Illinois Public Media News
Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation increasing penalties for convicted felons who are found carrying guns.
Under the law, signed Tuesday, felons convicted of unlawful use or possession of a weapon face two to 10 years behind bars.
Additional violations by felons caught with guns while on parole or supervised release will carry a sentence of three to 14 years in prison.
The measure was sponsored by Sen. Tony Munoz of Chicago and Rep. Michael Zalewski of Summit, both Democrats, in response to the shooting death of Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham. He was killed outside his home during an attempted robbery last year. Suspects in his death had previous gun charge convictions.
In signing the bill, Quinn said the law will ensure safer neighborhoods for families across Illinois.
A nationwide effort to raise awareness about crime and drug prevention kicks off Tuesday night in Champaign.
The annual 'National Night Out' typically lasts for a day, but this year it is being broken up into more than a dozen events throughout the month.
"Historically it's just something that's happened in Champaign, and Urbana was doing their thing, and Savoy, and so it was just a real disjointed effort," Champaign Neighborhood Coordinator John Ruffin said. "Now it's a joint effort to really focus on making sure that Champaign remains a safe and healthy community."
For the first time, workshops led by the Champaign and Urbana Police Departments and the Champaign Fire Department will be offered. Chelsea Angelo, a safety education coordinator with the city of Urbana, said she hopes this expanded role by law enforcement officials helps bridge the gap between neighborhoods and police officers.
"We're always looking for ways to bring our officers into contact with the citizens that not involving strictly enforcement," Angelo said. "We don't want them to only see our officers when there is an emergency situation going on."
The 'National Night Out' kicks off Tuesday at 6pm at the Champaign City Hall. More information about other activities planned can be found on the city of Champaign's website.
A watered-down version of what began as a panhandling ordinance has been approved by the Urbana City Council.
The measure that passed on a 5-to-1 vote Monday night instead bans what's called 'aggressive solicitation,' or those who ask for money in a threatening or intimidating matter. The new ordinance removed portions that banned any requests for donations in the Philo Road Business District.
Alderwoman Diane Marlin said those who aggressively beg in that area have brought one unintended consequence.
"Basically, people who have been approached, or aggressively solicited or felt threatened, their reaction is to just stop patronizing businesses where this occured," she said. "That's a survival tactic."
The new measure still prohibits solicitation near an ATM or bank. Public opponents, including resident Ron Custer, argue that laws already on the books in Urbana should handle what the council is trying to address. Custer is one of several opponents who has come out in the last few weeks to speak out about the issue.
"I mean, when we hear anecdotes of somebody being terrorized in their car, and somebody else saying 'oh this happens routinely,'" Custer said. "Doesn't that sound like something that could have been responded to effectively by now?"
Opponents also say the original ordinance unfairly targeted poor people, and didn't distinguish from those who intimidated from those who casually ask for money.
One change to the new ordinance allows violators to perform community service as an alternative to paying a fine. That's an idea welcomed by Alderman Eric Jakobsson.
"That certainly will not dilute what we're hoping to acheive with this, whether we achieve it or not," Jakobsson said. "It definitely moves it in a direction of actually even being more than a deterrent, but being a positive outreach, to the extent that that's possible."
City council members will do an 18-month review in Jan. 2013. Alderwoman Heather Stevenson voted down the measure, saying the issue weighs heavily on civil liberties. She suggested that the public as well as police officers should learn more about existing laws.
Mayor Laurel Prussing and Alderman Dennis Roberts did not attend Monday's council meeting.
A senior adviser to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has been fined $500 for sending a political email from a state telephone.
The Executive Ethics Commission released a ruling on Jerry Stermer on Monday.
Stermer was the Democratic governor's chief of staff in January 2010 when he reported that he'd sent the questionable emails the previous month.
The commission determined one email from his state phone was to campaign staffers. The other two were sent from a private computer on a Sunday.
The commission noted Stermer held a high position in government and should be an example, but that he admitted and self-reported the violations.
Stermer resigned in August 2010 but was rehired in December as a senior adviser.
