Illinois Public Media News
After weeks of delay, the Champaign County Board has agreed to seek out a needs assessment study for jail facilities.
The plan to bring in a consulting firm has been discussed for weeks. In Tuesday night's 5-hour committee of the whole meeting, the board agreed to an amended schedule for a criminal justice consulting firm to look at jail capacity needs. That firm will decide costs for either remodeling the jail in downtown Urbana, or expanding the satellite facility. The board is expected to award a contract by late July.
A number of amendments to the request for proposals were shot down. A couple came from Democrat Carol Ammons, who says she's still pleased overall.
"This process has long and tedious for the important reasons, right?" she said. "This is a huge undertaking, and I think we need a complete vetting of what we're going to actually do. And this is the beginning of that process."
Ammons did successfully seek out one motion, asking that a person of color from a minority-influenced county board district serve on a planning team that will also include sheriff Dan Walsh, State's Attorney Julia Reitz, and two other board members.
That suggestion didn't sit well with Reitz, who upset those who remained in the audience.
"Those of us who have volunteered to serve on this committee, to be part of this process, have the best interest of the county, and the system as a whole at heart," she said. "I'm absoutely willing to hear from anybody who has an interest, who wants to say something. But I do not think there needs to be a token person of color on the committee."
County Board Democrat and Facilties Committee Chair Tom Betz threatened to empty the room after members of the public snapped back at Reitz. The suggestion passed on a party line vote of 12 to 11, with all the 'yes' votes coming from Democrats. Ammons will ask the board to appoint her to that panel.
She and other members of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice have been critical of local authorities, saying there's a racial disparity of those incarcerated in Champaign County.
There were 289 arrests made and citations issued during Friday's Unofficial St. Patrick's Day celebration in Champaign-Urbana's Campustown.
Preliminary figures issued shortly before 3 A.M. Saturday morning could be revised later. But currently, they show the lowest number of citations and arrests for the unsanctioned celebration in three years, compared to 364 last year, 351 in 2010 and 269 in 2009. Authorities think Friday's rain helped put a damper on the outdoor celebrating.
107 of those cited were students at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. But several other college campuses were represented, including Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University campuses at Carbondale and Edwardsville, the U of I's Springfield and Chicago campuses, DePaul University, the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, the universities of Missouri, Wisconsin and Iowa, Bradley University and several community colleges. The overwhelming majority of those cited were under 21; the oldest was 30.
At least 3 of the citations resulted in arrests on state charges, with the subjects taken to the Champaign County Sheriff's Office.
Most citations were for underage drinking or public possession of alcohol. But in addition to those charges, two people were charged with fighting. And four people at an apartment on Green Street were cited for throwing dangerous objects.
University of Illinois spokesperson Jennifer Payan says preliminary figures show that 12 people required medical attention, with eight of them transported to the hospital.
Payan also said the Illinois State Liquor Commission reported citations against two Campustown bars. The Red Lion (211 East Green, Champaign) was cited for 30 violations of Happy Hour laws, while Kam's (618 E Daniel, Champaign) was cited for 14 Happy Hour violations.
In announcing plans for dealing with Unofficial St. Patrick's Day, local authorities said they would be focusing on nuisance behavior and underage drinking at private parties. Champaign Police Lieutenant Brad Yohnka said the policy of raising the entry age to 21 during Unofficial had made bars less of a concern.
Unofficial St. Patrick's Day was originally launched as a Campustown bar promotion in the 1990s, in response to times when the actual St. Patrick's Day occurred during the University of Illinois' spring break. But the event has taken on a life of its own in recent years, attracting many of out-of-town visitors.
A Champaign man faces an obstruction of justice charge following the death of a LeRoy woman in north Champaign early Wednesday morning.
The Champaign County Coroner's office identified her as 23-year old Hannah Prospal, who was pronounced dead at 7 a.m.
