Illinois Public Media News
There was drama in a federal court in Chicago Friday over whether to throw out the recent conviction of political heavyweight William Cellini.
That jury that convicted Cellini included Candy Chiles, a Chicago woman who didn't tell to the court about past convictions for drug possession and DUI. Cellini's attorney, Dan Webb, said Chiles lied in an effort to get on the jury, and he wants the conviction reversed.
In Friday's hearing, Chiles gave varying explanations for her mis-statements, including "I don't know" and "I was confused. Nervous. Confused and nervous."
Asked specifically why she didn't disclose the drug conviction, from 1999, during jury selection, Chiles said, "It's in my past. I never mention it at all."
Chiles was instantly unsettled by questions from Cellini's attorney, repeatedly accusing him of treating her like a criminal.
"What's this all about?" she loudly asked Webb. "So you can get [Cellini] off? Leave me alone. I'm tired of you."
"I sat here for 5 weeks [during the trial] and watched the way you work," Chiles said to Webb a bit later. "You keep asking me the same questions to try to trip me up."
Webb was scolded several times by Judge James Zagel for asking adversarial questions of Chiles, "sticking a needle in her." The judge said the information he was getting from the combative testimony was not helpful as he decides whether to throw out Cellini's guilty verdicts.
Zagel told attorneys his ruling will not only weigh on whether Chiles was qualified to be a juror, but whether she had any bias or prejudice after she was on the jury.
Chicago's Cardinal Francis George is apologizing for remarks comparing an annual gay rights parade to a Ku Klux Klan rally.
In a Chicago Tribune interview, George said he is "truly sorry for the hurt my remarks have caused."
George said he has gay and lesbian family members, and his remarks has "evidently wounded a good number of people. I am sorry for the hurt."
The cardinal's initial remarks were prompted by plans by gay pride leaders to route a parade at a time that would have interfered with services at a church on Chicago's North Side. He said it resembled anti-Catholic marches once staged by the Klan. The time of the parade was changed.
Gay rights groups condemned his comments. The Civil Rights Agenda said George should apologize and resign.
Illinois Lawmakers to Try Again for Gambling Expansion
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says lawmakers will try again this year to pass a gambling bill.
A Republican candidate running for Champaign County circuit clerk will remain on the ballot for her party's primary.
The legitimacy of Stephanie Holderfield's candidacy was challenged after she signed the ballot petition of Ben Carlson, a Democratic candidate running for Champaign County auditor. Holderfield signed Carlson's ballot petition during a party on Oct. 8, 2011.
Steve Frank, a Fisher attorney, had asked a three-member electoral panel to remove Holderfield's name from the ballot. However, the board determined on Friday that despite Holderfield's actions, she can still run in the race.
While Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten supported keeping Holderfield on the ballot, he said her actions in this case were extreme.
"Parties have separate nomination contests for a reasons, and candidates in my opinion should be held to higher standards," Hulten said. "It is absolutely clear in my mind that candidate Holderfield violated the statute, and should have known better and did know better."
In citing a similar case that went to trial, Hulten said since Holderfield signed ballot petitions for Republican candidates before signing the ballot petition of a Democratic candidate, her signature is not counted on Democrat Ben Carlson's petition during this election cycle.
Electoral board member and Champaign County States Attorney Julia Rietz also criticized Holderfield and Carlson for collecting signatures from people who signed each other's ballot petitions.
"It is clear that Ben Carlson and candidate Holderfield were not paying attention to who was signing their petitions," Rietz said. "No one is contesting the validity of signatures on (Holderfield's) nominating petition."
Holderfield said she is grateful that she will still be able to stay in the primary race.
"In retrospect, I would have done things differently," Holderfield said. "However, I did not know there were other people at the party that had signed Ben's petition. So, I'm grateful, however, for the opportunity that I had to remain on the ballot."
Attorney Deb Feinen represented Steve Frank, who had asked the electoral board to review Holderfield's place on the ballot. Feinen has five days to appeal the ruling, but she said she hasn't decided yet whether she will do that.
Holderfield is competing in the March 20 primary against former state legislator Rick Winkel.
A longtime associate of Monsignor Edward Duncan says he has heard from a lot of former University of Illinois athletes, who plan to attend Duncan's funeral mass last week.
Duncan, who died this week in California at age 96, was chaplain at the U of I Urbana campus for more than half a century, from 1943 to 1998.
Jack Hatfield worked at the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics for several years, and he is currently the Director of Advancement at St. John's Catholic Newman Center on the U of I Urbana campus. He said said Duncan's strong social skills made it easy for people to talk to him.
"I think he substantially impacted football players from the '50s, '60s and '70s, when he was in his prime," Hatfield said. "So you got thirty or forty years there of people who really relied upon him as a guide, as a counselor, as an adviser, whatever portion they chose to lean on his for their faith or spirituality."
Hatfield said Duncan rescued the center from near bankruptcy when he first arrived there in the 1940s.
Hatfield said the Newman Center benefited from Duncan's strong business sense, having come from a wealthy family with several business interests. He said the same social skills that helped make him an effective chaplain also made Duncan a popular the dinner guest in Champaign-Urbana society circles.
