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Cellini Sentenced to 366 Days, $75K Fine
It's the end of a chapter of corruption in Illinois politics. A federal judge has sentenced the man many considered untouchable because of his immense wealth and political prowess.
Around 5:00 this afternoon, Springfield businessman Bill Cellini was sentenced to just one year and one day behind bars.
Cellini's fall from grace is the last major trial stemming from the federal conviction and downfall of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A jury found Cellini guilty of plotting to shaking down a Hollywood producer for a campaign contribution to the former governor last year.
William Cellini briefly addressed the court before the judge handed down his sentence. During his remarks in front of the court, Cellini said the last five years have been the most difficult and trying time of his life. He added that he's worked years to build his reputation. He's proud of that, and it's all been destroyed by this. He added that this is a devastating end to his career.
In front of a crowded courtroom, Judge James Zagel said he believed William Cellini was a willing participant in a scheme to shake down a Hollywood producer for a $1.5 million campaign contribution to Rod Blagojevich back in 2004.
Cellini looked down as the judge sentenced him to one year and one day in prison and a $75,000 fine. He looked down as his lawyers and prosecutors made one last plea to the judge. They disagreed on the length of a sentence, but both agreed the court should show leniency based on Cellini's age.
Prosecutors had asked for a meaningful sentence, while the defense attorneys had asked for probation. They told the judge Cellini will turn 78 next month and is in poor health.
Last year, jurors found Cellini guilty on two counts: conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding and abetting the solicitation of a bribe.
Cellini remained mostly expressionless during the course of the two-hour sentencing this afternoon. His wife Julie cried before the start of the hearing.
Nearly 200 people tried to get into the courtroom--the same courtroom where the same judge last year sentenced Rod Blagojevich to 14 years in prison--to get a glimpse of this process.
More than 360 people wrote letters to the judge ahead of the sentencing. Everyone from former Gov. Jim Edgar, former Springfield mayor Karen Hassera, and Sangamon County Board chairman Andy van Meter wrote in asking the judge to sentence him to probation.
In addition to dozens of supporters in the courtroom, these letters were something the judge said he read and took into account. Van Meter wrote in his letter that he watched Cellini arrange agreements over four decades and witnessed "the highest ethical standards, infinite patience, and a genuine desire to help all honest parties."
The judge would like Cellini to report to prison on January 4, 2013.
Cellini: From Powerful to Powerless
Timeline: Cellini's Rise and Fall
Cellini Speaks About Sentencing