Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2011

Rezko Sentenced to More than 10 Years in Prison

Tony Rezko, a key figure behind corruption in the Blagojevich administration,was sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison by federal Judge Amy St. Eve. His attorneys argued that Rezko provided important help to prosecutors investigating the former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Rezko didn't start cooperating with investigators until after he was convicted at trial, and even then, prosecutors said his cooperation was not very helpful because he continued to tell lies, making it impossible to put him on the stand as a credible witness. Prosecutors never called Rezko to testify.

Rezko's attorneys said he shouldn't get such a harsh sentence because prosecutors made a tactical choice not to call him to the stand. They pushed the judge to sentence Rezko to the 3 1/2 years he's already served since his conviction. They said he has been awaiting sentencing at the government's request so he could be available to testify.

As a result they said he's had to serve time in solitary confinement, as opposed to a minimum security prison where most white collar criminals do their time. They said in the last few years "Rezko has not had a breath of fresh air, a ray of sunlight, or a hug from a loved one."

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says the 10 1/2-year sentence imposed on the convicted political fixer was "stiff and appropriate."

Fitzgerald said Monday he hopes it sends a message that there are serious consequences for engaging in public corruption.

Rezko was convicted in 2008 of fraud, money laundering and plotting to squeeze $7 million in kickbacks from firms that wanted to do business with the state during now-disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich's tenure.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve told Rezko her sentence reflected his actions, plus the fact that he repeatedly lied about his actions, including in a letter he sent to her.

Fitzgerald said it appears corruption sentences are getting longer.

Rezko attorney Joe Duffy says he's not sure if he will appeal the sentence.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2011

African-American Leaders, Police Union, Comment on Arrest

African-American leaders in Champaign looking to strengthen police-community relations say a police video of a June arrest in the U of I's Campustown neighborhood has re-opened wounds.

But a police union is defending the officer's actions.

After seeing the incident involving a college-age African-American that was leaked online Monday, members of the Champaign-Community Police Partnership, or C-CAPP, say they are working to take the lead on solutions in several areas.

C-CAPP member and Champaign County NAACP Interim President Patricia Avery said she is confident that the city will give the proper attention to the idea of a citizen police review board. City council members are expected to review that idea early next year. But Avery said seeing the actions of Champaign police last June "slaps us back to square one."

"We want justice," she said. "We don't want to have to worry about our young people when they go out on the street. We want them to do what they're supposed to do, and respect the authority, and when they're told to stop, stop. But we also don't expect that our officers are going to be behaving in a matter in which we saw in that videotape."

But Tamara Cummings of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council said the leaked video of the arrest is being criticized by people who haven't watched the entire video, and don't understand proper police work.

For instance, Cummings said the use of pepper spray to subdue a young African-American man in the arrest was proper, because the subject was resisting with enough force to potentially injure one of the officers. She said pepper spray is a legitimate tool to force an unwilling subject to comply with police orders.

"It's essentially a force mechanism," Cummings said. "And it's authorized by the department to use in order to get a subject to comply. So, the department investigation concluded that the use of pepper spray in this case was appropriate, and I have to reason to think that that's not correct."

Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said he found the police video 'troubling.' He and Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz asked state police to review the incident. Meanwhile, Rietz has dismissed charges against the subject.

Despite their concerns, Williams and Avery say they are confident the Champaign City Council will take the right approach to answering calls for a citizen-police review board. The council will take up the issue in January.

But members of C-CAPP hope to address other areas, including the police department's use of force policy. Carter has said the city will bring in outside experts to look at it.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 22, 2011

Ill. State Police Find Champaign Officer Followed Procedure

Below is a statement from the Illinois State Police regarding the June 5, 2011 arrest by Champaign police on the corner of 4th and Green Streets in Campustown:

CHAMPAIGN - The Illinois State Police has completed a review regarding an incident that occurred on June 5, 2011, at approximately 2:30 a.m., at 4th and Green Street in Champaign, Illinois.

At the request of Champaign City Officials, and the Champaign County State's Attorney's Office, Illinois State Police completed an independent review on November 22, 2011, of the Champaign Police Department's Use of Force Investigation.

Based on the Use of Force Investigation completed by the Champaign Police Department, Illinois State Police Officials have concluded that the officer followed Department policy under the Champaign Police Department's Use of Force model. Based upon these findings, the Illinois State Police will conduct no further review of the matter.

