Illinois Public Media News
Lawmakers from Central Illinois urged the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees on Friday to keep the police training institute open on the Urbana campus.
Last fall, a faculty panel suggested closing the institute to save $900,000 annually. It has been around for more than 55 years.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing is part of the state's Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, which has been looking to find sustainable funding for the U of I's Police Training Institute. She said the program should stay open.
"We understand the quality, and we don't want a short-term financial difficulty to halt a program that people really depend on and have really depended on as a standard for excellence in Illinois," Prussing said.
State Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) said he and other legislatures have put together a proposal to raise a fee on criminal convictions to help maintain the program.
"My goal is to not just have PTI remain in Champaign County," Rose said. "My goal is to have the best PTI in the world in Champaign County."
If the Police Training Institute does close, University of Illinois Police Chief Barbara O'Connor has said it would make more sense to have such a facility in a central location like Springfield rather than Macomb.
A federal judge says it will take two days to sentence ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel says he expects Blagojevich's sentencing on 18 corruption-related counts to last through Tuesday and Wednesday.
Zagel told Blagojevich's attorneys Friday that they won't have to "cram everything in'' on Tuesday. Even if both sides finish their arguments in one day, Zagel says he'll likely have questions for them.
Prosecutors have asked Zagel to sentence Blagojevich to 15 to 20 years in prison. Attorneys for the 54-year-old impeached governor say a more reasonable sentence is between 3 1/2 years and more than 4 years. Blagojevich's attorneys also have presented the judge with reasons to issue a lesser sentence.
Federal Judge James Zagel on Friday denied Rod Blagojevich's last ditch efforts to get his convictions thrown out. In what's become his trademark monotone voice that makes him sound perpetually bored, Zagel spent almost an hour explaining his decisions during the governor's two trials.
Blagojevich's defense attorneys had asked Zagel to throw out the convictions saying the judge was unfair to them and that he forced the governor to testify.
Zagel said Blagojevich was one vote away from being convicted on very serious charges in the first trial, and the hold out juror may have held an honest but mistaken view of political dealing. Zagel said based on that, Blagojevich made the decision to testify because he knew he had to explain disturbing passages on tapes where he sounded like an angry person with an obsessive concern for his personal welfare above all else. And Zagel noted that because of the testimony, several jurors found Blagojevich to be a likable person.
Zagel also said he used a neutral tone when admonishing Blagojevich who often gave long answers that included lots of irrelevent facts about U.S. history. Blagojevich spent seven days on the stand testifying.
Zagel noted that he did raise his voice once when Blagojevich started talking about his cousin who had died at Children's Memorial Hospital. Zagel said he only raised his voice because he had already warned Blagojevich not to discuss that issue. Blagojevich brought up his cousin, ostensibly to explain that he had a long and close relationship with Children's Memorial Hospital and would never try to extort them for campaign contributions, as he was accused of doing. At Friday's hearing, Zagel pointed out that it would be strange for Blagojevich to feel inclined toward the hospital that failed to save the life of his cousin. Zagel said he though Blagojevich was just trying to win the sympathy of the jury.
Blagojevich's sentencing hearing will start Tuesday. Attorneys for both sides said they expected the hearing to wrap up in one day, but Zagel said he's not going to hand down his decision before Wednesday.
The University of Illinois is responding to allegations of sexual misconduct at other schools by reviewing its own policies.
The scandals and Penn State and Syracuse got the attention of Illinois President Michael Hogan.
"I think it's alarming to all of us and I'm no different, it's shocking," Hogan said. "Particularly when it involves a university, it's very, very shocking. We're not above it. The University of Illinois, we have 80 thousand students. You throw in the faculty and the staff, it's a big city almost. It's a medium sized city. So we're not immune to things going wrong, people making mistakes."
Hogan has ordered staff to go through the rules regarding sexual abuse to see if anything should be changed.
"We have a very, very good record on these things on all three of our campuses, but you can never be too sure or too safe," he said. "So it's just an occasion and opportunity for us to review our current policies."
Hogan said he wants to make it clear that anyone who witnesses inappropriate conduct is required to report it. He added that job protection would be given to the witness. Hogan said all university employees will undergo training to educate them on sexual harassment.
The policies will also cover non-university activities that use school facilities, including youth sports camps.
The U.S. House ethics committee announced on Friday that it will continue its investigation of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. The panel also released hundreds of pages of documents from the inquiry.
The ethics committee stressed in a statement that just because it's keeping the investigation open "does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred."
