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Friday, Oct 5, 2012

* Kass

The judge said he’d never received so many letters. Then Zagel really shocked me, and a few other reporters in the courtroom, when he talked about a few of the pro-Cellini letters. Among these, Zagel said, were “letters from three prominent journalists.”

Prominent journalists? Is that why he was able to fly under the radar for so long?

Those names are sealed in the court file per Zagel’s orders, I’m told, but whoever they are, the three prominent journalists and the others and Mrs. Cellini got what they asked for. They wanted mercy from Zagel. And that’s what he gave them.

I wasn’t asked to write a letter, and I wouldn’t have written one if I had been asked.

* I do happen to think that Bill Cellini was given the Al Capone income tax treatment

“I think there is something to be said for incarceration for a person in Bill Cellini’s position,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro after the sentencing. “… In certain communities, sentences of incarceration do send messages, and this is a small community we are talking about — the sort of bipartisan cabal of Illinois, the people that are the behind-the-scenes folks that fuel the corruption and raise the money. Those people pay attention to things like this, and they pay attention when someone who is almost 78 goes to prison.”

Prosecutors were so convinced he was a criminal that they sent him away over a fantastical scheme. Stu Levine and Cellini were supposedly shaking down a Hollywood guy for a $1.5 million contribution to Rod Blagojevich’s campaign fund. In 2004, that sort of contribution from an individual was absolutely unheard of in Illinois. I don’t believe the scheme actually existed beyond Levine’s drug-addled head. Cellini never asked the target for the cash, and Tony Rezko - who was alleged to have been in on the scheme - was acquitted on that particular count.

But a letter of support? Nope. No way.

* Roundup…

* Mark Brown: Cellini sentence another step forward for honest government

* Powerbroker gets 1 year in prison in movie producer shakedown

* Ex-Illinois powerbroker William Cellini sentenced to 1 year in prison

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - MrJM - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:04 am:


    There’s a library fine for an over-due book that I gotta deal with and a nice note from a prominent journalist couldn’t hurt…

    – MrJM

  2. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:05 am:

    MrJM, for you, anything.


  3. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:08 am:

    But will you pay my bar tab???

  4. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:10 am:

    Uh, no.

  5. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:10 am:

    It would be great to break the seal of the identity of the ‘journalists’ who wanted to lend their names to the cry for leniency.

  6. - Spliff - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:12 am:

    Journalists and politicians alike should be disclosed for writing letters of support. No reason for them to be sealed in the file.

  7. - Prominent Poster - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:25 am:

    ===letters from three prominent journalists===
    Note the word “prominent”. Just saying.

  8. - wordslinger - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:33 am:

    Prominent is in the eye of the beholder. But if they’re still reporting, they should disclose to their readers/listeners/viewers that they wrote letters and why.

  9. - Wensicia - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:33 am:

    Why haven’t any of these three ‘prominent’ journalists gone public with columns of support for Cellini, or did I miss them?

  10. - 47th Ward - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:38 am:

    ===Prosecutors were so convinced he was a criminal that they sent him away over a fantastical scheme.===

    So like Capone, the feds couldn’t convict Cellini for what they thought he had done, but instead convicted him on a ticky-tack offense? OK, but like Capone, so what?

    Cellini’s chumminess on the tapes, laughing with Levine, was evidence that these two men spoke the same language. It was clear what they were talking about regardless of whether it was real or not. The jury bought it. Case closed.

    Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas. Cellini of all people should have known better than to pal around with a guy like Levine. To conspire with him to curry favor with another knucklehead like Rod is beyond anything a reputable businessman would have done. Especially someone like Bill Cellini who really ought to have known better.

    Was he prosecuted based on rumor and his reputation? Maybe. Is that fair? Maybe not. But the jury saw enough to convict and that’s that.

  11. - Dick - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:46 am:

    This would be a good thread to talk about journalist’s who have crossed over the line, many times while they trying to say they are objective. Avis Lavalle and Caroline Grisco come to mind, Lavalle at WGN radio and Grisco on WBEZ, they had a PR thing going at the same time as they were reporting, both have made millions during the time they worked for Mayor Daley. Any others ?

  12. - x ace - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 10:55 am:

    Ain’t newspapers always against Sealing ?

    Sealing seems a unique form of “immunity” .

    Special treatment for “prominent” journalists ?

    Maybe they got pictures of somebody who’s somebody with Judith Campbell or Marilyn Monroe.

  13. - steve schnorf - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:02 am:

    is this just a day for irony, or am I really seeing lots of anonymous comments calling for full disclosure of other people’s names?

  14. - Wensicia - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:07 am:

    Those prominent journalists didn’t send their letters to Zagel anonymously. They used the influence of their occupations behind their names.

  15. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:12 am:

    “calling for full disclosure of other people’s names? ”

    The difference is that in this forum, no one is trying to use their so called celebrity to influence the taxpayer funded legal system.

    If you use public resources, you should not remain anonymous.

  16. - Knome Sane - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:13 am:

    How ironic would it be if the “combine” darkened the doors of the Chicago Tribune should it be disclosed that one or more of the “prominent journalists” were employed there. I’m not saying that is the case, but how would John Kass spin that one? It’s not as if a reporter from the Tribune hasn’t been caught in the switches of Illinois politics in the past.

