Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 28, 2011

New Records Show More Restaurant Inspection Failures

New Records Show More Restaurant Inspection Failures

(Reported by Dan Petrella of CU-CitizenAccess)

When public health officials conducted a routine inspection of Quizno's in Urbana last month, they discovered 12 critical health-code violations.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 28, 2011

Gov. Quinn Wants Probe of Voting by Absent Legislators

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to know who cast votes for about 18 Illinois House members who weren't on the floor when utility rate-hike legislation he opposed passed.

Quinn said Thursday legislation involving such high stakes shouldn't have anyone other than the House member casting a vote. He said the action should be investigated by the House, adding it was a `'violation of ethical conduct."

On Wednesday, lawmakers gave electric companies the authority to raise rates to produce money for modernizing the state power grid. House rules bar a member from voting on a question before the House unless on the floor before the vote is announced. However, it is not unusual for the rule to be ignored.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says Quinn is trying to explain a huge defeat.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 28, 2011

California Seeks Death for Chicago Serial Killer

When Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in the state earlier this year, it spared the lives of 15 men on death row.

But one of them may not be off the hook.

Andrew Urdiales, 47, a former U.S. Marine, could be put to death if he is found guilty in the deaths of five women in Southern California.

The Orange County District Attorney's office announced this week that it will seek the death penalty against Urdiales if he's convicted in the murders.

"We will be seeking the death penalty for the crimes that he committed in California," according to Howard Gundy, senior deputy district attorney for the Orange County D.A.'s office. "The factors of aggravation, which would call for the stiffest penalty, far outweigh any of the factors in mitigation."

Urdiales is now awaiting trial in Orange County for the deaths.

He was extradited from the Pontiac Correctional Facility in Pontiac, Illinois in late September.

At Pontiac, Urdiales had been on death row for the murders of Laura Uylaki, 25, of Hammond, Ind., and Lynn Huber, 22, of Chicago.

Their bodies were dumped near Wolf Lake which straddles the Illinois-Indiana state line near Hammond.

In 2004, Urdiales was sentenced to death again for the 1996 murder of Cassandra "Cassie" Corum, 21, of Hammond.

Prosecutors say Urdiales dumped her body in the Vermilion River in Pontiac.

But the change in Illinois law in March abolishing the death penalty commuted Urdiales' sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

Urdiales will be arraigned in Orange County on Dec. 1for the additional five homicides. Of the five homicides, three took place in Riverside County, one in San Diego County, and one in Orange County.

Gundy said it was decided to consolidate the five cases with the trial happening in Orange County.

Prosecutors say the killing started back in 1984 when Urdiales was a 19-year-old Marine stationed in Southern California until his discharge in 1991. That's when he returned to the South Chicago neighborhood where he grew up.

Four of the five California victims are described as prostitutes ranging in age from 21 to 32.

His first California victim was 23-year-old Robbin Brandley who had been volunteering as an usher at a concert. Prosecutors say Urdiales wanted to kill a random person so he sought Brandley out following the concert and as she walked to her car. He's alleged to have stabbed her 41 times with a six-inch hunting blade.

The case was cracked open in November 1996 when Urdiales was arrested by police in Hammond, Ind., for loitering in his truck near an area known for prostitutes. Police confiscated a handgun which he was not licensed to carry.

Ballistic testing in April 1997 by Illinois police found the gun confiscated by Urdiales was the same firearm used to shoot and murder three of the victims.

Urdialeswas soon after arrested for the three murders.

(AP Photo/Illinois Department of Corrections, File)

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 28, 2011

Hoffman to Forgo Congressional Run, Seek Illinois House Seat

A former state lawmaker says he'll forgo a run for Congress and attempt a return to the legislature instead.

In a statement issued late Thursday night, Democrat Jay Hoffman announced he would run for State Representative in the new 113th district. Hoffman had already announced a run for Congress' new 13th district in an attempt to unseat Urbana Republican Tim Johnson. But now Hoffman says a run for the Illinois House gives him the best opportunity to advocate for the issues he cares about most passionately, including capital construction, education, and economic development.

