Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 23, 2011

VA Health Center in Danville Alerts Vets About Privacy Breach

A veterans health center in Danville has alerted more than 500 veterans of a breach involving their personal information that puts them at risk for identity theft.

The Commercial News in Danville reports an appointment book from the VA Illiana Health Care System has been missing since July 14.

The appointment book included veterans' last names and last four digits of their Social Security numbers.

Illiana director Michael Hamilton says there's no reason to believe the information has been misused or stolen. He says the VA is alerting veterans so they can take precautions against identity theft.

Precautions include requesting a free credit report and placing a "fraud alert'' on credit accounts.

Hamilton says VA staff members are reviewing policies and procedures in hopes of preventing future breaches.

Categories: Criminal Justice, Health
Tags: crime, health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Burge Torture Case to Go Before Ill. Supreme Court

The case of an alleged torture victim under former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge is now in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court. It's the first time in over a decade that a Burge related torture case is in front of the state's highest court. Since then, the former lieutenant was convicted of lying about torturing suspects and was sentenced to prison.

The state supreme court heard arguments for the Stanley Wrice case Thursday morning--they will now deliberate whether Wrice will receive a hearing on his claim that officers tortured him into confessing to a rape 30 years ago. Wrice has been in prison since the 80s for that crime.

Prosecutors for the state of Illinois argue they could convict Wrice even without the alleged coerced confession. Lead attorney Myles O'Rourke called the torture "harmless error" that doesn't affect the outcome of the case. Justices pressed O'Rourke Thursday on what evidence was available, and he acknowledged there are no fingerprints or DNA.

No matter what the outcome, some advocates, like attorney Locke Bowman, say the case will have an affect on the torture scandal as a whole.

"This is the case that presents the Illinois supreme court with an opportunity to exercise leadership in the Illinois criminal justice system and to take a dramatic step if it chooses to help us put this scandal behind us," Bowman said.

Bowman was an attorney for alleged victims in previous torture cases, and he heads the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University. He said justices could use the Wrice case to grant hearings to other alleged torture victims. He said justices could take a few months, if not longer, to decide the outcome of this case.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 13, 2011

U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald: Patriot Act Critical to War on Terror

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says the most important change in fighting terrorism over the past 10 years has been a new cooperation between the intelligence and law-enforcement communities. The cooperation is a result of the Patriot Act.

Prior to 9/11, there was a wall between the law enforcement and intelligence communities, he said. The wall arose largely as an effort to prevent domestic spying on U.S. citizens, but Fitzgerald said it meant there were two teams of people protecting the United States, and those teams weren't helping each other. He said he could get more information from an Al Qaida operative than he could get from some people in his own government.

"It used to be, 'Why should I share something with you? What is your need to know? And if someone finds out I shared it, how am I going to justify myself to my boss that I gave out that information?' That's been reversed. People now think, 'What is my duty to share? And if it's found out that I have information that I didn't share with someone, how am I going to justify to myself that I sat on it?'" he said.

Fitzgerald said now law enforcement regularly meets with the intelligence community, and he says that's been a key tool that wasn't available before 9/11.

He focused his comments in a speech Monday on assessing the war on terror, but Fitzgerald also took questions from the audience of business and civic leaders. One of the questions involved public corruption and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Fitzgerald wouldn't comment on Blagojevich's case, but he says too many people think corruption is a problem just for law enforcement.

"If I could have a dollar for everyone who's ever come up to me after we've convicted someone to say, 'Yes, we knew he or she was doing it all the time and we wondered when someone was going to get around to do something about it,' and I bite my lip, but I want to just smack them up side the head and say, 'Well the person you wanted to do something about it was you,'" Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald has been the U.S. Attorney in Chicago for 10 years. That's an unusually long tenure, but he says Chicago is his home and he loves his job and he has no plans to leave it.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 12, 2011

Former CUPHD Administrator Pleads Guilty

Former Champaign County Public Health Administrator Vito Palazzolo, 55, has accepted a guilty plea for a single count against him related to the misuse of the health district's resources, according to the Champaign County State's Attorney.

Palazzolo had been charged with making unauthorized purchases amounting to roughly $16,500 on personal items, including meals, trips, and tools.

In exchange for a guilty plea of official misconduct, other charges related to theft and misapplication of funds were dropped. Palazzolo was sentenced on Monday to 18 months of probation. He must also pay $5,000 in restitution to the public health district, and serve 50 hours of public service.

"The State's Attorney's Office is very pleased to have resolved this case in favor of the CUPHD, and appreciates the hard work of the Champaign Police Department in assisting in this complicated investigation," Champaign County States Attorney Julia Rietz said.

Julie Pryde took over Palazzolo as public health administrator after he was fired four years ago.

"No place needs this type of distraction," Pryde said. "We have a lot of work to do, and we don't need this type of distraction. So, I'm really glad that this is behind us, and I am pleased that the agency will be getting some restitution back for the questionable purchases."

Pryde said since Palazzolo's departure, efforts to monitor how employees spend the department's money have been beefed up.

The charges against Palazzolo were first filed in November 2009, but the case was delayed due to various motions by Palazollo's previous attorney, Robert Kirchner, who passed away this year. Through another attorney, Palazzolo withdrew those motions and entered the guilty plea.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 12, 2011

Youth Prison’s Suicide-Watch Cells Still Lack Suicide-Proof Beds

A youth prison in the Chicago suburbs still does not have suicide-proof beds in all its rooms, including those where kids on suicide watch are kept. This comes two years after a young man incarcerated at the St. Charles facility killed himself.

