Illinois Public Media News
The Illinois Department of Corrections says the planned closure of a central Illinois prison could mean 1,500 inmates would be housed in prison gyms.
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/nPzzfO) reports the department detailed the scenario involving the medium-security Logan Correctional Center near Lincoln in a required report to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. The closure also could mean crowding-related lawsuits.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has called the closure unavoidable given budget cuts by lawmakers. The union representing many of the affected prison workers says the move could endanger corrections workers and inmates.
Meanwhile, the Belleville News-Democrat (http://bit.ly/q62Vqk ) reports plans to close a maximum-security state mental-health center in Chester could require hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades at sites elsewhere to accommodate patients.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed lawsuits Tuesday against companies she says are running fraudulent mortgage rescue schemes.
Some Chicago area companies and licensed attorneys allegedly charged consumers as much as $375,000 to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. But Madigan said the companies took the money and never helped the consumers.
She said the 2006 Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act prevents companies from charging upfront fees, but lawyers are able to accept advance payment.
"The new twist on this scam is that these predators are really using lawyers as a front so that they can conceivably get around the law and collect the upfront money," Madigan said.
The Attorney General's office has filed suit against four companies accused of using this scam. The filing asks the court to shut down the businesses and get restitution for at least 76 consumers.
Madigan said homeowners should not have to pay to get help with their mortgage, and that HUD certified counselors are available for free. Homeowners can contact the Attorney General's Homeowner Helpline at (866) 544-7151.
Community leaders and activists have started putting together a list of qualities they want in a new Champaign police chief.
Many of the ideas have already been discussed, but some of the 35 who attended a forum put together by Champaign's Community and Police Partnership (CCAPP) Monday night say they're on the same page. Words like public trust, communication, and integrity were repeated throughout the 1-hour event. City leaders and activists spent most of last night's forum in those small groups answering two questions: What are the top 5 challenges facing Champaign's next police chief, and what four skills should that person possess?
Reverend Jerome Chambers, a former Champaign County NAACP president, says he wants someone who has the people skills to generate a dialogue with the community.
"Be as transparent with them as possible, yet - in leading, have the kind of skill set that says: 'I hear you, because you are important. And how we're going to approach this is not to be stereotypical," said Chambers.
Craig Williams says the next chief shouldn't shy away from changing the ranks within the department.
"If somebody's not doing their job, or if you get so many complaints on an officer, don't be afraid to remove that officer of discipline that officer," he said. "In any organization, discipline is very necessary."
City council member Will Kyles says it's important the city set the new chief up for success, recognizing that the person won't be a savior when he first or she first takes office.
Top challenges for the successor to retiring Chief R.T. Finney were also identified. They include dealing with the increase in youth violence (ages 14-25), further healing in the wake of the 2009 police shooting of teen Kiwane Carrington, and social networking.
The recommendations of the panels will be passed on to a search committee for new chief, as well as the city manager's office. Finney will step down on January 20th.
A federal judge has delayed the sentencing date for ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A notice posted electronically Monday at the U.S. District Court in Chicago says simply that Blagojevich's Oct. 6 sentencing date has been "stricken until further order by the court.'' It doesn't offer a reason for the delay.
There had been speculation that the impeached governor's sentencing could be pushed back because of a scheduling conflict with another trial.
The trial of a one-time fundraiser for Blagojevich, William Cellini, is set to start on Oct. 3. U.S. District Judge James Zagel is the judge in both cases. A new date wasn't immediately announced.
Blagojevich's attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, says a federal judge is likely to set the convicted former governor's new sentencing date for late October or early November. He says Judge James Zagel did put off the sentencing because it conflicted Cellini's trial.
A veterans health center in Danville has alerted more than 500 veterans of a breach involving their personal information that puts them at risk for identity theft.
The Commercial News in Danville reports an appointment book from the VA Illiana Health Care System has been missing since July 14.
The appointment book included veterans' last names and last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
Illiana director Michael Hamilton says there's no reason to believe the information has been misused or stolen. He says the VA is alerting veterans so they can take precautions against identity theft.
Precautions include requesting a free credit report and placing a "fraud alert'' on credit accounts.
Hamilton says VA staff members are reviewing policies and procedures in hopes of preventing future breaches.
The case of an alleged torture victim under former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge is now in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court. It's the first time in over a decade that a Burge related torture case is in front of the state's highest court. Since then, the former lieutenant was convicted of lying about torturing suspects and was sentenced to prison.
The state supreme court heard arguments for the Stanley Wrice case Thursday morning--they will now deliberate whether Wrice will receive a hearing on his claim that officers tortured him into confessing to a rape 30 years ago. Wrice has been in prison since the 80s for that crime.
Prosecutors for the state of Illinois argue they could convict Wrice even without the alleged coerced confession. Lead attorney Myles O'Rourke called the torture "harmless error" that doesn't affect the outcome of the case. Justices pressed O'Rourke Thursday on what evidence was available, and he acknowledged there are no fingerprints or DNA.
No matter what the outcome, some advocates, like attorney Locke Bowman, say the case will have an affect on the torture scandal as a whole.
"This is the case that presents the Illinois supreme court with an opportunity to exercise leadership in the Illinois criminal justice system and to take a dramatic step if it chooses to help us put this scandal behind us," Bowman said.
