Illinois Public Media News
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan says two people helped him make his historic decision clear the state's death row in 2003: An innocent man who was once two days away from being executed and a childhood friend who asked if Ryan was going to allow his son to be put to death.
Ryan's comments came last March in a deposition taken at a federal prison in Indiana, where Ryan has been locked up since late 2007 after his conviction of corruption charges. The deposition was released to the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune after the newspapers filed freedom of information requests.
Under questioning by a city of Chicago attorney, Ryan angrily denied his decision had anything to do with the federal probe that led to his conviction.
Social network invitations asking people to come to Champaign to celebrate the so-called Unofficial St. Patrick's Day on Friday, March 4 have prompted the city to take precautionary action.
One page on Facebook indicates more than 13,000 people are expected to show up.
Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart said the city will prohibit bars and package liquor stores in campus town from selling or serving alcohol before 11 AM. He also said bars will not be allowed to serve pitchers of alcohol or shots of pure alcohol. Instead all drinks must be served in paper or plastic cups.
"I wouldn't mind if it was just our local U of I students, and each bar had a celebration to celebrate St. Patrick's Day or something," he said. "But (it's different) when all the outside schools start coming here looking for a big blowout drunken affair, and don't give a care about damage they do to the city."
Schweighart's office will not be issuing multiple keg permits for parties, making it illegal to have more than one keg at each residence.
Meanwhile, University of Illinois officials are taking steps to minimize disruptions to classes and campus operations during the Unofficial St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The U of I also noted that if students drink too much alcohol, they should not be afraid to go to the hospital for care because they "will not get in trouble.
Twenty-first century technology makes it easy to record events throughout the world, but that ease of recording may violate the law. In Illinois, making audio recordings of conversations in public places without the permission of everyone in the recording is usually a crime. Under the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, recording police officers can lead to a class 1 felony, which can carry a four to 15 year prison sentence. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports on efforts to soften the eavesdropping law for both the public and police officers.
Federal prosecutors are moving to dismiss several charges against Rod Blagojevich.
Prosecutors Wednesday told U.S. District Judge James Zagel they seek to dismiss racketeering and wire fraud counts against the former Illinois governor to streamline the case. Zagel didn't immediately rule on the motion. Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky says the move by prosecutors demonstrate they believe Blagojevich is innocent of those changes.
The 54-year-old Blagojevich faces an April 20 retrial on charges he tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. He's also accused of trying to shake down donors for campaign cash. At his first trial, jurors deadlocked on all but one count of lying to the FBI. Blagojevich's lawyers have recently filed motions seeking to have several corruption charges thrown out.
The Indiana Senate has approved a contentious Arizona-style bill to crack down on illegal immigration.
The Republican-ruled Senate voted 31-18 Tuesday for the bill, which contains penalties for businesses that hire illegal immigrants and allows police officers to ask someone for proof of immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally.
Supporters say Indiana must act because the federal government has shirked its responsibility to deal with illegal immigration. Opponents say the bill will lead to racial profiling and hurt economic development.
Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has declined to take a public stance on the proposal.
The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel. He couldn't vote on his own bill because he's taking the bar exam Tuesday and Wednesday.
Champaign County authorities have renewed their call for the public to come forward with information on the 2009 murder of Holly Cassano. And they are revealing more information about the case that had previously been held back.
The 22-year-old Cassano was found stabbed to death at her home in the Candlewood Estates mobile home park in Mahomet, in November, 2009. But Sheriff's Lieutenant Ed Ogle said Cassano had also been sexually assaulted --- the information had been held back to help identify people who might make false confessions. Ogle said they believe the assault took place after the murder. He said that from the blood found at the crime scene, they believe the killer may have suffered cuts to his arms or hands during the attack.
"We want people to come forward with information about anyone who had cuts to their arms or hands during that period of time," Ogle said. "We're asking for people to think back to the night after Halloween, 2009, and recall any suspicious activity they may have noticed in their particular area --- that being in the Meijer's store or in the Candlewood area."
Holly Cassano worked as a cashier at the Meijer's store in Champaign, and Ogle said the killer may have known her from the store, or from Candlewood neighborhood on the northeast side of Mahomet.
