Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 31, 2010

Judge Rules Urbana District Can’t Sue Normal over Jon White Case

A McLean County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Urbana School District against a Normal-based district over a former teacher now imprisoned for child molestation.

In dismissing the lawsuit Tuesday, Judge Scott Drazewski said Unit 5 was immune from the civil action because it is a public body, and also said Urbana District 116 missed the legal deadline for filing.

The Urbana district was seeking $1 million, saying it wanted the money to help cover the $2 million it paid to settle claims filed by nine girls molested there by teacher Jon White after he left McLean County. Urbana officials say Unit 5 failed to disclose that White had been forced to resign.

White is serving 60 years in prison for molesting two girls in Unit 5 and the nine in Urbana.



AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 29, 2010

Official: Gun Charges after FBI Raids in Midwest

The FBI in Illinois says weekend raids in Ohio and Indiana are part of an ongoing investigation led by the FBI in Michigan.

Raids were conducted in all three states and at least three people were arrested, two in Ohio and one in Illinois.

Federal warrants were sealed, but one federal law enforcement official says some of those arrested face gun charges. That official also says they're pursuing other suspects.

A militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids was a Christian militia group.

George Ponce, who works at a pizzeria next door to a home raided in Hammond, Ind., said he and a few co-workers stepped outside for a break Saturday night and saw a swarm of law enforcement officers.

Ponce said officers yelled "get back inside'' and told them the house was being swept for bombs. He estimates agents took more than two dozen guns from the house.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 28, 2010

Chicago Terrorism Suspect to Make Court Appearance Monday

A Chicago man accused of terrorism is scheduled to be in court Monday, but some of the public proceeding may be held in private.

Prosecuctors say the case against Tahawwur Rana includes classified information.

Information the government would like to use against him, but information the government would not like to trot out in a public courtroom.

That's why much of Monday's s hearing may be closed.

The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will likely discuss how they'll handle evidence that falls under the "Classified Information Procedures Act," or CIPA.

The act allows prosecutors to protect certain information by using only partial evidence, a part of a recording or a document.

Prosecutors would present the evidence to the judge who then decides how much of it can be seen by defense attorneys.

Rana has been charged with supporting another Chicagoan - David Headley - as he helped plan the 2008 Mumbai terror attack that killed more than a hundred and sixty people.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 19, 2010

Police Seek Home Invasion Suspect

Champaign, Urbana and University of Illinois Police were conducting special patrols on the U of I Urbana campus Friday, following a report of a home invasion and aggravated battery early Friday morning.

Authorities say that as the occupant of an apartment in the 400 block of East Healy was opening her door... she was grabbed from behind, and struck in the face several times. She was treated at a local hospital.

The attacker is described as a 35-year old black male, 5 foot 10, 170 pounds, wearing a dark shirt, jeans, and tan hat.

A sketch is on line at www.publicsafety.illinois.edu


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 19, 2010

Purse Snatcher Wields Syringe on U of I Quad

An Urbana man was arrested on the University Illinois Quad Friday afternoon, after allegedly snatching a woman's purse and threatening to use a syringe to stab passersby who pursued him.

Jeff Unger of the U of I News Bureau says U of I and Champaign Police have charged 20 year old Nathaniel Huff with robbery, aggravated battery and possession of a syringe. Authorities say Huff is not a student.

The incident occurred on the south end of the Quad, near Gregory and Lincoln Halls. Unger says Huff allegedly grabbed a woman's purse and ran off. But a number of people in the vicinity ran after and restrained him, despite Huff's threats to stab them with the syringe. No one was injured. Police aren't sure if anything was in the syringe.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 17, 2010

Champaign Council Reverses Course, Accepts Federal Law Enforcement Money

In a reversal of a previous "no" vote, the Champaign City Council has voted to 6-2 to accept its share of a federal grant aimed at curbing underage drinking in Champaign-Urbana.

Urbana and the University of Illinois are also involved in the grant, but the Champaign City Council last month rejected its portion, 11-thousand dollars a year for three years, to fund police efforts to curb underage drinking.

But after the director of the Mental Health Center of Champaign County made a personal plea, enough council members changed their minds Tuesday night to turn last month's "no" vote into a "yes" .

Marci Dodds was among those who switched, even though she thinks the city doesn't need the money, and believes it would be better to combat problem drinking at any age, rather than all drinking by minors.

