Ward Room
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Jurors Hear Wiretaps With Levine on Stand

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Oct. 13, 2011: Stuart Levine, the star witness in the case against Illinois powerbroker William Cellini, describes backroom deals to squeeze a movie producer for a political contribution.

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Jurors hearing the trial of a longtime Illinois powerbroker on Thursday listened to secretly-recorded FBI wiretaps describing backroom deals to squeeze a movie producer for a political contribution.

The wiretap recordings played Thursday morning are from witness Stuart Levine's phone. Levine is on the stand for the second day.

Prosecutors are seeking to prove William Cellini tried to extort Thomas Rosenberg, the producer of "Million Dollar Baby," for a $1.5 million campaign donation to Rod Blagojevich.

Audio: Cellini, Levine Phone Call: May 12, 2004 | Transcript

On the stand, Levine told jurors how he defrauded charities, ripped off the estate of an old friend and plotted to use Illinois government to line his pockets.

He said he sought out people like Blagojevich and fundraiser Tony Rezko to leverage his power and influence.

"I wanted to ingratiate myself with him for my own benefit," he said in carefully chosen words.

Levine told the jury about an April 14, 2004 dinner in a private room at the Standard Club, where he said he prepared a chart to show Rezko all the opportunities for bribery from which the two could profit. It's a plan he said Rezko approved.

Prosecutors said Cellini was acting on behalf of Rezko, Levine and Blagojevich adviser Chris Kelly when he conveyed a message to Rosenberg that $220 million in state business would be held up if he didn't come up with a contribution to the governor's campaign

Levine said Rosenberg had actually gone to Cellini for his help in winning that business, and that's why they chose him to pressure Rosenberg for the contribution.

According to Levine, Cellini told him that "Rosenberg was a dangerous and vicious man and that it was a mistake to hold up his allocation."

All along, Cellini's attorneys have maintained that he only trying to help his friend Rosenberg get more business with the state.

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