Illinois Public Media News
A plan to prevent releasing the names of those authorized to have guns in Illinois has stalled despite gun owners' burgeoning concern over privacy and safety, prompted by the state attorney general's opinion that the information is public record following an Associated Press request.
Gun advocates called for Attorney General Lisa Madigan to reverse her decree or for lawmakers to move swiftly to overturn it, and Republicans launched a petition drive to bolster the movement. Anti-violence groups countered that releasing the information is important to keep government accountable.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee on civil law voted 5-5 Wednesday to halt a bill from advancing that would prohibit state police from making public the names of the 1.3 million holders of Firearm Owners identification cards. The measure's sponsor, Republican Rep. Ron Stephens of Greenville, says he will continue pushing the ban.
Madigan's office ruled Monday night, in response to AP's public records request, that the list of FOID cardholders is public record and must be disclosed. Permit holders' addresses and telephone numbers would remain private.
State police officials, who claimed Illinois law bars the disclosure as an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, said they will challenge the ruling in court.
Madigan's decree refuted the police assertions about privacy and said officials had not proven that making the records public would jeopardize anyone's safety. The Illinois State Rifle Association disagreed. Director Richard Pearson said "there is no legitimate reason for anyone to have access to the information."
"The safety of real people is at stake here," Pearson said in a statement. "Once this information is released, it will be distributed to street gangs and gun-control groups who will use the data to target gun owners for crime and harassment."
Federal law prohibits felons from possessing guns and Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said there's more behind the issue than just publicizing names.
"Having those records in the public arena is also helpful in making sure that local law enforcement and the state police are following up with those people who have FOID cards who should be prohibited purchasers," Walsh said.
That's been the effect elsewhere around the country, particularly with statewide data about licenses issued to people who want to carry concealed weapons, which is allowed in most states but not Illinois. Among some examples:
- An investigation by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel published in 2007 found 1,400 people who were given concealed-carry licenses in the first half of 2006 had earlier pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies but qualified for guns because of a loophole in the law.
-In Memphis, Tenn., The Commercial Appeal found at least 70 people in the Memphis area who had concealed-carry permits despite violent histories including robbery, assault and domestic violence. A firestorm erupted after the newspaper posted an online database in 2008 of names of all concealed-carry permit holders in Tennessee. Legislatures in Florida and Tennessee have since voted to make information on permit holders private.
-The Indianapolis Star found hundreds of people convicted of felonies or other "questionable" cases in which people were subsequently granted concealed-carry permits, often over protests from local law enforcement officials and in some instances where it appeared the state police had a legal obligation to deny them.
The Illinois Republican Party launched a petition drive Wednesday to support legislation such as Stephens' to prohibit disclosure of the information. Stephens said he will have another chance before the House committee with his bill. A Senate version has yet to get a hearing.
Democratic Rep. Mike Zalewski of Chicago was among those urging Stephens to retool his legislation, with some suggesting he consider records aside from just the FOID cards. But Zalewski doesn't buy the arguments that disclosure would jeopardize gun owners if no addresses are released.
"The random thug that wants to break into homes, I don't think that person has the wherewithal to match names, go through all those processes they'd have to go through to commit a crime like that," Zalewski said. "If it's the names alone, I side with the attorney general.
The jury foreman at impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's first trial says jurors recently held a reunion to reminisce about the sometimes stressful, 2 1/2-month trial.
James Matsumoto tells the Associated Press seven jurors and five alternates met in February at a winery/restaurant in suburban Chicago.
Matsumoto says most jurors felt they did their best during 14 days of deliberations _ though some regretted they deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts. A retrial starts on April 20.
Matsumoto says one juror described shopping at Target recently when Blagojevich's wife Patti recognized her as a juror, walked over and struck up a conversation.
He says a lone holdout juror who prevented conviction on several serious charges helped organize the union but, at the last minute, wasn't able to attend.
(With additional reporting from the Associated Press)
Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis is leaving his job immediately and won't stay on for two more months as Mayor Richard Daley had asked him to do.
Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale confirmed the move Tuesday and says former Superintendent Terry Hillard will take over in the interim.
The embattled Weis is a former FBI agent who was hired by Daley three years ago. He's known for months that none of the major mayoral candidates, including Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, planned to extend his contract.
Daley on Monday told reporters he hoped Weis would stay until Daley's term ends in May. But Weis, whose 3-year contract ends Tuesday, decided to leave immediately after he was not given a written contract extension.
When it came to replacing Weis, Daley turned to former Superintendent Terry Hillard.
Hillard was police superintendent from 1998 to 2003. He served with the police department for 35 years before retiring in 2003. He became the department's first black chief of detectives in 1995, holding that position until he was promoted to superintendent.
Hillard is currently a partner at Hillard Heintze, a private security and investigations firm. He will take a leave of absence from his company.
Daley says Hillard will serve as interim superintendent beginning Wednesday until the end of Daley's term in May.
(Photo courtesy of Illinois Public Radio)
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is joining with 550 mayors nationwide in calling for stricter national gun laws.
He is part of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national political movement seeking to push two initiatives through Congress. They want a comprehensive national database of people who are prohibited from buying guns and they want every gun sale to be subject to a background check.
Daley says he doesn't understand why this kind of legislation has been so hard to pass.
"There's something wrong with America," Daley said. "I don't understand it. It's not just elected officials, it's people in general. They are not outraged about this."
Daley said Americans ought to be ashamed by gun violence.
