Illinois Public Media News
A suspect in last month's robbery of a customer outside a Campustown coffee shop has turned himself in.
Dennis Boston, 19, surrendered at the Champaign County Jail, early Thursday morning.
Boston was wanted for armed robbery with a firearm, in connection with the Oct. 10 robbery at the Expresso Royale coffee shop on East Daniel Street near the U of I campus. A surveillance video recorded one man taking an iPad from a customer seated outside the coffee shop and running away. He was followed by a 2nd man who displayed a handgun to the victim.
Champaign and U of I Police are continuing to look for the 2nd suspect in the robbery, who is identifed as a 23-24 year-old black male. He was last seen wearing a blue Milwaukee Brewers baseball cap, a long-sleeved black shirt, khaki colored shirt, and black tennis shoes
Anyone with information is asked to call either police department, or leave an anonymous tip with Champaign County Crimestoppers.
Police are asking for the community's assistance in providing information, especially regarding the identity and/or location of the second suspect. Information can reported to the Champaign Police Department by calling (217) 351-4545 or the University of Illinois Police Department by calling (217) 333-1216. Callers can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 373-8477 (TIPS).
Close to 4,000 students have received scholarships from the state to attend private schools under Indiana's broad new school voucher law.
State Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett said Thursday the months-old program is already succeeding at providing new opportunities for low and moderate income families.
Indianapolis Public Schools lost the most students under the new program, sending close to 650 students to private schools. The South Bend and Fort Wayne school corporations lost the second and third highest number of students to private schools under the program.
Opponents including the state's teachers unions say the program amounts to a wealth transfer from public to private schools. The Indiana State Teacher's Association is backing a legal challenge to the voucher law.
The director of Illinois' downstate library system hopes the Champaign Public Library can come up with an alternative to charging some out of town patrons a $200 dollar annual fee.
The Heartland Library System board voted last week to suspend Champaign's membership as a result of that fee. Champaign started charging that fee to Tolono and Mahomet district patrons last year due to the strain their borrowing had on the library's resources. In 60 days, the suspension will kick in, barring the library from checking out books from other resources. It also wouldn't be eligible for receiving state and federal grants.
Heartland director Leslie Bednar says the move to suspend the library wasn't an easy one, but its board wanted to send a message.
"I mean, that's kind of where we are now, and why we are there is to hopefully resolve this," said Bednar. "But ultimately, it's a decision for the Champaign Public Library board to make, and they have to make the decision for the patrons that they serve. They were imposing a fee which is in direct opposition to the Library System Act."
Champaign Library Director Marsha Grove says her board will likely explore another option, such as limiting the number of items patrons from the neighboring districts can check out. She says losing the annual $77,000 per capita grant (a federal grant filtered through the state) that all libraries receive would have a detrimental effect.
"It doesn't really seem fair to Champaign residents that they would have to lose that," said Grove. "It certainly doesn't seem fair to the library board. We don't want to give up that $77,000. That's pretty important."
Grove says the library is already doing more with less. She says about 90-percent of the library's revenue comes from property taxes, which have remained flat the last couple of years while expenses go up. Champaign's library has had to leave 14 positions vacant through attrition the last 3 years.
Grove says the fee on the Tolono and Mahomet systems has helped deter some of those patrons, who are now using their home libraries more often.
The Heartland Library System is fairly new, the result of a merger last summer of four smaller systems. It includes 594 member libraries.
Chicago is handing out new report cards to each of its schools. The grades are meant to spark discussion between parents and schools about how to improve.
At Spry Community School, Principal Nilda Medina says the report cards are about transparency. "For the parents and the teachers as well, and for administrators, this is where we are at," she said.
At Spry, some things looked good, she said. "Well, student attendance-that's outstanding. It's 96.2. Safety-our students feel that they're very safe here-safe coming to school."
The report cards feature teacher attendance rates, and even report on whether the school is offering students enough healthy food and exercise. They don't report ISAT scores-which have come under fire lately for overstating student achievement.
Many Spry parents who came to school to get their own children's grades seemed unphased by their school's designation as a "middle-performing school that needs improvement."
Parent Martha Del Villar said she is satisfied with Spry, and quipped that if parents had complaints, it would probably be about their kids, not the teachers.
The district would not say how many schools received its lowest score. It's said those schools are at risk of being closed down.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley is one step closer to being deposed in connection with alleged torture by Chicago police.
On Wednesday, a Federal judge ruled for the second time that Daley can be sued over alleged police torture.
The former mayor was the Cook County state's attorney back in the 1980s. That's when Michael Tillman was arrested for murder. Tillman said police under former commander Jon Burge tortured him into confessing. He said they put a gun to his head, poured soda in his nose and choked him with a plastic bag.
Last year, Tillman was exonerated after two decades in jail, and then sued several people he says were connected to the torture, ranging from individual officers to Daley.
In July, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that Daley can be included in Tillman's lawsuit in his capacity as mayor.
Daley's lawyers appealed, but Wednesday the judge shot them down again. Tillman's lawyers reportedly hope to question the former mayor as soon as next month.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says he expects a vote on gambling expansion when lawmakers return to Springfield next week for the fall session.