Her body was discovered in a trailer in the parking lot of Carpet Master Carpet One on West Bloomington Road.
A man who reported being with Prospal when she became unresponsive, 34-year old Steven Killam, was questioned and later arrested.
Police say the trailer is Killiam's home. Champaign detectives say he had removed evidence from the scene which may have helped identify how Prospal died. Results of an autopsy are pending.
A Chicago man has been ordered to spend a year and four months in federal prison for threatening to bomb Southern Illinois University's Carbondale campus and kill 4,000 students and staff.
Twenty-three-year-old Maurice Wiggins was sentenced Monday in East St. Louis on a felony charge of making a bomb threat. He pleaded guilty in November.
Authorities contend Wiggins was upset about the break-up with his SIU-student girlfriend last August when he made the threat via a message from his cell phone to the 20,000-student university's crime-watch website.
Wiggins allegedly said he planned to bomb three dormitories and a student center.
Authorities say Wiggins also left a message with campus police, threatening to rape and kill 30 female students.
Champaign Police say two robberies that occurred on West Bloomington Road last week share a lot of similarities.
The first one occurred Friday, Feb. 24, at the Security Finance office at 823 West Bloomington Rd. Police say a man entered, demanded money from a female employee, and then knocked her down and took her to the rear of the business. He fled with a undisclosed amount of cash.
Then on Saturday, Feb. 25, police say a man entered the America's Financial Choice office next door at 821 W. Bloomington Rd., and attacked a female employee, taking her to the rear of the business. In this case, the victim said she was stunned or Tasered by the man. Again, police say the man left with an undisclosed amount of money. A security camera captured images of the suspect --- one of which is shown above.
Champaign Police that in both robberies, the victims gave similar descriptions of their attackers --- but with specific differences.
The attacker in the Security Finance first robbery is described as a black male, between 40-50 years old, weighing 180 pounds, approximately 5'5" tall and waring a black Carhart-like hooded coat, dark pants and dark-colored shoes. Police say the suspect also had a thin mustache and wore gloves during the robbery.
In the America's Financial Choice robbery, the suspect is described as a black male, with a height of 5'11", weighing approximately 200 pounds, and in his 40's. He was wearing a red "hoodie", black sunglasses and lighter colored blue jeans.
Champaign Police is asking anyone with information on these robberies to contact the department at 217-351-4545, or contact Champaign Crime Stoppers anonymously at 217-373-8477 or by texting keyword "CCTIP" plus the information to 274637 (CRIMES).
Two Champaign men are in custody in connection with the alleged beating and robbery of a man from Australia in Urbana last October.
17-year olds Dorian Wills and Ralph Grey made their first court appearance Friday afternoon. They're also facing counts of attempted murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery, and being held on $750-thousand bond following Friday's court apperance. A third arrest is expected, but 17-year old Anthony Davis is in the Department of Corrections, so it's not known when he'll be in court.
Champaign Detective Robb Morris says 33-year old Clinton Fookes had been in Washington, D.C. for a conference, and was visiting with computer science faculty at the U of I.
Morris says the man had apparently lost his way on the evening of October 20th when walking from downtown Champaign into Urbana, and five men lured him into a stolen van. He says the men sought out to find someone with money on them.
"More than one of them admitted when they left a house they'd been at earlier in the evening, their intent was to find an easy mark for a robbery," Morris said.
Morris says Fookes was left for dead in a barn on far North Mattis Avenue in Champaign, but was able to flag down a car the following morning, and was treated at Carle Hospital for a laceration to the back of his head, concussion, broken nose, cuts, and scrapes.
Morris says property stolen from Fookes linked him to those arrested. He doesn't expect further arrests, since the other two men in the van didn't play a role in the attack.
Morris says Fookes is now recovering at home.
Urbana Assistant Police Chief Anthony Cobb has been selected as the new chief of police for the city of Champaign.
Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said Cobb has a solid track record based on his 20-year tenure with the Urbana Police Department.
