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Police and Courts

Obama Issues Commutations

Dec 18, 2015

Nine people from Illinois are among the 95 whose prison sentences have been commuted by President Barack Obama. All of those from Illinois were convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Most involved cocaine distribution.  

They included Alton Mills of Chicago. He has served 22 years of a mandatory life sentence for cocaine distribution.  U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said in a news release that he had pushed to help Mills. Durbin said Mills is a victim of what the senator called "disproportionately harsh" sentencing laws.  

A Tazewell County woman has pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges. The U.S. Attorney's office in Peoria says 41 year old Melissa Gilmer of Tremont will be sentenced at the end of March to up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Gilmer was a guard at the federal prison in Pekin. She admitted accepting $6,000 between August and December of 2013. In return, Gilmer gave contraband tobacco and access to a cell phone to an inmate.

Prosecutors say the cell phone seized from the inmate had calls and text messages between Gilmer and the inmate's family.

Penitent Rahm Tries To Repair His Base

Dec 16, 2015

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has kept a low profile - since delivering an impassioned speech last week on policing in the city. IPR's Tony Arnold reports the public is now getting an idea of what the mayor has been up to.

City council members have signed off on a $225,000 settlement to a second lawsuit that accuses a Champaign police officer using excessive force. The council approved the settlement unanimously yesterday amid a demonstration that saw about 150 protesters march from the police station to the city building. They were calling for the dismissal of officer Matt Rush and the approval of a civilian review board. Rush faces separate lawsuits alleging the use of excessive force filed by three plaintiffs.

The McLean County Sheriff's Department is getting a new canine unit. Sheriff John Sandage says that's through a $59,000 grant from the Howard Buffet Foundation.

Sheriff's police already have one drug dog on staff. Eight weeks of training starts in January.

Sandage says the grant pays for the dog, equipment, a new vehicle, and eight weeks of training.

Sandage says the Buffet Foundation offers canine unit grants through Illinois and has also supported Macon County mental health programs.

A jury has returned a record setting malpractice verdict in Ford County. The $950,000 award more than doubled the previous high mark set in 2007. The Clifford Law Offices says a 73-year old Gibson City man had two visits to the emergency room and primary physician's clinic complaining of chest pain. No one made cardiac tests or referred him to a heart specialist. Dean Buhs was then admitted to the hospital, discharged three days later without tests, returned with the same complaints the next day, and then died.

Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council is taking the next step in creating a tax increment financing district that includes Colonial Plaza. A meeting will be held next month among stakeholders affected by the proposal. 

A former Illinois National Guard soldier has pleaded guilty to charges he conspired to provide material support to the Islamic State group. Hasan Edmonds of Aurora, Illinois, entered the plea in Chicago federal court, a week after his cousin, Jonas Edmonds, pleaded guilty to similar charges. They are accused of plotting to attack the Joliet Armory with assault rifles and grenades.  

Missing Man Found Dead

Dec 11, 2015
Bloomington Police Dept.

Bloomington police say the body of a man reported missing has been located. The body of 21 year old Ryan Kindig was found yesterday afternoon in a shed on his property. Police say there is nothing to indicate foul play. Kindig had last been seen in Champaign last Saturday. He was reported missing by family members the next day. He was last spotted in Bloomington Friday after an argument with family members.

Bloomington Police Dept.

Bloomington police are seeking the public's help in locating a man who was last seen by acquaintances last weekend. 21-year old Ryan Kindig was last seen in Champaign on December 5th. He was reported missing by family members the next day. He was last spotted in Bloomington Friday, Dec. 4th after an argument with family members.

Francois Biber / Flickr

A Chicago lawmaker plans to try again next spring to drop criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Democratic Represetative Kelly Cassidy plans to announce her proposal Thursday in Chicago. The General Assembly endorsed a Cassidy-sponsored plan last spring to impose fines for possession of marijuana. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner used his power to lowered the amount of marijuana allowed to 10 grams from 15 grams in Cassidy's plan, and impose fines of $100 to $200 instead of $55 to $125.

CBradshaw / Creative Commons

An Aurora man has pleaded guilty to charges he conspired to provide material support to the Islamic State group and making false statements regarding terrorism. Jonas Edmonds entered the plea before a federal judge Wednesday. He is accused, along with his cousin Hasan Edmonds, of plotting to attack an Illinois National Guard base in Joliet with assault rifles and grenades. Hasan Edmonds is expected to plead guilty on Monday. He served with the 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Joliet. Prosecutors say Jonas Edmonds planned to wear his cousin's uniform and attack the base.

flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

So far, it seems no police officers have been disciplined for helping conceal the circumstances under which Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald was killed. Because of that, a group of black lawmakers say Illinois should consider licensing police. IPR's Amanda Vinicky has more.

A man convicted of multiple counts of predatory child sexual assault and abuse in McLean County will get a new sentence. An Illinois Appeals court has sent the case back to Judge Scott Drazewski saying the life sentence imposed on Brett Wilson constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Wilson appealed after his conviction in 2013 saying the prosecutor's closing arguments were improper, the judge made mistakes in allowing evidence of other crimes into the record, and the sentence was unjust.

Rauner Says Chicago Police Video Made Him Cry

Dec 3, 2015
IPR

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner made his first comments today about the killing of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago Police officer. IPR’s Tony Arnold has the story.

Emanuel Cancels Climate Change Trip

Dec 2, 2015

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has canceled his trip to a Paris climate change conference to address a ``challenging time'' in Chicago after the release of a video showing a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager. The former White House chief aide says instead of going to Paris, he's going to South Side churches, stores and restaurants to allow Chicagoans to talk to him freely without the presence of television cameras. The city last week released the graphic video showing the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says the state is taking precautions ahead of the release of a video showing a Chicago police officer shooting and killing a 17-year-old.

