Illinois Public Media News
A probation report says ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich may be a "ripe candidate'' for a drug treatment program in prison.
That's according to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky, who says he doesn't know what Blagojevich said to a probation officer to lead to that conclusion.
Judge James Zagel has agreed to recommend Blagojevich for a drug treatment program when he starts his 14-year prison sentence for corruption in March.
Sorosky tells the Chicago Sun-Times that there's documentation Blagojevich has a history of drug abuse, but he didn't elaborate.
No one has revealed why Blagojevich would be eligible for the drug program.
The request could be a move to cut time off his sentence. Prisoners in the program are eligible for up to a year in reduced time.
Champaign City Manager Steve Carter now has authority to explore the use of an outside firm to review a controversial June 5 arrest.
But a bill was amended in Tuesday night's 8 to 1 vote by the Champaign City Council, asking that Carter show them a contract first. Some council members cited the $60,000 to $100,000 cost, and whether such a plan needed passage Tuesday.
The review is being sought after Illinois State Police and the FBI found no violations of departmental policy or civil rights violations tied to a June 5 arrest in Campustown. A police video of the incident showed the young man being pepper sprayed, and the officer was seen placing his hands on the arrestee's neck.
The independent review would also look into the police department's use of force policy. A representative of the Fraternal Order of Police contends Carter, and no officers, is responsible for problems tied to the strategy. Becky Dragoo is a field supervisor for the union, based in Springfield.
"How dare you point and accuse a questioning finger at the very police officers -- your own soldiers -- you sent out with this policy to guide their actions," she told Carter. "And now you dare to try to shift the blame to them for its consequences."
Council member Tom Bruno says he hears comments in the community that the council has been "shopping around" until it gets the answer it's looking for.
"I for one just want on whose conclusion we can reasonably rely upon," said Bruno. "That we know that it's well founded and good police work went into the investigation."
Bruno says everyone involved in the June 5 arrest deserves a thorough investigation, one that includes witness interviews. Council member Michael LaDue says a review needs to be done periodically anyway to uphold what he calls "human infrastructure."
"Instead of fastening and fixating one on incident involving a couple of officers, one of whom deployed pepper spray, and the situation defined in that context is resisting, I think we need a broader analysis -- we need a larger field analysis."
Council member Paul Faraci cast last night's lone no vote, saying most people in his district are opposed to spending the money. He says a new Champaign police chief will address these concerns when that person is hired early next year.
Champaign's city council Tuesday night will look into the hiring of an outside agency to investigate a June arrest in the Campustown neighborhood.
The review is also being sought to look at the city police department's use of force policy. On the early morning hours of June 5th, a leaked police dash camera video showed a young man being pepper sprayed as he was picked up for jaywalking. The video also shows the arresting officer putting his hands on the neck of the African-American man in his early 20's.
After a request for review by Illinois State Police, the agency said the officer's actions were consistent with city policy. And the FBI said no there were no criminal civil rights violations. The hiring of a firm is expected to cost $60-thousand-to-$100-thousand. Champaign council member Marci Dodds says it's unfortunate that finances are so tight, but the move is necessary for those involved in the arrest, as well as police department morale.
"It doesn't help matters any that there's a lot of distrust by some portions of the community, specifically, African-American, of the police department," she said. "So the police department can't even get upright before somebody's kicking them. Either they're kicking themselves, one department is kicking the other, or the outside is kicking them."
City council member Tom Bruno was part of the original request for Illinois State Police. He says the agency's effort was 'worthless', without giving the city any direction. And Bruno says getting a firm's opinion is the only way the city, the officer, and man arrested can move on.
"We have a great deal of money invested in the police officer's career," he said. "We want to make sure that if he's done nothing wrong that he can be vindicated and be an effective police officer in the future. If he has done something wrong, we want to know that just as well. We have a citizen who might be aggrieved, we have a video that certainly struck a nerve in the community. So this is what you have to do."
Bruno says he and city manager Steve Carter were told it would take several weeks for an investigation into the June arrest - and was 'shocked' to see State Police had concluded their investigation a couple days later, without interviewing witnesses.
The city council begins at 7 Tuesday night in the city building,
A federal judge has agreed to delay the start of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's prison term.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel agreed Tuesday to allow Blagojevich to report to prison March 15. Blagojevich previously was ordered to begin serving his 14-year term on Feb. 16. He was convicted of corruption charges including allegations that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.
Blagojevich's attorneys asked for more time so he could help his family move into a new home. Zagel also agreed to recommend that Blagojevich be sent to the Englewood prison in Colorado. Federal prison officials have the final say.
Attorney Sheldon Sorosky says he isn't sure why Blagojevich wants that prison; he says the Blagojevich family isn't moving to Colorado.
Five men from Urbana have been arrested and charged with home invasion following a standoff at an Urbana apartment complex Monday morning.
Urbana Police Lieutenant Bryant Seraphin says shortly after 3 a.m., the men broke into a unit at the Country Club Apartments in the 900 block of North Broadway Avenue, wielding guns and knives. But Seraphin says a female tenant was able to escape and call police.
Seraphin says Champaign County SWAT team negotiators were able to talk the four men out of the building around 10 a.m. He says the relationship between the men and victim is still unclear at this point.
"Initial information is that yes, there was some connection," said Seraphin. "We're trying to sort that out as to why this apartment was chosen. But I do not believe it was a random act."
There are no reports of injuries.
UPDATE: The tenant at the apartment complex tells police the five men claimed to be hiding from police when they broke in her apartment and stole items. A robot later used to search the apartment later found it was unoccupied, and the five men were discovered in an adjoining apartment. Those taken into custody are identified as 23-year old Sherrick Cooper, 19-year old Terrell Larue, 19-year old Herbert Shah, 25-year old Eric Kirk, and a 16-year old juvenile. The stolen items were recovered, along with two handguns.
