Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 20, 2011

Champaign Police Arrest Investigation Could Begin this Week

Little has been released regarding a police video of an arrest made last summer by Champaign Police, but City Manager Steve Carter says a possible investigation by state police could start later this week.

Carter wouldn't elaborate on what he calls 'troubling' behavior by a city police officer on June 5, other than to say pepper spray was used and the officer's tactics were in question. Police department personnel investigated, and Chief R.T. Finney issued a finding that the officer's actions regarding 'use of force" were within police and training standards.

"The responsibility of ensuring a complete and accurate investigation into the actions of police department personnel falls solely within my office as the Chief of Police," Finney said in a statement. "I continue to have complete support and confidence in the men and women who work at the Champaign Police Department."

The names of the officer and Champaign man arrested haven't been released. Although the incident happened in June, Carter only saw the in-car video last Wednesday - brought to his attention by Councilman Tom Bruno. Carter said the primary goal is seeing this case resolved, so there is justice for both the individual and the officer.

"These are very difficult circumstances, and we'll want to take a look at what's the right thing to come out of this for both of those," Carter said. "So, the individual case needs to be resolved for sure. Wherever that leads us is where we need to go. "

Carter said the broader issue is that of policy related to use of force, and how it impacts police complaints. He said that is why outside experts will be brought in to review that policy.

Bruno said he is waiting for a thorough investigation to take place before he jumps to any conclusions about whether excessive force was used in the arrest. He added that this case could have an impact on discussions about a possible citizens police review board:

"When the decision is made to pursue with the idea of a citizens review board - it's instances like this that the public and the city council will take into consideration to determine whether a citizen's review board would be a helpful tool," Bruno said.

There have been new calls for a citizens police review board in Champaign in the wake of the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington. A number of citizens also allege officers beat 18-year old Calvin Miller on the night of his arrest on the early morning hours of Oct. 17, 2011.

Champaign City Council member Will Kyles brought up the idea last month of creating a committee to review complaints against the Champaign Police Department. After watching the police video, Kyles questions whether excessive force was used, and that may justify the need for a citizens' police review panel.

"This is an example of why we should have a police citizen review board, and kind of look at these issues," he said. "That is a great argument. Me being the person that brought the citizen review board back up."

Carter and Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz met with State Police on Friday. He said they will decide in a few days whether to investigate the incident.

At the request of the individual's family, there are no current plans to release the police video to the media or public. However, Illinois Public Media has filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain footage from the police dash camera.

The city is also in the process of seeking a new police chief. Finney announced last summer that he was retiring, and Deputy Chief Holly Nearing will take over as interim chief on Dec. 5. Both staffing changes aren't related to the June 5 arrest, according to Carter.

Last week, Carter announced four finalists for the police department's top chief.

Related Video: Champaign City Manager Steve Carter talks about the incident


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 20, 2011

Ill. Gets Highest Rating from MADD

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has given Illinois its highest rating for the state's efforts to combat impaired driving.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says he's glad the organization has recognized Illinois "as a national leader in the fight against drunk driving.''

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, alcohol-related crash deaths have dropped by more than 38 percent since White took office.

IDOT reports there were 711 alcohol-related crash deaths in 1999, compared to 436 last year.

This marks the 5th year that MADD has released a national and state rankings report.

The group's rating system focused on efforts including sobriety checkpoints, enhanced penalties for people who drive drunk with children in the vehicle, among other measures.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 18, 2011

Prosecutor: Cellini’s Verdict Should Stand

A federal prosecutor said Springfield power broker William Cellini should not be getting a new trial. This comes despite revelations a juror in his case lied about her criminal record.

Late Thursday night, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald filed a legal response saying Cellini's conviction should stand. Fitzgerald argued the juror had her full civil rights because she completed probation for her convictions. He also said even if she were ruled ineligible to serve, Cellini's attorneys would have to prove she deliberately concealed convictions.

Cellini's attorneys contend she was dishonest, making her a biased juror.

The decision on whether or not Cellini gets a new trial is now in the hands of Federal Judge James Zagel.

Cellini this month was convicted of joining a conspiracy to trade state contracts for campaign contributions for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 17, 2011

Suspect Arrested in Murder of Danville Woman

Police have arrested a suspect in the murder of Angelica Vasquez of Danville.

