Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 26, 2011

Bill Would Free Cook County Inmates Wanted by ICE

A Cook County commissioner is quietly proposing an ordinance that would require the county's massive jail to release some inmates wanted by immigration authorities.

Sponsored by Jesús García, (D-Chicago), the measure would prohibit the jail from holding inmates based on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request unless they have been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors, and unless the county gets reimbursed.

The legislation's preamble states complying with the ICE detainers "places a great strain on our communities by eroding the public trust that local law enforcement depends on to secure the accurate reporting of criminal activity and to prevent and solve crimes."

The jail now holds detainees requested by ICE for up to 48 hours after their criminal cases would allow them to walk free. Sheriff Tom Dart's office said the jail turns over about a half dozen inmates to the federal agency each business day.

Dart this month told Illinois Public Radio station, WBEZ, that his staff was exploring legal options for releasing some of these inmates. The sheriff said his review began after he noticed that San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessey had ordered his department to quit honoring certain ICE detainers beginning June 1.

If Dart's office follows Hennessey's path or if García's legislation wins approval, Cook County could become the nation's largest local jurisdiction to halt blanket compliance with ICE holds.

"Cook County would be a counter pole to Arizona's Maricopa County," said Chris Newman, general counsel of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a Los Angeles-based group that opposes involving local authorities in immigration enforcement.

García's office didn't return WBEZ calls or messages about his legislation. The offices of Sheriff Dart and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said they had viewed the bill but declined to say whether they supported it.

A spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said late Tuesday her office had not been consulted about García's proposal. A 2009 letter from Alvarez to Dart's office said federal law required the sheriff to comply with "any ICE detainers" lodged with the jail.

In recent months, however, immigration authorities have acknowledged that local jails do not have to comply with the detainers.

Asked for comment about García's legislation, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa sent a statement calling the detainers "critical" for deporting "criminal aliens and others who have no legal right to remain in the United States."

"Individuals arrested for misdemeanors may ultimately be identified as recidivist offenders with multiple prior arrests, in addition to being in violation of U.S. immigration law," the ICE statement said. "These individuals may have been deported before or have outstanding orders of removal."

Jurisdictions that ignore immigration detainers would be responsible for "possible public safety risks," the statement added.

García's proposal is on the county board's agenda for Wednesday morning. Possible steps by commissioners include referring the measure to committee or approving it immediately.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 20, 2011

Attorney Seeks $340,000 from Davlin Estate

An attorney is seeking more than $340,000 from the estate of former Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin, who committed suicide last year.

The lawyer represents the estate of Margaret Ettelbrick. She was Davlin's cousin, and he became executor for her estate after she died in 2003.

The claims filed against Davlin's estate allege that he sold Ettelbrick's house for about $46,000 less than it was worth, spent more than $85,000 for his personal benefit and used more than $200,000 to buy stock in a company.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports that the claims were filed by Kevin McDermott, the Sangamon County public administrator who is administering Ettelbrick's estate.

Davlin shot himself in December on the day he was due in court to answer questions about her estate.

(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 15, 2011

Tenants Still Living at Cherry Orchard, Restraining Order Extended

(Reported by Pam Dempsey of CU-CitizenAccess)

People are still living at the Cherry Orchard Village apartments, located just north of Thomasboro.

Champaign County Judge John Kennedy extended a temporary restraining order Friday that gives public health officials the power to keep one building on the property closed. He first issued the order last week after several witnesses testified that people were still living in one of the buildings on the property.

Bernard and Eduardo Ramos, managers of the complex, were ordered in April to vacate all of the building on the property after they were found guilty of failing to legally connect and repair sewage systems for six of the eight buildings on the property. In addition, they were fined more than $54,000 following the conclusion of a civil case filed by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

During several inspections, county health department officials have found raw sewage on top of the ground and discovered sewage flowing into a neighboring farmer's tile. The case was opened in 2007 and filed in court in 2010 after the Ramoses failed to remedy the problems.

The raw sewage poses serious health risks for both the tenants at Cherry Orchard and people they come in contact with - such as Hepatitis A, E. Coli and Salmonella , health officials said.

The temporary restraining order allowed officials to board up one building on the property - known as the "Jones Building"- post signs warning people to keep out and secure lids on open septic tanks.

Public health officials also spent last weekend evicting about 60 people from the Jones Building. Those tenants moved to Danville, said Julie Pryde, administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

Yet people continue to live in another building on the complex - a two-unit apartment building on the west side of the property, she said.

