Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 13, 2010

Blagojevich Jury Taking an Extended Weekend

Jurors struggling to reach agreement at the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are taking three days off.

They are leaving the former governor, attorneys and other court watchers with an agonizing wait to find out whether they can break their apparent deadlock. There is no indication how long it might take for them to make a decision. And it's a wait that will be all the more difficult because jurors offered only the slightest of hints Thursday about what they've been doing in 12 days of deliberations.

The judge responded by telling them to deliberate further.

Since they began their deliberations two weeks ago, jurors have met Monday through Friday with weekends off.

A one-sentence statement from the court official didn't explain why they decided to take this Friday off.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 12, 2010

Blagojevich Jurors Say They’re Deadlocked on 11 Counts, Haven’t Discussed 11 Others

Jurors in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich say they have reached agreement on just two of 24 counts against him. The judge says he'll tell them to go back and deliberate some more.

Late this morning he jurors said they have not discussed 11 counts of wire fraud. They indicated they have discussed the remaining 11 counts and appear to be deadlocked on them.

The jury had sent a note to Judge James B. Zagel on Wednesday saying they were stuck, and Zagel had asked for clarification. Zagel said he wants the jury to go back and discuss the wire fraud counts.

Blagojevich and his brother have pleaded not guilty to charges including trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 10, 2010

Champaign Police Community Relations Plan Posted Online for Comment

Champaign city officials are hoping for plenty of feedback on a draft version of their plan to improve police-community relations. The plan was posted on the city's website last week, and city spokeswoman Joan Walls says they'll be taking comments online through this Friday.

Walls says the plan is distilled from the input they received during the community forum they held on the issue last March. About 300 people attended the forum, which was held in the wake of the fatal shooting by a police officer of Kiwane Carrington last year. Walls says this is a chance for the forum participants to provide feedback on the plan developed from their discussions.

"We released this draft plan to the Forum participants as promised", says Walls, "to ask them to take a look at it, to make sure we've not lost any important information. And if there was something that maybe they heard at the Forum that perhaps was not included, to provide us with feedback. And so there's an opportunity for them to do that, through an electronic survey."

The draft plan lists 32 specific actions meant to improve relations between Champaign police and the community, especially youth.

Walls says the feedback from both forum participants and the general public will be incorporated into the draft plan to be discussed by the Champaign City Council at their August 24th study session.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 30, 2010

Gov. Quinn Signing Wage Theft Legislation

Workers rights advocates are praising an Illinois bill that promises to speed up the process of how wage theft claims are processed.

Gov. Pat Quinn is set to sign the bill into law Friday. It stiffens penalties for employers who shortchange or don't pay workers.

The law also gives the Illinois Department of Labor have more oversight in dealing with the 10,000-plus wage theft claims it gets annually.

The agency will have a designated division and fund to deal directly with claims of $3,000 or less.

Chris Williams is director of Chicago's Working Hands Legal Clinic. He says the changes speed up the process, particularly for those who need it most.

Experts say wage theft is an increasing problem in the downturned economy, particularly for low wage and immigrant workers.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 30, 2010

Blagojevich Deliberations in Second Full Day

Jurors deliberating for a third day at the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich have asked if it is possible to receive transcripts of witness testimony.

Judge James Zagel told attorneys Friday that he'd say jurors could receive specific transcripts of specific testimony, and that compiling transcripts would take time.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky alluded to the fact that only the prosecution presented witnesses. He told Zagel that providing all transcripts would amount to presenting the entire prosecution again.

Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to charges that include trying to sell or trade the nomination to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

Zagel also dismissed a mistrial motion filed by the defense.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 29, 2010

Deliberations Continue After Judge Denies Jury Request for Transcript

The judge in the Rod Blagojevich case says he will not give jurors a transcript of one of the closing arguments in the former governor's corruption trial.

Judge James Zagel says closing arguments are not evidence. He handed copies of the jury's note to prosecutors and defense attorneys before denying the request this morning.

Jurors are supposed to send notes if they want to ask the judge questions about legal issues or to notify him of other matters, like friction in the jury room.