Champaign resident George Harold Chapman, 41, is accused of the murder. Vasquez's body was discovered on Sept. 27, 2011 on the 1400 Block of Rising Road in Champaign. An autopsy revealed that she had died from suffocation. Police say Chapman bound Vasquez's hands and had attempted to destroy evidence by burning her body.

With assistance from the Champaign Police Department's detective division and the United States Marshal's Office, the Champaign County Sheriff's Office investigators located Chapman in South Carolina on Thursday at around 7:30 a.m. He will be extradited to Champaign County, and arraigned on murder charges.

The Champaign County Sheriff's Office maintains that it is still pursuing the investigation both in Champaign County and out of state.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 15, 2011

Crowd at UI Offers Support, Prayers for Shooting Victims

Friends of those affected by the weekend shootings near the University of Illinois campus are sending their thoughts and prayers to the victims.

Members of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity were among the nearly 300 people attending a candlelight vigil on the Urbana Quad Monday night. Many spoke about U of I graduate Brian Reed, who friends say was critically injured early Sunday. Two others were hurt, including U of I football player Trulon Henry - but no arrests have been made. Henry is recovering after being shot in the hand.

U of I graduate Steven Martin identified himself as the third victim in Sunday's incident. Martin was treated and released Sunday after being shot in the leg. He told the crowd at the Quad that the events of early Sunday are surreal to him.

"Just keep in mind - ain't nothing worth that level of violence," he said. "You keep your head up, we're going to keep our head up, and keep moving. Just realize, we're here for one thing - that's for a better tomorrow."

2009 U of I alumnus Robbie Moore says word spread quickly of Sunday's incident, and many came from out of town to offer support.

"Twenty-five to 30 (fraternity) brothers are here - not even just from this chapter," he said. "Word spread around. We put it on Twitter. We let everybody know where to come, and we all came. And these people are coming from Illinois State (University), Chicago State, Southern (SIU), Northern (NIU), everywhere."

Moore says Reed is from the Chicago area, but was back in Champaign with hopes of attending law school. He told the crowd the events of early Sunday morning should prompt anyone to have a new perspective on life. Martin says the vigil said a lot about the quality of people on campus.

Prior to the vigil, the U of I's African-American Cultural Center hosted a support forum. Urbana Police are still seeking the man who fired into a crowd of about 100 people at a house on South Lincoln Avenue around 3:30 Sunday morning.

Anyone with information should call the Urbana Police Department at 217-384-2320. Callers can remain anonymous by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 373-8477 (TIPS). President Hogan says counselors are on hand to assist students, faculty, and staff. Anyone needing immediate assistance can call the Emergency Dean at 217-333-0050.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 13, 2011

Three Injured in Urbana Shooting Include U of I Football Player

(With additional reporting from the Associated Press)

Urbana police are investigating a shooting early Sunday morning near the University of Illinois campus. Police say three people were injured, including a linebacker with the U of I football team.

The incident happened at 1004 South Lincoln Ave in Urbana at around 3:25am. The three victims include 27-year old Trulon Henry of Savoy, a two-year starter with Illinois. Illinois Coach Ron Zook says Henry was with teammates at the party when he was shot in the hand, and now will miss the rest of the regular season.

The other victims are a 23-year old Park Forest man, and a 22-year old Palos Park man. They were all transported to Carle Hospital for medical treatment, and one has been treated and released. The other two men were receiving treatment, as of Sunday afternoon, and their current condition is unknown. Police say the gunman is still being sought. Zook says a handful of Illinois players, largely underclassmen, were at the party but were not injured.

At this time, Urbana Police have determined that the shooting was an isolated incident that occurred during a house party. An altercation developed between attendees, and the suspect fired several shots into the crowd gathered on a patio, which was estimated at more than 100 people. Zook says Henry wasn't originally at the party, but was called by a teammate to help encourage players to leave after the gathering turned chaotic.

Through preliminary investigations, Urbana Lt. Bryant Seraphin tells the News-Gazette that the shooter is believed to be a black male in his 20s with dreadlocks. He was also wearing a dark colored coat and was last seen in or around a silver Dodge Charger. Upon arrival, officers learned that the suspect had fired several rounds from a handgun. The offender had fled before police arrived at the scene.

