Illinois Public Media News
Bond has been set at $500,000 for a Fithian man arrested in connection with the stabbing of a University of Illinois law professor.
Joshua Scaggs, 23, faces attempted murder and aggravated battery charges in connection with the attack of Dhammika Dharmapala, 41, of Champaign. The incident occurred shortly before 6 AM on Wednesday in the Amtrak waiting area of the Illinois Terminal Building.
According to a witness account given to Champaign Police, both Dharmapala and the suspect were sitting in the Amtrak waiting area, when the suspect jumped up and shouted that this was his country. He then attacked Dharmapala, grabbing him around the neck. The witness then intervened, pulling the suspect away, and discovering he had stabbed his victim in the neck with a utility knife. Champaign County State's Attorney Julie Rietz said other witnesses stepped forward to keep the situation under control until police arrived.
Dharmapala was taken to Carle Hospital in Urbana, but no information was available on his condition as of Thursday morning. At Scaggs' arraignment in Champaign County Court Thursday afternoon, he appeared via video conference, surrounded by correctional officers.
Scaggs' attorney, Baku Patel of Urbana, has requested that his client undergo mental and physical evaluations. Authorities say he's locked in isolation at the county's satellite jail.
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan wrote in an email to faculty and students said that university was "deeply saddened" by the stabbing, and expressed gratitude for those who intervened.
Champaign Police had originally included hate crime charges in their arrest of Scaggs. But Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said they would not prosecute him on that charge. She said the attempted murder and aggravated battery charges actually carry stiffer penalties than the hate crime charge. However, Rietz noted that "the underlying motive for the offense will be taken into account as the case moves forward."
Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for federal civil rights charges to be filed against Scaggs. In a news release, the organization stated that Dharmapala is not Muslim, but was singled out due to his perceived ethnicity. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper stated, "our society must begin to address the rising level of anti-Muslim sentiment that can lead to such disturbing incidents."
Scaggs is due back in court on Dec. 15th.
Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols agreed Thursday to a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Pujols' contract, which is subject to a physical, is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the $200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rod's $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.
The Angels announced Thursday they were signing Pujols away from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pujols, who led St. Louis to a World Series title this fall, had been pursued by the Miami Marlins, but they dropped out Wednesday after agreeing to a deal with former Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle. ESPN first reported the Pujols deal.
The Angels have also reportedly signed former Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson.
Judges have thrown out a Republican lawsuit challenging a Democrat-drawn map of new state legislative districts.
A panel of federal judges in Chicago yesterday dismissed the suit filed by top Illinois Republicans.
House Republican leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno sued because they contend the Democrat-drawn map is unfair to minority groups and GOP voters. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new map into law in June.
Drawing a new legislative district map is an exercise the state goes through every 10 years after a census. Democrats were in charge because they control the General Assembly and the governor's office.
Republicans are reviewing their options and whether to appeal. A Republican challenge to the state's new congressional districts map is still pending.
The Chicago Sun-Times and its 39 affiliated suburban newspapers are scheduled to start charging for online subscriptions.
Starting on Thursday, online readers will get 20 free page views across all Sun-Times Media websites every 30 days before hitting a paywall.
"The journalism we generate has value, and we think our readers and viewers will fully understand and support this decision on our part," said Sun-Times Media CEO Jeremy Halbreich.
Sun-Times Media will charge $6.99 for a four-week, unlimited subscription, about $78 annually. Current subscribers to any Sun-Times affiliated newspaper will be charged for $1.99 every four weeks for online access.
Halbreich said he's not concerned about losing readers after the paywall goes into effect.
The Northwest suburban paper The Daily Herald enacted a similar paywall earlier this year.
Residents of the Urbana school district can find out more about two proposals for a new school board sub-district map, before the board takes a final vote.
District 116 is holding three public presentations on the two proposals Thursday evening.
The Urbana School Board showed its preference for one of the maps at its meeting Tuesday night. Board President John Dimit said that the 4-to-2 straw poll vote picked a map that puts as much of the Historic East Urbana neighborhood into one sub-district as possible.
School Board President John Dimit said that a straw poll vote taken last (Tuesday) night favored a map that redraws Subdistrict Seven in southeast Urbana, so that it includes less of the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood, just east of downtown.