Ogle said an FBI psychological profile indicates that the killer could be a young male, perhaps as young as a teen-ager, who had targeted Cassano before the attack. But he said they have no specific suspects at this time, although DNA evidence from the crime scene has helped them eliminate more than 100 people as suspects. Ogle and Sheriff's investigator David Sherrick emphasize that no scrap of information is too small or trivial, if it is related to the case.
Champaign County CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the Cassano murder. But Holly Cassano's mother, Toni Cassano, has been raising additional reward money, through the sale of bumper stickers asking for information into the crime. It was Toni Cassano who discovered Holly Cassano's body, after she had been babysitting Holly's daughter, who was then 17 months old. Nearly 16 months after the murder, Toni says she has not yet told her granddaughter what happened to her mother.
"And when it gets to the point that I have to tell her," she said. "I'm hoping that we have the name of the person who did this, and he is being held responsible, because I want to be able to tell her that there is justice."
If you have information relating to the murder of Holly Cassano, you should contact the Champaign County Sheriff's Department Investigative Unit at 384-1213, or call anonymously to Champaign County CrimeStoppers at 217-373-TIPS.
Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich are asking the judge in his upcoming corruption retrial to throw out all secret recordings of the former Illinois governor.
In a new court filing, Blagojevich's attorneys ask that all secretly recorded conversations the FBI has of Blagojevich or his aides not be played in court.
Blagojevich is accused of trying to personally profit by appointing someone to Barack Obama's former senate seat.
That would mean jurors wouldn't hear Blagojevich say, "I've got this thing, and it's (expletive deleted) golden."
Or they wouldn't hear Blagojevich tell his wife, "I'd like a four-year contract for a million a year, or something. Or 750. Whatever. It'd have to be good."
Or any other of the hundreds of hours of tapes the FBI has on Blagojevich.
Defense attorneys say in their court filing they weren't given a fair chance to play the tapes they wanted to play in the first trial - so it's only fair if no tapes are played. The defense argues there are some gaps in parts of the tapes that could be misleading.
The trial is scheduled to begin in April.
Attorneys for impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich have continued their barrage of pretrial motions with a new one asking a judge to lift a court-ordered seal on all evidence, including FBI wiretap recordings.
The seven-page motion filed early Thursday argues the order barring the public release of evidence impairs Blagojevich more than prosecutors and creates what it calls "a fundamentally unfair playing field."
The filing also accuses the government of releasing out-of-context tape excerpts before the first trial that "poisoned the jury pool."
Blagojevich's initial trial ended in August with the jury deadlocked on 23 of 24 charges. A retrial is set to start April 20.
Only a small percentage of the wiretap recordings were played at the first trial. The rest are barred from release by the seal order.
Rod Blagojevich's attorneys are asking that jurors in the former governor's upcoming retrial be allowed to remain anonymous.
In the first Blagojevich trial, Judge James Zagel kept the names of jurors secret until after the verdict. He said members of the public had already called his office to weigh in on the high profile case and he didn't want jurors subjected to that. Zagel plans to withhold the new juror's names again in the retrial scheduled to begin April 20th, but Blagojevich's attorneys say those jurors should have the choice to remain anonymous even after the verdict. They say jurors will almost certainly become quote, "media prey" after the trial.
Blagojevich's attorneys don't want deliberations to be affected by jurors who are worried about impending press and public pressure, and they say Blagojevich's right to a fair trial and an impartial jury require that jurors be allowed to remain anonymous if they so choose.
A Champaign County Board member has been arrested for DUI. Michael Richards is due back in court next month following a January 27 arrest. State's Attorney Julia Reitz's office said the 31-year-old Richards was spotted by a sheriff's deputy driving north in the southbound lanes of US 45 in Savoy around 3-30 that morning. He admitted to having four mixed drinks prior to driving and refused to take a blood alcohol test, which results in a one-year suspension of driving privileges.
Richards faces a misdemeanor DUI charge and was ticketed for improper lane usage.
The District 6 Democrat was appointed to the Champaign County Board in 2007.
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