* It’s hard to argue with this…
You can slice and dice the legalese all you want, but one message came through loud and clear in Tuesday’s conviction of William Cellini: Times changed, Cellini didn’t.
* But Chris Mooney, the Arrington professor of state politics with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield, wasn’t so convinced…
“I was actually kind of surprised that he was convicted, because I didn’t think the case seemed that strong. But I wasn’t in the courtroom. But I do think that it also shows you that you don’t want the federal government knocking on your door, because, my God, if they can convict him on this, boy, they can get you.”
Before the trial started, I thought the feds had a pretty weak case. After Tom Rosenberg’s testimony, I figured they had Cellini on everything. So, to me, the most surprising aspect of the verdict was that jurors found Cellini not guilty of the actual Rosenberg shakedown (”attempted extortion”), but then convicted him on conspiracy to extort.
* From a juror…
“What really got him was the wiretaps,” juror Candy Chiles said. “It was right there. . . . All the evidence was overwhelming . . . He did the crime, and when you do the crime you have to do the time.”
The evidence apparently wasn’t “overwhelming” enough to convict Cellini on the most important count of attempted extortion.
* I think Kass may have been onto something about those tapes when he wrote this a while back…
Has laughter ever sent someone to federal prison?
I’m not talking about a big belly laugh, the kind of laugh where the jaw almost unhinges and sound comes out full throated, the eyes bugging, and what you see is a body shaking with confident, honest, joy.
No, this laugh was different. I heard it Thursday at a corruption trial involving Illinois politics, and what passes for honest laughter among politicians using your government to cash in isn’t loud and honest and confident. […]
It was Illinois Combine boss William Cellini laughing with informant and convicted weasel Stuart Levine on federal tape played during Cellini’s corruption trial. On tape they were talking about using their political connections in then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office — specifically Blagojevich’s convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko — to squeeze another man, Thomas Rosenberg. […]
How could they laugh?
Because they were the guys with the juice, they were the ones who allegedly controlled the government, and when you can use the government as your hammer, that’s better than a dozen tough guys because the government carries the force of law. So corruption is only a piece of it. That’s just money. But corrupting the government, which is supposed to be fair, and the effect that corruption has on the people, that is stealing something too. It steals the presumption of honest treatment.
A Cellini friend cited that very thing yesterday after the verdict. I think both are probably right.
* This may seem a bit odd…
“I really believe he extorted,” juror Paulette Green of Round Lake Park said of Cellini. “I don’t think he went in it wanting to. I believe it just happened.”
Green said it was clear from Rosenberg’s angry testimony last week that he felt shaken down.
“Oh, he knew it,” she said.
* So, if Cellini extorted and Rosenberg believed he was being shaken down, then why not convict him on attempted extortion? Perhaps because nothing was explicitly demanded on the tapes? Likely…
The jury felt prosecutors fell short in proving two other criminal counts, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and attempted extortion.
“There were (nuances) in the law that had to be proven that we didn’t think were proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Nast said. “We really took each count independently.”
Jurors felt the recordings didn’t prove Cellini’s guilt on those two counts because he was not recorded directly implicating himself, he said. The charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud relied too much on the word of Levine, Nast said.
* A strong sense of jury camaraderie might have also led to a desire to compromise…
Jurors in William Cellini’s trial got along so well during their deliberations, that after reaching a unanimous verdict on Tuesday, they assembled at the nearby Elephant & Castle restaurant and bar near the downtown federal courthouse.
About eight jurors who spent the last 3 ½ weeks or so listening to evidence in Cellini’s trial toasted their conclusion to the case, which ended in a split verdict with two guilty counts and two not guilty counts.