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Last Blago-Connected Trial Set to Begin

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Last Blago-Connected Trial Set to Begin
Jack Higgins
Last Blago-Connected Trial Set to Begin

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A man accused of extortion and using his political clout to influence government officials is getting his day in court.

William Cellini allegedly conspired with Tony Rezko and two others to shake down a Hollywood producer to contribute to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign.

The timing of Cellini's trial likely delayed Blagojevich's sentencing date, originally scheduled for Thursday but delayed last week for unspecified reasons. Blagojevich Judge James Zagel will preside over Cellini's trial.

Cellini's is the last of the scheduled pay-to-play trials stemming from Blagojevich. Jury selection begins Monday, and opening statements are expected to begin late Tuesday or early Thursday.

The longtime Springfield power broker was known to many in the downstate political circle as "the pope" for his influence in state politics.

Cellini made his millions from state license casino gambling, in real estate deals with state and City Hall connections, and according to the feds, by controlling the appointments of Teachers’ Retirement System board members to protect his own interests.

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