CHICAGO (CBS) — Onetime Illinois political powerbroker William Cellini was sentenced Thursday to one year and one day for trying to shake down a Hollywood producer on behalf of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The 77-year-old Cellini, a Springfield businessman and Illinois Republican heavyweight, was convicted last November of taking part in a kickback scheme involving Thomas Rosenberg, the producer of the Oscar-winning film “Million Dollar Baby.”
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Cellini defense attorney Dan Webb had argued his client has several health problems and should get probation. But he told reporters they accept the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge James Zagel.
“When you have someone that’s almost 78 years old that has these kinds of severe health conditions, any prison sentence is tantamount to a life sentence,” Webb said.
Prosecutors told jurors Cellini conspired with Blagojevich insiders to squeeze Rosenberg for a $1.5 million campaign contribution to Democrat Blagojevich by threatening to pull state pension money from Rosenberg’s investment firm.
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.
Acting U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro says prosecutors, who had asked for a sentence of at least six years, were pleased that the once-untouchable Cellini will spend some time behind bars.
“We’re pleased with the sentence that Bill Cellini is going to prison,” he said.
Cellini must report to prison on Jan. 4.