Illinois Public Media News
Gov. Pat Quinn says he isn't going to fire the director of the Department of Corrections despite criticism of its early release of prisoners in an effort to save money.
The report released Friday, written by a former Appellate Judge David Erickson and two Quinn aides, says the department neglected the most important consideration, the potential impact on public safety.
While Quinn has placed most of the blame on Michael Randle, he says he also takes responsibility for the mistakes. He added it is his job to find remedies for those mistakes.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady blasted Quinn for skipping the presentation of the report in Springfield. He called it "a dangerous abdication of responsibility'' for Quinn not to deliver the results of the report himself.
Quinn said he was busy at the Illinois State Fair and then at an event with veterans. He later held a press conference at a Chicago beach to answer questions from reporters.
Authorities say a former coach at Urbana's University Laboratory High School intends to turn himself in to authorities three years after being convicted of a sex crime.
It's believed that Yuri Ermakov, 28, has been in Russia since a Champaign County jury found him guilty of criminal sexual assault. He left the courthouse in August of 2007, and a month later Judge Jeff Ford sentenced Ermakov to 12 years in prison. The charge against him stems from incidents involving female students at Uni High, where Ermakov was a track coach. University of Illinois Police Lieutenant Roy Acree says the FBI has been tracking the Ermakov the last three years - and that federal authorities told him recently the two sides had been negotiating.
"Once they determined exactly where he was, the conversations started." said Acree. "I'm not sure if the conservations were with the suspect himself or his mother, but a couple weeks ago I was contacted by the FBI, and learned that they had negotiated for him to return to the country." Ermakov lived in Urbana with his parents before allegedly fleeing the US. He's scheduled to appear before Judge Ford at a hearing Thursday morning, and is then expected to start serving his 12-year sentence. But Chicago Attorney Steve Richards has indicated he'll file a post-conviction petition on Ermakov's behalf with hopes of getting him a new trial.
Highs in the mid 90s are forecast for Saturday (August 14) but that's not expected to stop hundreds of central Illinois bicyclists from taking part in this year's "C-U Across the Prairie" Bicycle Ride.
The Prairie Cycle Club holds the event each year, on a prescribed route along rural roads in Champaign County. It's known as a "metric century" event, because its 65 mile length is equal to slightly over 100 kilometers. Shorter routes are also provided, at 15 and 35 miles.
Prairie Cycle Club spokesperson Lorrie Pearson says the hot weather might slow riders down, but she says keeping hydrated and using the rest stops set up along each route should help.
"As the heat increases, you're going to want to increase the amount of fluids that you take in, so definitely bring some water" advises Pearson. "We'll have water at the rest stops, but definitely bring water with you, and fill up at each of those rest stops."
Plus there's always "Sag Support" - the nickname for the club member driving a car along the route, ready to pick up weary cyclists who phone for help.
Pearson says "C-U Across the Prairie" is a ride, not a race, and cyclists of all skill levels are welcome.
Last minute registrations will be taken at the Hideway Grill near Lake of Woods Park in Mahomet, Saturday morning between 7 and 10. Pearson suggests cyclists planning to ride the full 65-mile route should arrive by 7:30. A $30 registration fee pays for breakfast at the start of the event, and a 2 PM lunch afterward.
NOTE: This story has been corrected, to identify Lorrie Pearson as a spokesperson for, not the president of the Prairie Cycle Club.
Add Decatur and Springfield to the list of Illinois towns thinking about bidding for a role in the reworked FutureGen clean-coal project.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin's office says a number of towns have inquired since Mattoon declined to become an underground storage site for carbon dioxide from a retrofitted coal plant in western Illinois. Durbin's office won't say which towns.
Mayor Mike McElroy says Decatur is looking into how many jobs the project might bring.
Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin says the capital city will take a hard look, too.
The Department of Energy last week announced radical changes in FutureGen. Plans to build a new power plant in Mattoon were scrapped in favor of retrofitting an old plant in Meredosia.
