Illinois Public Media News
A 24-year-old Champaign man is facing criminal charges in the death of a man found unresponsive at a party in Normal nearly two months ago.
Javier F. Cordova is being held at the McLean County jail on preliminary charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of his housemate, 26-year-old Mitchell Robinson, also of Champaign.
Robinson's death was ruled a homicide Tuesday by McLean County Coroner Beth Kimmerling. She said Autopsy results indicated Robinson was brain dead as a result of strangling.
Robinson, a student at Parkland Community College in Champaign, was found by friends in an apartment just after midnight Sept. 27. He was pronounced dead at BroMenn Regional Medical Center in Normal, about an hour later.
The Champaign Police Department says it's revising its Use of Force policy, to clarify its guidelines on when to use deadly force.
The revised policy took effect last month, but ran into controversy in the wake of the Kiwane Carrington shooting. Critics said it appeared to allow officers to use deadly force on suspects who were escaping or resisting arrest --- even if there's no sign that they have harmed or are likely to harm other people.
Police Chief R-T Finney calls that a misinterpretation. He says new language in the policy will make it clear the department follows state statute, which says that escaping or resisting arrest, is not --- by itself --- grounds for an officer to use deadly force.
"We put the statute (language) into the policy", says Finney. "That didn't seem clear to a lot of people. So we're taking it and kind of rearranging it, and making sure that it reads very clear that what the restrictions of deadly force when the suspect is trying to resist or escape have to have certain criteria."
The policy's language on Tasers has been another point of controversy, since Champaign Police don't' use Tasers. Finney says the language is meant to provide guidance for times when they call in other police agencies that DO use Tasers.
"We will be putting the actual restrictions in the policy and spelling those restrictions out, with a statement indicating that the Champaign Police Department does not deploy Tasers, but make it very clear that when we call other agencies in, here are the restrictions and guidelines (under which) we would call someone else in."
Also under the proposed revisions, language that was taken out of the policy ... on when a police officer may display a firearm ... will be restored.
And there's language that directs the department to send the annual report on its use of force in the past year to the Champaign City Council and Human Relations Commission for review.
Finney says he expects to present the changes to the city manager and city attorney for review in the next few weeks.
A Central Illinois Congressman is joining a number of his colleagues in their efforts to block the move of terrorism suspects to Thomson Prison. Urbana Republican Tim Johnson says the Obama administration plan 'flies in the face of common sense... exposing Illinois to a terrorist threat.' But Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer says the bigger concern is what rights those Guantanamo Bay detainees would have once incarcerated in the U-S.
"If they are tried in civilian courts here, the rules of evidence are far different in civliian courts than in military courts," says Bloomer. "And there is the possiblity of these people getting released on technicalities. That can't happen on U.S. soil." Johnson plans to co-sponsor of legislation sponsored by Peoria Republican Aaron Schock that would prohibit the use of federal funds to support the transfer of those prisoners. And Johnson has signed a letter written by Congressman Mark Kirk requesting a briefing from the Department of Defense. It calls for a Homeland Security Impact Study... looking at the vulnerability of Illinois landmarks.
Bloomer says the DOD has 'stonewalled' the efforts of many to find out more about the Thomson plan and its implications. He also cites a letter written by Republican State Senator Bill Brady. He's asked Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan whether approval from state legislators is needed to sell the prison.
A federal judge whittled down the list of defendants for Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial, dropping Springfield power broker William Cellini and leaving only the former governor and his brother.
And Michael Ettinger, an attorney for Blagojevich's brother, said Monday he will ask the judge within weeks to severe his client from the trial as well.
Judge James Zagel didn't drop charges against Cellini. Prosecutors are still free to bring him to trial after they finish with Blagojevich.
Meanwhile, Zagel says he's hoping to keep the June 3 trial date but left the door open for a brief delay requested by Blagojevich's lawyers.
Governor Pat Quinn says turning a mostly vacant prison in northwestern Illinois into a federal lockup is a "once in a lifetime opportunity." But concerns are being raised about the possibility of housing terrorists within the state's borders.
Federal inspectors were scheduled to be at the Thomson Correctional Center near the Quad Cities today. They're considering using it to house, among others, Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Governor Pat Quinn is on board. "We have, I believe, 345 convicted terrorists incarcerated across America," the Governor said. "And I believe the people of Illinois and the men and women who live here are more than capable of handling any type of assignment when it comes to incarcerating terrorists."
For Quinn, who is up for election, the proposal carries risk and reward. It's an opportunity to bring up to an estimated 3,000 jobs to the depressed area.
