The federal judge who sentenced longtime Illinois power broker William Cellini to a year and a day in prison disclosed Thursday that “three prominent journalists” wrote letters in support of the Republican lobbyist and fundraiser.
Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass says he and other reporters in the courtroom were “shocked” by the revelation.
Prominent journalists? Is that why he was able to fly under the radar for so long?
Those names are sealed in the court file per [the judge's] orders, I’m told, but whoever they are, the three prominent journalists and the others and Mrs. Cellini got what they asked for. They wanted mercy from [the judge]. And that’s what he gave them.
In his column about the letter-writers, veteran Chicago journalist Dennis Bryne asks:
Are they newspaper publishers and owners or broadcast general managers? If so, their elevated rank should not exclude them from the practice of journalism ethics.
I don’t expect to get any answers. There is no agency that investigates journalism ethics as practiced in Chicago or nationally. Nor should there be. There’s something called the First Amendment that protects freedom of the press.
But the revelation should require some news shops to do some serious self-examination. It’s one more arrow piercing the public’s already deflated opinion of the media’s trustworthiness.
FYI: Cellini’s spokesman is Richard Ciccone, who was the Chicago Tribune’s managing editor from 1982 to 1995.
* Judge reveals “prominent journalists” wrote pro-Cellini letters (chicagotribune.com/12th graf)
* What three Chicago journalists pimped for William Cellini? (chicagonow.com)
* A look at how the Chicago papers have covered Cellini (beachwoodreporter.com)
* Newsman: Cellini got the Al Capone treatment, but I’d never write a letter for him (capitolfax.com)