The inquiry centers on whether Jackson was involved in pay-to-play offers, or used taxpayer resources, when the Chicago Democrat tried to win a U.S. Senate appointment from then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
According to testimony at Blagojevich's two corruption trials, supporters of Jackson offered the governor millions in campaign contributions if he appointed Jackson to the Senate.
The committee on Friday released more than 300 pages, including notes from interviews with the congressman, his staff and his brother. At the bottom of the stack was a copy of talking points prepared by Jackson's staff, apparently intended to help comedian Bill Cosby call Blagojevich to urge Jackson's appointment. The documents do not mention whether Cosby ever made the call.
The documents also include a brief written by Jackson's lawyers that said he "acted honorably at all times" and was never aware of any pay-to-play offers. The lawyers argued that any government resources used in his non-"traditional" campaign for the Senate appointment were "permissible" under exceptions in the House rules.
In a statement, Jackson said, "For the first time in three years my side of the story will be made public and for that I am grateful."
Jackson faces a primary election challenge in March from former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who's criticized him for "ethical distractions."
The ethics committee's investigation had long been stalled at the request of the U.S. Justice Department. The inquiry resumed after Blagojevich's conviction this summer, including on charges that he attempted to profit from his power to appoint a U.S. senator.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is relying on arguments he made at trial to convince the judge to give him a short prison sentence.
Prosecutors are asking for 15 to 20 years.
Using the federal sentencing guidelines, Blagojevich's lawyers calculate that he should do about three and a half years but they're asking for a downward departure from that starting point. However, under the same federal guidelines prosecutors have calculated the starting point at 30 years though they are asking for less.
Lawyers will haggle over those calculations at the governor's sentencing hearing next Tuesday, and Blagojevich's lawyers will be using arguments they tried to sell to jurors. They say Blagojevich wasn't trying to get bribes, but he was just fundraising. They insist he had no intention of doing anything illegal.
Blagojevich's attorneys also say the governor did not have a leadership role in the criminal activity.
"Mr. Blagojevich sought and took advice from people he trusted," Blagojevich's attorneys stated. "Mr. Blagojevich followed rather than led.
Ill. State Police Settle Wrongful Conviction Suit
The Illinois State Police agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a former death row inmate who spent almost two decades in prison for the 1986 murders of a newlywed couple before a judge released him because of flawed evidence.
Attorney's for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich say he's a "tragic figure" who should receive a light sentence for his corruption convictions. But prosectuors want a federal judge to give Blagojevich 15 to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced next week.
Both sides outlined their arguments in court filings Wednesday. Blagojevich is set to be sentenced Dec. 6.
Prosecutors say a heavy sentence is required because former Gov. George Ryan's 6 1/2- year sentence clearly wasn't long enough to deter Blagojevich and others from engaging in public corruption. They also point out that Blagojevich won office on a pledge to clean up corruption.
Blagojevich's lawyers say his sentence should fall under the federal guidlines of 41 to 51 months in prison.
Prosecutors say Blagojevich engaged in criminal activity even after he had been interviewed by the FBI, when he knew he was under investigation, and when many of his closest advisors had already been indicted and convicted. They say Blagojevich has a law degree and knew he was committing crimes and yet, to this day, he insists he did nothing wrong.
Prosecutors also argue that Blagojevich should get a heavier sentence than Tony Rezko.
Rezko is the former Blagojevich fundraiser who was given a 10 1/2-year sentence just last week for his role in the corrupt administration. Prosecutors say, as governor, Blagojevich bears more responsibility in the conspiracy than Rezko, who was a private citizen.
And unlike Blagojevich, Rezko provided valuable cooperation after he was convicted. Prosecutors also point out that Blagojevich spent seven days on the stand telling stories that the jury ultimately found to be lies.
Furthermore, Rezko had no part in Blagojevich's attempts to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat because he was already in prison by that time in 2008.
Prosecutors say Blagojevich still hasn't accepted responsibility for his actions.
But in their Wednesday court filing, the ex-governor's lawyers paint him as a "tragic figure" who has undergone a precipitous fall from being Illinois' executive, to an "impeached, unemployed criminal defendant, abaondoned by all of his advisors and friends; a figure drawing public ridicule and scorn."
His lawyers conclude by saying "despite a strong and seemingly defiant exterior, no one is more acutely aware of the tragedy that has become his life's work and aspirations as is Mr. Blagojevich himself.
