Illinois Public Media News
A federal appeals court on Monday denied a request by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan to free him on bail so he can spend more time with his terminally ill wife, though the ex-governor's attorneys said they would continue working to win his release.
In a one-page ruling, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected an emergency motion filed by Ryan's attorneys last week after Lura Lynn Ryan was taken to intensive care suffering complications from chemotherapy.
Ryan, the ruling said, hasn't met the legal requirements that would allow for his release while the 76-year-old's defense team tries to overturn his 2006 conviction for racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
The three-judge panel notes that Ryan asked in the emergency motion about the possibility of release from his Indiana prison during daylight hours so he could be at his wife's side. The court said it didn't have the jurisdiction to grant that wish.
"This possibility might be a humane way to address the personal aspect of his motion," it says. But "a request for such an arrangement must be presented by the appellant to the Bureau of Prisons."
Prosecutors made public for the first time Friday the news that prison authorities did, in fact, escort Ryan to see his wife for two hours the same day she was admitted to a Kankakee hospital. They cited that clandestine visit as one reason judges shouldn't grant Ryan's release.
"Obviously, I am disappointed and I know the family is exceedingly disappointed," said Ryan attorney and a long-time family friend, former Gov. James Thompson.
But Thompson also assured the family that attorneys would take several steps in response, including asking Democratic President Barack Obama to grant clemency to the former Republican governor. They will ask Obama to commute Ryan's sentence from 6 1/2 years to his three years already served.
Other steps would include asking the Bureau of Prisons to grant Ryan a long-term furlough, possibly under conditions where he would have to stay at a county jail overnight. Thompson added he would ask prosecutors to support that request.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer -- who presided over Ryan's trial -- upheld his conviction and denied his request for bond. She acknowledged his wife's plight, but said Ryan's conduct "exacted a stiff penalty, not only for himself but also for his family."
Ryan's attorneys had argued parts of his conviction should be tossed based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision curtailing anti-fraud laws -- known as "honest services" laws. Pallmeyer said Ryan's circumstances were different enough that his conviction should stand.
Defense attorneys have appealed Pallmeyer's ruling upholding the convictions.
Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush says he's "very concerned" about his own safety and the safety of other congressmen following the shooting attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.
The Chicago Democrat tells The Associated Press the climate for political leaders is bad, particularly for those who've supported President Barack Obama.
Giffords has described herself as a former Republican and current moderate centrist Democrat.
Rush says he's told those around him to be more vigilant. But he doesn't plan to scale back on any public appearances.
Giffords is recovering after undergoing surgery.
Capitol police have asked members of Congress to step up security in the wake of the shooting which left at least five dead and wounded several others.
Illinois congressmen are offering sympathy and prayers after the shooting attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.
Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr., Mike Quigley and Jan Schakowsky say the attack is horrific and they're offering condolences.
At least two people were killed and several others wounded Saturday, as Giffords met with constituents in Tucson. Hospital officials say Giffords' outlook was 'optimistic.'
A Jackson spokesman says the congressman's events are frequently staffed by security personnel, but it's too early to tell if changes need to be made.
A Quigley spokeswoman says security for the congressman hasn't been addressed yet in light of the attack.
Police say the shooter was in custody.
(Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)
State Senator Mike Frerichs said he expects to vote to repeal the Illinois death penalty --- if the measure comes up when the Illinois Senate meets on Monday.
The repeal bill narrowly passed the Illinois House on Thursday, and Frerichs said he thinks other lawmakers will join him in supporting it. The Champaign Democrat says the important point to him is that the death penalty has been handed out to too many people who were found to have been wrongly convicted.
"I think the penalty has (been) shown to have grave errors over the last few decades here in our state," Frerichs said. "I think that's why a lot of people are probably supportive of the appeal."
But Onarga Republican Shane Cultra said he still believes the death penalty is a necessary deterrent to violent crime --- and that the introduction of DNA evidence has done a lot to prevent wrongful convictions.
"I think there's enough safeguards in place," Cultra said. "Certainly there's more that we can do --- they haven't fully implemented all the things that were supposed to be done, but they've done enough of them. And plus some of these crimes are so heinous, that I just feel that life imprisonment just isn't enough."
