|William Cellini (AP Photo)|
There are few people in the state of Illinois who have exercised more political control in the Land of Lincoln longer than power broker William "Bill" Cellini, or as he preferred to be called, "The Pope." Yesterday, the 78-year old became the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Institutes's newest inmate, identified as inmate number 40823-424. His new home is where Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh served his final days on this earth before being executed by lethal execution, and it's the current home of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, one of Cellini's closest pals. Ryan is scheduled to be released next week to spend the balance of his term in a half-way house on Chicago's west side where his roommates will include some of the city's most dangerous criminals. A federal prison spokesman tells the Springfield Journal-Register that Cellini and Ryan are likely to see each other before Ryan's departure since they are both housed in a section of the facility that is more open.
Cellini's stay in prison will be relatively short. He received a one-year sentence and a $75,000 fine for his role in conspiring with Obama pal Tony Rezko, the late Chris Kelly (who supposedly killed himself by swallowing rat poison), Stuart "The Purple Hotel Party Boy" Levine and other associates of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to shake down Hollywood movie producer Thomas Rosenberg of "Million Dollar Baby" fame for $1.5 million in campaign contributions in exchange for a share of the state teacher's pension investments. The State-Journal Register reports that Cellini has suffered a heart attack and blood clots since his conviction. His attorneys are appealing his conviction and had attempted to keep him out of prison due to his failing health while his case was appealed, a request turned down by a federal court judge. Cellini presumably had to shed his toupee before reporting to prison. Federal prison rules bar inmates from wearing toupees.
Cellini's influence extended into Indiana as well. Cellini was instrumental in getting Illinois' riverboat gaming law enacted back in the late 1980s and landed the state's first gaming license for Argosy Gaming's riverboat at Alton, Illinois. Argosy would land one of Indiana's first riverboats at Lawrenceburg a few years later after the Indiana legislature approved riverboat gaming. Despite all sorts of public corruption that took place to land that license for the benefit of some very well-connected Hoosiers, the fix was in at the U.S. Attorney's office in Indianapolis to sweep all of the corruption that took place under Cellini's rug. I'm sure Cellini will have more than a few prominent visitors from Indiana stop by to thank him for all of the money he helped them make off that deal.