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Cellini trial off to slow start

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Cellini trial off to slow start

William Cellini arrives at federal court for the start of his trial on Monday.

AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

Updated 10/4/11 at 3:35pm

A federal judge has questioned more than two dozen potential panelists as jury selection continues in the last trial stemming from the decade-long investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Tuesday is the second day of Springfield powerbroker William Cellini’s trial. A college student who wants to be an FBI agent and a woman who recently underwent cancer treatment were among the potential jurors that Judge James Zagel questioned Tuesday.

On Monday, Zagel questioned only eight potential panelists before adjourning. One said she had a negative view of campaign fundraising, but another thought it was good to give contributions. Zagel told both of them that there is legal fundraising and there is illegal fundraising, and he asked if they could set aside their biases about fundraising and judge the case on the law. Both women agreed they could.

Cellini is the final co-defendant of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to go on trial. Cellini is accused of joining a conspiracy to raise money for Blagojevich by threatening people that they’d lose their business contracts with the state unless they paid up.

In particular, prosecutors accuse Cellini of conspiring to shake down the Oscar-winning producer of “Million Dollar Baby” for a $1.5 million campaign contribution to Blagojevich.

The 76-year-old Republican businessman has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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