Cultra voted against repealing the death penalty in the Illinois House, and he may get a chance to vote on it again, if the Senate takes up the bill in the final days of the veto session next week. Cultra will be sworn in as a State Senator on Sunday, taking the place of Treasurer-elect Dan Rutherford.
There have been no executions in Illinois since former governor George Ryan declared a moratorium ten years ago. While maintaining the moratorium, Governor Pat Quinn has said he supports the death penalty for the most serious crimes.
Police departments in nine states - Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas and Utah - have adopted an initiative to crack down on drunken driving.
The "No Refusal" program gives law enforcement officials the right to obtain a warrant from a judge to test someone's blood if the driver refuses a breathalyzer test. Macon County has used the program for the last couple of years on nights when there is expected to be an uptick in DUI cases, like on New Year's Eve.
Macon County sheriff's lieutenant Jonathan Butts said he hopes the increased enforcement will convince some people Friday night to think twice before getting behind the wheel.
"You could refuse, but if you're caught and we have reason to believe that you are under the influence and you refuse," Butts explained. "We're going to have a judge give us the paperwork to take your blood from you."
Duane Deters, an assistant state's attorney with the Macon County State's Attorney's office, said agreeing to the test will not prevent someone from being prosecuted, but he said it can help people avoid a steeper punishment.
"It's something that we'd certainly take into consideration in any offer that we would extend to them as far as to try to work the case out short of a trial," Deters said.
Deters said the policy's been in effect since 2009, and he said in that time only one search warrant has been issued for someone who did not agree to a breath test.
Other counties in Illinois using the program include Peoria, Sangamon, and Adams. The Illinois Department of Transportation declined to comment on whether the state should push to make the "No Refusal" program a statewide policy.
There will be other efforts to limit drunken driving in Macon County on New Year's Eve. The Decatur Police Department and the country's Sheriff's Office will beef up traffic enforcement, and AOK Taxi service will provide free rides from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. taking people from local bars to homes and motels. The taxi service can be reached at 217-330-7771 or 217-330-8331 for scheduled pickups.
A federal judge has ruled that former Illinois Gov. George Ryan must remain in prison.
Ryan's attorneys want elements of his conviction tossed based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision curtailing anti-fraud laws known as "honest services'' laws.
Last week, Ryan's attorneys made an urgent plea for his release after his wife was hospitalized. Doctors have given Lura Lynn Ryan as few as three months to live. She's been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that Ryan must remain in prison.
The 76-year-old former governor has served three years of a 6 1/2-year sentence on convictions of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
(Photo courtesy of spsarge/flickr)
What was first intended as a kind of new student orientation web site changed largely in scope when University of Illinois Journalism Professor Eric Meyer surveyed two of his classes about campus crime.
Meyer said new and old students reacted very differently about increased reports of robberies, batteries, and sexual assaults. Discussions resulted in an interactive website. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert spoke with Meyer, and two of his students, Matthew Shroyer, and Emily Carlson, about the project.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
Doctors say the former first lady of Illinois, Lura Lynn Ryan has terminal lung cancer with only three to six months to live.
The details of Mrs. Ryan's health were revealed in a letter filed in federal court this afternoon. Former Governor George Ryan is appealing parts of his conviction and asking the court to let him out of prison on bail while his appeal is considered so that he can be with his ailing wife.
According to a letter written by the medical director of Rush Riverside Cancer Institute in Kankakee, Mrs. Ryan had a CT scan on Monday which showed a mass in the left lower lung that measured up to 7 centimeters in diameter. A scan on Tuesday confirmed the growth.
Doctors say lesions in the liver and bones suggest an aggressive cancer and given her age and condition. They say Ryan could have as little as three months if their preliminary diagnosis is correct.
Prosecutors have argued against releasing Governor Ryan saying it is the sad fact that all prisoners are separated from their families during trying times.
(Photo courtesy of the Kankakee Public Library)
Illinois State Police were investigating the death of Springfield's mayor, whose body was found in his home on Tuesday after he failed to show up for a court hearing in a probate case involving his late cousin's estate.
