Illinois Public Media News
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.
The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday that could determine a school district's responsibility to share information about teachers they have suspended or fired.
Jon White was teaching a grade school in Normal when parents complained he was abusing their daughters. He wasn't charged with a crime at the time, but the school did suspend him.
The next school year he was hired to teach second grade at Urbana's Thomas Paine Elementary. White was eventually found out, and is serving a 60-year sentence for sexually abusing 10 girls. The parents of two Urbana victims claim school officials in Normal should have alerted Urbana about the previous complaints.
Governments usually have wide immunity from lawsuits. But Sean Britton, an attorney for one of the victims, says this is not an ordinary case of government neglect.
"This is not the circumstance where a bomb squad fails to adequately cordon off a bomb and protect members of the public," Britton said. "This is a circumstance where the bomb squad takes that bomb, puts it in a package and mails it to another municipality, and says, 'We don't know what's in that package.'"
Attorney James Kearns represents McLean County District 5, where White taught when the original complaints were made. He told the Urbana school that they are at fault.
"You hired this guy without doing any kind of a check on him at all." said Kearns, who also said the Supreme Court has generally ruled employers have no responsibility in making it public why they terminated a contract with a past employee.
"This court has noted multiple times there's no duty from one employer to another to warn anything about an employee," he said.
Justices could take months to issue a ruling.
In response to this case (SCOIL Case No. 112479), Illinois has made a law that addresses the situation in the future. It requires schools that suspect an employee of abuse to report it to the state.
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.
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