Champaign Police Department policy states that the use of OC spray "is intended to be used primarily against unarmed subjects who officers reasonably believe have indicated physically and/or verbally that they intend to resist arrest or assault an officer or other person."

The officer was on routine patrol in the area of 5th and Green Street having responded to a reported fight in progress. The officer observed a group in the intersection of 4th and Green against the traffic signal, disrupting traffic. The officer approached the group, and directed the group to relocate. A pedestrian refused the officer's command and became combative, resisting the officer's attempt to make an arrest. The officer followed department policy and used the appropriate technique to gain compliance without injury to himself or the subject taken into custody.

"For every law enforcement agency, safety is always the top priority and law enforcement officials are concerned anytime the safety of the public or police is compromised. However, based on the Champaign Police Department's investigative reports, the officer appropriately contained a resistive subject and followed department policy," said ISP Region 3 Commander Todd Kilby.

"The Champaign Police Department conducted a thorough investigation and based on the findings from the Champaign Police Department's investigation and the ISP independent review, it has been determined that the officer's actions were within department guidelines," Kilby added.

Watch the police footage from the June 5 arrest

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 21, 2011

Video of Champaign Arrest Leaked Online

A police video showing the arrest of a Champaign man in the University of Illinois Campustown area last June has been posted anonymously online. The footage raises questions about the use of force within the Champaign Police Department.

Taken from a police car's dash camera, the video runs for about an hour. It shows an officer pepper-spraying a college-age African American male.

At the start of the video, the young man is shown walking with a young woman on the evening of June 5. The man claims that the woman is his sister.

A squad car pulls up near them and a police officer detains the man. The man's attorney said he was ultimately ticketed for jaywalking and arrested for resisting police, but the resisting arrest charge was later dropped. Within about 10 seconds, the police officer who apprehended him pulls out pepper spray and shoots it at him.

The man is then handcuffed and led into a police car. In another camera angle from within the car, the man urges officers not to touch him. A police officer then puts his hands on the man's neck while he is still handcuffed, and pushes him down to the side of the car out of the shot of the video. After a few seconds, the officer exits the car.

"Take me to jail! Take me to jail!" the man said. "You have no reason to choke me."

The names of the officer and Champaign man arrested have not been released. Illinois Public Media has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city of Champaign for the arrest record of the incident.

The young man's attorney, Mark Lipton, said both he and his client didn't want this video to surface. Lipton said they don't know who made it public. But Lipton said it is clear that police used excessive force.

"I guess I would hope this would affect police policies, procedures, and training," Lipton said. "I would hope that police would have exercised discretion and had the officer not made any stop for this rather minor jaywalking instant, we wouldn't be having this discussion today."

The Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center linked to the YouTube video Monday morning. The IMC's co-founder Danielle Chynoweth said it is the IMC's policy to allow anyone to publish content to its site. She noted that her group doesn't track the Internet addresses of its posters. Chynoweth said she thinks it is important that the public be allowed to see the video's content.

"This is basically a public venue in which people can post anything to the site," Chynoweth said. "The only decision that the IMC takes is whether or not to feature that. The IMC editorial group chose to feature that story. But any story can be posted by anyone, including any piece of video, audio, photography, etc."

Police department personnel investigated the case, and Chief R.T. Finney issued a finding that the officer's actions regarding 'use of force' were within police and training standards. Meanwhile, Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said a possible investigation of the arrest by state police could start later this week.

"These are very difficult circumstances, and we'll want to take a look at what's the right thing to come out of this for both of those," Carter said Sunday before the video was leaked. "So, the individual case needs to be resolved for sure. Wherever that leads us is where we need to go. "

Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said he is 'gravely disappointed' the police video was posted online, saying it is counteractive to anything the city is trying to achieve in terms of police-community relations. The mayor added that he is 'very confident' that state police will investigate the June 5 arrest.

"I hoping that despite (the video being released) that whatever actions the city and the state's attorney take aren't compromised," Gerard said.

Watch the police footage from the June 5 arrest


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 20, 2011

Champaign Police Arrest Investigation Could Begin this Week

Little has been released regarding a police video of an arrest made last summer by Champaign Police, but City Manager Steve Carter says a possible investigation by state police could start later this week.

Carter wouldn't elaborate on what he calls 'troubling' behavior by a city police officer on June 5, other than to say pepper spray was used and the officer's tactics were in question. Police department personnel investigated, and Chief R.T. Finney issued a finding that the officer's actions regarding 'use of force" were within police and training standards.