Rauner is asking the state police to coordinate with Chicago police. He wouldn’t say if he’s also talked with the state’s National Guard - which falls under the command of the governor.
 

The Cook County state's attorney is defending the amount of time it took to charge a white Chicago police officer who shot a black teenager 16 times in a killing caught on dashcam video. Anita Alvarez's office announced a first-degree murder charge, just a day before a deadline the city faces for releasing the video and more than a year after the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Alvarez said cases involving police officers present ``highly complex'' legal issues and she would rather take the time to get it right than ``rush to judgment.''  

Two Libertarian political candidates are asking a federal court to declare unconstitutional an Illinois ban on political contributions from the medical marijuana industry. Claire Ball of Addison and Scott Schluter of Marion filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago last week. They say they support marijuana legalization and want to solicit campaign donations from the marijuana industry. Illinois law bars such contributions.  

Harris Verdict Upheld

Nov 24, 2015

An appellate court has upheld the convictions of a man for fatally beating five members of his ex-wife's family in their central Illinois home. The Fourth District Appellate Court denied the appeal of 35-year-old Christopher Harris. He's serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for killing Ruth and Rick Gee and three of their children in Beason on Sept. 21, 2009. Harris argued the trial court erred in refusing to admit 2007 statements from the Gees saying they worried about violent outbursts by a son, 14-year-old Dillen Constant. Constant also was beaten to death.

Charges Tossed In Champaign County

Nov 23, 2015

A man who spent more than two years in jail on gun charges in Champaign County has been released after a judge says that the state didn't bring him to trial within an appropriate timeframe. Champaign County Judge Heidi Ladd dismissed armed habitual criminal charges against 43-year-old Kevin Pettis. He was accused of firing a gun into the air during an incident in July 2013 in Champaign. He was released Nov. 16. State's Attorney Julia Rietz says she plans to ask an appeals court to review Ladd's ruling.  
    

Bloomington Police say they have arrested three people in a drug investigation, an adult and two juveniles. Officers also say they seized two stolen handguns, ammunition, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. 20-year old Diondre Thornton-Kirkwood faces charges involving the weapons and criminal fortification of a residence. A 16 year old juvenile was arrested for cannabis delivery. A 15 year old juvenile was taken in on a warrant.

A SWAT team and crisis negotiators helped officers end the standoff that began when police tried to serve a warrant.
 

E2 Owners Resentenced

Nov 20, 2015

The two owners of a Chicago nightclub where 21 people were crushed to death in a stairwell in 2003 have been sentenced to two years of probation. Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Daniel Gillespie also ordered Calvin Hollins Jr. and Dwain Kyles to perform 500 hours of community service.  

Hollins and Kyles thanked the judge for the sentence during Friday's hearing. The two had originally been sentenced to two years in prison, but an appeals court threw out those sentences in 2013 and ordered them resentenced.  

Staff / WGLT

November 20  Illinois State University Environmental Health and Safety opened the package and discovered documents, according to ISU spokesperson Eric Jome. He says the suspicion regarding the parcel was based on a misunderstanding about the origin and intent of the package.

November 19, 7:38 PM The package has been turned over to ISU's Environmental Health and Safety Office. Jome says staff with office will open the package in a controlled environment tomorrow. Jome says he doesn't know which professor received the package or where it originated.

Body Found Near Pekin Identified

Nov 19, 2015

Police have identified a badly decomposed body found in a wooded area as a Pekin man who disappeared in June. Tazewell County Coroner Jeff Baldi says 59-year-old Lionel ``Lonnie'' Graham's cause of death wasn't determined during a Wednesday autopsy. He says it could remain undetermined due to the extent of the damage to the remains. A deer hunter found Graham's remains in thick, swampy woods in North Pekin on Tuesday. The woods are under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Conservation. The department is investigating the death along with Illinois State Police.

Tori Rector / Flickr via Creative Commons

Court fees in McLean County are going up again. County Board members have approved hiking the fee supporting the Children's Advocacy Center from $15 to $16.50. Justice committee chair and retired judge William Caisley argued against the hike, saying court fees are already too high.

Caisley says McLean County is already among the top four Illinois counties when it comes to fee dollars supporting the CAC. He argues for what he calls a fairer approach.

The Illinois Supreme Court is taking on another pension case, six months after justices unanimously tossed out the state's landmark pension law. Tuesday, they heard arguments as to whether a law affecting thousands of City of Chicago employees is constitutional or not. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports from Springfield.

Police Eye Medical Marijuana Impaired Driving

Nov 16, 2015
Goodnightlondon / Creative Commons

Medical Marijuana's been available for patients with certain diseases and ailments for one week in Illinois.

A McLean County jury has convicted a man of home invasion. Prosecutors say Samuel Siatta delivered a cut to the head of a person in the victim's residence.

Siatta will be sentenced on the Class X offense at the end of January. He will be eligible for 6 to 30 years in prison.

The State's Attorney's office says home invasions are serious cases because they usually involve a person entering or remaining in someone else's residence and threatening or injuring them with a weapon.

The Director of the McLean County Health Department is trying to reassure County Board members that funding for drug court will not be jeopardized next budget year. Last week the department agreed to fund drug court at the same level as last year. Now the health board has approved spending less direct money than was talked about earlier. Health Department Director Walt Howe says the difference is that they want service provider Chestnut Health Systems to try billing Medicaid for the service first and then asking the county for payment.

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