Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 20, 2011

Blagojevich Retrial Won’t Restart until Wednesday

Officials at U.S. District Court in Chicago say the corruption retrial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich won't restart until Wednesday.

Clerk of Court Michael Dobbins released a brief statement Friday afternoon saying there'd be no trial proceedings either Monday or Tuesday.

Since testimony got under way at the start of this month, jurors have heard evidence Monday through Thursday with Fridays off.

Judge James Zagel has said he'll meet attorneys Monday to begin discussing instructions that'll eventually be given to jurors when they withdraw to deliberate.

That meeting is still expected to take place. Dobbins' statement didn't say why there'd be no testimony early in the week.

The prosecution rested this week. And the defense is expected to start calling witnesses when the retrial resumes Wednesday morning.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 20, 2011

Ill. Gov Gets Bill Banning Gun Permit Disclosure

The Illinois Senate overwhelmingly OK'd prohibiting public disclosure of the names of people who hold firearm owner's cards.

The 42-1 vote Friday would overturn a ruling earlier this year by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office that the names are public under the Freedom of Information Act.

Madigan responded after the Illinois State Police refused to release to The Associated Press the names of 1.3 million people who are registered to own firearms.

The bill goes to Gov. Pat Quinn. His office didn't immediately comment.

Sen. Kirk Dillard says publishing the names would provide a "map'' to criminals determining whose homes to burglarize.

Anti-violence groups say it would allow the public to determine whether cards have gone to people who shouldn't have them.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2011

Unclear What Witnesses Blago Will Call

There are some intriguing possibilities about witnesses Rod Blagojevich's defense attorneys could call as they mount their case next week at the former governor's retrial.

Attorney Sheldon Sorosky said Thursday the defense will call "people of some prominence'' but didn't say who.

The defense didn't call any witnesses at the first trial last year. But they did subpoena then-White House chief of staff and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, among others.

Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat.

Emanuel's never been accused of any wrong doing in the case.

But witnesses described how Blagojevich hoped Emanuel would help him cut a deal where Blagojevich would name Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the seat and Blagojevich would get a Cabinet post.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2011

Challenge Coming for Indiana Police Ruling

An Indiana attorney will ask the state's Supreme Court to reconsider a controversial decision that involves police entry into homes.

The original case started with the arrest of Richard Barnes in Evansville, a city in the far southwestern corner of the state.

In late 2007 Evansville police tried to enter Barnes' home after being called to quell a domestic disturbance between Barnes and his wife. According to court records, Barnes told officers that they were not needed. Barnes and his wife tried heading back to their apartment. Police followed and then asked to be allowed inside. Barnes refused and shoved an officer. The officer entered anyway and subdued Barnes. Police eventually charged Barnes and a court convicted him on a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.

Barnes attorney Erin Berger challenged the conviction on the grounds that police didn't have a warrant. The Indiana Appeals Court agreed. But after a ruling last week, the Indiana Supreme Court says Hoosiers cannot resist police entry into their home, even if that entry is illegal.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David wrote, "the right to reasonably resist an unlawful police entry into a home is no longer recognized under Indiana law."

David added that a resident's refusal to allow an officer entry could lead to further violence. The court says a resident can challenge the entry in court at a later time. But Justice Richard Rucker, a Gary native, dissented.

"A citizen's right to resist unlawful entry into her home rests on a very different ground, namely, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution," Rucker wrote. "In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally - that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances."

Berger's taking the usual step in asking the court to reconsider its ruling.

"The breath of the decision would absolutely allow a police officer to enter a home for no reason, whether there's a warrant or not, whether there's extenuating circumstances or not," Berger said Wednesday. "Citizens no longer have the right to even tell the officer 'No,' and close the door against the officer's hand."

Following the ruling, threats have been made against the judges of the Indiana Supreme Court, and protesters have planned a march in Indianapolis for next week.

Indiana lawmakers are also considering amending the law so police within the state follow protections laid out in the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 19, 2011

Unabomber Investigated for ‘82 Tylenol Deaths

The FBI said it is investigating whether Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was involved in the Chicago-area Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in 1982.

Kaczynski wrote in papers filed in federal court in California last week that prison officials conveyed a request from the FBI in Chicago for DNA samples.

Chicago FBI spokeswoman Cynthia Yates confirmed Thursday that the agency has asked for Kaczynski's DNA. She said he's refused to voluntarily give a sample but declined to say whether the agency could compel him to provide one.

The Tylenol case involved the use of potassium cyanide and resulted in a mass recall. Kaczynski said he has never possessed potassium cyanide.

Kaczynski is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in 1998 to setting 16 explosions that killed three people.

(AP Photo/Department of Motor Vehicles, File)

Tags: crime, people

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 18, 2011

Feds Agree to Buy Thomson Correctional Center

Illinois may be the new host of a maximum security federal prison.

