UPDATED 11/11/11 12:19 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Attorneys for convicted Illinois power broker William Cellini say there may be reason to overturn the guilty verdicts returned in federal court last week, due to some information a juror reportedly concealed.
As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, the Chicago Tribune says prior to trial, one of jurors failed to disclose that she had two felony convictions in her past, which likely would have kept her off the jury if it had been revealed.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports
The woman was sentenced to 1 1/2 years probation for crack cocaine possession in 2000, and was sentenced to probation and time served – 44 days in jail – after she pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence without a license in 2008, the Tribune reported.
Cellini’s attorney, Dan Webb, tells WBBM Newsradio the revelation is more than a mere technicality.
“It’s a big deal,” he said. “This juror was legally unqualified; as a matter of law, could not serve as a juror under federal law.”
Webb says the law is quite clear on this point.
“If you’re convicted of a felony, you are screened out and not allowed to be a juror, and so this juror was an illegal juror,” he said.
But the U.S. Attorney’s office says this conclusion is not correct, and felony convictions do not necessarily forbid people from serving on juries. Only if their “civil rights have not been restored” are they forbidden from serving, spokesman Randall Samborn said in a statement.
Legally, once convicts has completed a prison sentence or been discharged from probation, their civil rights have been restored and they can serve on a jury, Samborn said.
Samborn declined to comment on the specifics of the Cellini case.
On Nov. 1, the jury convicted Cellini of two of four counts relating to a conspiracy to squeeze the Oscar-winning producer of “Million Dollar Baby” for a campaign contribution to since-deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Cellini was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion, and aiding and abetting in the solicitation of a bribe. But he was acquitted of attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Webb, chairman of the Winston & Strawn law firm, says he will file a motion Monday for a new trial on the two counts for which Cellini was convicted.
“It will definitely be grounds for a mistrial, and of course, the judge will determine that,” he said.
Prosecutors said Cellini conspired with Blagojevich insiders Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly, and former state-board member Stuart Levine to squeeze movie executive Thomas Rosenberg for a $1.5 million campaign contribution to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich by threatening Rosenberg’s financial company with the loss of $220 million in state pension money to be invested with Rosenberg’s firm.
Defense attorneys argued that Cellini never delivered any such message to Rosenberg, but prosecutors focused on wiretap recordings of him discussing the alleged plot with Levine and others.
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