Jurors struggling to reach agreement at the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are taking three days off.
They are leaving the former governor, attorneys and other court watchers with an agonizing wait to find out whether they can break their apparent deadlock. There is no indication how long it might take for them to make a decision. And it's a wait that will be all the more difficult because jurors offered only the slightest of hints Thursday about what they've been doing in 12 days of deliberations.
The judge responded by telling them to deliberate further.
Since they began their deliberations two weeks ago, jurors have met Monday through Friday with weekends off.
A one-sentence statement from the court official didn't explain why they decided to take this Friday off.
A federal mediator will sit down with administrators and teachers in the Mahomet Seymour district in hopes of bringing progress to contract talks.
Thursday night, Mahomet Seymour Education Association members rallied before a negotiation session - union president Joan Jordan and Unit 3 superintendent Keith Oates says those talks made some headway. The next step is a 6:00 session tonight with a mediator who was called in on short notice - if there's no deal tonight another session is set for Sunday afternoon.
Jordan says salary, insurance and contract language issues are still unresolved. She says teachers don't want to start the new school year next Thursday without a contract agreement - last week they filed an intent to strike notice.
Late summer has become the season for West Nile virus in Illinois. In central Illinois, a mosquito sample collected last week in Champaign tested positive for West Nile, and as did five mosquito batches collected in Macon County.
Robert Millinger of the Macon Mosquito Abatement District says the discovery of West Nile virus comes at a time when the mosquito population is high.
"It's fairly high now, because of the amount of rain that we'd had", says Millinger. "A lot of containers and everything are full of water. And we're getting mainly culex mosquito right now, that is the carrier of the West Nile virus. They like, dark brackish water, to lay their eggs on."
Millinger says his crews test standing water for mosquito larvae in places like drainage ditches and abandoned swimming pools --- treating them when necessary. But he says people can cut down on mosquito population themselves, by targeting the standing water in their back-yards. He advises people to put screen coverings on containers kept out to collect rainwater, clear gutters of debris, and to empty old tires, wheelbarrows or other objects around the yard that collect water. Millinger says plastic swimming pools are another place where mosquitoes can breed, if allowed to hold the same water for several days.
No cases of human West Nile virus infection have been reported in Illinois so far this year. But the virus has shown up in mosquitoes or birds in 18 counties, including Champaign, Macon and Tazewell.
Jurors in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich say they have reached agreement on just two of 24 counts against him. The judge says he'll tell them to go back and deliberate some more.
Late this morning he jurors said they have not discussed 11 counts of wire fraud. They indicated they have discussed the remaining 11 counts and appear to be deadlocked on them.
The jury had sent a note to Judge James B. Zagel on Wednesday saying they were stuck, and Zagel had asked for clarification. Zagel said he wants the jury to go back and discuss the wire fraud counts.
Blagojevich and his brother have pleaded not guilty to charges including trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.
A group fighting to preserve an Indiana museum dedicated to World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle says it sees the state's decision to open the site for a local festival as a step in the right direction.
The Ernie Pyle State Historic Site in the Vermillion County town of Dana will be open through Saturday as part of the Ernie Pyle Firemen's Festival.
The state closed the site in December and has sought to have it deeded or sold to community groups or local government.
The nonprofit Friends of Ernie Pyle hopes to vote on a plan to take over the site in September.
President Cynthia Myers says the group plans a national fundraiser to help pay operating costs.
The group also hopes to open the museum during the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival in October.
Senator Dick Durbin is recovering today after undergoing a surgical procedure that removed a portion of his stomach.
A release from the Democrat's office says a routine checkup a few weeks ago revealed that Durbin had a small growth in his stomach - the small gastro-intestinal stromal tumor was removed this morning at a Chicago hospital. Durbin's office says it appears the tumor had not spread elsewhere, and no cancer was found in Durbin's stomach or esophagus.
A spokesman says the senator could be released from the hospital and resume a light schedule in a couple of days and a full schedule in a week.
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