"The responsibility of ensuring a complete and accurate investigation into the actions of police department personnel falls solely within my office as the Chief of Police," Finney said in a statement. "I continue to have complete support and confidence in the men and women who work at the Champaign Police Department."

The names of the officer and Champaign man arrested haven't been released. Although the incident happened in June, Carter only saw the in-car video last Wednesday - brought to his attention by Councilman Tom Bruno. Carter said the primary goal is seeing this case resolved, so there is justice for both the individual and the officer.

"These are very difficult circumstances, and we'll want to take a look at what's the right thing to come out of this for both of those," Carter said. "So, the individual case needs to be resolved for sure. Wherever that leads us is where we need to go. "

Carter said the broader issue is that of policy related to use of force, and how it impacts police complaints. He said that is why outside experts will be brought in to review that policy.

Bruno said he is waiting for a thorough investigation to take place before he jumps to any conclusions about whether excessive force was used in the arrest. He added that this case could have an impact on discussions about a possible citizens police review board:

"When the decision is made to pursue with the idea of a citizens review board - it's instances like this that the public and the city council will take into consideration to determine whether a citizen's review board would be a helpful tool," Bruno said.

There have been new calls for a citizens police review board in Champaign in the wake of the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington. A number of citizens also allege officers beat 18-year old Calvin Miller on the night of his arrest on the early morning hours of Oct. 17, 2011.

Champaign City Council member Will Kyles brought up the idea last month of creating a committee to review complaints against the Champaign Police Department. After watching the police video, Kyles questions whether excessive force was used, and that may justify the need for a citizens' police review panel.

"This is an example of why we should have a police citizen review board, and kind of look at these issues," he said. "That is a great argument. Me being the person that brought the citizen review board back up."

Carter and Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz met with State Police on Friday. He said they will decide in a few days whether to investigate the incident.

At the request of the individual's family, there are no current plans to release the police video to the media or public. However, Illinois Public Media has filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain footage from the police dash camera.

The city is also in the process of seeking a new police chief. Finney announced last summer that he was retiring, and Deputy Chief Holly Nearing will take over as interim chief on Dec. 5. Both staffing changes aren't related to the June 5 arrest, according to Carter.

Last week, Carter announced four finalists for the police department's top chief.

Related Video: Champaign City Manager Steve Carter talks about the incident


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 20, 2011

Ill. Gets Highest Rating from MADD

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has given Illinois its highest rating for the state's efforts to combat impaired driving.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says he's glad the organization has recognized Illinois "as a national leader in the fight against drunk driving.''

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, alcohol-related crash deaths have dropped by more than 38 percent since White took office.

IDOT reports there were 711 alcohol-related crash deaths in 1999, compared to 436 last year.

This marks the 5th year that MADD has released a national and state rankings report.

The group's rating system focused on efforts including sobriety checkpoints, enhanced penalties for people who drive drunk with children in the vehicle, among other measures.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 18, 2011

Prosecutor: Cellini’s Verdict Should Stand

A federal prosecutor said Springfield power broker William Cellini should not be getting a new trial. This comes despite revelations a juror in his case lied about her criminal record.

Late Thursday night, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald filed a legal response saying Cellini's conviction should stand. Fitzgerald argued the juror had her full civil rights because she completed probation for her convictions. He also said even if she were ruled ineligible to serve, Cellini's attorneys would have to prove she deliberately concealed convictions.

Cellini's attorneys contend she was dishonest, making her a biased juror.

The decision on whether or not Cellini gets a new trial is now in the hands of Federal Judge James Zagel.

Cellini this month was convicted of joining a conspiracy to trade state contracts for campaign contributions for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 17, 2011

Suspect Arrested in Murder of Danville Woman

Police have arrested a suspect in the murder of Angelica Vasquez of Danville.

Champaign resident George Harold Chapman, 41, is accused of the murder. Vasquez's body was discovered on Sept. 27, 2011 on the 1400 Block of Rising Road in Champaign. An autopsy revealed that she had died from suffocation. Police say Chapman bound Vasquez's hands and had attempted to destroy evidence by burning her body.

With assistance from the Champaign Police Department's detective division and the United States Marshal's Office, the Champaign County Sheriff's Office investigators located Chapman in South Carolina on Thursday at around 7:30 a.m. He will be extradited to Champaign County, and arraigned on murder charges.

