William Cellini trial opening statements, October 6, 2011, Stuart Levine drug use, Where is Tony Rezko?

William Cellini trial opening statements, October 6, 2011, Stuart Levine drug use, Where is Tony Rezko?

From The Chicago Tribune October 6, 2011.

“Defense, U.S. disagree if Cellini was shaking down or helping”

“After listening to a federal prosecutor for nearly 40 minutes lay out how Springfield power broker William Cellini allegedly plotted to extort campaign cash from a Hollywood producer, veteran attorney Dan Webb stood up and put a decidedly different spin on the story.

Cellini was only trying to help an old friend, Webb insisted Wednesday to the jury. And in the end, he did, Webb maintained.

“This story does have a happy ending,” Webb said with emphasis as Cellini’s long-awaited trial started in earnest following the selection of 12 jurors and four alternates.

The longtime statehouse insider is charged with trying to shake down producer Thomas Rosenberg in 2004 for a $1.5 million contribution to the campaign of then-Gov.Rod Blagojevich.

Cellini was no innocent victim of circumstances, contended Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Deis in his opening remarks to jurors.

“The defendant didn’t slip, fall and find himself in the middle of an extortion,” he said. “He was in. Eyes wide open.”

Cellini’s federal trial on fraud and attempted extortion charges marks the last of the corruption cases arising from the scandal that toppled Blagojevich and many of his top aides.

On Wednesday, two rows of supporters, many of whom had traveled from Springfield, sat behind Cellini, 76, who has wielded influence behind the scenes in Springfield for four decades.

Webb attacked what he called six flaws in the governnment’s evidence, including the fact that Rosenberg won’t testify that Cellini directly asked him for money. Webb also said that it was Rosenberg who called Cellini for help when his investments at the Teachers’ Retirement System, or TRS, were threatened.

Webb also blasted Stuart Levine, the prosecution’s key witness, as unreliable. He warned jurors that they would be stunned by Levine’s “secret life” of serious drug abuse and “24-hour binge parties.”

But the prosecutor noted that secretly recorded phone calls between Levine and Cellini prove that Cellini was deeply involved in the extortion plot.

Deis portrayed Cellini as a consummate insider with access and influence who could simply pick up a phone and reach decision-makers in state government.

In a low and serious tone, Deis explained how Cellini’s longtime connections in state politics set the stage for the alleged 2004 plot.

After more than a quarter-century of Republican rule in the governor’s office, Democrat Blagojevich’s election posed a dilemma for Cellini, according to the government.

But he secretly made a deal with two of the governor’s key advisers, Antoin “Tony” Rezko and Christopher Kelly, that he would raise campaign money for Blagojevich to keep his influence at TRS, the prosecutor alleged. Levine was a corrupt member of the TRS board.

The government alleges Cellini had a financial reason for the move — an investment company he controlled made millions of dollars in fees from TRS.

At one point Deis noted Cellini’s considerable power by referring to his Downstate nickname — “the pope.”

Cellini, wearing a bright pink tie, sat calmly with his hands folded neatly on the defense table as the two sides told jurors what they believe the evidence will be as the trial unfolds over the next several weeks.

On a screen in the courtroom in the U.S. Dirksen Courthouse, Webb flashed a litany of Levine’s flaws, called him a con man and then listed five illegal drugs abused by Levine.

Webb told the jury of “24-hour binge parties” in hotels, including the infamous “Purple Hotel.”

“You’re gonna be flabbergasted by Stuart Levine’s secret life,” Webb told jurors.

The sordid details had played out at Rezko’s 2008 trial. Levine was a key witness for the government then as well.”

Read more:


Tony Rezko does not have a drug problem, but he does have a Obama problem.

Where is Tony Rezko?

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