William Cellini will finally be sentenced Thursday in federal court, nearly a year after he was convicted in a corruption case linked to donations for ex-governor Rod Blagojevich.
At 2:30 Thursday afternoon, Cellini will be singing "Mercy Me" in federal court. His attorneys will ask for probation --- no jail time -- for the 77-year-old Springfield political developer, citing hundreds of letter from people who say he is a good guy who deserves mercy.
The government wants at least several years in prison.
For Cellini, any jail time is tantamount to a death sentence, according to his attorneys, because he has been crippled by heart ailments, bloods clots, allergies, arthritis, pain, anxiety and sleep problems requiring daily doses of at least a dozen pills.
The health card is among those Cellini has dealt to Judge James Zagel, who will determine the appropriate sentence.
Zagel presided over the trial last year that ended with a jury verdict of guilty against Cellini. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding in the solicitation of a bribe, a $1.5 million campaign contribution for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich from the Oscar-winning producer of the movie "Million Dollar Baby."
Prosecutors say federal guidelines call for a sentence of six and a half to eight years, but they have acknowledged Cellini's declining health issue.
Perhaps the most compelling part of Cellini's argument for mercy are 364 support letters he submitted, some from political and business names citing Cellini's role as a peacemaker disputes.
Some letters, though, are from unusual supporters:
- an Indonesian orphan,
- a cerebral palsy sufferer,
- and even a Chinese political asylum seeker.
Thursday, though, it will be Cellini alone standing in federal court, hoping his personal good deeds somehow sway a judge not known for leniency.
Cellini's motion for leniency reads like a biography of humble beginnings, including stories about how he plucked chickens for his uncle and how his mother made spaghetti for strangers.
The filing describes how Cellini merged the segregated Springfield Musicians Union from separate black and white organizations into one, a Lincoln-like achievement befitting someone whose portrait still hangs in the official Abe Lincoln museum in Springfield.