Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cellini guilty? Not a shock

My gut reaction to learning of the fact that Bill Cellini now has a criminal conviction on his record? Yawn.
The Capitol won't be the same without Cellini

The way the court process works, particularly at the federal level, there may be a presumption of innocence but it is designed to give prosecutors every chance in the world to overcome that presumption.

WHICH MEANS THE real “news” would have been made if Cellini had somehow managed to get an acquittal on all the charges he faced. In fact, I’m inclined to think that attorney Dan Webb isn’t full of it in pointing out the fact that the two most serious charges were the ones that the jury found Cellini “not guilty” of.

But all it takes is a “guilty” verdict on at least one charge, regardless of the charge, for Cellini to become as “guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty” as one-time Attorney General John Mitchell (with apologies to Garry Trudeau).

And Cellini got two – the jury on Tuesday found him guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding and abetting the solicitation of a bribe.

If it comes across that I’m not all that convinced that Cellini’s behavior rose to the standard that would define it as criminal, you’d be observant. Then again, it doesn’t matter what I think.

HIS FATE WAS decided by the dozen individuals who sat on his jury and spent the past month hearing details from testimony in the U.S. District courtroom of Judge John Zagel, along with three days deliberating among themselves.

Whether they overcame their early confusion about the case, or merely gave into it, the end result is that Cellini isn’t going to be the powerbroker who tells the state government types what they should do – on account of the fact that he helped to raise the money that so many of them used to pay for their electoral campaigns.

He got to walk out of the Dirksen Building on Tuesday knowing that he’s going to have to do some time in a federal correctional center, and that some people will give a knee-jerk partisan political reaction if the eventual number handed down by a judge isn’t sufficiently long-enough for them.

And it also means the reason for delaying the eventual sentencing of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is now gone. Prosecutors can proceed with getting him a prison term; knowing that some people will get all worked up if the end result isn’t a sentence somewhere close to those 300 years that some legal experts say is possible.

PERSONALLY, THERE IS one aspect to this trial being over that makes me happy. It brings to an end all of the criminal prosecution that arose from the mid-2000s effort by the U.S. attorney’s office to “get” the governor.

Whether or not there was hard-core criminal activity taking place there, the fact is that the people who are determined to let their ideological leanings run amok have had a field day with all of this activity.

The people who were upset that a Republican string of governors (Thompson to Edgar to Ryan) was broken and that we never got the concept of “Gov. Jim Ryan” were the ones who got particular glee from all of this.

Now that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was able on Tuesday to hobble on crutches while boasting how gratifying it was to protect the public from great danger by putting away Bill Cellini, perhaps his office can go back to finding real criminals.

THE “VERY, VERY loud message” that Fitzgerald talked of always struck me as a lot of bombast from the political partisans.

Those of us who view things more rationally merely got a headache. We’re glad that perhaps we can now move forward with our state government, rather than continuing to dwell in the past.


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