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Defense: Clout-heavy Cellini deserved state contracts

Defense attorneys for William Cellini are trying to show jurors that their politically connected client deserved the contracts he got with the state of Illinois.  They began presenting their defense Thursday after prosecutors rested their case Wednesday.

Defense attorneys called Mike Bartletti to the stand.  He was an employee of the Teacher's Retirement System and he described a rigorous vetting process for the companies they worked with.  It was an attempt to show that Cellini couldn't have simply clouted business to himself.  Prosecutors had previously put on evidence to show how Cellini used his political connections with the Teacher's Retirement System to get business for his real estate company.

Bartletti also reviewed financial information showing that Cellini's company made high returns on investments for teachers, 13.4 percent over a 5-year period.  Defense attorneys say Cellini didn't need to use illegal means to keep his business with the state because he did such a good job.

The defense called three witnesses Friday and they might call one more witness briefly, but they told Judge James Zagel that Cellini himself will not testify.

Closing arguments are expected on Tuesday.

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