Cellini's Motion for New Trial Denied - NBC Chicago
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Cellini's Motion for New Trial Denied

Judge calls juror's failure to disclose felony convictions an "innocent error"



    Convicted Illinois power broker William Cellini will not get a new trial, Judge James Zagel ruled Tuesday.

    Days after Cellini was found guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding and abetting bribery, it was revealed a juror had failed to disclose two felony convictions.

    Zagel called it an "innocent error."

    "[She] did not deliberately lie," he said, adding that she wasn't required to list every conviction and arrest.

    "Questions asked of jurors are not precise. ... They allow for answers that are not easy to impeach," he said.

    Cellini was accused of conspiring with three other men to shake down the producer of "Million Dollar Baby" for a $1.5 million campaign contribution to then-Gov. Blagojevich.

    The juror pleaded guilty to crack-cocaine possession in 2000 and aggravated driving under the influence without a license in 2008. She failed to report these on her juror questionnaire.

    "Illinois law does not deprive felons the right to jury service," Zagel explained. "It does not disenfranchise for any period beyond completion of a sentence."

    Former Assistant U.S. Atty. Patrick Collins said in November he was surprised that background checks of potential jurors weren't conducted. But the U.S. attorney's office said convictions aren't an automatic disqualification for jurors.

    Zagel is the same judge who presided over former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trials. He will soon set a sentencing date for Cellini.

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