In addition, Hatfield said Duncan channeled his personal wealth into donations to the U of I, notably the Newman Center, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
A wake and visitation for Monsignor Edward Duncan will be held in his home town of LaSalle, Tuesday, Jan. 10 from 4 PM to 7 PM at Hurst Funeral Home. Peoria Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky will celebrate a funeral mass for Duncan at St. Patrick's Parish, also in LaSalle, on Wednesday, Jan. 11th at 11 AM. A memorial mass will be held at a later date on the U of I campus.
Obesity is hitting Latino children in the United States harder than any other demographic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Angela Wiley, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is trying to curb that trend in immigrant communities living in Illinois. She heads the Up Amigos project, which looks at how biological, social, and environmental factors affect rates of obesity and diabetes. Illinois Public Radio's Rachel Otwell talks with Wiley about her research.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois)
The NFL Players Association is opposing Indiana Republicans' efforts to pass a divisive labor bill before the nation turns its attention to the state for the Super Bowl.
The players association said Friday that Indiana Republicans are trying to "ram through'' the legislation before Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma has set a quick timetable for passing the measure but has been stymied by House Democrats who entered their third consecutive day of blocking the measure Friday.
Bosma and other Republicans say they gave ample airing of the issue during 20 hours of legislative hearings over the summer. They contend the measure is needed to attract more businesses to the state. Opponents say it will drive down wages and reduce union membership.
Starved Rock is located in Utica, Illinois - a two hour drive southwest from Chicago. It's a popular destination for fishing, rock climbing, hiking and picnicking.
Tony Giordano said a new silica sand mine adjacent to the park would mean new jobs and could inject $9 million into the local economy. He's the president of Mississippi Sand, the company proposing the mine. It mines a special kind of sandstone found in this part of the state and sell it to companies who frac for natural gas around the United States.
Giordano said he's not surprised that people are concerned about what the mine could mean for Starved Rock.
"We don't believe in any way that our utilization of our proposed parcel will negatively impact anybody within the park," he said. Giordano added that regulatory bodies are in place to make sure of that, too.
But environmentalists worry about its effects on the local ecology. Mike Phillips is a Geology Professor at Illinois Valley Community College and said the mine would hurt 73 acres of wetlands.
"The process of creating the mine will de-water part of that wetland initially and then the mine plan has them mining most of it," Phillips said.
Phillips said the aesthetic value of the park is at risk, too, "If there's noise, if there's dust, if you can feel vibrations from the occasional explosions at the mine - what would the value of that be? And that's very, very difficult to determine."
Phillips said he and many others he's spoken to learned about the proposed mine in November. He's hoping LaSalle County will slow the process down of issuing permits to the mining company and that they'll first make a comprehensive assessment of how a mine may impact the ecology and economy of Starved Rock, as many people's make their livings off the park's tourism.
The LaSalle County Board voted unanimously for the mine in December and they could make a final recommendation next week.
(Photo by Todd Ryburn/flickr)
Decatur lost its only taxi service last year.
But its city manager hopes the owner of that company can start up something new, and be ready in about a month. AOK Taxi was shut down last year, after reports of the company using an unregistered vehicle, and making unannounced changes to the company and fleet.
Decatur City Manager Ryan McCrady says company owner Anthony Walker applied for a new license on Tuesday. But Walker also asked to hold off on a recommendation to city council until he reviewed his financial plans. If he moves forward with it, McCrady says that will essentially wipe the slate clean for Walker.
"If he meets all the requirements to have a license, then there's really no sense in trying to open old wounds and bring those issues back up again," he said. "The key thing is to get a service operating in Decatur that meet the requirements of the city than our residents can safely operate in. And if Mr. Walker can do that with his new company, then that's the best case scenario for everybody."
If that doesn't happen, McCrady says offers have come in from taxi services in nearby towns. Meanwhile, Walker says he'll decide whether to follow through with his plan by next week. If that happens, Walker says he plans to raise cab fares to make them more in line to what other nearby companies charge.
"It's a service to the community, but I don't want to run this operation like the community needs it, then it doesn't need to be profitable," he said. "Because that's the wrong way I looked at it once before."
Walker says the hike in fares is needed with the rising cost in fuel. He plans to meet with local bar owners next week to discuss potential collaborations before deciding whether to move forward.
The cost of farmland in central Illinois increased by almost a third in 2011, land sales professionals say, continuing a trend of the past few years.
The average price of land in the 15 counties around Decatur rose from $8,000 an acre in 2010 to $10,500 last year, Dale Aupperle, president of the Heartland Ag Group in Decatur, told The Journal Star newspaper in Peoria (http://bit.ly/yyGV1Y ).
Continued high prices for corn and soybeans and investor demand are driving the trend, Aupperle said, one that he said doesn't represent a bubble ready to burst.
"There are people who didn't buy (farmland) in July 2010 when the average price was $7,000 an acre. They were shocked that it had gone up from $6,000 an acre the year before," he said. "Now (prime land) is selling for over $11,000. This is driven by investor demand, it's not a bubble."
University of Illinois farm economist Gary Schnitkey agrees that price increases aren't like those seen prior to farming's economic collapse in the 1980s.
"In the 1980s, when prices declined, you had high interest rates and high inflation," he said. "Interest rates are expected to remain low, and low levels tend to support land prices."
But Schnitkey thinks increases in both crop and farmland price will ease this year.
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