Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 12, 2012

Rutherford: Romney to Conduct ‘Downstate, Urban’ Campaign in Illinois

Following mixed results on Super Tuesday, the chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Illinois expects the candidate to visit the state soon.

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said national staff members for the former Massachusetts governor were expected in the state over the weekend.

Rutherford said it is exciting that Illinois could play a role in deciding the next Republican presidential nominee

"This is all right now about delegates," he said. "Mitt Romney has a significant foothold and advantage over the others, and Illinois is a big player in it, and we'll continue to work towards that come Tuesday, March 20."

Speaking at a Republican dinner in Pontiac over the weekend, Rutherford expected that Romney's competitors would make a stop in Illinois as well.

Meanwhile, changes made by the Republican National Committee are meant to allow the presidential nominating process to continue past the early states. Rutherford said those adjustments were also made to avoid early winner-take-all. But he questions whether the tactics hurt party unity.

"I'm not sure it was a good decision, in fact, I think it was probably not the best decision because right now, we're starting to beat each other up and eat our own," Rutherford said. "The debate lines are going to be used by Barack (Obama's) campaign to go against whoever the eventual nominee is."

Rutherford's prediction about Illinois presidential campaigns appears to hold true for one of the GOP candidates. Ron Paul's Illinois campaign site has announced the Texas congressman will make a stop at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus Wednesday night. He is scheduled to be at the U of I's Foellinger Auditorium at 7 p.m.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 11, 2012

Fighting Illini Fail to Make NIT, Illinois State Plays Wednesday

The same collapse that cost Bruce Weber his job will keep Illinois out of the postseason.

Illinois (17-15, 6-12 Big Ten) was left out of the NIT on Sunday. Athletic Director Mike Thomas said after he fired Weber on Friday that the Illini wouldn't be part of the lower-level College Basketball Invitational or tournaments.

Weber was fired after his team collapsed over the season's final six weeks.

Some Illinois players reportedly wanted to skip the NIT even if Illinois had gotten a bid.

The snub completed a collapse in which Illinois sank from a likely NCAA tournament bid in mid-January. But after beating then-No. 5 Ohio State, the Illini lost 12 of 14.

This is the second year in the last five that Illinois has missed the postseason altogether.

Meanwhile, Illinois State will make its fourth appearance in the National Invitation Tournament in the past five seasons when it takes on Ole Miss Wednesday.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 11, 2012

FEMA Denies Disaster Status for Southern Illinois Storms

The federal government has denied disaster status for the parts of southern Illinois affected by deadly storms and tornadoes last month. That means it will be more difficult for individuals and local governments to get federal assistance to recover.

In Harrisburg, a tornado killed seven people. Across the region, storms destroyed 104 homes, with hundreds more suffering serious damage. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a formula that weighs the amount of damage against the overall population of the state - a dollar of damage per capita.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) learned Sunday morning that southern Illinois did not qualify. He spoke to reporters outside his Springfield home that afternoon.

"I can't believe it," Durbin said. "I was there a little over a week ago and saw it first-hand. I've never seen worse tornado damage."

FEMA would need to have found about $12 million in damage in order to make the federal disaster declaration, according to Durbin. He said the damage seemed severe enough that that figure should have been within reach.

In a statement, Gov. Pat Quinn said he is extremely disappointed by FEMA's decision to deny the request for federal assistance.

"After personally surveying the damage and talking to many residents who lost their homes, I firmly believe federal assistance is crucial to help them begin the recovery process," Quinn said.

"Without the federal designation, there are limited opportunities for federal help," Durbin said. "And take a look at what's happening here with our own state treasury. There's a limited opportunity there to compensate for these losses."

Government assistance can take the form of grants to local government and low-interest loans to small businesses. It can also help people whose losses exceed their insurance.

"I have just never seen worse devastation, and I find it hard to imagine that it didn't qualify," Durbin said.

Durbin said he and fellow Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk are preparing a joint appeal of the decision. It's something he said he's tried only once before - after the South Pekin tornado in 2003 - and that appeal was unsuccessful.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 11, 2012

Poll Shows Romney Holds Edge in Illinois

A new poll says that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a slight edge over Rick Santorum in Illinois

The Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll published Sunday ( ) shows 35 percent of likely GOP voters favored Romney to Santorum 35 percent to 31 percent.

Newt Gingrich had 12 percent, Texas Congressman Ron Paul had 7 percent and 16 percent were undecided.

However, the poll says 46 percent of voters said they could still change their minds before the state's March 20 primary election.

The poll of 600 registered likely voters was conducted March 7-9. It has an error margin of 4 percentage points.

The poll shows that Romney is doing well in Chicago's suburbs, but Santorum has a 35 percent to 29 percent advantage in the 96 counties outside the Chicago area.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 11, 2012

Theft From DeWitt County Traced to India

Police say thieves in India used the signature of a local official in central Illinois to forge a check and steal $45,000.

It was as easy as going online, where an image of the DeWitt County treasurer's signature was available.

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph ( ) reported Saturday that the fake check was submitted electronically to a bank in New York in November. The funds were reimbursed when the fraud was uncovered.