The Champaign County Sheriff's Office maintains that it is still pursuing the investigation both in Champaign County and out of state.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 15, 2011

Crowd at UI Offers Support, Prayers for Shooting Victims

Friends of those affected by the weekend shootings near the University of Illinois campus are sending their thoughts and prayers to the victims.

Members of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity were among the nearly 300 people attending a candlelight vigil on the Urbana Quad Monday night. Many spoke about U of I graduate Brian Reed, who friends say was critically injured early Sunday. Two others were hurt, including U of I football player Trulon Henry - but no arrests have been made. Henry is recovering after being shot in the hand.

U of I graduate Steven Martin identified himself as the third victim in Sunday's incident. Martin was treated and released Sunday after being shot in the leg. He told the crowd at the Quad that the events of early Sunday are surreal to him.

"Just keep in mind - ain't nothing worth that level of violence," he said. "You keep your head up, we're going to keep our head up, and keep moving. Just realize, we're here for one thing - that's for a better tomorrow."

2009 U of I alumnus Robbie Moore says word spread quickly of Sunday's incident, and many came from out of town to offer support.

"Twenty-five to 30 (fraternity) brothers are here - not even just from this chapter," he said. "Word spread around. We put it on Twitter. We let everybody know where to come, and we all came. And these people are coming from Illinois State (University), Chicago State, Southern (SIU), Northern (NIU), everywhere."

Moore says Reed is from the Chicago area, but was back in Champaign with hopes of attending law school. He told the crowd the events of early Sunday morning should prompt anyone to have a new perspective on life. Martin says the vigil said a lot about the quality of people on campus.

Prior to the vigil, the U of I's African-American Cultural Center hosted a support forum. Urbana Police are still seeking the man who fired into a crowd of about 100 people at a house on South Lincoln Avenue around 3:30 Sunday morning.

Anyone with information should call the Urbana Police Department at 217-384-2320. Callers can remain anonymous by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 373-8477 (TIPS). President Hogan says counselors are on hand to assist students, faculty, and staff. Anyone needing immediate assistance can call the Emergency Dean at 217-333-0050.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 13, 2011

Three Injured in Urbana Shooting Include U of I Football Player

(With additional reporting from the Associated Press)

Urbana police are investigating a shooting early Sunday morning near the University of Illinois campus. Police say three people were injured, including a linebacker with the U of I football team.

The incident happened at 1004 South Lincoln Ave in Urbana at around 3:25am. The three victims include 27-year old Trulon Henry of Savoy, a two-year starter with Illinois. Illinois Coach Ron Zook says Henry was with teammates at the party when he was shot in the hand, and now will miss the rest of the regular season.

The other victims are a 23-year old Park Forest man, and a 22-year old Palos Park man. They were all transported to Carle Hospital for medical treatment, and one has been treated and released. The other two men were receiving treatment, as of Sunday afternoon, and their current condition is unknown. Police say the gunman is still being sought. Zook says a handful of Illinois players, largely underclassmen, were at the party but were not injured.

At this time, Urbana Police have determined that the shooting was an isolated incident that occurred during a house party. An altercation developed between attendees, and the suspect fired several shots into the crowd gathered on a patio, which was estimated at more than 100 people. Zook says Henry wasn't originally at the party, but was called by a teammate to help encourage players to leave after the gathering turned chaotic.

Through preliminary investigations, Urbana Lt. Bryant Seraphin tells the News-Gazette that the shooter is believed to be a black male in his 20s with dreadlocks. He was also wearing a dark colored coat and was last seen in or around a silver Dodge Charger. Upon arrival, officers learned that the suspect had fired several rounds from a handgun. The offender had fled before police arrived at the scene.

U of I President Michael Hogan released a statement late Sunday afternoon, stating that according to U of I police, there was never a threat to students elsewhere on campus, but as soon as the police were able to confer with Urbana officers and confirm the appropriate information to be released, they sent out an Illini-Alert to campus (it was sent at 4:42 a.m.)

Anyone with information should call the Urbana Police Department at 217-384-2320. Callers can remain anonymous by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 373-8477 (TIPS). President Hogan says counselors are on hand to assist students, faculty, and staff. Anyone needing immediate assistance can call the Emergency Dean at 217-333-0050.

Henry is a native of Washington, D.C., and was a starting outside linebacker this season after starting all 13 games as a safety with Illinois in 2010. He's ninth on the team with 39 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.

((This report was updated and revised Sunday, following its original release earlier in the day)).


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