* US Judge James Zagel dumped some pretty cold water on Bill Cellini’s defense motion to overturn his guilty verdict because a juror apparently lied about a criminal record…
Calling the juror dishonest, Cellini’s lawyers filed a motion for a new trial, contending she was ineligible to sit on a federal jury because she is a convicted felon.
In [last week’s] ruling, Zagel disputed that, writing that the juror would have to have “actual bias” shown by Cellini’s attorneys. At the Dec. 1 hearing, it will be “the defendant’s burden to cast sufficient doubt on the juror’s impartiality.”
Zagel further stated, “A juror offers a bias-free explanation which the courts find credible, such as confusion or embarrassment about admitting to felony convictions before a large audience in open court, then bias cannot be presumed.”
With his statement, Judge Zagel basically told the juror how to respond when she’s asked why she didn’t fess up to the convictions. All she has to say is: “I was confused,” or “I was embarrassed,” and that’s that.
* And speaking of uphill criminal battles, Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys are alleging that criminal allegations about star prosecution witness John Wyma may not have been properly investigated by authorities before Wyma agreed to testify against their client…
In filings regarding Rezko’s sentencing, Wyma’s cooperation with the government is discussed, including that Rezko told prosecutors that he tried to extract a campaign contribution through Wyma from Provena Health, whom Wyma represented as a lobbyist at the time.
Lawyers question whether bribery was involved when Provena was granted a certificate of need from an Illinois hospital board. Rezko told prosecutors in private sessions that Provena had a dispute with someone on the hospital board and resolved it by paying the board member, according to the Blagojevich defense filing. Prosecutors say the charge was unsubstantiated.
“Blagojevich did not have any knowledge about and was absolutely unaware of the Provena activities of Rezko and Wyma,” the filing says.
It says after Rezko gave the information to prosecutors, Wyma was hit with a subpoena.
“Shortly after Wyma received this grand jury subpoena, he agreed to be, and became, an informant for the government. This allowed the government to obtain a wiretap on Blagojevich’s telephones,” lawyers wrote.
After the taps were secured, Blagojevich’s lawyers said, prosecutors deemed Rezko’s information “not substantiated.”
“If the incriminating evidence against Wyma was not substantiated because it was not investigated, the government’s statement is misleading,” defense lawyers wrote.
Many people believe that Wyma got off way too easy, but that usually happens when you’re the first one to climb aboard the prosecution’s train.
* Meanwhile, say what you want about Bill Cellini, and you could be right, but he made the Teachers Retirement System a whole lot of cash…
How much money did Cellini’s firm make for TRS — the $37 billion retirement fund that provides pensions for suburban Chicago and downstate teachers?
In the 17 years that Commonwealth managed TRS assets, the firm was given $788 million to invest. When the TRS board terminated Commonwealth in 2009, it had nearly doubled that amount to $1.2 billion, according to documents provided by the Cellini camp, which TRS verified are authentic.
Commonwealth averaged a rate of return of 14.38 percent for TRS, according to a 2008 Callan Associates report. And in 2004, Callan ranked Commonwealth as the No. 1 real estate investment firm in the country, internal TRS documents show.
But he didn’t diversify before the international economic collapse, and his returns were much thinner at the end…
Time period, rate of return
Last quarter, 1.27
Last year, 6.65
Last two years, 16.89
Last three years, 17.39
Last five years, 23.10
Last 17 years, 14.38
* In other news, oy…
Steven Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing became a symbol of Illinois’ troubled pension system after that work qualified him for significant state teacher retirement benefits.
The political director of the Illinois Federation of Teachers can base that pension on his years as a union lobbyist and on his six-figure union salary — a lucrative opportunity made possible by state legislators.
It turns out Preckwinkle also is familiar with another state program, legislative scholarships, known for its problems, The Tribune has found.
Two of Preckwinkle’s children and a nephew were awarded the tuition waivers to Illinois State University in the late 1980s and 1990s as part of the legislative scholarship program, according to David Ormsby, the privately paid spokesman for Preckwinkle.
Preckwinkle worked for AFSCME until 1990. Then-Rep. Mike Curran awarded the scholarships. Curran was a huge AFSCME supporter and was even a card-carrying AFSCME member. The two men were very close, so this doesn’t surprise me, but it’s just one more indication that Preckwinkle was gaming the system for himself.
* Other stuff…
* Blagojevich wants tapes played at sentencing