Illinois Public Media News
Plans for reducing the front desk staff and cutting lobby hours at Champaign Police Headquarters became one of the most controversial parts of budget cuts approved by the City Council last year. Now, despite the staff cuts, police officials say they've found a way to keep the front desk open to the public on evenings and overnights. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows talked with Champaign Deputy Police Chief Troy Daniels about the new arrangement.
(Photo courtesy of the city of Champaign)
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) wants to know why so many suspects charged with murder and other serious crimes are simply being allowed to live their lives after they flee the country.
The Illinois Democrat is scheduled to meet Thursday with federal, state and local law enforcement officials in hopes of coming up with a plan to capture international fugitives who've committed crimes in the state.
Durbin has urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to do something after a newspaper reported that scores of fugitives remain free even though, in many cases, authorities know exactly where they are.
The Chicago Tribune found a lack of coordination between local, federal and international agencies to capture suspects, some of whom the paper's reporters found living openly in their hometowns in Mexico.
There was drama in a federal court in Chicago Friday over whether to throw out the recent conviction of political heavyweight William Cellini.
That jury that convicted Cellini included Candy Chiles, a Chicago woman who didn't tell to the court about past convictions for drug possession and DUI. Cellini's attorney, Dan Webb, said Chiles lied in an effort to get on the jury, and he wants the conviction reversed.
In Friday's hearing, Chiles gave varying explanations for her mis-statements, including "I don't know" and "I was confused. Nervous. Confused and nervous."
Asked specifically why she didn't disclose the drug conviction, from 1999, during jury selection, Chiles said, "It's in my past. I never mention it at all."
Chiles was instantly unsettled by questions from Cellini's attorney, repeatedly accusing him of treating her like a criminal.
"What's this all about?" she loudly asked Webb. "So you can get [Cellini] off? Leave me alone. I'm tired of you."
"I sat here for 5 weeks [during the trial] and watched the way you work," Chiles said to Webb a bit later. "You keep asking me the same questions to try to trip me up."
Webb was scolded several times by Judge James Zagel for asking adversarial questions of Chiles, "sticking a needle in her." The judge said the information he was getting from the combative testimony was not helpful as he decides whether to throw out Cellini's guilty verdicts.
Zagel told attorneys his ruling will not only weigh on whether Chiles was qualified to be a juror, but whether she had any bias or prejudice after she was on the jury.
A federal grand jury has indicted former NFL wide receiver Sam Hurd on drug conspiracy and possession charges after he and another man were accused of trying to establish a drug-dealing network.
The indictment Wednesday accuses Hurd and codefendant Toby Lujan on single counts of cocaine possession and conspiracy to possess cocaine. It also seeks forfeiture of $88,000 in cash by Lujan and a 2010 Cadillac Escalade by Hurd.
If convicted, both could be sentenced to 10 years to life in prison. Hurd was arrested Dec. 14 outside a Chicago steakhouse after authorities said he agreed to buy a kilogram of cocaine from an undercover agent. The Chicago Bears cut the former Dallas Cowboys receiver Dec. 16, two days after his arrest.
A Champaign police officer is accusing city council members of conducting a 'witch hunt' by seeking an independent review of a June 5 arrest.
Art Miller's comments before the council Tuesday night came three weeks after council members granted city manager Steve Carter the authority to find a firm to investigate the incident. In the police video leaked online, an officer pepper sprayed a college-age African American after he was picked up for jaywalking. The officer also put hands on the neck of the young man in the back of a patrol car. The arresting officer has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Champaign police, Illinois State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Hiring a firm to look at the incident, and the police department's use of force policy will cost $60,000 to $100,000. Miller called the move 'a colossal misuse of taxpayer money' when the city is looking at cuts to the police department's front desk, and he said the council doesn't remind the public of the good work officers do.
"When I chose to answer the call to be a police officer, I knew there was a segment of society that would despise me in what I stand for," Miller said. "But never once did I think I would face such scorn and animosity from officials from the city I work for."
Mayor Don Gerard took exception, citing his comments to the press about officer raises and promotions.
"Every single member of this council appreciates our police department, and I take great exception on behalf of every single one of them for every comment that says: 'nobody ever likes us, nobody ever gives us any praise,' because it's ridiculous and it's nonsense," he said. "We do constantly. Turn on your radio. Read the newspaper."
Gerard also said it's 'tiresome' for him to hear the June arrest has been investigated three times, saying 'it's been investigated zero times' with no interviews conducted.
In response, Miller simply said the mayor has his opinion, and, "I have my opinion. That's the beauty of our country.
A plan to cut service at the Champaign Fire Department has stalled as city officials and the local fire union try to reach an agreement to save the city nearly $420,000 in overtime costs.
The city had set a Jan. 1 deadline to reduce operations for Engine Co. 154 located on West John Street, but recent budget negotiations pushed that date to Jan. 15.
Champaign Firefighters Local 1260 President Chris Zaremba said union members are willing to make concessions to ensure that the truck is available whenever there is an emergency.
