Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Police Release Description of Events Leading up to Teen’s Arrest

The Champaign Police Department has released its account of what occurred early Monday morning when 18-year old Calvin Miller was arrested.

The arrest and alleged police beating of the teen sparked a protest from around 100 people at Tuesday's Champaign City Council meeting, including his father, activist Martel Miller. The press release described what occurred before Miller's arrest on counts of Resisting a Police Officer, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude, and a traffic signal violation.

In the release issued Wednesday night, police say an officer saw a van speeding as it left the University Village apartments about 1:30 a.m. Monday. Police say the officer had trouble catching up with the eastbound driver, who ran a red light at Moreland Boulevard and Marketview Drive, and the officer wasn't able to catch up until he reached Neil Street.

Police say the officer turned on his overhead lights, but the driver continued on until jumping from the moving van, which had slowed down just before hitting the front of a home on Arcadia Drive. Police say damage wasn't serious, and that the squad car made no contact with the van.

A foot chase then ensued, in which police say the officer gave out clear and loud commands for the subject to stop. Police say he jumped a fence in the 200 block of Arcadia, and fell to the ground. When ordered to put his arms behind his back, the man resisted. Police say when he reached for the officer's duty belt, the officer struck the subject with his hand to subdue him. When a second officer arrived, he used pepper spray before making the arrest.

Officers say the 18-year old Miller was taken to Carle Hospital for a medical evaluation before being transferred to the Champaign County Satellite Jail. He later posted bond and was released.

Champaign police say to date, there has not been a formal complaint filed regarding Miller's arrest, although Martel Miller said Tuesday he is talking to lawyers about his son's case.

Champaign Police says staff will assess the officers' responses to ensure that all actions were in accordance with departmental policies and procedures.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

State High Court Suspends Blagojevich Law License

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

The Illinois Supreme Court has suspended convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's license to practice law.

The court acted Wednesday in response to a request from the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The Commission noted he was found "guilty of crimes that involve moral terpitude and reflect adversely upon his fitness to practice law."

Blagojevich's legal career got off to a rough start. The ex-governor has described his first year at Pepperdine Law School as "almost catastrophic" because he was more interested with history books than law ones. It also took him a couple tries to pass the bar exam.

Blagojevich is currently awaiting sentencing on federal corruption convictions that he tried to personally profit from his appointment of a U.S. senator for the seat vacated by President Barack Obama and other wrongdoing.

The ruling won't have much impact on Blagojevich.

The Chicago Democrat has been a lawyer since 1984, but he hasn't practiced law since joining Congress in 1997. He was governor from 2003 to 2009, when he was impeached and removed from office.

For now, the Illinois Supreme Court's order is a temporary suspension. Suspension could lead to disbarment. Two other former Illinois governors - Otto Kerner and Dan Walker - were both disbarred following criminal convictions.

Blagojevich's lawyers could not be reached for comment, and the former governor's spokesman had no immediate response.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Deliberations Underway in Cellini Trial

Jurors in Chicago have started deliberating at the last trial related to a nearly decade-long investigation of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The panelists withdrew to a 25th-floor jury room Tuesday afternoon. They'll have to decide if a businessman once known as the King of Clout, William Cellini, conspired to shakedown the producer of "Million Dollar Baby.''

It could take them days to go through evidence presented over three weeks. The 76-year-old Republican from Springfield denies plotting with three others to squeeze the Hollywood executive for a $1.5 million donation to Democrat Blagojevich's campaign.

Prosecutors say Cellini's role was to gently broach the issue of a contribution, with another conspirator responsible for tightening the screws later. Jurors must determine if prosecutors proved Cellini delivered part of the extortion message.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 26, 2011

Champaign Police-Community Relations Scrutinized

The topic of police abuse brought out a large crowd to Tuesday night's Champaign City Council study session. It wasn't an item on the agenda, but it grew out of the alleged police beating of a teenager who was stopped by Champaign police over the weekend for a traffic violation.

At least a hundred people showed up in support of 18-year-old Calvin Miller. They wore yellow "I stand with Calvin Miller" signs.

Multiple news reports say Miller was pulled over by police at around 1:30 Monday morning, and he fled the scene after his car damaged the front porch of a home.

Miller is free on bond after he was picked up for resisting arrest.

During a discussion about the city's finances, council member Will Kyles asked to break from procedure by allowing the audience to have public comment about issues unrelated to the agenda. Calvin Miller's father, Martel Miller, stood up and spoke. Martel claims his son was beaten by a police officer.