"In understanding the ramifications of what this means to the Mental Health Center at large, I will vote for it," said Dodds, "because I greatly support what the Mental Health Center does. But I am not thrilled with the plan."

The $360,000 3-year grant will also fund education programs aimed at preventing underage drinking, under the sponsorship of the Mental Health Center. City Manager Steve Carter says the grant is aimed at both policing and prevention --- and if Champaign rejected its portion, it could endanger the entire program.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 15, 2010

More than 250 Signed Up for Champaign Forum on Police-Community Relations

More than 250 people have signed up for Monday night's Community-Police forum at the Hawthorn Suites Hotel in Champaign. The city of Champaign organized the event in the wake of last October's police shooting death of 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington. His death put a spotlight on long-standing frictions between police and African-American youth in Champaign.

Deputy City Manager Joan Walls says a diverse group of people have signed up for the forum --- including young people and other community members, neighborhood leaders and police. She hopes their discussions will shed light on ways to break down the barriers that have hindered police-community relations.

"When you get over 250 people in a room", says Walls, "who are committed, who recognize and realize that a tragedy has occurred in our community --- and that it's something we can all agree that we never want to happen again. And whatever it takes for us to pull it together, to really recognize what some of the issues might be, but not only that, identify what the workable solutions are going to be."

While registration for the forum's small group discussions has filled up, Walls says anyone interested can check with the Champaign community relations department to see if there are any last-minute openings. The public can also attend as observers --- and submit their own answers to the forum's main questions through a survey at the city of Champaign website. The Monday night at the Hawthorn starts at 6:30.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 09, 2010

Iroquois County Officials Explore Closing the County Jail

The Chairman of the Iroquois County Board says a proposal to close the county jail may not be perfect, but is worth looking at for three to four months.

Ron Schroeder commends County Sheriff Eldon Sprau for at least coming up with a cost-saving measure. It's costing about $600,000 a year to operate the aging jail, which was built in 1964. Sprau says at this rate, his fuel budget will be exhausted in six months, keeping deputies from patrolling. Schroder says taking prisoners to Kankakee County would save about $250,000, and enable Iroquois County to hire back four sheriff's deputies who lost their jobs last week. However, closing the jail would mean 10 correctional officers. Schroder says the only other alternative, a voter-backed public safety tax, has seen no success with voters. "When the public safety tax for remodeling the jail failed, then we went to a public safety tax to keep the people on staff, that failed," says Schroder. "We went to unions and asked for somebacks - that failed. So you tell me what we're supposed to do."

Officials in Kankakee County have already agreed to house prisoners from Iroquois County. But Watseka Police Chief Roger Lebeck says the county's savings would mean additional costs for him, paying another officer overtime while one of his officers took a prisoner to Kankakee. Lebeck suspects closing the jail would mean more I-Bonds, or prisoners who are issued notices to appear in court. "You must show up at that date and time, or else a warrant will be issued for your arrest, that kind of thing,' says Lebeck. "We don't I-Bond on felonies, there's no bond amount set for that statutorily, and that's something a judge sets so normally they sit in the jail until they see the judge. So domestic batteries, those kinds of things, they'll have to go to the jail."

Schroder says Iroquois County Board members expect to hold several meetings before holding a vote on closing the jail.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 09, 2010

Champaign Reverses Traffic Pattern Designed to be Crime Deterrent

Removing one-way signs from a residential street doesn't usually attract a lot of attention - but the city of Champaign is calling a traffic-pattern change this afternoon a big step forward for one neighborhood.

12 years ago neighbors asked the city to convert portions of four streets in the Bristol Place neighborhood into one-way street. The thinking was that the inconvenience would discourage crime on those streets.

Eugene Barnes of the community group Metanoia Centers has watched crime slowly decline in that area since then. But he gives the traffic pattern only a small share of the credit.

"We had drug dealing and prostitution. And it takes a different shape over a period of time -- you learn to adapt to new situations," Barnes said. "So along with urban planning, you've got to look at the human factor (and) what else is going to be involved with that. Just one-way streets alone are not that great a deterrent."

Still, Barnes says neighbors today asked for the resumption of two way traffic on the streets - he says the neighborhood has improved since 1998, but he says neighbors and police will have to keep up their surveillance.


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