Illinois Public Media News
Gov. Pat Quinn says he's restoring $16 million in funding previously expected to be cut from probation services statewide, averting many layoffs critics said would compromise public safety.
The Democrat says the move came after the state's General Assembly earlier this year funded the Illinois Supreme Court's budget for operational expenses and grants at only 56 percent of the court's request.
That court reimburses the state's 65 probation departments up to 65 percent of the salaries of probation officers.
Quinn's action Tuesday brought the high court's funding level to 82 percent of what it got last fiscal year.
Some counties have insisted that drastic reimbursement cuts will mean layoffs, and that fewer probation officers watching after sex offenders and other criminals could harm public safety.
Police in the south Chicago suburb of Country Club Hills say their investigation into the death of a friend and fundraiser for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is essentially over. They believe Chris Kelly committed suicide.
Police say that when Chris Kelly swallowed a bunch of pain killers last Friday, it was his second suicide attempt that week.
They say Kelly has also tried to take his life last Tuesday night, just hours after pleading guilty in federal court to bid rigging. Kelly was due to enter prison this Friday to start a three-year tax fraud sentence.
Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans said Tuesday that "based on all the information and the witnesses we know to be involved, we have no other investigation right now unless the toxicology report comes back to be something unexpected."
After attempting suicide last Friday, police say Kelly contacted his girlfriend who picked him up in the parking lot of a lumber yard in Country Club Hills.
She took him to the hospital but he died Saturday morning.
Kelly had been indicted three times by federal prosecutors who hoped to pressure him into testifying against Blagojevich.
(Additional reporting by the Associated Press).
Authorities say they hope to make more headway this week in an investigation into the death of a former chief fundraiser for ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch said police on Monday plan to pursue more interviews and hospital admittance records in the possible suicide of 51-year-old Christopher Kelly. Welch also says they'll subpoena phone records and get a search warrant for a storage locker Kelly might have rented.
On Sunday, medical examiners completed an autopsy and detectives looked into whether drugs found in Kelly's vehicle may have factored into his death. Kelly died Saturday, just days before he was to report to prison to begin a three-year prison sentence on tax fraud charges. He was a native of Champaign.
There were no additional arrests or weapons found after Rantoul Township High School was on a 'soft lockdown' for a second straight day yesterday. Superintendent Janet Koroscik says there will still be a police presence at the school today, but won't require that teachers or administrators accompany students that leave the classroom. There have been at least eight arrests following two fights off school grounds on Friday, and the discovery of knives on three students when searches were conducted Tuesday. Koroscik says school administrators and Rantoul police will meet soon to determine a long-term solution.
Rantoul Township High School will be on a 'soft lockdown' for a second day Wednesday after two recent fights and the arrests of several students.
Superintendent Janet Koroscik says there were about five arrests following two fights outside the school on Friday. And Tuesday, Rantoul Police removed three students from the building when knives were discovered on them. The knives were found as officers went from room to room, bringing students out individually to search them. Officers and school administrators also searched backpacks and lockers. That was prompted after a rumor surfaced that a student would bring a gun to school Tuesday.
Koroscik says the fights could be connected to gang activity... noting the incidents have involved many of the same individuals. But she says they're a poor reflection of the majority of the student body:
"I really want to ensure everyone that the small group of individuals whose behavior is certainly inappropriate in no way reflects on the larger portion of our population who has amazing behavior," Koroscik said. "This is a great place to be and we want to make sure we keep it that way."
Rantoul Township High School has 787 students.
Koroscik says during a soft lockdown, no students are allowed to leave the classroom unless they're accompanied by a teacher or administrator. And extra staff and administrators are monitoring the hallways in between classes.
Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's former chief fundraiser pleaded guilty Tuesday to swindling two major airlines as part of an $8.5 million fraud arising from hangar roofing contracts at O'Hare International Airport.
Under his signed plea, 51-year-old Christopher G. Kelly will be sentenced to 57 months in prison. As chief of the Friends of Rod Blagojevich, Kelly bankrolled the now impeached Democrat's rise to the governor's office.
The sentence comes on top of a 37-month federal prison term Kelly must serve after pleading guilty to charges in an unrelated tax-fraud scheme.
Kelly still faces charges as a co-defendant in the same federal indictment that alleges Blagojevich sought to sell or trade President Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate.
Champaign Police want to hear from neighborhoods in order to gear more officers towards crime prevention strategies.
Police Chief R-T Finney will discuss the strategy of 'problem-oriented policing' in the department's annual report before the Champaign City Council tonight. He says the discussions with residents in the past year have ranged from town-hall meetings with neighborhood associations to those focused on one or two blocks. Finney says the complaints start with traffic, but become more specific:
"They'll begin to point out issues other than speeding that really need to be addressed, said Finney. "Some of those issues are drug houses, inattentive landlords who are allowing crimes to occur in their houses, parks that may be affected by certain types of crimes. It may be something like a burglary spree that is occurring in a particular neighborhood."
Finney says often, the solution is as simple as putting up a fence at one home or increasing patrols at a business that sees more service calls.
He says the economy has forced the department to be creative as it shifts officers toward neighborhoods with greater problems. Problem-oriented policing started with meetings in the Garden Hills neighborhood and later moved to homes in the Hill and Church streets areas. Finney says he expects several more neighborhoods will come forth with concerns following tonight's presentation.
Illinois state lawmakers are joining legal experts, clergy and mental health officials in pressing Gov. Pat Quinn to address what they call a human rights crisis at the state's only supermax prison.
The group has sent a letter to the governor, urging him to intervene in the operation of the Tamms Correctional Center in Alexander County.
Critics say that's where some inmates have been held in solitary confinement for more than 10 years.
The letter asks Quinn to sign an executive order that stops the placement of mentally ill prisoners at Tamms, bans long-term solitary confinement unless an inmate is deemed a threat and sets up oversight.
The state's new corrections chief, Michael Randle, is reviewing Tamms' policies at Quinn's request.
Urbana Police are looking for the man who used pepper spray to hold up the Green Street Circle K gas station on the Urbana side of Campustown Friday morning.
Authorities say the man used the pepper spray on two female employees, and fled with about 190-dollars in coins in a green bank bag. The employees did not require hospitalization.
Police say the suspect is described as a black male aged 25 to 35, of average build, wearing a white and blue ball cap, white t-shirt and blue jeans. He fled the scene in an older-model maroon sedan.
The Champaign Fire Department's only female firefighter was arrested Thursday on arson charges.
Monica Hall of Mahomet is charged in connection with fires set two vehicles owned by Champaign firefighters --- both hers and that of a co-worker. The fires occurred early on the morning of August 6th, in the employee parking lot of the main Champaign Fire Station on Randolph Street.
Hall has been placed on administrative leave, with pay. An arraignment hearing is expected to be held Friday.
In a news release, Champaign Fire Department says it acknowledges Hall's arrest "with profound regret and disappointment". The release says department officials are cooperating with Champaign Police and the State Fire Marshal in investigating the case.
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