  17. - Knome Sane - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:17 am:

    @ Steve Schnorg: “is this just a day for irony, or am I really seeing lots of anonymous comments calling for full disclosure of other people’s names?”

    There is an enormous difference between posting anonymously on a political blog and calling for transparency and writing the judge seeking leniency for a convicted power broker while serving as a member of the “Fourth Estate”.

  18. - Loop Lady - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:20 am:

    Is this why it’s called a free press? I can understand journalists protecting their sources, but the judiciary excepting that type of info from the public? I guess it really does pay to have friends in all types of influential positions when the crap hits the fan.

  19. - Knome Sane - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:21 am:

    Apologies to Steve Schnorf. I did not intentionally mispell your name @11:17.

  20. - langhorne - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:22 am:

    i think a great deal of the public animus directed toward cellini has less to do w the charges, and the meager convictions, than disapproval and disdain for the huge fortune he has amassed from insider deals at the public trough. we dont like his river boat deal, all the leasing contracts, investment of pension funds, etc etc., so send him to jail for something. cellini succeeded for decades bec he didnt connect contributions w actions (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and had the misfortune of having an idiot like stu levine, et al, try to play. a year and a day, coming down to a likely 10 months, is appropriate.

  21. - Dana Heupel - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 11:59 am:

    I have some difficulty believing that any working journalist, prominent or otherwise, would write a letter of support in a court case. That would be cause for immediate dismissal from any of the news organizations I’ve worked for.

  22. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 12:05 pm:

    ===I have some difficulty believing that any working journalist, prominent or otherwise===

    Yeah, could be retired folks. No clue, really. Romensko just asked me if I knew who did it. I told him I have no idea.

  23. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 12:08 pm:

    Dick Ciccone is Cellini’s spokesman, and he’s a former Tribster, so that’s a start. Maybe the judge was talking about him? I dunno.

  24. - 47th Ward - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 12:13 pm:

    I think it’s best not to speculate. Maybe the Tribune’s recent front-page crusade against sealed court records needs another installment.

    Then again, maybe not.

  25. - steve schnorf - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    journalists use “public resources”? I buy it more Dana’s way, and he signed his name

  26. - amalia - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 12:39 pm:

    Zagel and the three journalists. shameful.

  27. - Sir Reel - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 12:57 pm:

    As someone who had to kiss Julie Cellini’s ring when she was Edgar’s patronage chief (I was a 4-year term appointment position), I remember Bill Cellini’s control in Springfield. So many of these insiders get away with so much. Think of the talk of “endemic hiring fraud” under Blago and all the insiders connected to it who got away with it. While this particular case was weak, Bill Cellini has much to pay for.

  28. - steve schnorf - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 1:04 pm:

    another brave soul heard from, Sir Reel. Unfortunately for your credibility Julie Cellini never worked for Jim Edgar in any capacity. She probably wondered why you were kissing her ring: perhaps it was just another in a string of aberrant behaviors by you?

  29. - sue - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 1:45 pm:

    It wasn’t Julie but Janice(the sister) who was the patronage “boss” for Edgar-the bad guy and common denominator in this entire sorry story is levine but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Cellini was found to have engaged in criminal coduct- Levine ruined the lives of lots of people tangentially involved in this mess- his sentence was certainly too lenient- if cellini got a year- Levine deserved a life sentence

  30. - Sir Reel - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 2:01 pm:

    Sorry it was Janice Cellini, not Julie. I guess I repressed.

  31. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 2:35 pm:

    I’m uncomfortable with the idea that judges would consider letters as part of sentencing and keep the letters confidential.

    Either the letters should be ignored or they should be part of the public record.

  32. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 2:39 pm:

    Blagojevich is demanding all the letters be read, saying they’ll prove he’s innocent and it’s all Madigan’s fault.

  33. - Rocky 7 - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 2:54 pm:

    Isn’t a little self-serving for Kass to refer to letters from prominent jounalists and then offer that he didn’t write one?

  34. - Knome Sane - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 3:31 pm:

    @Rocky =Kass to refer to letters from prominent jounalists and then offer that he didn’t write one?=

    I think you mistook Rich’s comment for Kass: “I wasn’t asked to write a letter, and I wouldn’t have written one if I had been asked.” Rick Miller wrote that, if I am not mistaken.

  35. - Knome Sane - Friday, Oct 5, 12 @ 3:32 pm:

    @ 3:31 Darn it! In my previous post I know it’s Rich Miller, not Rick!

  36. - Frank - Tuesday, Oct 9, 12 @ 1:54 pm:

    It’s not just letters from journalists you must consider because over 200 people wrote letters they did so in confidence to the judge. They are not public letters. Some letters may contain private details about personal events, and home addresses might be on them, too. I do not believe a person who took the time scribe their thoughts to a judge and did that in total confidence deserves their letter to be in the hands of the press. Think of the letter-writers as a whole before you quickly pounce on these three journalists have ‘upset’ their fellow members of the press. The press should not trump a person’s right to privacy, ever.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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