Blagojevich and his brother, Robert Blagojevich, have pleaded not guilty to charges of trying to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat Barack Obama gave up when he became president and illegally pressuring people for campaign donations.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 28, 2010

Jury Gets Case in Blagojevich Corruption Trial

The judge has said he doesn't expect a quick verdict -- so it could be a long wait before former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his brother learn their fate.

Jurors in Chicago have begun deciding whether Blagojevich tried to sell a nomination to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

During his lengthy instructions to jurors, the judge said they could make "reasonable inferences.'' And that could be important -- because prosecutors said in their closing arguments that Blagojevich never demanded money in exchange for something. Instead, they said, he merely implied it.

Prosecutors portrayed him as a greedy and smart political schemer who was determined to use his power to enrich himself.

But his attorney characterized him as an insecure bumbler who talked too much and had terrible judgment about which people to trust.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 27, 2010

Blagojevich Defense to Give Closing Arguments Tues Morning

Rod Blagojevich's attorney is scheduled to give his closing argument Tuesday morning and the judge has already warned him that he could be held in contempt of court.

The warning came at the end of the day Monday.

Sam Adam Jr. told the judge that he planned to talk about the fact that jurors have heard all about Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine and yet the government never called either of them as witnesses.

Judge James Zagel said Adam should focus on the evidence that was presented, not the evidence and witnesses that weren't presented.

Zagel said, "You will not argue it.".

Adam told the judge he wouldn't follow the order at which point Zagel told Adam he'd be held in contempt.

Adam told the judge that he was ready to go to jail.

Zagel said Adam was showing a "profound misunderstanding of the legal rules."

He then adjourned for the day to give Adam time to reformulate his argument.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2010

Blagojevich Closing Arguments Center on Trust, “No Action” Argument

The corruption trial of former governor rod Blagojevich has come down to closing arguments, and a University of Illinois law professor says the success of either side depends on those arguments.

Last week Blagojevich's defense rested its case without bringing the ousted governor to the witness stand. Law professor Andrew Leipold says that's a common decision for defense attorneys, since defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and defenders don't think the prosecution totally proved its case. But Leipold still says he was surprised that Rod Blagojevich didn't testify since he and his lawyers had often said he would.

"I think most of what they were thinking is, 'Do we have anything to gain by exposing the governor not only to rebuttal evidence but to cross-examination?'" Leipold said. "Will he be able to articulate why it is that these tapes, that sure sound bad, really aren't that bad?"

Leipold says Blagojevich's attorneys will probably tell jurors that despite numerous phone conversations discussing potentially illegal acts, the ousted governor never took action. "To the extent the defense plan is going to be that the governor was blowing off steam, that he was just exploring possibilities but never intending to act on it...that's really important for the defense in closing, to help the jury reconcile the evidence they heard with that version of events," Leipold said.

The decision not to bring Blagojevich to the stand kept prosecutors from using two key former officials as witnesses. But Leipold says if prosecutors thought Tony Rezko or Stuart Levine were crucial to their case, they would have had them testify earlier in the trial.

Leipold says a lot rests on whether jurors see the prosecution's witnesses as credible - especially former chief of staff Lon Monk, who negotiated a plea deal in exchange for his testimony.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 22, 2010

Bond Set at $1 Million for Savoy Man Accused of Killing Brother

A preliminary hearing has been set for August 17th for Brian Maggio. At his arraignment Thursday in Urbana, the 42-year old appeared on closed circuit TV in court. Champaign County Judge Jeff Ford read the charges against him as he appeared in court via closed circuit television wearing a green gown, a protective garment worn by inmates correctional officers fear have suicidal tendencies. He was charged with 4 counts on first degree murder in the shooting death of his brother, 32-year old Mark Maggio. Each charge carries a sentence of 20 to 60 years, but because Maggio was using a handgun, he faces an additional 25 years to life if convicted.

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz says the defendant's and witnesses accounts differ - but that Mark Maggio did die at the scene of the parking lot of the Maggio's IGA supermarket. "The defendant took out the handgun and shot his brother," said Reitz. "Preliminary autopsy results indicate that the gunshot wound was to the side and back of the victim and that it was essentially one gunshot wound into him that ultimately caused his death."

Reitz says Brian Maggio made the initial 911 call and indicated that he had shot his brother. His bond has been set at $1-million.


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