Police Chief Robert Williams said officers responded to a 911 call shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday at Timothy Davlin's home and found the 53-year-old Democratic mayor dead.
Williams declined to immediately offer details about how Davlin died, saying the investigation was in its infancy and has been turned over to the Illinois State Police, which also deferred specifics about the matter.
"The situation is very dynamic and evolving as we go,'' Williams told reporters. "That's all I'm at liberty to state at this time.''
The State Journal-Register in Springfield reported Tuesday that Davlin - mayor of Illinois' 120,000-resident capital city since April 2003 - failed to appear in court that morning as ordered in a probate case involving the estate of one of his cousins, Margaret Ettelbrick, who died in 2003. After Davlin's no-show, Circuit Judge Pete Cavanagh removed him as the estate's administrator.
The newspaper reported that Davlin failed to meet a court deadline for a financial accounting of the estate. Patrick "Tim'' Timoney withdrew as lawyer for the estate in October, saying he could not come up with a final accounting because Davlin had not provided documentation. Timoney last week submitted a claim against the estate for more than $19,000 in legal fees.
Cavanagh ordered Davlin and Bradley Huff, an attorney for Catholic Charities of Springfield, to appear for Tuesday's hearing to discuss the accounting and the status of attorneys in the estate case.
In October, the newspaper reported that Davlin owed the federal government nearly $90,000 in unpaid income taxes, and liens had been filed against his home. The lien notice filed in the Sangamon County recorder's office showed that Davlin owed income taxes for the years 2003, 2005 and 2006.
At the time, the mayor blamed the problem on a dispute with the IRS over taxes owed on investments he cashed in to buy the home. Sangamon County property records have shown that Davlin bought the home for $237,500 in 2004.
He earned more than $119,000 a year, according to city payroll records from earlier in 2010.
Gov. Pat Quinn called Davlin's death "truly a tragedy,'' saying in a statement that Davlin "was a great public servant who loved Springfield and its people.''
"The city of Springfield is a better place because of his leadership,'' Quinn said. "He was not only a champion for Springfield, but also for the entire state, and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.''
Davlin announced last month that he would not seek a third four-year term, telling Springfield radio station WFMB he wanted to leave office before getting burned out. Davlin insisted at that time that financial issues had nothing to do with that decision involving the nonpartisan post he called "grueling.''
"No one has any idea what it's like until they've been there,'' he told the station.
Davlin was a political novice when elected in 2003, having been an insurance and investment broker after graduating from a local high school and getting an associate degree from Springfield College before attending what now is the University of Illinois at Springfield.
As mayor, Davlin welcomed the 2005 opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and helped guide the city less than a year later through the aftermath of a tornado, marshaling hundreds of workers and thousands of volunteers in the cleanup effort.
In his biography posted on the city's website, Davlin lists among his credits his creation of an education liaison tasked with working with local schools, his stumping for a student-driven recycling program, and his formation of a task force on homelessness.
Davlin, a father of four, has four grandchildren.
An alderman, Frank Kunz, is mayor pro tem. City law requires that a new mayor be selected within 60 days.
The theft of more than $10,000 worth of copper building materials taken last week from the University of Illinois' Natural History Building has prompted university police to look at efforts to protect its other copper-rich buildings.
Skip Frost, the Patrol Division Commander with the University's police department, said the incident was the largest of its kind on campus in recent memory. Frost said the university is in talks with building contractors to figure what can be done to prevent more thefts from happening.
"What we'd like to do and what we're able to do are two different things," Frost explained. "There are so many things that could be done, including securing (copper) in a better fashion, having better key card access, and improving locks, but you can put all those things in there, that does not mean crime is not going to occur."
Copper prices went up in November, and have continued to rise this month, reaching more than $4.00 per pound. Ameren spokesperson Brianne Lindemann said she expects there will be more thefts from homes and businesses as commodity prices for copper go up.
"You need to secure any building that you have," Lindemann cautioned. "You definitely want to keep some lights on. You just want to make sure that those buildings look like somebody has been in there.
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