"I have no idea who is living up there," Pryde said after Friday's hearing. "We have seen at least four people, we've also seen four vehicles and a dog so it's anybody guess how many people are actually occupying the buildings over there."

The judge granted an extension of the restraining order until the next hearing on the case, which is to take place by September.

Bernard and Eduardo Ramos did not come to Friday's hearing or have representation. They have repeatedly declined to comment to the media and have yet to be arrested on two outstanding warrants. Kennedy amended the arrest warrant last week and required that the two be jailed until the Cherry Orchard property is empty or the sewage system is repaired.

(Photo courtesy of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District)

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 15, 2011

Blagojevich Returns to Court to Hear Bond Details

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told a federal judge Friday that he understands he could lose his home if he violates the conditions of his bond.

Lawyers for Blagojevich say the former governor and his wife are trying to sell their home on Chicago's North Side. News of the home sale came during the hearing where Judge James Zagel increased Blagojevich's bond to $450,000.

The former governor is considered a greater flight risk now that he is facing substantial prison time.

The Blagojevich's are using their home and a condo to secure the bond, but Blagojevich's attorneys hoped to exclude the house to make it easier to sell. Judge Zagel said both properties have to be put up.

"Patti and I were here to comply as we always try to do, with all the different rules and we signed all the necessary papers to comply with the bond requirements," Blagojevich said after the hearing.

The Blagojevich's say between their home and condo, they have about $600,000 in equity.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 14, 2011

Prosecutors: Blagojevich Not Fulfilling Bond Terms

Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich have asked a judge for permission to speak with the jurors who recently convicted the impeached Illinois governor on multiple corruption charges.

A filing with U.S. District Court on Thursday seeks access to jurors as the defense prepares post-trial motions. It doesn't specify the motions, but it's widely expected Blagojevich will appeal his convictions.

Defense attorneys often interview jurors about how they reached a verdict in a search for fodder that could bolster their appeal.

Jurors found the 54-year-old Blagojevich guilty on 17 of 20 counts, including attempted extortion for trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.

Several jurors told reporters after the retrial they liked Blagojevich and hoped to acquit him. But they said they believed the evidence was overwhelming.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 13, 2011

Study Shows Race a Factor in Illinois Traffic Stops

A new study shows race could play a role in traffic stops across Illinois.

An Illinois Department of Transportation and University of Illinois at Chicago study of traffic stops in 2010 found that minorities are more likely to be cited or to be asked for a consent search than white drivers. The research is part of a state rule that requires police to record the details of traffic stops and report them to the DOT. For the last few years, the research has revealed similar results.

Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the ACLU wants state police to get rid of consent searches entirely. A consent search is when an officer asks the driver if he or she can search the vehicle. Unlike other searches done by police, a vehicle search can be done without a warrant. All the officer needs is consent from the driver.

"Given the danger of conscious or unconscious bias being in play, we think that consent searches always will yield a disparate impact against minority motorists. It simply is too subjective a technique to apply," Schwartz said.

In June of this year, the ACLU of Illinois filed a complaint to the United States Department of Justice. According to Schwartz, the ACLU wants there to be a federal investigation into Illinois State Police practices, and for the US DOJ to issue a ban on the use of consent searches.

Schwartz said the new study confirms the need for such action.

"We think that it's a technique that can't be cured or reformed," he said.

Monique Bond, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police Department, said they are in the process of reviewing the raw data and expect an internal review to be completed within the coming weeks. She said that no decision had been made to cease consent searches.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 13, 2011

Feds Sweep Up Chicago ‘Outlaw’ Biker Gang

Federal prosecutors say seven members of an outlaw biker gang from Illinois are now facing racketeering charges, after being caught up in a multi-state sting operation Tuesday.

In all, federal officials say they rounded up 18 members of the "Wheels of Soul" motorcycle gang. A grand jury indictment alleges that 15 of them employed various criminal activities, including murder, arson, and kidnapping, while jockeying for power against rival gangs.

The government says the Wheels of Soul gang was strictly hierarchical. The seven defendants from northern Illinois have nicknames like Big T, Q-Ball, and Thundercat, according to the indictment. Federal prosecutors say members were always required to carry a sort of survival kit with them, including a weapon, a flashlight, a needle and thread.

Some were allegedly dubbed "one-percenters," and received a diamond patch to put on their motorcycle vests that identified them as select members who routinely committed crimes for the gang.

Several of the defendants have hearings scheduled before a federal judge in Chicago later this week.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 12, 2011

Panhandling Proposal Brings Out Opponents in Urbana

Urbana's city council will resume its discussion later this month on a proposed panhandling ordinance.

