Opening statements began Wednesday in the Chicago trial of William Cellini -- the last trial stemming from the federal investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Cellini, 76, is charged with conspiring to shake down the producer of "Million Dollar Baby" for a campaign donation to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Cellini denies the charges.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Greg Deis told the jurors that Cellini schemed with Blagojevich cronies Stuart Levine,Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly to dole out retirement investments not based on merit, but based on bribes.
Defense attorney Dan Webb said that Cellini was a mere messenger and never knowingly participated in any extortion plot. He also said that Levine is a conman and a drug dealer, and will be subject to a lengthy cross-examination.
The Springfield Republican once called the King of Clout for the influence he wielded in the corridors of power in both Republican and Democratic administrations, like Blagojevich's.
Deis told jurors that all Cellini's influence in Illinois politics was so strong that all he had to say to producer Thomas Rosenberg was that he hadn't contributed enough money to Blagojevich.
"You have not done `X' so you will not get `Y," Deis said Cellini effectively told Rosenberg. "It was a shakedown, plain and simple."
Prosecutors allege that Cellini and his cohorts planned to threaten Rosenberg's investment company with the loss of $220 million in state pension money from the $30 billion Illinois Teachers Retirement System unless he made the donation.