One of the men in custody, Terrell LaRue, was arrested in August in connection with the February murder in Danville of 25-year old Kevin Jackson. But the case against him was dropped last week in Champaign County Court after witnesses couldn't be found to testify against him.
The area near the apartment was blocked to traffic for several hours, but re-opened about 10:30 a.m.
Champaign residents had the chance Thursday night to hear from the four people vying to become the city's next police chief. The event was organized by groups like the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the NAACP, and the ACLU.
This was the first time the city of Champaign held public interviews with each of the police chief candidates. They each answered 11 questions based on topics submitted by the public ranging from police community relations to the use of excessive force.
The police force has faced heavy criticism in the last few years over police-community relations. Those concerns have prompted renewed calls for a citizens police review board.
Urbana Assistant Chief of Police Anthony Cobb said he wants to bring credibility back to the Champaign Police Department. Cobb said he was involved in creating Urbana's Civilian Police Review Board, and he acknowledged that it could work in Champaign.
"In order to do it correctly, it's going to take both sides - the citizens and the police - to sit down and truly tackle what are the issues we're trying to address," Cobb said.
But Kim Johnson, who's the police captain in East Lansing Michigan, said he doesn't have a citizens police review board where he works, and it has worked out just fine.
"We've been very transparent in how we do policing in East Lansing," Johnson said. "So, I'm not in favor of the citizen review board."
Johnson said if he becomes Champaign's next police chief, he would try to make the department more transparent. However, if there is still a need for a citizens police review board, he said he would support one.
Another one of the candidates is St. Louis, Missouri Police Lieutenant Colonel Antoinette Filla, who has worked with the same police force for nearly 40 years. She said she likes the idea of that kind of oversight, and she said other police officers shouldn't be discouraged by it.
"I know officers think that as soon as a citizen's review board comes in that everybody's going to get fired, and that's not the case," she said.
The other candidate being considered for the job is Gregory Anderson, who is the police chief in the Chicago suburb of Oak Forrest. He is opened-minded about a citizens police review board, saying if it's done; it needs to be done right.
"But I would hope there's other ways we could do it by the police department being much more open with the public, being transparent, and explaining the police processes in exactly why we do things in a certain way," Anderson said.
All of the candidates said Champaign's police force could have a stronger relationship with the community that is built on transparency and respect.
"We have a situation in Champaign where we have a great police force and a great community, and we need to integrate them," said Mayor Don Gerard. "I think that community-based policing is the way to go."
Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said one of these candidates will likely be offered the job as the city's police chief right after the start of new year, and begin work in February or March.
The Illinois Attorney General says Rod Blagojevich shouldn't collect the $65,000 yearly pension he earned as governor.
The Thursday opinion comes a day after Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years for corruption including that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
The General Assembly Retirement System board moved last month to block payments to newly convicted ex-officials. Blagojevich turns 55 Saturday.
In her opinion, Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the convictions arose in connection with his service to Illinois and that the former governor repeatedly misused his position for personal benefit.
The opinion has been sent to the board, which makes the final decision.
Blagojevich is eligible for a $15,000 annual pension he earned during his six years in Congress.
Bond has been set at $500,000 for a Fithian man arrested in connection with the stabbing of a University of Illinois law professor.
Joshua Scaggs, 23, faces attempted murder and aggravated battery charges in connection with the attack of Dhammika Dharmapala, 41, of Champaign. The incident occurred shortly before 6 AM on Wednesday in the Amtrak waiting area of the Illinois Terminal Building.
According to a witness account given to Champaign Police, both Dharmapala and the suspect were sitting in the Amtrak waiting area, when the suspect jumped up and shouted that this was his country. He then attacked Dharmapala, grabbing him around the neck. The witness then intervened, pulling the suspect away, and discovering he had stabbed his victim in the neck with a utility knife. Champaign County State's Attorney Julie Rietz said other witnesses stepped forward to keep the situation under control until police arrived.
Dharmapala was taken to Carle Hospital in Urbana, but no information was available on his condition as of Thursday morning. At Scaggs' arraignment in Champaign County Court Thursday afternoon, he appeared via video conference, surrounded by correctional officers.
Scaggs' attorney, Baku Patel of Urbana, has requested that his client undergo mental and physical evaluations. Authorities say he's locked in isolation at the county's satellite jail.
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan wrote in an email to faculty and students said that university was "deeply saddened" by the stabbing, and expressed gratitude for those who intervened.
Champaign Police had originally included hate crime charges in their arrest of Scaggs. But Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said they would not prosecute him on that charge. She said the attempted murder and aggravated battery charges actually carry stiffer penalties than the hate crime charge. However, Rietz noted that "the underlying motive for the offense will be taken into account as the case moves forward."
Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for federal civil rights charges to be filed against Scaggs. In a news release, the organization stated that Dharmapala is not Muslim, but was singled out due to his perceived ethnicity. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper stated, "our society must begin to address the rising level of anti-Muslim sentiment that can lead to such disturbing incidents."
Scaggs is due back in court on Dec. 15th.
Judge Sentences Blagojevich to 14 Years on Corruption Charges
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media and The Associated Press)
Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The head of the Illinois Republican Party says he hopes that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence leads to reform and "fiscal sanity'' in Illinois.
GOP chairman Pat Brady says the former Democratic governor and those around him continued to burden Illinois citizens with financial mismanagement.
Brady says the sentence ends the "Blagojevich saga.'' A federal judge sentenced Blagojevich on Wednesday for corruption that included trying to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
It's one of the stiffest penalties for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics.
Blagojevich apologized for his crimes and asked the judge for mercy earlier Wednesday.
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