U of I President Michael Hogan released a statement late Sunday afternoon, stating that according to U of I police, there was never a threat to students elsewhere on campus, but as soon as the police were able to confer with Urbana officers and confirm the appropriate information to be released, they sent out an Illini-Alert to campus (it was sent at 4:42 a.m.)

Anyone with information should call the Urbana Police Department at 217-384-2320. Callers can remain anonymous by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 373-8477 (TIPS). President Hogan says counselors are on hand to assist students, faculty, and staff. Anyone needing immediate assistance can call the Emergency Dean at 217-333-0050.

Henry is a native of Washington, D.C., and was a starting outside linebacker this season after starting all 13 games as a safety with Illinois in 2010. He's ninth on the team with 39 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.

((This report was updated and revised Sunday, following its original release earlier in the day)).


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 11, 2011

Cellini Attorneys to Seek Mistrial

Defense attorneys for a millionaire convicted of trying to shake down a Hollywood producer say they will file a mistrial motion next week based on new allegations that one juror didn't disclose two felony convictions.

William Cellini's attorney, Dan Webb, told The Associated Press on Friday that he'll ask a federal judge on Monday to toss both convictions and try his client again.

Citing court records, the Chicago Tribune reports a woman with the same name, age and address as the juror pleaded guilty to crack-cocaine possession in 2000 and aggravated driving under the influence without a driver's license in 2008. But the newspaper says she didn't disclose those facts during jury selection.

Webb says the felony convictions made the woman legally unqualified to serve on the jury.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 09, 2011

Grant-Funded UI Officers Will Focus on Preventative Measures

A federal grant will enable the University of Illinois' Police Department to do more outreach tied to a number of the more serious crimes committed on the Urbana campus.

More than $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice will provide for the hiring of two full-time crime prevention specialists and one full-time crime analyst. The focus of the grant is using community policing to address issues surrounding sexual assault, battery, robbery, and alcohol abuse.

Because these new officers won't be on patrol, U of I Sergeant Joan Fiesta says the specialists can communicate more with parent and student groups.

"Because of the energy from crime alerts and some of the concerns that parents have on campus, we want to be able to tap into that and use them as a resource," said Fiesta. "So we will have two people to help organize that, and make sure that those things don't fall through the cracks."

Meanwhile, the analyst will look at crime data. Fiesta says all the specialists will require about special training, but she expects the three to be working by July after the hires take place sometime in December.

The grant comes through the COPS hiring program, or Community Oriented Policing Services.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 09, 2011

Feds Dig Into Blagojevich Pensions

Federal prosecutors are digging for data about convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's potential pension income, even though Illinois officials plan to block the disgraced Democrat from getting any state retirement pay.

The Associated Press obtained copies of subpoenas U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office sent last month to two state pension systems. Fitzgerald's spokesman declined to comment.

Blagojevich is prohibited from collecting his $65,000-a-year pension. But he could get back about $130,000 he paid in. And he's set to collect $13,000 annually for six years in Congress.

Blagojevich will be sentenced Dec. 6 on corruption convictions including trying to sell President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Former federal prosecutor Julian Solotorovsky says prosecutors want to know Blagojevich's net worth to decide whether to request a fine in addition to prison.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 04, 2011

Feds: Rezko’s Cooperation Not a Big Help

Prosecutors say a central figure in the administration of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich never provided particularly useful information about his former benefactor to investigators.

The government makes the claim in a new filing that recommends a prison sentence of between 11 and 15 years for Tony Rezko.

Prosecutors note Rezko only agreed to cooperate after his 2008 conviction on fraud and other charges.

They contrast that with the help provided by Rezko's co-conspirator, Stuart Levine (leh-VYN'). Levine pleaded guilty in 2006 and testified at Rezko's trial and at millionaire William Cellini's recent trial.

The filing says Levine's cooperation was "dramatically more valuable'' than Rezko's.

Rezko offered to testify at Blagojevich's and Cellini's trial. But prosecutors say Rezko's persistent lies after his indictment would have opened him up to damaging cross-examination.


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