Illinois Public Media News
The U.S. Department of Justice will not pursue a civil rights case in the 2009 police-shooting death of Champaign teenager Kiwane Carrington.
The city of Champaign released a letter it received Monday, saying the Justice Department's Civil Rights division had closed its investigation into the incident and "concluded that the evidence in the case does not establish a prosecutable violation of any federal criminal civil rights statute."
The 15-year-old Carrington was shot to death in October of 2009 when Police Chief R.T. Finney and Officer Daniel Norbits confronted and wrestled with Carrington and another teen behind a Vine Street house. Police had suspected that the two were trying to break into the home, but it was later discovered that Carrington was welcome in the house, which was unoccupied at the time. A state police investigation concluded that Norbits' gun discharged accidentally during the altercation. Finney had been working a regular patrol that day. Norbits was given a 30-day suspension for not properly controlling his weapon.
The incident added fuel to long-standing suspicion against police in the African-American community.
In a complaint to the Department of Justice shortly after the shooting, Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice was critical of the local investigation, claiming that evidence was mishandled and that Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz poorly analyzed the case. The group's Aaron Ammons said he has not heard back from the Department of Justice regarding that complaint, and added that he is not surprised by the outcome of the department's recent investigation into the shooting.
"I guess deep in our hearts and the recesses of our minds, we'd like to believe that there would be some justice at some level within our government," Ammons said. "When you don't see that, it is disappointing."
The case has been reviewed by various local, state, and federal agencies. The Department of Justice's recent investigation came as no surprise to Seon Williams, a friend of the Carrington family.
"The situation and outcome has been the same, so I don't think the community's surprised on the next phase of this thing." Williams said. "I think we're all just trying to heal and trying to move forward."
In a statement, Chief R.T. Finney said, "We are confident of the thoroughness of all investigations and satisfied that the outcomes were all the same. This was a very tragic incident for all involved and the closure of this investigation will help us all move forward."
The city settled a civil lawsuit with Carrington's family last year. A second civil suit filed by the family of the other juvenile is pending.
Jeff Markland, who was mayor of Urbana throughout the 1980s, died Monday at his home in the city. He was 70 years old, and the Champaign County Coroner's office attributes his death to natural causes.
Markland served one term on the Urbana City Council before winning election in 1977 to the first of four terms as mayor. Some of the people he appointed are still with the city, including city comptroller Ron Eldridge.
"Jeff really had a deep, deep passion and really cared for the city of Urbana," Eldridge said. "He was very much, I think a moderate, even though he was with the Republican Party, he really did not let national politics enter into the decisions of the city."
Markland's tenure as mayor ended in 1993, when he lost a close race to Democrat Tod Satterthwaite. But Satterthwaite said despite his differences with the Republican Markland, they shared a dedication to improving Urbana's business climate and neighborhoods. He credits Markland with finding good people for Urbana's top administrative positions.
"Once you had the qualified people there, let them do their job," Satterthwaite said in describing Markland's approach. "And of course, he would direct them on what kind of projects he would like to see, but let them find out what was going on in their area, and let them bring suggested projects back to him and the council for review and approval."
In addition to Eldridge, Public Works Director Bill Grey is the other Markland appointee who is still with the city of Urbana. Grey said he was attracted to Urbana by Markland's stability and professionalism. Funeral services for Jeff Markland are pending. Renner-Wikoff in Urbana are handling the arrangements.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's office says acting state police director Jonathon Monken will move to the Emergency Management Agency.
Spokeswoman Mica Matsoff says the governor will announce the move shortly.
The 31-year-old Monken has been acting state police director for nearly two years, but the Senate has never confirmed the appointment.
He would have gotten the permanent job by default after Wednesday because the deadline for Senate action would expire. However, the Senate raised the possibility of a last-minute hearing to block Monken.
Senators say he doesn't have experience as a police officer to run the agency even though he was a military police officer who served in Iraq.
Imagine riding in a car with a license plate that has an advertisement tacked on promoting a restaurant, soft drink, or sports team. Well, that may become a reality in Illinois.
One Chicago Democrat has introduced legislation designed to create corporate-sponsored license plates to generate revenue. It is part of an effort to help plug the state's $15 billion budget deficit.
"It's not a novel idea to have advertising on certain stadiums, or buses, or somewhere," State Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago) said. "But we need to start thinking of other ways to generate revenue that's going to keep recurring year after year."
The plan would give motorists the option of purchasing cheaper license plates with the advertisements. Companies interested in promoting their business would make up the cost difference, and pay an additional amount. The money would go to the state and a contractor overseeing the program, but it's unclear how much money both sides would get.
"If we took a million people that wanted to be engaged in this program, and if the state were to say get $10 a plate, it could be an additional $10 million a year," Mulroe said.
Mulroe calls this a "win-win" for the entire state because taxes would not go up, and Illinois would generate more revenue.
Texas is currently the only state to sell corporate license plates. Other states including Florida, Nebraska, and Virginia have looked at similar proposals.
(Photo courtesy of CyberDrive Illinois)
News of the resignation of Egypt's thirty-year ruler Hosni Mubarak sent waves of excitement through the Chicago area's Muslim community as they went to afternoon prayer services Friday.
