Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 22, 2011

Ex-Blagojevich Fundraiser Sentenced to Prison for Second Time

For the second time in two months, Tony Rezko was back in front of a judge Thursday to be sentenced to federal prison. Rezko was a fundraiser for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Rezko was recently sentenced to 10-and-a-half years behind bars for his role in corruption in the Blagojevich administration. On Thursday, he was back in front of a judge to be sentenced in a different case. This time for lying to get some loans to keep his failing businesses afloat. The case was brought as prosecutors were applying pressure to individuals involved in illegal fundraising for Blagojevich.

Judge James Zagel handed Rezko a seven and a half year sentence, which he can serve at the same time as his other sentence. Zagel also admonished Rezko for entangling, "an honorable man" into his criminal acts. By that he meant one of Rezko's co-defendants who pleaded guilty, but the judge didn't say to whom he was referring.

Rezko will also have to pay more than $4 million in restitution, something his attorney said Rezko cannot afford to do.

As the frail-looking 56-year-old left the courtroom, he smiled at his family, who waved to him and yelled, "Merry Christmas.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 22, 2011

Judge Throws Out Ind. Sec’y of State Election

A judge has reversed a decision by the Indiana Recount Commission and ordered it to decertify the 2010 election of Indiana's embattled Republican secretary of state.

Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg issued a ruling Thursday reversing and setting aside the Recount Commission's unanimous June decision that Charlie White was eligible to run for office last year despite questions over his residency. Rosenberg ordered the commission to certify Democrat Vop Osili as secretary of state.

Recount Commission spokesman AJ Feeney-Ruiz says White remains secretary of state for now. He says the commission won't take up Roserberg's ruling before late next week.

Feeney-Ruiz says the panel will meet with the state attorney general's office about seeking a stay of Rosenberg's ruling pending an appeal.

White faces trial next month for voter fraud.

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 22, 2011

Chicago Man Thought to be Gacy Victim Found Alive

A man thought to be a victim of John Wayne Gacy has been found alive. Ted Szal went missing in the Chicago area in the 1970s. Gacy was a serial killer who killed 33 young men during that time on the northwest side.

Jason Moran, a detective with the Cook County Sheriff's Office, said they tracked Szal down in Oregon after his DNA did not match any of the seven remaining Gacy victims still unidentified.

"Our goal at the Sheriff's Office is that identify the remaining seven but you know when you are able to reunite a family after thirty five years, it's a nice thing to do," Moran said.

Moran also said he is still working through leads to identify the seven remaining victims.

Tags: crime, people

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 19, 2011

Mother Shot 3 Victims in Livingston County Murder-Suicide

Illinois authorities investigating the deaths of a family in the small farming community of Emington say the mother shot her three children and live-in boyfriend before killing herself.

The murder-suicide Friday afternoon claimed the lives of 30-year-old Sara McMeen, 29-year-old Daniel Warren and McMeen's three children: 8-year-old Skyler Lemke, 7-year-old Ian Lemke and 10-month-old Maggie Warren.

Authorities previously declined to identify the shooter, although a neighbor told The Associated Press she saw McMeen shoot her baby in the family's backyard.

Livingston County Sheriff Martin Meredith said Monday that authorities found McMeen and the three children outside the home and Daniel Warren inside. Autopsy results show all five died of gunshot wounds.

Authorities are looking for anyone who spoke to McMeen or Daniel Warren before the shootings.


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,


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