Breaking Bad for 77 year old, downstate power broker Bill Cellini: Should he have received any jail time?

Gary Shapiro: ...You know what our evidence was at trial and you know what our positions were  at sentencing, which is—for decades, Bill Cellini was:  a powerhouse downstate,  a fundraiser for, as it turned out, both parties; [A man] who had relationships with some of the most corrupt politicians Illinois has known. So, no, I don’t think it was a crime of a couple days duration.

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You can find white collar criminal defense attorneys who do much more for their clients than argue that every person has a right to a legal defense.Some of those lawyers think, as does White collar criminal defense sentencing specialist Carolyn Gurland [Watch here], that Governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich did nothing illegal and should never have spent a day in jail. Gurland could pass a polygraph, even if her clients couldn’t.

And, then you read a columnist like the Chicago Tribune's John Kass, who  has invested much, if not all, of his journalistic career in the idea that there was [and  is] a Mayor Daley-Governor George Ryan Combine that reflected a bipartisan effort in Illinois to use government power for personal monetary gain. And, somebody like John Kass, who is unencumbered by a knowledge of the law, finds it easy to conclude that the kind of lobbying/influence peddling that Bill Cellini did is clearly illegal.

However, there is a third view, which may be the correct view. Law is a matter of line drawing but some lines are more difficult to draw than others.  Most reasonable people would say that Governors Ryan and  Blagojevich went over the line and clearly deserved to do time, even if a dozen years is a bit excessive for what Rod did,  no matter how crass a guy he is. But, a guy like Cellini, who made his livelihood as a lobbyist, influence peddler-- helping his clients exploit and manipulate government power and government officials  for personal gain-- should probably be placed in a different category.

If you want to reduce the kind of misconduct practiced by the likes of Cellini, you need to reduce the size, complexity and scope of government. Not as sexy as holding a ridiculous trial, but more effective.

Further, if you listen to Acting U. S. Attorney Shapiro, below, you get the impression tha Cellini got his sentence because of what he did over the years to become an Illinois political powerbroker/influence peddler.   Judge Zagel and Shapiro don’t seem to like powerbrokers/lobbyists like Bill Cellini and they don’t seem to think what Cellini did for his life’s work was useful for society. Moreover, although Shapiro denies it, below, it does seem as if Cellini's sentence was based more on what Cellini did to get power than on what he allegedly did in 2004 to extort Hollywood Producer Thomas Rosenberg.  No matter who you are, that’s no way to run a railroad or a courthouse. .

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Jeff Berkowitz: So, is that Cellini sentence of one year and one day [supposed to be]  for deterrence, or is it for retribution or both?

Gary Shapiro, Acting U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois [Shapiro replaced storied U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who resigned his post three months ago, after serving an unprecedented eleven years and in a DOJ headed ultimately by Presidents of both national Parties (Bush and Obama); Fitzgerald indicted and convicted two Governors from the two major national  parties—George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich]:

I can’t comment on retribution; I don’t know what was in Judge Zagel’s heart. From our point of view, with people like Bill Cellini, there is the possibility of deterrence because you are communicating to a small group  of people who are  responsible for the corruption in Illinois and  I think they pay attention to this-- so in my view, it is deterrence.

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Gary Shapiro: …I’d like to think it is the end of an era but I‘ve been around here for too long to think it is the end of an era. I think it is the end of this series of prosecutions. I’d like to think we’re never going to be prosecuting corrupt Illinois politicians again but I’d be insane to make that prediction.

John Kass [Chicago Tribune columnist and WLS 890 AM-radio acting morning talk show co-host (Hartford and Kass, M-F, 9:00 am to 11:00 am)] : What did  Operation Board Games tell the people of Illinois?

Gary Shapiro:…There is a bi-partisan group of movers and shakers in Illinois who are capable of raising large amounts of money and who trim their sales to fit the political winds and seem to be able to work in whatever administration, whatever party there is and who, unless they are resisted by honest politicians (of which there are many) and law enforcement and prosecutors, will continue to corrupt the [political] process of Illinois because as indebted as this state is, as poor as our economy is, there are millions and billions of dollars in government monies to be taken. I think we have proved what we have proved time and again over the decades that I have been in this office:  that there are corrupt politicians who, given the opportunity, will attempt to corrupt the system again. I think we have made some progress but I think…we would be crazy not to think it is going to happen again.

Jeff Berkowitz: Commisioner Beavers would probably say “He is a part of this, he didn’t flip –as a result of you charging him, and you didn’t get [Cook County Commissioner,  Finance Committee Chairman and brother of the former Mayor], John Daley, what would you say to Commissioner Beavers?

Gary Shapiro, Acting U. S. Attorney: I wouldn’t say anything to Commissioner Beavers.

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Jeff Berkowitz: Did you find the argument [of Dan Webb, Bill Cellini’s counsel] that was made, “This [crime is one that] is really a six day duration, not a multi-year duration.” Did you find that argument troublesome?

Gary Shapiro: No, and I think Julie [Porter] responded to that at sentencing when she said, “Cellini just didn’t happen to find himself  in a particular place, where somebody’s cookie jar was open and, contrary to the rest of his life, he reached in and plucked out a cookie   He had to be in a position of influence and power and connections for this crime to ever happen and he didn’t get there overnight   You know what our evidence was at trial and you know what our positions were  at sentencing, which is—For decades, Bill Cellini was:  a powerhouse downstate,  a fundraiser for, as it turned out, both parties; [A man] who had relationships with some of the most corrupt politicians Illinois has known. So, no, I don’t think it was a crime of a couple days duration.

Jeff Berkowitz: But, is he being punished for what he did in this case or is he being punished for what he did over the years to become a powerhouse, wheeler/dealer, influence peddler?

Gary Shapiro, Acting U. S. Attorney: You know, I take Judge Zagel at his word-- which is [Bill Cellini] is being punished for the crimes he was convicted of but it would ignore reality to think he could commit those crimes without having [spent] years to put him[self] in the position to commit the crimes.

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From the Press Conference held at the Dirksen Federal courthouse, immediately after  the October  4, 2012 sentencing of Bill Cellini by Judge Zagel.

 

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