"The union is looking at doing approximately $350,000 of that, and the city would essentially match what we're doing to come up with the rest," Zaremba said. "I believe the (union) supports us making some sort of offer to try to keep that company open."
Champaign Fire Chief Doug Forsman said he is cautiously optimistic that an agreement will be reached. However, if there is not a compromise, then service to staff the fire engine would be cut by 75 percent.
While Forsman said Engine Co. 154 is the least busy out of all of the city's fire companies, he acknowledges that reducing service would have an impact on emergency response. If service is reduced for Engine Co. 154, one of the city's adjacent fire stations would have to respond.
"That causes a little bit of a time delay, and causes an area to be uncovered that would normally remain covered during that incident," Forsman said.
A call seeking comment from the city was not immediately returned.
Meanwhile, plans are still in place to stop overnight operations at the front desk of the Champaign Police Department from 7pm until 7am.
Reducing staffing overnight is expected to save the city approximately $140,000. Deputy Chief Troy Daniels said the change will take affect by the middle of January.
"The lobby is not used a lot during those times anyway." Daniels said. "Certainly, we want to keep someone at the front desk at often as possible. Right now, we're being told the cuts should come and that we should implement the cuts, but certainly the council or the city manager's office could tell us otherwise at any time."
Daniels said the department is preparing for the change by modifying the way the public can get a hold of law enforcement when the front desk is closed. Unlike the negotiations going on between the city and the fire union, he noted nothing like that is taking place to prevent the front desk from closing.
The family of a man who allegedly committed suicide while in police custody is suing the city of Chicago for wrongful death.
On Nov. 17, Develt Bradford was found hanging while detained at Area 2 of the Chicago Police Department. Three days later, another detainee, Melvin Woods, was found hanging in his cell at the same police station.
Bradford's family has a fusillade of questions and, on Tuesday, filed a civil lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County.
"If the Chicago police did no wrong, let's find that out. But let's have an independent authority," said Sam Adam Jr., the Bradford family attorney. "What we do not need is 15 years from now to be readdressing this like we had to do with Jon Burge."
The backdrop is that Area 2 used to be under the watch of Jon Burge. A federal jury convicted the former police commander of lying about decades of torturing black men. Bradford and Woods are black. At a press conference Wednesday, Bradford family attorneys sought to make the connection.
Annie Bradford, the mother of Develt Bradford, choked back tears.
"I'm very sad. I'm very disappointed in the way that my son had to go. I just want to know what really happened," Bradford said.
Adam's law firm sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald asking that his office investigate the two alleged suicides.
"When a family member calls me with a tremor in her voice ... can you help us to find out what happened in this situation?" said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago), who flanked attorneys at the press conference. "Then of course, I have no choice except to call upon the highest level of legal investigatorial (sic) authority in the country - and that is the U.S. Attorney's Office - to conduct its own independent investigation."
Attorney Victor Henderson said there are too many unanswered questions about Bradford and Woods' deaths. He said an internal police investigation is not good enough, given the Burge history at Area 2.
"Why were the cameras off? How long were they in custody? Let's see the clothes that they allegedly hung themselves (with). Let's have some forensic tests, have some blood tests," Henderson said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment. The Chicago Police Department gave this statement: "The Chicago Police Department takes the treatment of its arrestees very seriously. The incidents that occurred at Area 2 are currently under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority.
A judge has delayed a hearing sought by Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White in his bid to remain in office.
The judge issued an order last week calling for White's removal from office because he was improperly registered as a candidate when he ran for office in 2010. He later put that order on hold and set a Thursday hearing on White's bid to move the civil case to a higher court.
But Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg moved the hearing to Jan. 3 after White's attorney said the original hearing date was troublesome because it fell between the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
White faces voter fraud and other charges in a separate criminal case over voting from his ex-wife's address in the 2010 primary.
Prosecutors have charged two Indianapolis women with making false claims to try to collect money from funds intended for victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry says Stephanie Murry and Sandra Hurn were charged Tuesday with forgery, attempted theft and perjury. Hurn also was charged with theft.
Authorities say the women each submitted claims totaling $22,500 to a private relief fund and the state tort claim fund.
Prosecutors say both women submitted falsified hospital records detailing injuries they claimed to have suffered at the Aug. 13 concert that killed seven people. A prosecutor's office spokeswoman says neither woman is believed to have attended the concert.
Murry's attorney didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Hurn had no attorney or listed phone number.
A Danville man faces murder charges in connection with the death of his mother on Christmas Day.
Forty four year old Michael Gibbs made his first appearance in Vermilion County Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon. Eighty four year old Ethel Gibbs was found dead in her apartment on East View Drive Sunday.
Danville Police have not disclosed how Gibbs died. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Michael Gibbs, who lists the same address as his mother, faces four counts of first degree murder, and one of aggravated battery. He remains in custody on $1-million bond, and will be back in court Jan. 12.
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