The Chicago Democrat says he expects a gambling expansion vote when lawmakers return to the Illinois Capitol Nov. 8 for a second week of work. He acknowledged disagreement remains over slots at race tracks.
Gov. Pat Quinn has threatened to veto legislation lawmakers passed in May that would add five casinos, including one in Danville and another in Chicago, and put slots at tracks. Quinn has said he's willing to support the new casinos but opposes slots at tracks. Some lawmakers say a gambling measure can't pass without including slots at tracks.
Cullerton says lawmakers have gotten input from Quinn but he can't say they have an agreement on legislation.
WILL runs tests of the Emergency Alert System every week --- maybe you've heard them. But those tests are on the state and local level. Coming up Wednesday, Nov. 9th, a national EAS test will involve every broadcast, cable and satellite station in the country.
On November 9th at 1 PM, FEMA will send out an alert code for a national emergency to the first level of broadcast stations in the Emergency Alert System relay structure. Other stations will relay it until it reaches every station in the country, including this one. Patti Thompson is with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
"it is just a test," Thompson said. "It's important for the federal government to test the entire system, so that if there are any weaknesses identified that they can be corrected before we have a true emergency."
The test, scheduled to last for approximately 45-to-60 seconds, will include audio telling you that a test is being conducted. But the text shown on TV screens won't mention that there is no real emergency. The Federal Communications Commission is encouraging TV stations to run their own text explaining the test. And they're trying to get the word out that when the Emergency Alert System is triggered across the country, Wednesday afternoon at 1 PM Central time --- it's only a test.
More than a decade ago, a man named Wes Moore was convicted of murdering a police officer during a botched robbery. What he didn't know was that another man with the same name grew up not far from him in Baltimore. The two frequented the same places, had run-ins with the law, and were fatherless. While one Wes Moore will spend the rest of his life behind bars, the other has a successful career as a businessman, motivational speaker, and author.
In the book titled "The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates," Wes Moore talks about meeting the man with the same name, but a very different life. Moore spoke with Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers shortly before giving a presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the University of Illinois' Alice Campbell Alumni Center as part of the United Way of Champaign County's Pillar Celebration.
Tenure and tenure track faculty on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus are on strike.
Negotiations broke down late Wednesday evening. Faculty Association officials said the administration rejected all of their proposals and offered no new proposals during contract talks on Wednesday. Faculty Association spokesman Dave Johnson said the administration has shown no interest in real bargaining. He says the university has been willing to meet but not to move.
"The board team has now rejected all of our proposals, as they've rejected so many proposals in the past," Johnson said. "They've offered no new proposals of their own, no alterations of our proposals really nothing at all today."
In a statement SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng said classes will go on as scheduled, and she hopes to continue negotiations toward a contract with the Faculty Association.
Meanwhile three other unions have reached tentative deals. Union leaders say the proposals, which have yet to be voted on, resolve many issues involving job security and other concerns. Details of those agreements have not been released.
The resident who filed the first case heard by Urbana's Civilian Police Review Board says it exposes a flawed process.
Aaron Ammons of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice filed the complaint stemming from an incident in September of last year. He says officers arrived outside a relative's home with guns drawn, when it was learned later than officers arrived at the wrong address, and that someone elsewhere was being threatened at gunpoint. Ammons says an officer threatened him when asking what they were doing at his relative's home.
The case was heard and sustained by the CPRB last week. Urbana's police review panel was first formed in 2008. Ammons says he recognizes nothing else will be heard in his case, but hopes the city has learned some lessons. He says those include bringing the officer or officers cited in a complaint before the panel.
"I think from a public standpoint, it's pretty clear," said Ammons. "It doesn't make sense to have a complaint filed,and go to the CPRB, and the very person that the complaint is filed against doesn't have to show up. That's unacceptable."
Urbana Human Relations Officer Todd Rent says the review panel can subpoena witnesses, but not police officers. He says a police commander sits in on meetings in an advisory role only, without a vote. Rent says there are no other appeals currently waiting CPRB action.
Ammons also contends that the Civilian Police Review Board's Chair, Tom Costello, was trying to justify the officer's behavior instead of acting independently. Costello says the group followed the process as prescribed by the city's ordinance. But he says it doesn't mean there won't be a review of how that appeal was heard.
"I think we're going to take a look at it, and see how it went, and see if there's some modifications that we need to make," said Costello. "With any part of the process, this is an evolving process, we have to see how it goes."
Rent says of the 6 complaints filed about Urbana police conduct this year, one is still being reviewed by the police department. With its first appeal heard, Rent says he expects future cases to go more smoothly.
Ammons says CU Citizens for Peace and Justice will be working on suggestions of its own to bring before the city.
Talk of a citizens police review board in Champaign has resurfaced, largely at the urging of city council member Will Kyles, and after allegations of a police beating during the arrest of 18-year old Calvin Miller.
At Tuesday night's Champaign City Council meeting, Council member Karen Foster said she is open to that idea, but she said she'd rather first explore other solutions to resolve communication issues that exist between the police department and the rest of the community. Mayor Don Gerard has said he's open to such a group.
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