Illinois Public Media News
A Chicago man has been ordered to spend a year and four months in federal prison for threatening to bomb Southern Illinois University's Carbondale campus and kill 4,000 students and staff.
Twenty-three-year-old Maurice Wiggins was sentenced Monday in East St. Louis on a felony charge of making a bomb threat. He pleaded guilty in November.
Authorities contend Wiggins was upset about the break-up with his SIU-student girlfriend last August when he made the threat via a message from his cell phone to the 20,000-student university's crime-watch website.
Wiggins allegedly said he planned to bomb three dormitories and a student center.
Authorities say Wiggins also left a message with campus police, threatening to rape and kill 30 female students.
Champaign Police say two robberies that occurred on West Bloomington Road last week share a lot of similarities.
The first one occurred Friday, Feb. 24, at the Security Finance office at 823 West Bloomington Rd. Police say a man entered, demanded money from a female employee, and then knocked her down and took her to the rear of the business. He fled with a undisclosed amount of cash.
Then on Saturday, Feb. 25, police say a man entered the America's Financial Choice office next door at 821 W. Bloomington Rd., and attacked a female employee, taking her to the rear of the business. In this case, the victim said she was stunned or Tasered by the man. Again, police say the man left with an undisclosed amount of money. A security camera captured images of the suspect --- one of which is shown above.
Champaign Police that in both robberies, the victims gave similar descriptions of their attackers --- but with specific differences.
The attacker in the Security Finance first robbery is described as a black male, between 40-50 years old, weighing 180 pounds, approximately 5'5" tall and waring a black Carhart-like hooded coat, dark pants and dark-colored shoes. Police say the suspect also had a thin mustache and wore gloves during the robbery.
In the America's Financial Choice robbery, the suspect is described as a black male, with a height of 5'11", weighing approximately 200 pounds, and in his 40's. He was wearing a red "hoodie", black sunglasses and lighter colored blue jeans.
Champaign Police is asking anyone with information on these robberies to contact the department at 217-351-4545, or contact Champaign Crime Stoppers anonymously at 217-373-8477 or by texting keyword "CCTIP" plus the information to 274637 (CRIMES).
The chair of the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees is defending University President Michael Hogan, who has been asked to resign by 130 professors on the Urbana campus.
In a letter, Chairman Chris Kennedy addresses the points raised by faculty who called on President Hogan to step down.
Regarding allegations that Hogan interfered with discussions by the Faculty Senates Conference concerning his enrollment management plan, Kennedy says information Hogan received from those deliberations was obtained in a lawful manner.
Faculty also criticize the President for allowing his former chief of staff to stay with the U of I as a full-time tenured professor, after she resigned amid an investigation into emails sent to the Senates Conference concerning Hogan's enrollment policy. Kennedy said details about the employment agreement were hashed out a year and a half ago.
Professors also accuse Hogan of bullying Urbana's chancellor to quell faculty opposition to the enrollment policy.
While Kennedy doesn't address that allegation directly, he does say there is a need for mutual respect and dialogue regarding shared governance.
Meanwhile, University spokesman Tom Hardy said President Hogan will likely accept an invitation from faculty leaders to address their concerns.
The Board of Trustees is slated to meet on the Urbana campus on March 15.
The U.S. Supreme Court is once again deciding to stay out of the fight over invasive Asian carp.
The high court on Monday shot down an appeal from Michigan and four other Great Lakes states. The states are suing the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Chicago.
The states had wanted the court to order that fish nets be laid out to prevent Asian carp from swimming into Lake Michigan. They also wanted an order saying the Army Corps of Engineers has to hurry up with a plan to isolate carp-infested waterways.
John Sellek, with the Michigan Attorney General's office, said Monday's denial from the justices is disappointing.
"Asian carp are, essentially, right at downtown Chicago," Sellek said. "They are lurking about and about to go into the Great Lakes. And that's something that would be detriment to - not just the other states, but to Illinois, as well."
Sellek says Michigan will now try other legal methods meant to prevent the hungry fish from devouring the Great Lakes ecosystem.
The Army Corps and the state of Illinois have maintained the threat posed by carp is not as drastic as the other states would argue.
Monday's ruling marks the third time Supreme Court justices have opted to stay out of the fight over the spread of Asian carp. The high court had earlier denied emergency requests to close down some Chicago-area waterways that link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.