"This is my son! He got beat. How can you make something for five years from now if you haven't counted the lawsuits that are going to come down from police abuse?" Miller said. "Have you counted that in your budget for five years?"

Miller said the Champaign Police Department needs to deal with several of its officers who have abused their authority.

"The African American community should not be scared of the police," Miller said.

It has been a couple of years since the 2009 police-shooting death of Champaign teenager, Kiwane Carrington. Critics say that incident was a symptom of long-standing problems in Champaign police-community relations, particularly involving African-American youth. Now with the alleged beating of Calvin Miller, there is renewed anger and frustration.

Patricia Avery, a member of the city's community and police partnership, spoke at the meeting. Avery said the culture of the Champaign Police Department must change.

"We've been working at this problem for a very long time, and every time I think we're starting to make some progress, something like this happens where we have to step back," Avery said. "And then it's almost like, 'What do you do now? What do you say?' I'm really very disturbed by this."

The city is exploring a proposal to create a Citizens Police Review Board. Mayor Don Gerard said he is open to such a group.

"I ran for mayor for a reason, and a big part of that was the Kiwanne Carrington incident," Gerard said. "I was frustrated with how I perceived the leadership to respond. Now I'm in this position, and I have to stand up and be representative of the community."

Martel Miller said he hasn't filed a lawsuit, but he said he is talking to lawyers about his son's case.

A few years ago, eavesdropping charges were filed against Miller, who helped make a documentary attempting to show differences in how police officers in Champaign County treat minority residents compared to white University of Illinois students. Those charges were later dropped.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 25, 2011

Prosecutor: Greed Drove Blago-related Shakedown

Greed and a desire to maintain his influence in Illinois politics motivated a millionaire businessman to join a plot to shake down the Oscar-winning producer of "Million Dollar Baby," prosecutors told jurors Tuesday during closing arguments at the last trial from the federal investigation of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But William Cellini's attorney insisted prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, in part because their star witness admitted on the stand that he was a liar and cheat whose memory was impaired by decades of drug abuse.

Cellini, 76, has denied allegations he conspired to force Hollywood executive Thomas Rosenberg into making a $1.5 million donation to the Democratic governor's campaign by threatening to withhold $220 million in teachers' pension funds from Rosenberg's investment company, Capri Capital. He could face more than 50 years in prison if convicted on charges that include conspiracy to commit fraud, extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion.

Prosecutor Julie Porter told jurors repeatedly to listen to FBI wiretaps of Cellini because they support witnesses' testimony and the tone of Cellini's voice underscores his guilt.

"That is what corruption sounds like," Porter said as she played one tape in which Cellini seems to chuckle during a discussion of the alleged shakedown.

Porter also scoffed at defense claims that Cellini may have been hoodwinked and sucked unknowingly into a plot hatched by others.

"He was not on the sidelines of an extortion," she said. "Cellini had his eyes wide open and knew exactly what was going on."

Porter alluded several times to Cellini's enormous behind-the-scenes influence in Illinois politics, saying at one point that when he left a message for top-tier officials and political leaders to call him, "They called him back."

But Cellini's attorney, Dan Webb, told the jury the government hadn't made its case. He called star witness Stuart Levine "a whack job."

Prosecutors said Cellini conspired with Levine, who sat on the board of the $30 billion Teachers' Retirement System that controlled the pensions, and two Blagojevich insiders, Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly.

Levine was the only one to testify. He admitted on the stand to cheating a close friend's estate out of $2 million. He also talked about gorging on cocaine, crystal meth and other drugs - sometimes in binges at marathon parties.

"This man ... has lied, cheated and stole throughout his life," Webb told jurors. "And this is the man the government says you should believe?"

Webb reminded jurors that Levine conceded during cross-examination that his memory may have been damaged by his drug use, which continued through the May 2004 attempted shakedown.

Prosecutors say Cellini and the others backed off after Rosenberg unexpectedly threatened to go to authorities. Rosenberg testified he didn't initially suspect Cellini of trying to shake him down but thought Rezko and Kelly were.

Prosecutors say the plan called for Cellini to broach the subject of a donation with Rosenberg, and then the others would turn up the pressure later by asking for a donation and threatening the loss of the pension funds.

Rosenberg described screaming and cursing into the receiver during a 2004 phone conversation with Cellini, who had been Rosenberg's friend for more than 20 years.