Since late 2009, the state and federal government have been in negotiations and while there has been no official confirmation, legislators have confirmed terms of transferring the Thomson Correctional Center to the feds. President Barack Obama's original plan was to send Guantanamo Bay's terror suspects to Thomson. A backlash killed that plan.

Still the administration insisted it wanted to take the state-of-the-art prison off Illinois' hands, as it has barely been used. State legislators from northwestern Illinois, including Republican Representative Richard Morthland, say they were notified by Governor Pat Quinn of a deal.

Morthland said it was to be kept quiet because there are unfinished details. However, it appears the state will get $165 million for Thomson. That's lower than its $220 million appraised value. But Morthland said it will create needed high-quality jobs.

"They'll need places to live, there're going to need places to shop, and they're going to be providing a lot of services," Morthland said. "The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a preference to working with local producers, so the farmers in the area and other people will be able to do business with the prison. And so it's really going to be a great shot in the arm for northwestern Illinois."

Given crowding in Illinois correctional facilities, the state could surely use it to house its own criminals. But Illinois doesn't have the money to open the prison. Congress would still need to approve the purchase, but no further action is necessary at the state level.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 18, 2011

Mumbai Terror Trial Jury Comprised Mostly of Minorities

A jury has been seated in the terrorism trial of a Chicago man.

The twelve jurors and 6 alternates chosen will be hearing the case against Tahawwur Rana who's accused of planning the Mumbai terror attack that killed 160 people.

Ten of the jurors are women and eight are African American. Rana's defense attorneys say there were a lot of minorities in the overall pool of jurors, and that's why there are so many on the panel. Charlie Swift says it's a good jury for them.

"The idea here was to get a jury of Mr. Rana's peers and I believe that we got a jury of Mr. Rana's peers. People who can understand Mr. Rana's position as an immigrant. People who can understand Mr. Rana's position as a minority in his community, Mr. Rana's position as a businessman and as a family member," Swift said.

Opening statements in the case are scheduled to begin Monday.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 18, 2011

Blago Judge: Prosecutors Likely to Rest Thursday

The judge at the corruption retrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he expects the prosecution to rest its case on Thursday.

Prosecutors told Judge James Zagel they'll be able to get through their four remaining witnesses within just a few hours on Thursday.

Zagel said Wednesday that defense attorneys would have their chance to start calling witnesses Monday. And he said he thought closing arguments would happen at the very end of May.

Prosecutors have called only a dozen witnesses over 2 1/2 weeks in a drastically streamlined case. Some 30 witnesses testified over six weeks at the first trial.

Blagojevich faces 20 charges including that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. He denies any wrongdoing.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 17, 2011

Blagojevich Lawyers Now Paying for First Trial Tricks

Defense attorneys for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are paying a steep price for the tactics the team employed in the first trial.

They used a number of tricks in the first trial which resulted in a hung jury on most of the counts against Blagojevich. The most notorious trick was probably when they promised the governor would testify, but then they reneged.

Judge James Zagel said he gave them leeway because he thought Blagojevich would testify, but he said he's not going to do that this time. That was evident Monday as defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky tried to cross examine a former Blagojevich aide, John Wyma.

Prosecutors had subpoenaed Wyma in 2008 about some of his work as a lobbyist and he's testifying under a grant of immunity.

Sorosky tried to ask questions about Wyma's cooperation to suggest that Wyma got a free pass on his own legal troubles because he gave up the governor.

Zagel stopped the questioning and told Sorosky that if he has problems with the way the prosecutors handle cooperating witnesses then he can file a complaint, but that's not relevant to this trial.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 16, 2011

Former Blagojevich Staffer to Testify During Corruption Trial

An old friend from Rod Blagojevich's early political career will be on the stand Monday in the former governor's retrial.

John Wyma was chief of staff when Blagojevich served as a congressman and stayed on as a consultant and fundraiser through Blagojevich's time as governor. He parlayed his relationship with Blagojevich into a very lucrative career as a lobbyist. Clients paid him thousands of dollars a month because he could get meetings with the governor or his staff.

Prosecutors subpoenaed Wyma about some of his business dealings, and in 2008 he provided information that allowed prosecutors to start recording the governor's phone calls. Blagojevich talked about Wyma outside court last Thursday after Wyma started his testimony. Blagojevich seemed unusually thoughtful.

"John Wyma was someone that I thought was a close and good friend and to see him lie like he's lying, understanding that he's doing it because he's being compelled to do it because he may have done some things wrong," he said. "He's afraid that he's going to get prosecuted, doesn't take away the sense of sadness that you feel because this guy was once someone that you thought was a good friend."

Wyma is testifying with a grant of immunity from prosecutors, meaning he can't be prosecuted for any crimes he committed related to this case, provided he tells the truth. He's testifying about conversations he had with Rahm Emanuel about Barack Obama's senate seat just after the 2008 presidential election.

(Photo by Rob Wildeboer/IPR)


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