Some of the rooms at St. Charles already have what are called "safety beds," specifically designed to prevent their use in suicides. But not in the confinement cells, where kids go when they're put on suicide watch.

Prison watchdog John Howard Association warned about this in July, calling it "absolutely unacceptable."

The state's Department of Juvenile Justice noted at the time that a contractor's bid had been accepted for new beds, and the director said he hoped to have them all installed "within the next month or so."

Two months later, those beds are still not installed in those rooms used for suicide watch, according to department spokesman Kendall Marlowe.

Marlowe notes that getting the suicide-proof furniture takes time, as it is made of custom-molded plastic. He says remodeling work has begun at St. Charles, and "anticipates" installation of safety furniture will be completed at all juvenile justice facilities by the end of this year.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Final Blagojevich Co-Defendant to Stand Trial

Prosecutors are are filing documents outlining their evidence against William Cellini, the final co-defendant indicted with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Cellini's trial is scheduled for next month.

Cellini had contracts with the state under Republican governors and prosecutors say he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blagojevich to maintain his clout and business under the Democratic administration.

Prosecutors say he used his clout on boards to extort campaign contributions for Blagojevich from people hoping to do business with the state, and in return for raising cash prosecutors say Cellini was rewarded with lucrative state contracts of his own.

Prosecutors have laid out some of their case against Cellini in the last couple days. The evidence includes a recorded phone call from 2004 in which Cellini worries that Blagojevich's fundraisers are being too brazen in their attempts to get political contributions in return for state business. Cellini worries that authorities will start investigating because "too many people are talking."

Attorneys for Cellini did not return calls for comment.

The other co-defendants indicted along with Blagojevich include staffers Lon Monk and John Harris who both pleaded guilty and testified against their former boss. Chris Kelly was a Blagojevich friend and fundraiser and he committed suicide before going on trial in the case although he was indicted and convicted in other cases. Then there's Blagojevich's brother, Robert. Prosecutors dropped the charges against him after the first trial because many of the jurors found him a sympathetic character.

(AP Photo/file)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Judge Orders Northwestern Students to Turn Over Emails

A Cook County judge has ordered Northwestern University journalism students to give more than 500 emails to prosecutors. The emails detail efforts by students to free a man they believe was wrongfully convicted.

Northwestern has argued the information gathered by students is protected under the Illinois Reporter's Privilege Act. But Judge Diane Cannon ruled students were acting as investigators in a criminal proceeding and that makes the emails "subject to the rules of discovery." Prosecutors are looking for emails between former journalism professor David Protess and students discussing the conviction of Anthony McKinney, who is currently serving a life sentence.

Evan Benn is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He was one of the Northwestern students working on the project. He said he has disappointed in the ruling.

"But if it means the case will move forward and we can get past this subpoena issue and finally dig toward the innocence of Anthony McKinney," Benn said. "Then I welcome today's ruling, and hope that it moves forward."

In a statement, Protess said his students were investigating the case for two years before any attorneys got involved. He said all decisions were made at the school without the influence of lawyers.

Northwestern has 10 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling. A statement from the school says it will review a written statement from the judge and will evaluate its options.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 07, 2011

Former Gov. Thompson Says US Still Vulnerable to Another Attack

The United States has become complacent regarding homeland security since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson.

Thompson, who served as a member of the 9/11 Commission, said the urgency after Sept. 11 is gone, which he said is mostly due to no major attacks occurring since 9/11.

"It's easy to lose the advantage of recollection memory and easy to put this issue aside when nothing bad has happened," Thompson said. "But you can't because there will be another attack, somewhere in the country."

Thompson predicts that another attack wouldn't involve airliners crashing into buildings. Instead. he said it is more likely to be a simple plot more easily carried out.

He said the ten year anniversary of the attacks should be a time to take stock of national security. The 9/11 Commission issued a recent report that listed several accomplishments over the decade, such as better air passenger screening and intelligence agencies sharing information. But many of its recommendations have yet to be implemented. Those include a dedicated radio frequency for emergency responders and limiting bureaucracy for those whose job it is to keep the country safe.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 02, 2011

Quinn Grants 74 Clemencies, Denies 99

Gov. Pat Quinn has granted 74 clemencies and denied 99 petitions, chipping away at a backlog of more than 2,500 cases in Illinois.

Quinn's office says that the 173 cases he addressed on Friday come from dockets ranging from 2004 to 2007. More than 2,500 clemency cases built up under Quinn's predecessor, ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Quinn has acted on 1,529 clemency petitions since taking office. He has granted 591 and denied 938.

Clemency has been in the spotlight since former Republican Gov. George Ryan pardoned several people on death row and commuted sentences of others before leaving office in 2003.

Quinn recently signed a bill abolishing the death penalty in Illinois and commuted the sentences of all 15 men who remained on death row.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 01, 2011

Illinois Police to Set Up Check Points to Catch Drunk Drivers

Illinois State Police officials are warning drivers cops will be out in full force this holiday weekend.

About 100 roadside safety checks are scheduled across the state in an effort to crack down on drunk driving. Over the past five Labor Days, 25 people have died from drunk drivers in Illinois.

Bob Park, with the state's Department of Transportation, said the number of fatalities from drunk drivers over the holiday weekend have dropped over recent decades.

"The culture has changed," Park said. "When you take a look at the statistics and you look at the death rate, I mean, having the lowest death rate sinec the 1920s, obviously what we're doing is working."

Police warn that most drunk driving incidents happen at night. Drivers caught under the influence could face jail time or have their license suspended.


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