He made his comments near a truck sponsored by the group Mayor's Against Illegal Guns. The truck keeps a running tally of American's killed with guns since the Tucson shootings in early January. At the beginning of the press conference the digital display read 1,731. By the end, two more people had been added to that tally.
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan says two people helped him make his historic decision clear the state's death row in 2003: An innocent man who was once two days away from being executed and a childhood friend who asked if Ryan was going to allow his son to be put to death.
Ryan's comments came last March in a deposition taken at a federal prison in Indiana, where Ryan has been locked up since late 2007 after his conviction of corruption charges. The deposition was released to the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune after the newspapers filed freedom of information requests.
Under questioning by a city of Chicago attorney, Ryan angrily denied his decision had anything to do with the federal probe that led to his conviction.
Social network invitations asking people to come to Champaign to celebrate the so-called Unofficial St. Patrick's Day on Friday, March 4 have prompted the city to take precautionary action.
One page on Facebook indicates more than 13,000 people are expected to show up.
Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart said the city will prohibit bars and package liquor stores in campus town from selling or serving alcohol before 11 AM. He also said bars will not be allowed to serve pitchers of alcohol or shots of pure alcohol. Instead all drinks must be served in paper or plastic cups.
"I wouldn't mind if it was just our local U of I students, and each bar had a celebration to celebrate St. Patrick's Day or something," he said. "But (it's different) when all the outside schools start coming here looking for a big blowout drunken affair, and don't give a care about damage they do to the city."
Schweighart's office will not be issuing multiple keg permits for parties, making it illegal to have more than one keg at each residence.
Meanwhile, University of Illinois officials are taking steps to minimize disruptions to classes and campus operations during the Unofficial St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The U of I also noted that if students drink too much alcohol, they should not be afraid to go to the hospital for care because they "will not get in trouble.
Twenty-first century technology makes it easy to record events throughout the world, but that ease of recording may violate the law. In Illinois, making audio recordings of conversations in public places without the permission of everyone in the recording is usually a crime. Under the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, recording police officers can lead to a class 1 felony, which can carry a four to 15 year prison sentence. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports on efforts to soften the eavesdropping law for both the public and police officers.
Federal prosecutors are moving to dismiss several charges against Rod Blagojevich.
Prosecutors Wednesday told U.S. District Judge James Zagel they seek to dismiss racketeering and wire fraud counts against the former Illinois governor to streamline the case. Zagel didn't immediately rule on the motion. Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky says the move by prosecutors demonstrate they believe Blagojevich is innocent of those changes.
The 54-year-old Blagojevich faces an April 20 retrial on charges he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. He's also accused of trying to shake down donors for campaign cash. At his first trial, jurors deadlocked on all but one count of lying to the FBI. Blagojevich's lawyers have recently filed motions seeking to have several corruption charges thrown out.
The Indiana Senate has approved a contentious Arizona-style bill to crack down on illegal immigration.
The Republican-ruled Senate voted 31-18 Tuesday for the bill, which contains penalties for businesses that hire illegal immigrants and allows police officers to ask someone for proof of immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally.
Supporters say Indiana must act because the federal government has shirked its responsibility to deal with illegal immigration. Opponents say the bill will lead to racial profiling and hurt economic development.
Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has declined to take a public stance on the proposal.
The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel. He couldn't vote on his own bill because he's taking the bar exam Tuesday and Wednesday.
Champaign County authorities have renewed their call for the public to come forward with information on the 2009 murder of Holly Cassano. And they are revealing more information about the case that had previously been held back.
The 22-year-old Cassano was found stabbed to death at her home in the Candlewood Estates mobile home park in Mahomet, in November, 2009. But Sheriff's Lieutenant Ed Ogle said Cassano had also been sexually assaulted --- the information had been held back to help identify people who might make false confessions. Ogle said they believe the assault took place after the murder. He said that from the blood found at the crime scene, they believe the killer may have suffered cuts to his arms or hands during the attack.
"We want people to come forward with information about anyone who had cuts to their arms or hands during that period of time," Ogle said. "We're asking for people to think back to the night after Halloween, 2009, and recall any suspicious activity they may have noticed in their particular area --- that being in the Meijer's store or in the Candlewood area."
Holly Cassano worked as a cashier at the Meijer's store in Champaign, and Ogle said the killer may have known her from the store, or from Candlewood neighborhood on the northeast side of Mahomet.
Ogle said an FBI psychological profile indicates that the killer could be a young male, perhaps as young as a teen-ager, who had targeted Cassano before the attack. But he said they have no specific suspects at this time, although DNA evidence from the crime scene has helped them eliminate more than 100 people as suspects. Ogle and Sheriff's investigator David Sherrick emphasize that no scrap of information is too small or trivial, if it is related to the case.
Champaign County CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the Cassano murder. But Holly Cassano's mother, Toni Cassano, has been raising additional reward money, through the sale of bumper stickers asking for information into the crime. It was Toni Cassano who discovered Holly Cassano's body, after she had been babysitting Holly's daughter, who was then 17 months old. Nearly 16 months after the murder, Toni says she has not yet told her granddaughter what happened to her mother.
"And when it gets to the point that I have to tell her," she said. "I'm hoping that we have the name of the person who did this, and he is being held responsible, because I want to be able to tell her that there is justice."
If you have information relating to the murder of Holly Cassano, you should contact the Champaign County Sheriff's Department Investigative Unit at 384-1213, or call anonymously to Champaign County CrimeStoppers at 217-373-TIPS.
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