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Powerbroker William Cellini Suffers Heart Attack



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    William Cellini, the longtime Illinois powerbroker convicted of conspiring to shake down a Hollywood producer for a contribution to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign, is recovering from a heart attack he suffered earlier this week.

    A family spokesman says Cellini, who faces a 30-year prison sentence, was released Wednesday from Springfield's Memorial Medical Center, where he suffered the heart attack Monday during a medical procedure.

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    William Cellini is found guilty of trying to shake down the Oscar Award winning movie producer of "Million Dollar Baby."

    A stress test and an angioplasty showed two blockages in an artery leading from the heart.

    After the major blockage was treated with the insertion of a stent, a clot formed or was dislodged and caused another blockage, precipitating the heart attack. After the clot was controlled, another stent was placed in Cellini's heart.

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    U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says the William Cellini trial may not have been a glamorous one to which most people paid attention, but it was another important case against corruption.

    The 77-year-old Cellini had been experiencing fatigue and difficulty breathing in recent months, said spokesman Richard Ciccone. Cellini has been ordered to rest, will begin a rehabilitation program and undergo more testing. He has been under a cardiologist's care since 1996 when he also suffered a heart attack.

    A federal jury convicted Cellini last November of conspiring to shake down the Oscar-winning producer of "Million Dollar Baby" for a contribution to imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign.

    Last week, U.S. District Judge James Zagel denied Cellini's motion to throw out the verdicts and order a retrial.

    Zagel rejected defense claims that prosecutors improperly tried to exclude African-Americans as jurors. The judge says there's no evidence prosecutors tried to do that.

    Cellini's sentencing is expected to be later this year, though Zagel hasn't yet fixed a date.

    Cellini, a Springfield Republican, was once known as the King of Clout in Illinois for the influence he wielded in the corridors of state power.

    Copyright Associated Press