Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 19, 2011

Danville Shooting Victim Identified

The Vermilion County Coroner has identified the man who was fatally shot Sunday night at a Danville public housing complex as 25-year old Latrell Smith.

Doug Miller, deputy director of Danville police, said a resident of an apartment in the Fair Oaks public housing complex arrived at 6 p.m. Sunday, finding the victim with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at Provena United Samaritans Medical Center.

Miller says the man who found Smith lives at that apartment, but is not a relative of his. It wasn't immediately clear if Smith lived at that apartment. Miller says detectives are talking to relatives and anyone else who knew Smith in hopes of finding out what happened.

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday morning.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 19, 2011

Judge Refuses to Dismiss Charges Against Indiana Secretary of State

A judge says Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White must face trial on criminal charges including voter fraud that could lead to his removal from office.

Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steven Nation on Monday spurned White's motion to dismiss the seven felony counts. His ruling says an Indiana Recount Commission ruling upholding White's 2010 election has no bearing on the court case and there's no legal authority limiting a prosecution of White.

The Republican won election despite accusations he lied about where he lived in the 2010 primary so he could continue collecting his salary from the Fishers Town Council. A Marion County judge is expected to rule soon on a civil lawsuit by Democrats that seeks to have White declared ineligible for office because he allegedly committed voter fraud.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 17, 2011

Five Shot Dead, Including Three Children, in Livingston County Town

Authorities say they are not searching for a suspect in the deaths of five people found in a home small eastern Illinois town.

Livingston County Sheriff Martin Meredith says first responders found the five people dead in Emington after dispatchers received a call Friday afternoon. Meredith says residents are "safe from any harm'' and authorities are "not looking for anyone in this crime.''

The sheriff said Coroner Michael Burke would release the names of the victims once relatives are notified.

Livingston County board member Bob Young says a man, woman and three children were found dead. He says the children include an infant, a first-grader and a fourth-grader.

A neighbor says he heard two rounds of gunshots before another neighbor called police. Ronald Groetsema lives a street away from the Livingston County home. He says he heard six to eight gunshots on Friday afternoon.

Groetsema says about three minutes passed before he heard another four to six gunshots. He says he saw first responders and a woman's body with children.

Groetsema says the children got off the school bus with his son. He says the children were excited because it was the last day of school before Christmas. His wife Tricia says the children were "sweet little kids.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 15, 2011

Blagojevich Said to be ‘Ripe’ for Drug Program

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.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 14, 2011

Champaign Council Backs Amended Plan for Reviewing Arrest, Use of Force Policy

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.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 13, 2011

Champaign Council Seeks Outside Firm’s Review of June Arrest

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,


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 13, 2011

Judge Agrees to Delay Blagojevich Prison Sentence

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.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 12, 2011

Seven-Hour Standoff in Urbana Ends Peacefully

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.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 09, 2011

Champaign Police Chief Finalists Weigh in on Citizens Police Review Board

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.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 08, 2011

AG: Blagojevich Shouldn’t Collect Pension

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.


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