After her older brother disappeared in 1976, Laura O'Leary suspected that the 19-year-old construction worker had probably died at the hands of John Wayne Gacy. But the family was never able to prove it.
They got little help from authorities. And they couldn't locate any dental records to compare with the skeletal remains found beneath the serial killer's house.
So O'Leary waited, clinging for more than 30 years to a few items that once belonged to William George Bundy - a bracelet she'd given him for his 18th birthday, a high school photo ID and an autographed school book.
O'Leary's worst suspicions were confirmed Tuesday, when authorities announced that Bundy was one of the eight unidentified young men found under Gacy's home.
"Today's terribly sad, but it is also a day that provides closure," O'Leary said. "We have been waiting for a long time for closure."
The identification of Bundy came weeks after the sheriff's office issued a public plea for families of young men who disappeared in the 1970s to submit DNA samples for comparison with the victims' remains.
Investigators exhumed the remains earlier this year, hoping that the passage of time and advancement of technology would work in their favor. They established a hotline and a website for people to file reports.
O'Leary, who was 15 when her brother vanished, said she immediately went to the site after hearing the news. She and her brother, Robert, provided DNA samples. The sheriff's office also received a call from a friend of Bundy's who said he believed his friend may have worked for Gacy.
"For so many years, we've had unanswered questions," O'Leary said. "There were no leads. Time went by."
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said the office received calls from 29 states and developed a total of 125 leads, 80 of which required follow up.
Eleven DNA samples were submitted in connection with some of the seven other victims. Four samples did not match, and investigators are waiting on the others, working with a lab at the University of North Texas.
"People are really desperate to find their missing loved ones, and there are not a lot of outlets," Detective Jason Moran said.
He said investigators were learning more about Gacy, his victims and gaps in police work in the 1970s and 1980s, including missing-persons reports that were never followed up or pursued.
Gacy is remembered as one of history's most bizarre killers, largely because of his work as an amateur clown. He was convicted of murdering 33 young men, sometimes luring them to his Chicago-area home for sex by impersonating a police officer or promising them construction work.
The building contractor stabbed one and strangled the others between 1972 and 1978. Most were buried in a crawl space under his home. Four others were dumped in a river.
Gacy was executed in 1994.
Bundy, who grew up in Chicago, was last seen in October 1976 heading out to a party, authorities said. He had forgotten his wallet at home.
A day after he vanished, his family filed a missing-persons report. But, O'Leary said, "it wasn't pursued aggressively."
Bundy's family contacted authorities again when news of Gacy and his victims became public, but they had no way to identify any remains. Their dentist had retired and destroyed all dental records.
Two years later, Bundy's remains were found under Gacy's house, identified only as "Victim No. 19" because his was the 19th body removed from a crawl space beneath Gacy's home.
Investigators said there is no way to know for sure the circumstances of Bundy's death or how he came into contact with Gacy. But Dart said it appeared the motive was luring Bundy with the promise of construction work.
Bundy's disappearance and the unanswered questions weighed heavily on O'Leary's family. Her parents died years ago.
"My mother, she was never really the same," O'Leary said, declining to discuss matters in detail. She said she and her brother want time to heal.
O'Leary and her brother recalled Bundy as a teenager who had a lot of friends, was an excellent diver and excelled at gymnastics. Many of her girlfriends wanted to date him, she joked.
She said learning the truth about his fate allowed the family to close a door. Bundy's amended death certificate was submitted to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
The family plans to put up a grave marker for Bundy in the spring and have a ceremony at the cemetery where other relatives are buried.
"The sorrow will eventually go away," she said. "And I'll have a place to visit him."
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
The federal judge who will sentence impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges had harsh words for one of the former governor's latest legal moves.
Blagojevich's attorneys filed a motion last week asking for permission to play tapes at the governor's sentencing hearing Dec. 6.
They say the tapes are necessary to show Blagojevich's lack of ill intent, an indication that Blagojevich is not likely to apologize for his crimes.
In denying the motion Zagel notes it was filed on Thanksgiving day. Zagel said the court was closed and this was not an emergency motion because there was no new evidence, the defense has been in possession of the tapes for many months.
Zagel noted that the defendant didn't even give the court the courtesy notice through email and writes that the practice is, "difficult to defend under any circumstances and made more so because of the nature of the motion."
Zagel said Blagojevich's attorneys didn't say what part of the calls they want to play. He said they're basically asking for his quote, "blind approval."
Blagojevich is set to be sentenced in 8 days.
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