Police and Courts | WGLT

Police and Courts

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen faces a federal fraud indictment. The document alleges Sorensen conspired with an outside consulting firm when he was an internal consultant at State Farm Insurance to engage in false billing for work never done. Sorensen allegedly personally benefited by more than $370,000 in the scheme. State Farm says it alerted federal prosecutors to the situation in 2012 and Sorensen has not worked for State Farm since.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos sits during a town council meeting.
Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

Mayor Chris Koos is taking a wait and see approach on the indictment of McLean County Board Chair Matt Sorensen.  He spoke with WGLT's Mike McCurdy.

Sorenson is accused of using his position as an internal consultant at State Farm Insurance to collude with an outside firm to file phony consulting work invoices. The indictment also alleges Sorenson steered State Farm work to fellow defendant Navdeep Arora a former partner at the firm of McKinsey and Company, who was arrested Sunday. 

McLean County Board Chair Indicted

Jan 5, 2016
Jim Browne / WGLT

The head of the McLean County Board has been indicted in a fraud case.  Matt Sorensen is accused of using his position as an internal consultant at State Farm Insurance to collude with an outside firm to file phony invoices for consulting work never done. The indictment also alleges Sorensen steered State Farm work to fellow defendant Navdeep Arora a former partner at the firm of McKinsey and Company, who was arrested Sunday.

Steve Damron / Flickr

Some Illinois drivers who have had their licenses revoked after multiple DUI convictions could get the chance to get behind the wheel again under a law that goes into effect in January. Applicants for the restricted license would have to prove they have been sober for three years.

Those who get a license will have to install a breathalyzer ignition lock in their cars, also known as a BAID device. Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz says the new law aims to make the roads safer.

Van Dyke Pleads Not Guilty

Dec 29, 2015

The defense attorney for the white Chicago officer charged with murder in the death of a black teenager says ``more education'' for officers is a good thing. Defense attorney Dan Herbert said that Officer Jason Van Dyke, who pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday, is ``hanging in there'' and wants to tell his side of the story so that he's not seen ``as this cold-blooded killer.'' Herbert also said that they haven't ruled out asking for a change of venue.  

Michael Hill / WGLT

Bloomington Aldermen are considering several options to recover costs of providing additional police protection to serve the Downtown Bloomington bar district. Mayor Tari Renner and Alderman Scott Black spoke with WGLT's Mike McCurdy during Sound Ideas.

Bloomington Council Looking To Fund Downtown Police

Dec 22, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

Businesses serving alcohol in downtown Bloomington could begin footing the bill for extra police officers that patrol the area during peak hours. The Bloomington City Council is looking at five different proposals to bring in $130,000 for the Downtown Police Hireback Cost Recovery Program. Police Chief Brendan Heffner says the program started as a way make sure the rest of the city can stay safe.

Champaign Police Officer Embroiled In Controversy

Dec 18, 2015
Jeff Bossert / Illinois Public Media

The city of Champaign has agreed to settle a second lawsuit filed against the Champaign police department in a case involving the same officer. The department had tried to fire Officer Matt Rush, but he’s back on patrol, thanks to a police union arbitrator.

As IPR's Hannah Meisel reports, documents just released explain why Rush kept his job.

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

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.