Cellini witness asked if drug use affected his memory: ‘It’s possible’
BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org October 17, 2011 2:00PM
Stuart Levine leaves the Dirksen Federal Building on April 4, 2008. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times)
Updated: November 19, 2011 8:44AM
The star witness in the trial of Springfield millionaire William Cellini on Monday admitted “it’s possible” that three decades of drug use affected his memory, after detailing drug-fueled parties with male friends and all-day binges that included the witness snorting 10 lines of a potent mix of crystal meth and an animal tranquilizer .
The wild partying at the Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood happened during the same period that the witness allegedly conspired with Cellini to fix political deals.
Under questioning by Cellini lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, Stuart Levine admitted that on the same day — May 8, 2004 — he was captured on tape talking to Cellini about state pension deals, he is on an FBI tape arranging a drug pick-up with his drug dealer.
Webb, who is hoping to show Levine has both memory issues and a propensity to lie, asked if Levine was taking drugs when he was talking with Cellini.
“Never when I’m dealing with Mr. Cellini,” Levine told Webb.
“Do you think your drug usage is impacting your ability to remember?” Webb asked at one point.
“It’s possible,” Levine said.
During eight-to-10-hour drug binges, Levine would snort 10 lines that were a mixture of Ketamine and crystal meth, he said.
“Did you do that so you could continually stay high throughout the day?” Webb asked.
“Yes,” said Levine.
Sometimes Levine would pay for a private jet to fly his male companions to hotels in Springfield and Bloomington and take part in the parties, he said.
The verbal bloodletting of Levine took place as Webb worked to minimize the allegations against his client, with Webb spending most of the day exposing Levine’s interminable list of crimes.
Cellini, 76, is charged with conspiring with Levine and two fund-raisers to Rod Blagojevich, Chris Kelly and Tony Rezko. Cellini is accused of passing on a message to Hollywood Producer Tom Rosenberg that Rosenberg was expected to donate to Blagojevich’s campaign fund if he wanted his investment firm, Capri Capital, to win a $220 million investment from the Teachers‚ Retirement System.
Levine, also the chief witness who helped convict Rezko as well as onetime powerful alderman Ed Vrdolyak, admitted to paying bribes to city officials, public school officials as well as the postal union to help his companies win contracts. Unlike Friday, when his answers were pained and slow, Levine on Monday appeared refreshed and easily admitted to ripping off people with a quick “yes.”
Levine, for instance, said he was entrusted by his longtime wealthy friend Ted Tannebaum to attend to his estate after he died.
“You rewarded him by stealing from his estate, is that correct?” Webb asked.
“Yes,” Levine said plainly. Among Tannebaum’s heirs was his daughter, who is deaf. Levine and two others stole $2 million from the estate, and he was paid a $1 million fee on top of it, he admitted.
At the same time Levine was engaging in drug binges two to three times a month, he served on the board of Interventions, which operated drug rehab facilities.
“Did that seem a little deceitful to you?” Webb asked. The judge blocked Levine from answering.
One of the men Levine did drugs with threatened to expose Levine’s secret lifestyle if Levine didn’t pay him $300,000, he said. Levine paid up and when the man returned for more money, Levine told his lawyers, who told the government. He never heard from the man again.
“Were you glad it stopped?” Webb asked. “Yes,” Levine said.
“Did you find that to be a benefit to you?” Webb said.
“Yes,” Levine said.
Levine, whose plea deal calls for a prison sentence of five years and seven months, told Webb that even after he began cooperating, he lied to the feds about a bribe arrangement with Vrdolyak. Levine said had the FBI not caught him in that lie, he would have continued to take a kickback from Vrdolyak and lie about it.
Levine has admitted that when the feds caught up to him in 2004, he lied about his drug use so he could be freed on bond.
“Will you lie to this court system if you think you’ll benefit from it?” Webb asked.
Levine responded loudly: “No, I will not.”
Prosecutors say their case could end by mid-week and closing arguments could happen Friday.