Egyptian-American worshipers at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, cried with relief as they called the change a "watershed moment" in the history of Egypt and the Middle East. "We are so proud," Raba Gomaa said during a press conference arranged by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC).
Though the change in Egypt's regime was announced just hours before the service began, it was the topic of Sheikh Jamal Said's sermon.
"We would like to congratulate our brothers and sisters in Egypt," Said said. "The tyrant is gone, Elhamdulillah. The tyrant is gone."
In the women's worship space below, female congregants jubilantly greeted each other with the Arabic phrase that has become a refrain during the weeks of protest: "Tahya Masr!" ("Long Live Egypt").
The high emotions followed a period of deep despondency that set in with many Thursday, when Mubarak indicated in a speech that he had no intention of stepping down. But Karima Mohamed, who left Egypt roughly 20 years ago, said when she heard that speech she knew Mubarak's time was coming to an end. "After two minutes we know something (was going to) happen," said Mohamed. "The people (would) not accept it because he tried to play a game on the people, but the people over there, they're more smarter than what he did."
Others at the service said they believe the change in Egypt will ripple through the rest of the Middle East.
"There's 22 Arabic-speaking countries," CIOGC President Dr. Zaher Sahloul said. "Two of them are right now free: Tunisia and Egypt. Twenty are left."
Oussama Jamal, Vice President of the Mosque Foundation, expressed similar hopes that the developments in Egypt won't stop at that country's borders.
"We hope it is a cold, and everybody will catch it soon," he said.
Many of the Egyptian-Americans said they are confident that their countrymen will successfully steer through the transition period to a peaceful and fair democracy, and they're looking forward to helping in any way they can.
"In ten years you can see you can see Egypt not less than Europe or America," Mohamed said. "It will be in the top again, insh'Allah.
An Illinois lawmaker is pushing to raise the state's minimum wage to more than $10 an hour -- higher than anywhere else in the United States.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Democratic Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood has introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage by 50 cents plus the rate of inflation every year until it reaches the point where it's equivalent to what $1.60 an hour was in 1968. Today, that would mean an hourly wage of $10.03.
Lightford said she wants to make sure the working poor aren't ignored or forgotten.
But opponents say the proposal could cause businesses to move to other states -- especially if it comes after a recent corporate income tax increase.
A longtime advocate for the rights of disabled people says he's 'humbled and proud' to be named to the list of Lincoln Academy Laureates.
Tim Nugent founded the University of Illinois' Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services in 1948, and has since developed standards for handicapped accessibility. Nugent's ideas started with building ramps for injured World War II veterans. He was teaching health education at the U of I's former campus in Galesburg when it closed in 1949.
With no plans to transfer disabled students to Urbana, Nugent said that prompted rallies on the campus and in Springfield. He compares the effort to what African-Americans have gone through in this country.
"It wasn't until recently that they had full privileges," Nugent said. "And they were going through the same thing. It's a natural phenomenon when you bring out something new or different. People question it, people challenge it. And that's what proves its merit."
Nugent says he's worked with many Lincoln laureates, including Urbana native and film critic Roger Ebert, and is happy to be joining their ranks. He'll receive Order of Lincoln award in April 16th ceremonies at the U of I's Krannert Center for the Performing Arts along with five other people, including Flex-N-Gate Corporation President Shahid Khan.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois)
Illinois senators haven't quite given up hope of voting on Gov. Pat Quinn's nominee to head the state police.
An aide to Senate President John Cullerton initially said Thursday there was no way to hold a confirmation hearing before time ran out and nominee Jonathon Monken officially got the job.
But Rikeesha Phelon later said Senate leaders had begun considering a hearing next Wednesday, the last day possible.
Nominees are automatically confirmed if the Senate doesn't hold a vote within 60 session days. The deadline was also complicated by the fact that Monken was nominated during a legislative session that ended last month.
Monken is 31 and has no law enforcement experience, but he has served as acting director of state police for nearly two years.
Dozens of people have lined up to speak to Indiana lawmakers about a proposal that its sponsor says would lead to an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration in the state.
Sponsor Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel opened a public hearing Wednesday by saying those from other countries have an obligation to follow U.S. laws. Supporters testify that illegal immigrants have been taking jobs from Indiana residents and that the state has the right to enforce immigration laws because federal officials had failed.
Opponents outside the Senate chamber have held signs such as "Welcome to Indiana ... where you will be racially profiled."
State Attorney General Greg Zoeller earlier Wednesday expressed reservations about the proposal, saying Indiana shouldn't try to assume authority over what is a federal responsibility.
The achievements of two Champaign-Urbana residents have won them the state of Illinois' highest honor.
The Order of Lincoln honor is bestowed on Illinoisans who have served their communities - since it originated in 1964, it's gone to people ranging from Ronald Reagan to Gwendolyn Brooks to Walter Payton.
In April, Governor Pat Quinn will give the award to Shahid Khan, the president of the Urbana auto component company Flex-n-Gate, and to Tim Nugent, who worked for decades to make the University of Illinois and the rest of the world more accessible to people with disabilities.
Other honorees at the Krannert Center ceremony will be Chicago arts philanthropists Richard and Mary Lackritz Gray, Northwestern university law professor and former state senator Dawn Clark Netsch, and Illinois Arts Council chair Shirley Madigan.
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