The prison has sat mostly vacant since it was built about 8 years ago, and the state lacks the money to fully open it. But some Republicans have been quick to criticize the plan. Quinn and fellow Democrat -- US Senator Dick Durbin -- spent Sunday trying to alleviate security fears, saying the super maximum prison at Thomson is considered a state of the art facility.
The former superintendent of a western Indiana school district has been arrested on forgery, theft and perjury charges after a state audit found he misused nearly $36,000.
Indiana State Police arrested Nathan Evans on Friday, three days after Fountain County prosecutors filed a total of 17 felony charges against the former top administrator of the Covington Community School Corp.
Evans headed the district for eight years before resigning in February, when authorities began investigating discrepancies in school accounts.
Chief deputy prosecutor Mark McGrady says Evans' actions included charging the purchase of a washer and dryer to the district but putting them in his home.
Evans was released on bond pending an initial court appearance Dec. 15. A Covington-area telephone listing for Evans could not be located.
Prosecutors asked a federal judge Friday to drop millionaire power broker William Cellini from Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial. Meanwhile, the former governor asked that the trial scheduled for June be postponed for months.
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel is likely to grant the motion, which would allow for a separate trial but not dismiss any charges, because Cellini's lawyers have been seeking the same thing.
Cellini is a Springfield lobbyist-businessman and has been viewed for decades as one of the most influential behind-the-scenes men in Illinois politics. He is charged with attempting to extort a payoff or hefty contribution for the Blagojevich campaign from a Hollywood producer whose money management firm did business with the state.
Once again, the Champaign City Council chamber was filled to capacity Tuesday night, with people concerned about police practices in the wake of the shooting death of Kiwane Carrington. This time, the topic was the department's new Use of Force policy, which took effect just before the 15 year old Carrington was shot in a police confrontation.
In his first public comments since his involvement in the confrontation in which Carrington was shot, Police Chief R-T Finney defended the policy, which he says was revised as part of his efforts to earn professional accreditation for the police department. He argued against remarks from police critics, who said that African-Americans were subject to more use of force by Champaign Police than white residents.
"The use of force is based on reasonableness," said Finney. "It's based on the actions that are presented to the officer. We review each one of them for that. It has nothing to do with race."
In contrast to two previous council meetings, police officers and supporters turned out in large numbers at Tuesday night's study session. Many wore buttons that said "Support Our Police". Albert Lo defended the Use of Force policy against critics who said it needed to be more specific.
"The Use of Force policy probably should be ambiguous," said Lo, "giving officers the opportunity to use their best judgment. That's why we hired them."
In contrast, 1st District Councilman Will Kyles said he thought the revised Use of Force policy might be too vague. For instance, he called for more specific guidelines on when officers can draw their gun.
Champaign Police officials say the revised policy allows deadly force only in cases where great bodily harm has or may occur. And they say the guidelines for Tasers are for when the department may call in another law enforce agency that uses Tasers --- Champaign does not. Chief Finney has talked about reviving the idea, but would not comment on the idea last night.
C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice was among those arguing Tuesday night for more specific language in the Use of Force policy, and against any language on Tasers. They also want any changes in police policy that directly affects affecting the community to come before the Champaign City Council. The group plans a noon-hour youth rally on Wednesday, Veterans Day, at the downtown Urbana Veterans Memorial, in memory of Kiwane Carrington.
The former head of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has been indicted on theft and official misconduct charges.
A Champaign County jury returned the seven-count felony indictment against 53-year-old Vito Palazzolo last week. A warrant has been issued for his arrest. It wasn't immediately clear whether he's been taken into custody.
Palazzolo is accused of using a health district credit card for personal use, including to buy a pickup truck and big-screen TVs.
The indictment includes charges of theft of governmental property, official misconduct and misapplication of funds. He was with the health district for 17 months until he was fired in August 2007.
No published telephone listing for Palazzolo could be located on Saturday.
The State of Illinois plans to start its early release of inmates Tuesday. It's part of an effort to save money in the prison system. The move comes about four months after the state first announced the plan. As many as one thousand prisoners could eventually be let go before their sentences are complete.
Sixty two prisoners will be freed in this first group. Corrections spokeswoman Januari Smith says most of them currently live at the department's adult transition centers, "basically meaning that these are people who are already living and working in the community."
Smith says inmates housed in transition centers work or go to school in the day, but must return to the dorm-like facility at night.
Illinois has eight of them ... one each in Carbondale, Decatur and Peoria. The rest are in and around Chicago. Smith couldn't say from which of these the inmates will be released, but she expects it will be spread out over several locations.
Nor could Smith say where the newly-freed prisoners will go to. But she says local authorities have been notified.
Smith says the Department of Corrections is continuing evaluations to choose other eligible inmates. The department must deem them non-violent and low-level offenders, and they must have less than a year of their sentence left to serve.
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