By Natasha Korecki
Hands folded before him, wearing a pink tie and a plain expression, Springfield's ultimate power broker sat calmly in a federal courtroom as government prosecutors painted him as an extortionist who used state employees as his puppets.
William Cellini, whose companies over the last several decades won hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts, sometimes gently kicked his legs as he listened to Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Deis tell jurors that Cellini worked "beneath the surface" to control how state money was doled out.
Cellini, 77, is accused of conspiring to extort Hollywood producer Thomas Rosenberg, allegedly telling him he had to cough up campaign cash for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich if his firm wanted to win $220 million in state work from the Teachers' Retirement System.
"This case is about extortion. It's about abuse of power," Deis said. "It was a shakedown, ladies and gentleman, plain and simple."
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