FBI wiretaps played at Cellini corruption trial

October 13, 2011 7:08:38 PM PDT
In this Intelligence Report: The heart of the government's corruption case against Springfield power broker William Cellini.

After a trail of tapes and testimony, prosecutors eft jurors with what they believe is compelling evidence of a political bribery agreement.

In federal court Thursday, what came into view was the Illinois intersection of power, politics and the pleasure of money. Star witness Stuart Levine, a corrupt ex-member of the state teacher's retirement system, closed the circle of bribery. Levine testified that defendant Bill Cellini had agreed to extort a sizable campaign contribution to Governor Rod Blagojevich from a Hollywood producer.

Cellini left court after a day in which jurors heard him speaking for the first time, in phone calls secretly recorded by the FBI.

The 2004 tape of a conversation between Cellini, an advisor with no government title or position, and corrupt state official Stuart Levine, was intended to show the depth of Cellini's influence.

"Everyone ought to get their testosterone in check and everyone stop uh, pointing fingers and, and, and going back and forth at each other. I said and if everybody calms down uh, you know it could be a win-win," Cellini said on tape.

What Cellini was trying to win was a sizable cut of state teacher's pension investments, according to the government. He is charged with conspiring with crooked businessman Tony Rezko and former Blagojevich aide Chris Kelly to control contracts with the teachers retirement system, steering deals to businesses that would pay the largest contributions to then Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Levine, who was a daily drug abuser while on the state board, testified Thursday that he tried to help certain firms get TRS investments because they would help Blagojevich's campaign and that Cellini was the rainmaker.

Thursday's testimony focused on how the corrupt cabal would let Hollywood producer Thomas Rosenberg know what was expected of him: make a $1.5 million donation to Blago's campaign or give a $2 million finder's fee to attorney and former city councilman Edward R. Vrdolyak.