"Right now, (Sub)district Seven actually goes up clear up into the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood," Dimit said. "And that neighborhood is split into three subdistricts. And so there is some concern; that kind of looks like an appendage to the rest of the district. And we're trying to reduce that as much as possible, and also try to make it so the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood, the majority of it, has a single representative."
Dimit voted with the majority in the straw poll, but he says feedback from Thursday's public meetings could change some minds --- or persuade the school board to make minor revisions to the map that they approve.
The public presentations will be held Thursday, Dec. 8 at 5:30 PM at Yankee Ridge School, at 6:30 at Urbana Middle School and 7:30 at King School. The final vote on the sub-district map is scheduled for the Tuesday, December 13th Urbana School Board meeting. The Urbana School District is one of the few in Illinois that elects board members from sub-districts, instead of at-large.
Judge Sentences Blagojevich to 14 Years on Corruption Charges
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media and The Associated Press)
Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The head of the Illinois Republican Party says he hopes that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence leads to reform and "fiscal sanity'' in Illinois.
GOP chairman Pat Brady says the former Democratic governor and those around him continued to burden Illinois citizens with financial mismanagement.
Brady says the sentence ends the "Blagojevich saga.'' A federal judge sentenced Blagojevich on Wednesday for corruption that included trying to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
It's one of the stiffest penalties for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics.
Blagojevich apologized for his crimes and asked the judge for mercy earlier Wednesday.
A federal judge has sentenced Rod Blagojevich to 14 years for corruption that included trying to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
It's one of the stiffest penalties for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics. Blagojevich apologized for his crimes and asked for mercy in addressing the judge earlier Wednesday.
His attorneys had said the sentence of 15 to 20 years prosecutors wanted was too harsh.
He is the second successive Illinois governor sentenced for corruption. His Republican predecessor, George Ryan, is serving a 6 1/2 year term.
UPDATE: The federal judge who sentenced Rod Blagojevich to 14 years in prison said the former Illinois governor eroded public trust in government and the good he did didn't mitigate his crimes. U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced Blagojevich on Wednesday after listening to the 54-year-old Democrat make a last-ditch plea for mercy.
Zagel says Blagojevich did some good things for people as governor but that he's more concerned that the former governor wanted to use his powers for himself.
Zagel says Blagojevich's crimes were especially harmful because of the position he held. Zagel said: "When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired.
Prosecutors are beginning their final argument to a judge they hope will impose a stiff prison sentence on former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich by disputing the argument that Blagojevich's actions never hurt anyone.
Prosecutor Reid Schar says Blagojevich held up funding to every hospital in the state for 30 days and held up an appointment to the Senate seat while crucial votes were being taken. Schar says what Blagojevich did "eroded'' public confidence in government.
Blagojevich is expected to address the judge before learning his punishment for corruption convictions that include trying to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.
Blagojevich's attorneys admitted for the first time Tuesday that he's guilty of corruption, but said the sentence of 15 to 20 years prosecutors want is too harsh.
UPDATE: Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has made his final plea for leniency to the judge who will impose his sentence, saying he "never set out to break the law.''
While he apologized for his crimes, Blagojevich said he did not know he was breaking the law. He told Judge James Zagel that he thought what he was doing was "permissible,'' but that he was mistaken.
Blagojevich said he acknowledges his crimes and is "unbelievably sorry.'' He says he's made "terrible mistakes.'' The impeached Illinois governor spoke Wednesday as he waits to learn his punishment on charges that include trying to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.
Tuesday night's absence of three Champaign City Council members has prompted a 2-month delay in the vote for a local motor fuel tax.
The 4-cent per gallon item was up for a possible vote, but council members Paul Faraci, Deb Frank Feinen, and Michael La Due weren't at the meeting. The holiday schedule, and Mayor Don Gerard's absence in January means the vote won't come until the city council's first meeting in February. The tax proposal would be used to pay for road projects.
Council member Tom Bruno says he's heard debate on both sides, but would like to hear more about the merits of the plan rather than knee-jerk reactions. Bruno says one reason infrastructure has suffered is that tax revenues are down dramatically from where they were a few years ago.
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