Quinn's office hasn't immediately responded to a request for comment.
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Sales of homes, jewelry and other assets that once belonged to a former Decatur resident convicted of investment fraud have raised more than $7 million. But that's less than a third of the money William Huber was convicted of stealing.
The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports (http://bit.ly/pVqG6C) that court documents indicate most of Huber's former assets have been found and sold.
That includes homes in Florida and California as well as cars and clothes. One of the more recent sales was $39,000 worth of jewelry.
Huber was sentenced to 20 years in prison in December after he pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi scheme that stole $23 million from investors.
Huber is now 62 and in prison in California. He's appealing his sentence claiming it's too long.
A federal judge has set an Oct. 6 sentencing date for ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Judge James Zagel set the date during a status hearing Monday. Blagojevich didn't attend the hearing.
Legal observers say Zagel is likely to sentence Blagojevich to about 10 years for a lone conviction at his first trial and convictions on 17 corruption counts at his retrial. The retrial convictions in June included trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.
Blagojevich was last in court in July to sign papers putting up his home and another property as collateral for a $450,000 bond that lets him remain free while awaiting sentencing. The 54-year-old did appear last month to sign papers putting up his home and another property as collateral for a $450,000 bond that lets him remain free while awaiting sentencing.
(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
The U.S. Department of Justice says Caterpillar Inc. has agreed to pay $2.55 million to settle allegations that it violated the U.S. Clean Air Act.
The department said Thursday that it believed the Peoria-based heavy equipment-maker had shipped more than 590,000 engines that lacked proper emissions controls. The engines were for vehicles made for highway travel and for other purposes.
Engines lacking such controls can emit excess nitrogen oxides and other pollutants that can harm human health.
As part of a consent decree signed with the department, Caterpillar also must continue recalling the engines to make repairs.
Caterpillar spokeswoman Bridget Young says the company denies any wrongdoing and will comply with the decree.
A 35-year prison sentence awaits a Savoy man who shot and killed his brother inside Tolono's only grocery store.
Forty-three year old Brian Maggio has already been jailed for slightly over a year - he will be required to serve 100 percent of the murder sentence for the death of his 32 year old brother Mark.
Mark Maggio was killed during an argument inside the Tolono IGA, which never reopened after the shooting.
Brian Maggio owned that store while his younger brother owned the IGA in Arcola, but the two had a history of financial disputes.
Brian Maggio pleaded guilty to the murder last month - state's attorney Julia Rietz says while Maggio's attorney had asked for a 20 year sentence, the judge decided to order the maximum allowed under the plea agreement.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is asking a federal judge for a new trial after being convicted last month on 17 counts of corruption, including trying to sell a vacant U.S. Senate seat.
Blagojevich's lawyers filed a 158-page motion with 10 different categories detailing why they think the former governor didn't get a fair trial.
In a signed affidavit, Blagojevich stated that he only took the stand because his attorneys assured him he would be able to tell jurors he sincerely believed his actions had been legal. He added that he would not have waived his constitutional right to not testify had he known Judge James Zagel would sustain prosecutors' objections whenever he started talking about the perceived legality of his actions.
In the filing, Blagojevich's attorneys say Judge Zagel tried to read the mind of defense lawyers, limiting which topics they could and couldn't bring up. Attorneys also assert Zagel should have allowed the defense to play secretly-recorded conversations in which Blagojevich talked about appointing Attorney General Lisa Madigan to a vacant senate seat.
Defense attorneys says that prosecutors tainted the jury pool by holding a press conference the day Blagojevich was arrested.
In the filing - defense attorneys say even before the trial began - they tried to make sure people like Juror #116 didn't get on the jury. Juror #116 said he believed Blagojevich was guilty, but the judge let him pass through.
On the other hand - Blagojevich's attorneys say Juror #213 should not only have sat on the jury - but also should get an award - because she said defendants are innocent until proven guilty. That juror was dismissed from the jury pool.
A hearing is scheduled before the judge next week.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
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.
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