Cellini trial juror felonies, John Kass, Failing to order jury background checks is cruel and unusual punishment for taxpayers, Delaying Blagojevich prosecution costlier
“The citizens of Illinois deserve public officials who act solely in the public’s interest, without putting a price tag on government appointments, contracts and decisions.”…Patrick Fitzgerald
“I was not going to wait until March or April or May to get it all nice and tidy” “I think that would be irresponsible.””…Patrick Fitzgerald
“Governor Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree. We acted to stop that crime spree.”…Patrick Fitzgerald
“I just think it’s very, very disturbing that we have these pay-to-play allegations going on for years.”…Patrick Fitzgerald
From John Kass of the Chicago Tribune November 16, 2011.
“John Kass: Failing to order jury background checks is cruel and unusual punishment for taxpayers”
“I have an idea for how federal judges who neglect to order background checks of criminal juries can do public penance:
They can wear orange “community service” vests and use sharpened sticks to spear cigarette butts from the sidewalk out in front of the earthy hangouts where judges are known to have lunch.
But first, let me tell you what my friend Deuce and I did the other day. We went looking for that Cellini juror.
The one who apparently lied about her multiple felony convictions — a DUI and possession of crack cocaine — and by doing so may have screwed up Illinois’ most important political corruption case in years: The successful prosecution of a political untouchable, Illinois Republican boss William Cellini, the multimillionaire who spent decades in the shadows, undetected at the center of the Combine’s web.
Out in that juror’s neighborhood, it was getting dark but still bright enough so the man in her apartment could see us and buzz us in. A little boy stood out on the landing, waiting, and then the older gentleman wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey came out.
“She’s not here,” said the man in Hawks colors. His cellphone started to ring, and Deuce asked for his number.
“No,” he said. “I don’t roll like that.”
It was dinnertime. I figured she was behind that door. Just then the boy stepped back out. He said something about the Cellini juror who is believed to have hidden her felony convictions.
“She’s afraid,” he said.
She has nothing to be afraid of, I lied. Don’t worry, I told him. Then we left.
Actually, she has reason to be afraid. Perjury is a federal offense, punishable by prison. And she’s made some important people look awfully foolish.
She may have cost prosecutors and taxpayers an important conviction, and the expense of an extra trial.
I was in the courtroom the day the juror was questioned by U.S. District Judge James Zagel. She said something about a male relative who had been arrested, but she told Zagel that she felt she could come to an impartial verdict.
Now Cellini’s attorney, Dan Webb, is demanding the guilty verdict be overturned. Webb will use the issue to appeal in the hopes of keeping Cellini out of prison for the next several years.
Cellini is the whole ballgame. He’s bigger than convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, more important, with greater reach. Now the Cellini case has been compromised because of one juror. But not without help from Judge Zagel.”
“In an earlier high-profile case, he promised to check the backgrounds of jurors. But in the Cellini trial — a “heater” trial if there ever was one — it looks as if that didn’t happen.
He should have known better. During the corruption trial of former Gov. George Ryan in 2006, the Tribune checked the jurors’ backgrounds and found that two had concealed criminal convictions. They were dismissed. One was a holdout for Ryan.
But in Blagojevich’s first trial, Zagel turned down requests of news organizations, including the Tribune, for the names of jurors. The public wasn’t invited to know. Zagel said he understood the problems raised by the Tribune in the Ryan case but told everyone not to worry.
“The information-gathering process used by the Tribune (is) now automatically applied to jurors in high-profile cases,” he said.
Yet it appears that background checks weren’t done in the Cellini case, as Zagel had indicated they would be. After the trial, it didn’t take a Tribune reporter long to find the Cellini juror’s felony convictions.”
Mr. Kass, I would add:
Failing to prosecute Rod Blagojevich earlier and Barack Obama at all, has cost the citizens of Illinois and the US an enormous price .