"I told Bill I would not be shaken down," Rosenberg recalled telling Cellini. "I would not give a dime to Blagojevich under any circumstances."

No one, however, testified that Cellini ever asked Rosenberg for a contribution or threatened him - a point Webb made repeatedly Tuesday.

Porter conceded Cellini, a life-long Republican, would not have pocketed any of the money. But she said he hoped to ingratiate himself to Rezko and Kelly - two of the closest and most powerful confidants in the new Democratic governor's administration.

His motive for taking part in the scheme, she said, was "continued access, continued clout, continued status.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 25, 2011

Marine from Centralia Jailed in Killings Faces New Charges

A Marine Corps recruiter awaiting trial in the deaths of two central Illinois women now has been preliminarily charged with trying to have a third woman killed from jail.

Authorities told the Herald & Review in Decatur (http://bit.ly/rGvkNG ) Monday that 27-year-old Timothy Giles of Centralia has been preliminarily charged with solicitation of first-degree murder. He has not entered a plea and his attorney was not immediately available.

Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider says detectives recorded Giles trying to hire an inmate to kill 27-year-old Casey Eaton of Harristown.

Giles has been involved in a custody dispute with Eaton. Giles pleaded not guilty to killing her mother and sister, 57-year-old Cindanett Eaton and 23-year-old Lindsey Eaton, in August. Giles also pleaded not guilty to attempting that day to kill Casey Eaton.

Tags: crime, people

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 24, 2011

Urbana Man Found Dead in Local Motel

Authorities are investigating the death of an Urbana man whose body was discovered Sunday night at a local motel.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup says body of 61-year old Terry Masar was found at the Super 8 Motel on Killarney Street. He was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m.

Urbana Police Lieutenant Bryant Saraphin says Masar was reported missing by his family early Saturday morning. An autopsy will be performed Monday.

Seraphin said there were no obvious signs of foul play.

Masar is a former University of Illinois football player, a punter who was the team's most valuable player in 1971. He played U of I football from 1969-71, and held the record for the most punts in a season with 85. Masar also operated several restaurants in Champaign-Urbana.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 21, 2011

Closing Arguments Soon in Cellini Trial

Defense attorneys for William Cellini are trying to show jurors that their politically connected client deserved the contracts he got with the state of Illinois.

Prosecutors have put on evidence to show how Cellini used his political connections with the Teacher's Retirement System to get business for his real estate company. They rested their case on Thursday.

On Friday, the defense called Mike Bartletti to the stand. He was an employee of the Teacher's Retirement System, and he described a rigorous vetting process for the companies with which they worked. It was an attempt to show that Cellini couldn't have simply clouted business to himself.

Bartletti also reviewed financial information showing that Cellini's company made high returns on investments for teachers, 13.4 percent over a 5 year period.

Defense attorneys say Cellini didn't need to use illegal means to keep his business with the state because he did such a good job. The defense called three witnesses, and told the judge that Cellini will not testify.

Closing arguments are expected on Tuesday.

Categories: Criminal Justice, Politics
Tags: crime, politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 20, 2011

Champaign City Councilman Revives Discussion for a Police Review Board

The Champaign City Council last considered the idea of a citizens police review board in 2007 ---- ultimately voting to drop the discussion. Since then, the city has been shaken by the police shooting death of Kiwane Carrington. Also, city council membership has shifted, and some top police officials have announced their retirements --- including chief R.T. Finney. Will Kyles, the only African-American currently serving on the Champaign City Council, brought up the police review board idea at the Oct. 18 council meeting. He said he had received enough backing from fellow council members to get the subject on the agenda of an upcoming study session. Kyles tells Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows that now is the right time to revisit the idea of a citizens police review board.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 20, 2011

Cellini Prosecutors Rest Shakedown Case

Prosecutors have rested their case against the millionaire political insider William Cellini.

Cellini is accused of helping Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly extort a campaign contribution for Rod Blagojevich from Tom Rosenberg, a movie producer who also had a financial company that did business with the state.

In 2004, some business was being held up and Rosenberg asked Cellini to find out what was going on. Cellini got back to Rosenberg and said Rezko and Kelly were holding the state business until Rosenberg made a contribution to the former governor.

Cellini insists he was not an part of a conspiracy to extort the contribution. He was just relaying information about what he was hearing.

On the stand, Rosenberg said he had warned Cellini many times that Rezko and Kelly were crooked and he shouldn't deal with them but he also said that Cellini never asked him to contribute to any politician during the 30 years the two have known each other.


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