The Belleville News Democrat reports the St. Clair County Democratic Party is endorsing Hoffman for the 113th district seat. Democrat Tom Holbrook quit the seat Monday in order to become chair of the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

Hoffman says running for the legislature allows him to serve the community where he grew up, and the people he knows best.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 28, 2011

Miller Refutes Police Account of Son’s Alleged Beating

Critics of the Champaign Police Department are expressing outrage, and a differing account of the arrest of an African-American teen last weekend, that they say involved excessive use of force.

Police say Calvin Miller ran a red light and swerved into traffic to avoid police on Monday at around 1:30 am, and then at one point, jumped from a moving van, which hit the front of the house. Police say Miller then reached for the officer's duty belt, and the officer struck him with his hand.

"It's a situation that could have been resolved very, very minimal with the officer stopping, the potential for a ticket, and the offender going on," Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney told WDWS radio. "We don't make the decision for people to run....if you run from the police, not only is it illegal, but it's going to have some dire consequences."

Responding to the police department's account of what happened, Calvin's father, Martel Miller claims police rammed into his son's car, and then maced him with pepper spray, struck him repeatedly on the face, head and ankle, and hit him with a baton.

"This is part of racial profiling," Miller told a crowd Thursday outside of the Champaign Police Department. "What I want you all to understand is abuse with black young men has been going on for too long, and it's by this department."

The incident comes two years after the police shooting death of teenager Kiwane Carrington.

Miller said he hasn't yet filed a formal complaint against the police department. In the last few days, there has been flurry of outrage over the alleged police beating of his son, and there are calls for major changes in the police department. Aaron Ammons, the co-founder of C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice, said there is no reason Miller should have been struck in the first place.

"We're asking for and demanding that these officers be removed, those who have been problems throughout the community ongoing that they can be removed and that new officers are brought in," Ammons said. "And bring more African American and people of color officers into this department who live here, who know the community, and who have a stake in the community."

Finney said the case will be reviewed to determine if there was excessive force used. Finney noted that officials with his department will likely address the city council on Tuesday night. Critics of the police department are expected to do the same. The Champaign City Council plans to discuss a proposal for a citizens police review board later this fall. That proposal was brought up last week, before the Calvin Miller arrest.

"Certainly the officers had every reason to get him into custody, and protect themselves in that backyard, and I think that's what they did," Finney said, adding that there wasn't anything he believed the police officers could have done in the situation.

At Thursday's demonstration outside of the Champaign Police Department, 30-year-old Gary McFarland of Champaign came forward. He said at the start of October, a Champaign police officer hit him as he was trying to enter his home.

McFarland said that incident resulted in his jaw having to be wired shut: "He never asked my name. He never asked for my ID. He never searched me. I could have been anybody."

A review of court records show McFarland was charged with resisting a police officer and criminal trespassing on Oct. 3, 2011.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 28, 2011

Robert Blagojevich: ‘Unanswered Questions’  Regarding US Rep. Jackson

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother wants to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Ethics investigating whether an Illinois congressman sought to raise money for Blagojevich for an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

Robert Blagojevich told Thursday''s Chicago Sun-Times he's written to committee members offering testimony about Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr.

Rod Blagojevich was convicted of trying to sell Obama's seat. Related charges Robert once faced were dropped. Trial witnesses alleged Jackson supporters offered fundraising for the governor if Jackson became senator.

Jackson's denied wrongdoing and hasn't been charged. He testified at Blagojevich's retrial that he's "never directed anyone to raise money for another politician.'' His spokesman declined comment yesterday.

But Robert Blagojevich says "there are a lot of unanswered questions (Jackson) should be required to answer.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

House Lawmakers Reject Gov. Quinn’s ROE Funding Plan

Legislation to restore salaries for regional school superintendents after they were wiped out by Gov. Pat Quinn has failed in the Illinois House.