DeWitt County Sheriff Jered Shofner says the thieves struck again late last month. They attempted to steal more than $35,000 from the village of Wapella. This time, the thieves tried to transfer funds to an account in Japan.

Investigators concluded the thieves were using a check for a tax distribution from the county that was posted on the village website.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 10, 2012

Lawyers Group Supports Cameras in Illinois Courts

The Illinois State Bar Association supports the Illinois Supreme Court's plan to test the use of cameras in state courtrooms, the head of the attorneys group said.

"The Illinois State Bar Association fully supports the pilot program and access to the courtrooms in general," John Locallo, the ISBA's president, told The Quincy Herald-Whig ( ). "We are very excited about it and it's a great opportunity to bring to the public access to the judicial system."

Locallo, a Chicago attorney, said he has had informal talks with some of his association's 33,000 members and support for the test program has been strong.

He said part of what makes Illinois' test program attractive is that it allows judges to control what happens in their courtrooms.

"I think what is different about the Illinois program, compared to programs nationwide, is that the way it is set up, the judge only has to show good cause to restrict the media," Locallo said. "In Illinois, it allows the judge to decide if the media can be in the courtroom, and his final decision cannot be overturned. Since the judge is in charge of controlling the courtroom anyway, who better to be in charge of the media and the litigants?"

The Illinois Supreme Court in January announced it would start allowing cameras and recorders in state courts on an experimental basis with the aim of eventually pulling Illinois for good out of the group of 14 states that ban extensive media access at trials. The court later chose the 14th Judicial Circuit to begin testing the policy because it is on the border with Iowa, which already allows cameras in courtrooms.

Locallo made his comments Thursday in Quincy, where he addressed cameras in courts and other issues during a meeting with the Adams County Bar Association.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 09, 2012

IL House Approves Cellphone Driving Ban

Illinois already bans texting while driving. And it's illegal to use a cell phone when driving in construction and school zones.

Even more restrictions could be down the road. The Illinois House approved a measure Thursday that would ban drivers from using their cell phones without a hands-free device.

The proposal only applies to holding a phone up to your ear, using a headset or speakerphone would still be permitted. Representative John D'Amico, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored the legislation.

Chicago is one of many cities in Illinois that already have a similar ban in place. D'Amico says that creates a patchwork of regulations that's confusing to motorists. He says he realizes people don't always drive with both hands on the steering wheel, but having another hand free could help a driver avoid an accident.

"I want to make sure that that second hand is available to be on the wheel, right now if you got that hand on the phone to your ear and one hand on the wheel, you can't react quick enough," D'Amico said.

The measure passed 62 to 53. Critics say singing in the car, applying makeup or drinking hot coffee are just as distracting as talking on the phone. They say it's overregulation and would create an easy opening for racial profiling.

First-time offenders would be charged 75 dollars and get a moving violation, a citation akin to a speeding ticket.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 09, 2012

Death Penalty In IL Repealed One Year Ago Today

It's been exactly one year since Illinois got rid of the death penalty. But there are still questions about the fairness of the state's criminal justice system.

When Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law abolishing the death penalty, he said capital cases were too prone to error.

"We have tried over and over again to come up with a perfect system that makes no mistakes with respect to carrying out the death penalty," Quinn said. "We have found over and over again mistakes have been made."

People who worked for years to eliminate capital punishment are happy it's gone. But they say the system is still far from perfect. With death off the table, the state stopped paying for indigent defendants to have extra attorneys and expert witnesses at trial.

"The odds of someone being wrongfully convicted certainly have gone up, because not as much money is being put into the cases," said John Hanlon, the legal director of the Downstate Innocence Project. "Some might argue that a natural life sentence is just about as bad as a death sentence, because you spend the rest of your life in prison."

Hanlon used to represent defendants in capital cases. He said in better economic times, he hopes the legislature would consider spending to even the playing field for defendants facing life.

Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst ) has filed several bills to reinstate the death penalty. Reboletti, who is a former prosecutor. said some crimes are so heinous, they deserve the ultimate punishment.

"We had people on death row that murdered multiple victims," Reboletti said. "Murdered children. Home invaded and then murdered people. Raped them, murdered. And the sentence that's most appropriate -- is death."

Last year Reboletti tried to put the death penalty to a statewide referendum. That and a measure to reinstate it were approved in committee and made it onto the House floor, but they were never called for a vote.

This year he has not had as much success: Reboletti's bill to reinstate the death penalty hasn't even been assigned to a committee.

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 09, 2012

State Bar Assoc. Supports Cameras In IL Courts

The head of the Illinois State Bar Association says his group supports plans to allow cameras in courtrooms.

Association President John Locallo tells The Quincy Herald-Whig that his group considers it a great opportunity to bring access to the judicial system to the public.

The Chicago attorney says his group is excited about the plan.

Locallo made his comments Thursday in Quincy, where he addressed cameras in courts and other issues during a meeting with the Adams County Bar Association.

The Illinois Supreme Court has decided run a pilot program to test the use of cameras in state courtrooms. Locallo says he's had informal talks with some of his association's 33,000 members and support for the test program has been strong.

Tags: media, courts

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