More than half of Monday night's four-hour committee of the whole meeting consisted of public comments with all but one person against the idea. The ordinance was suggested by Mayor Laurel Prussing on behalf of residents of Southeast Urbana. It doesn't ban panhandling per se. Tough, it does create restrictions on where it can happen. For example, it would be prohibited in Philo Road's Business District, on private property, and other designated locations, like near an ATM or bus stop.

The measure would also impact what is called 'aggressive' panhandling. Alderwoman Diane Marlin has heard of a number of recent panhandling cases, most of them involving seniors.

"A woman called me to tell me that she was driving to the gym on Colorado Avenue," she said. "And at 5:45 in the morning, her car was stopped in the middle of the street. A person was standing in the middle of the street, stopped her car, and demanded money. This woman felt threatened."

Esther Patt told council members in Monday night's committee of the whole meeting that protecting people in some areas, like near an ATM is fine, but the city should not infringe on a panhandler's speech.

"To make unlawful the utterance of words is reprehensible," Patt said. "It's un-American. And it's not necessary to accomplish your purpose."

The one backer of the ordinance among the public was Theresa Michaelson, who said seniors are afraid in the Philo Road Business District, where they're essentially trapped if approached by a panhandler in a fast food drive-thru.

Marlin said the ordinance as written strikes a balance between an individual's right to panhandle, protected under the First Amendment, and the public's right to be free of harassment. However, she said there is nothing to keep the city council from tweaking the measure when members take it up again July 25th.

Urbana Police Chief Patrick Connolly said officers have received more than 80 such complaints since last year.

Opponents question how police will interpret which panhandlers are violating the ordinance, as well as $165 fines against violators who probably don't have the money. Connolly said police would likely issue warnings on a first offense, but violators could also be sentenced to community service.

Talk on the proposal resumes July 25th.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 08, 2011

Health Officials Post Eviction Notices at Cherry Orchard

Following a Champaign County judge's ruling, health officials are going onto the Cherry Orchard Village property, and issuing eviction notices to tenants in one of the buildings.

Cherry Orchard has traditionally housed migrant workers. Building managers Bernard and Eduardo Ramos were ordered by a court in April to vacate the property - located between Rantoul and Thomasboro - because of raw sewage seeping from a septic system.

After a Thursday court hearing on the case, Judge John Kennedy issued a temporary 10-day restraining order for a building on the far-east side of the property, commonly known as "The Jones Building," which has its own sewage treatment units. In earlier agreements with the Ramoses, public health officials had suggested that Bernard Ramos could move tenants to "The Jones Building" if they legally repaired that sewage system.

But septic professionals testified Thursday that the building's sewage system does not work and continues to release raw sewage into the property's main discharge line, which flows into nearby farmland and into a creek. Sheriff's deputies also indicated during the hearing that people are still living in the building.

Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde said she is hoping nearly all of the people in the building move out by Friday night. She is working with different groups to make that happen, including the Illinois Migrant Council, Champaign County Health Department, United Way, and Salvation Army.

"Some of (the tenants) will probably remain there overnight," Pryde said. "Some of the single people may move in with friends. They may go to another migrant camp."

Pryde said a few of the families could also end up in a hotel, and then transition into more stable housing. She also noted that "The Jones Building" will be boarded up by Saturday morning.

Cherry Orchard has been used as a migrant camp and health officials remain concerned that it will be used again as such this summer. A state official testified Thursday that Bernard Ramos submitted an application for a migrant camp at the property on behalf of a not-for-profit company called "La Posada NFP" and spoke of preparations he has made to house about 80 migrant workers in one of the buildings there.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Bernard and Eduardo Ramos, but it has yet to be served.

The next court hearing on the case is set for July 15.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 08, 2011

Former Suburban Cemetery Director to Serve 12-Year Prison Sentence

The former director of a historic Chicago-area cemetery has been convicted in a money-making scheme that involved digging up bodies and reselling plots.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office says 51-year-old Carolyn Towns pleaded guilty Friday and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Towns was director of Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip when prosecutors say she and three workers desecrated hundreds of graves.

Prosecutors say Towns stole more than $100,000 from the corporation that owned Burr Oak by keeping the payments for graves and having workers stack bodies or dump remains in unmarked mass graves. Three other former Burr Oak workers have been charged and are scheduled to appear in court next week.

Many famous African-Americans are buried at Burr Oak, including lynching victim Emmett Till.


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