal peril.

Cellini was one of more than a dozen people ensnared by the decade-long investigation into Blagojevich. The ousted governor was sentenced last year to 14 years in prison on corruption charges, including allegations that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. The Chicago Democrat began serving his sentence at a federal prison in Colorado in March.

Cellini, a Springfield Republican, was appointed Illinois transportation secretary in the early 1970s. He then used his state connections to help earn tens of millions from real estate, casino and other ventures. Cellini wouldn't have pocketed any money from the shakedown of Rosenberg, according to prosecutors, but he saw it as a chance for him to further ingratiate himself with those in power.


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By Sophia Tareen

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