"He's very clear from a leadership standpoint, which is really important about understanding the issues and some of the things that need to be done," Carter said.
Cobb said his top priority will be to improve morale within the Champaign police force.
The issue of police community relations in the department has come under scrutiny in the last few years following the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington.
A number of citizens have also alleged that Champaign police have used excessive force when arresting two African American youths in the last few months.
Cobb said he plans to take a closer look at the department's use of force policy, and work to improve relations with the community.
"Situations and obstacles that we're facing at the Champaign Police Department, those didn't come about overnight and we're not going to get them corrected overnight. It's going to take time. It's going to take commitment. It's going to take effort," " Cobb said. "I would love to get to the point when I'm ready to retire from the city of Champaign, everyone who's back here says he's done a good job."
Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery said she is looking forward to working with Cobb. She said having someone who is familiar with Champaign-Urbana will go a long way.
"He has shown that he is a leader in the community," Avery said. "I think his community policing speaks for itself. So, I think that we're off to a great start with our new Chief Cobb."
Cobb has been with the Urbana Police Department since 1992, starting off as a patrol officer for about four years, later advancing to a school resource juvenile officer, to eventually becoming assistant chief of police in 2010. He was the department's first community policing officer, and he piloted a program related to the Urbana Police Department's current community policing approach.
"A lot of people feel that since I'm an African American from an African American community that's where all my interests and talents are going to lie," Cobb said. "That's not true. I am committed to the citizens of Champaign period."
The last time Champaign had an African American police chief was in the early 1980's with William Dye, who held that position from 1975 until 1982.
Cobb was selected to lead Campaign's Police Department from a field of more than 45 candidates following the retirement of R.T. Finney in Jan. 2012. He will join the Champaign Police Department on March 12, and will earn a salary of $140,000 a year.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
There will be no retrial for a longtime Illinois powerbroker in what was seen as the last trial to grow out of an investigation of prison-bound ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A federal judge Tuesday on denied a request from attorneys for a new trial for businessman William Cellini.
The ruling comes after jurors convicted the Springfield Republican in November of conspiring to shake down the Oscar-winning producer of "Million Dollar Baby'' for a contribution to Blagojevich's campaign.
In asking Judge James Zagel to do the trial over, defense attorneys had cited revelations that one juror lied about her criminal record during jury selection and thereby denied Cellini a fair trial.
But prosecutors argued there was no proof the woman harbored bias towards Cellini or performed her juror duties poorly.
A federal judge is set to rule late Tuesday afternoon on whether convicted power broker William Cellini will get a new trial. Cellini's case was supposed to be the last trial directly related to the decade-long investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Late last year Cellini was convicted of corruption. But Cellini's lawyers requested a new trial on the grounds one juror lied about her criminal record during the jury selection process. The Chicago juror, Candy Chiles, didn't disclose past convictions for drug possession and a DUI.
Cellini's lawyers say that created a built-in bias.
But prosecutors say even if she lied intentionally, there's no proof she had any bias against Cellini or did a poor job as a juror.
Judge James Zagel is asking for evidence that the juror's behavior directly affected the outcome of the trial.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
It is likely that former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley will not have to testify about the Burge torture scandal because the city is seeking a settlement with torture victims.
A federal judge has ordered Daley to sit for a deposition in the case of Michael Tillman, who was tortured by police under former commander Jon Burge. That means Daley would have to answer questions on what he knew about the Burge torture scandal and when.
Many of the Burge victims were prosecuted and sent to prison when Daley was the Cook County state's attorney, but it's very possible that Daley will never have to answer those questions because the city is engaged in settlement negotiations on the Tillman case.
The revelation came in a hearing in federal court last week when Judge Elaine Bucklo asked about the status of those negotiations.
City attorneys said they would get a response to the torture victims by the end of this week. Neither the city nor the attorneys for the torture victims will comment on the negotiations.
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