East central Illinois has become a popular location for wind farms, with several facilities up and running and more being proposed. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert visited wind farms in Ford and Iroquois Counties. He spoke with residents, officials and experts to learn why the region is such a draw for wind energy, and if the benefits outweigh the concerns.
Sewers are among the basic of city services --- and one of the least exciting, until something goes wrong. City officials in Champaign and Urbana have seen enough flooding over the years, that they're proposing a new fee to pay for maintaining and improving the storm sewer system --- a fee already used by about a dozen Illinois cities. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows has more on the storm water utility fee.
(Photo courtesy of Nancy Taylor)
In a Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 broadcast on WILL-TV, Champaign Mayor Don Gerard and Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing talked about a range of issues such as a stormwater utility fee, police leadership, roundabouts and Unofficial St. Patrick's Day. They spoke with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows and took questions from callers.
An exploratory committee is forming with hopes of learning in about a year whether Champaign can support a minor league baseball team. A former minor league owner, sports enthusiasts, and someone who helped lure a collegiate team to town in the 90's were among the 15 people at the group's initial meeting Monday night.
Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with committee chair Tony Johnston, who was tapped by Champaign Mayor Don Gerard to lead the group.
The Champaign County Board is prepared to take a straw vote Tuesday on whether to close the downtown jail, and expand the satellite facility.
But one activists group is opposed to what's been supported by Republican County Sheriff Dan Walsh and at least one Democratic Board member. County board Democrat Carol Ammons, who's also with CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, contends that the appropriate research hasn't been done.
"This is not a one time (payment) of putting up your building and the costs end," Ammons said. "This is going to be a recurring cost, which is not captured anywhere. That's why we're calling for a real study to be done. Of course, Mr. Betz does not believe that we need to invest any money into a real study. But I beg to differ. You're asking the taxpayers for upwards of $20-million with no actual study."
Ammons was referring to Democrat Tom Betz, who heads the county board's facilities committee. Tuesday night's discussion will focus on an engineer's report that focuses on structural problems with the downtown facility. Ammons also says the county's African-American Community will be adversely affected since more than half of those incarcerated locally are black. She says jail expansion is both a financial and a human development issue, saying expansion 'can't be discussed in a vacuum."
Republican county board member John Jay says he'll need a little more convincing before deciding the downtown jail is unusable. He also questions where the funding for the expansion will come from.
"We have some theories about some bonds coming due that we'll be able to utilize, but all that need to be laid out," Jay said. "I don't think that the amount that we orginally talked about is going to be close enough. The other thing that we really don't know, until we get into the process, what are we looking at? Are we looking at $25 to 35-million? I don't have a clue."
The county board study session is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, following a 5:30 press conference from the citizens' group.
Faculty leaders at the University of Illinois have passed a resolution claiming anonymous emails that led to the resignation of President Michael Hogan's chief of staff were part of a pattern of campus leadership trying to influence and pressure faculty.
The Faculty Senate unanimously passed the statement Monday. The statement claims the emails were part of "a broad pattern of surveillance and intrusion.''
Urbana Professor Joyce Tolliver, who's vice chair of the Senate Executive Committee, says the statement didn't seek any specific actions.
"The SEC thought it was important, and the Senate agreed with us today (Monday) that we make a statement saying that the actions that are documented in the investigative report do not represent us," Tolliver said. "Those include the actions of former chief of staff Lisa Troyer, Tih-Fen Ting, (a professor on the U of I Springfield campus who shared e-mails from faculty leaders, and resigned her post on the Senate), and Dr. Michael Hogan."
Troyer resigned earlier this month after emails were sent to some faculty. The emails tried to sway faculty who have been critical of an enrollment management plan favored by Hogan. Troyer has denied writing the emails but an independent investigation found her to be the likely author. The investigation did not implicate Hogan.
A report in the News-Gazette Friday indicated Troyer had been offered a full-time faculty position last week in the Department of Psychology.
Tolliver says she's surprised Troyer was offered the position so quickly after resigning as Hogan's aide.
"It appears that he made that statement without having first consulted with our provost and our chancellor," Tolliver said. "This is an appointment that, of course, needs to be discussed at the level of the campus. No matter what the result is of those discussions, those are discussions that are the perview of the faculty.
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