Bowman was an attorney for alleged victims in previous torture cases, and he heads the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University. He said justices could use the Wrice case to grant hearings to other alleged torture victims. He said justices could take a few months, if not longer, to decide the outcome of this case.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says the most important change in fighting terrorism over the past 10 years has been a new cooperation between the intelligence and law-enforcement communities. The cooperation is a result of the Patriot Act.
Prior to 9/11, there was a wall between the law enforcement and intelligence communities, he said. The wall arose largely as an effort to prevent domestic spying on U.S. citizens, but Fitzgerald said it meant there were two teams of people protecting the United States, and those teams weren't helping each other. He said he could get more information from an Al Qaida operative than he could get from some people in his own government.
"It used to be, 'Why should I share something with you? What is your need to know? And if someone finds out I shared it, how am I going to justify myself to my boss that I gave out that information?' That's been reversed. People now think, 'What is my duty to share? And if it's found out that I have information that I didn't share with someone, how am I going to justify to myself that I sat on it?'" he said.
Fitzgerald said now law enforcement regularly meets with the intelligence community, and he says that's been a key tool that wasn't available before 9/11.
He focused his comments in a speech Monday on assessing the war on terror, but Fitzgerald also took questions from the audience of business and civic leaders. One of the questions involved public corruption and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Fitzgerald wouldn't comment on Blagojevich's case, but he says too many people think corruption is a problem just for law enforcement.
"If I could have a dollar for everyone who's ever come up to me after we've convicted someone to say, 'Yes, we knew he or she was doing it all the time and we wondered when someone was going to get around to do something about it,' and I bite my lip, but I want to just smack them up side the head and say, 'Well the person you wanted to do something about it was you,'" Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald has been the U.S. Attorney in Chicago for 10 years. That's an unusually long tenure, but he says Chicago is his home and he loves his job and he has no plans to leave it.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Former Champaign County Public Health Administrator Vito Palazzolo, 55, has accepted a guilty plea for a single count against him related to the misuse of the health district's resources, according to the Champaign County State's Attorney.
Palazzolo had been charged with making unauthorized purchases amounting to roughly $16,500 on personal items, including meals, trips, and tools.
In exchange for a guilty plea of official misconduct, other charges related to theft and misapplication of funds were dropped. Palazzolo was sentenced on Monday to 18 months of probation. He must also pay $5,000 in restitution to the public health district, and serve 50 hours of public service.
"The State's Attorney's Office is very pleased to have resolved this case in favor of the CUPHD, and appreciates the hard work of the Champaign Police Department in assisting in this complicated investigation," Champaign County States Attorney Julia Rietz said.
Julie Pryde took over Palazzolo as public health administrator after he was fired four years ago.
"No place needs this type of distraction," Pryde said. "We have a lot of work to do, and we don't need this type of distraction. So, I'm really glad that this is behind us, and I am pleased that the agency will be getting some restitution back for the questionable purchases."
Pryde said since Palazzolo's departure, efforts to monitor how employees spend the department's money have been beefed up.
The charges against Palazzolo were first filed in November 2009, but the case was delayed due to various motions by Palazollo's previous attorney, Robert Kirchner, who passed away this year. Through another attorney, Palazzolo withdrew those motions and entered the guilty plea.
A youth prison in the Chicago suburbs still does not have suicide-proof beds in all its rooms, including those where kids on suicide watch are kept. This comes two years after a young man incarcerated at the St. Charles facility killed himself.
Some of the rooms at St. Charles already have what are called "safety beds," specifically designed to prevent their use in suicides. But not in the confinement cells, where kids go when they're put on suicide watch.
Prison watchdog John Howard Association warned about this in July, calling it "absolutely unacceptable."
The state's Department of Juvenile Justice noted at the time that a contractor's bid had been accepted for new beds, and the director said he hoped to have them all installed "within the next month or so."
Two months later, those beds are still not installed in those rooms used for suicide watch, according to department spokesman Kendall Marlowe.
Marlowe notes that getting the suicide-proof furniture takes time, as it is made of custom-molded plastic. He says remodeling work has begun at St. Charles, and "anticipates" installation of safety furniture will be completed at all juvenile justice facilities by the end of this year.
Prosecutors are are filing documents outlining their evidence against William Cellini, the final co-defendant indicted with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Cellini's trial is scheduled for next month.
Cellini had contracts with the state under Republican governors and prosecutors say he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blagojevich to maintain his clout and business under the Democratic administration.
Prosecutors say he used his clout on boards to extort campaign contributions for Blagojevich from people hoping to do business with the state, and in return for raising cash prosecutors say Cellini was rewarded with lucrative state contracts of his own.
Prosecutors have laid out some of their case against Cellini in the last couple days. The evidence includes a recorded phone call from 2004 in which Cellini worries that Blagojevich's fundraisers are being too brazen in their attempts to get political contributions in return for state business. Cellini worries that authorities will start investigating because "too many people are talking."
Attorneys for Cellini did not return calls for comment.
The other co-defendants indicted along with Blagojevich include staffers Lon Monk and John Harris who both pleaded guilty and testified against their former boss. Chris Kelly was a Blagojevich friend and fundraiser and he committed suicide before going on trial in the case although he was indicted and convicted in other cases. Then there's Blagojevich's brother, Robert. Prosecutors dropped the charges against him after the first trial because many of the jurors found him a sympathetic character.
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