The vote Thursday was 59 to 55, but lawmakers can vote again later.

Quinn eliminated the money for the superintendents and their assistants in July because he says the state can't afford the $11 million. He wants local governments to pay from an alternative fund. The legislation lawmakers rejected would have done that.

Some lawmakers say the regional school officials should be paid, others question the need for the offices.

Illinois has 44 regional offices of education. Their responsibilities range from inspecting school buildings to certifying teachers to running GED programs.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Ill. Commission Votes to Block Facility Closures

A bipartisan legislative commission is rejecting Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal to close three social-service facilities and a youth prison.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability cast advisory votes Thursday against closing a juvenile detention center in Murphysboro, a developmental center in Dixon and mental health hospitals in Rockford and Chester.

Quinn announced last month he needs to close seven facilities and lay off nearly 2,000 employees because of budget shortfalls.

A spokeswoman says Quinn has no choice but to shut the facilities unless the Legislature appropriates more money.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees opposes the closures. Executive Director Henry Bayer says the votes indicate lawmakers believe the facilities are necessary. The commission has yet to vote on closing facilities in Lincoln, Jacksonville and Tinley Park.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Frerichs Says Bill on New Group Health Plans Still Alive

NOTE: This story was updated and expanded on 10/27/11.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) says he is disappointed that his bill to nullify the new group health insurance plans for state workers and retirees failed to survive a gubernatorial veto on Wednesday.

Senators failed to override the veto on a vote of 28-to-28, with Senate President John Cullerton voting Present. But Frerichs said the fight against what he sees as an inferior package of health plans isn't over yet.

"We're not done fighting, and this is a speed bump, it's not a roadblock," Frerichs said. "We still have a very good case going through the courts. And we still have time, because we extended contracts through June 30, to work on a solution in the spring session."

Frerichs was referring to the contract extensions of existing health plans --- including those from Urbana-based Health Alliance. They are meant to give time for the dispute over the health plans to play out. Frerichs' legislation would have gone further, canceling the new health plans entirely and starting the process of approving new contracts all over again --- but taking oversight of the procurement process to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and returning it to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

Frerichs also says he hasn't entirely given up on reaching a compromise with Governor Pat Quinn, despite his veto of the bill.

"The governor made fairly clear that he was opposed to this bill", says Frerichs. "But he did leave open the possibility of some sort of negotiations. So I'm going to listen to him, see if there's some sort of compromise that we can reach. If we can't though, we're prepared to go forward and try again."

Frerichs charges the Quinn administration with working to switch votes in the Senate on his bill, which passed the chamber 37 to 12 in May

The new health insurance plans announced by the Quinn administration last April drew criticism because they replaced existing health plans --- such as those from Health Alliance --- with ones not generally available in many counties or with certain physician groups --- such as Carle, which owns Health Alliance, and has an exclusive contract with them.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Man Thought to be Gacy Victim, Found Living in Florida

A man thought to have been a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been discovered living in Florida.

After the Cook County Sheriff exhumed remains of eight Gacy victims, the family of Harold Wayne Lovell came forward in an effort to find a match. Instead, they discovered that Lovell had been living in Florida all along. He'd vanished from Aurora in 1977 and had some trouble with the police along the way. Sheriff Tom Dart said the family was convinced Lovell was a victim based on a piece of jewelry found at Gacy's house. But they had no dental records to make a comparison at the time.

Lovell, now 53, has been reunited with his family.

Sheriff Dart said investigations have become more accurate over the past couple of decades.

"Back in the late 70s and prior to that, the way that missing persons were handled as a whole was not very scientific at all. And so people that had concerns back then, now would be the time whether or not they thought they were involved in the Gacy case or not. Come forward and have your DNA submitted," Dart said.

Dart said more than 120 families have come forward to see if their loved one is possibly among the victims. Results could be revealed in two to three weeks.

Gacy was convicted of murdering 33 men and boys in the 1970s. He was executed in 1994.


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