CHICAGO, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- A longtime Illinois businessman faces charges of trying to extort a $1.5 million contribution to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign from a Hollywood producer.
The trial of William Cellini, for which jury selection began Monday, is the last linked to the scandal that led to Blagojevich's downfall, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Cellini, who has been a prominent Republican fundraiser through more than 25 years of GOP control of the governor's office, secretly agreed to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich, prosecutors allege.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Cellini is accused of delivering a message to Thomas Rosenberg, the producer of "Million Dollar Babies" and an investment manager, that Blagojevich advisers expected him to contribute to the then-governor's campaign fund if he wanted his firm to receive $220 million worth of state business.
Prosecutors allege Cellini, Stuart Levine, a corrupt member of the Teachers' Retirement System board, and Blagojevich advisers devised a plan to extort $1.5 million from Rosenberg.
When Cellini and Levine talked about the scheme, federal authorities were tapping the call in recordings that are vital to the prosecution case, the Tribune said.
Cellini, 76, has denied charges against him, and his attorneys say no evidence exists showing he sought cash directly from Rosenberg.
Blagojevich, a two-term governor, was convicted on 17 of 20 federal corruption counts, including scheming to sell for personal gain the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama in 2008.
Blagojevich's sentencing was postponed to avoid conflicting with Cellini's corruption trial.