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August 3, 2010

Illinois jurors begin fifth day of deliberations in Blagojevich corruption trial

Illinois jurors begin fifth day of deliberations in Blagojevich corruption trial

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Illinois
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  • 26 September 2014: Chicago air traffic facility evacuated for basement fire
  • 23 June 2014: Spelling error appears on Medill School of Journalism diplomas
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Jurors in the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial began their fifth day of deliberations this morning, having sent no notes to the judge at all yesterday. Notes they sent out last week, however, suggest that the discussions could take much longer.

Mug shot of Rod Blagojevich
Image: US Marshals Service.

The jury has sent two notes to US District Judge James B. Zagel since deliberations began last Wednesday. The first came on Thursday, when the jury requested a transcript of one of the prosecution’s closing arguements. Zagel refused, saying that closing arguments are not evidence.

The second note came on Friday, when the foreman wrote “Is it permissible to obtain the transcript of the testimony? It would be helpful.” Zagel interpreted the request as saying that the jury wanted transcripts of the testimony of every single witness in the trial. Zagel again declined the request because it was not practical to do so; about 30 witnesses testified in this case, and the transcripts have not yet been prepared. Zagel instead offered to consider requests for transcripts of testimony from “specific identified witnesses”, but said that he would warn the jury that such requests could take some time to fulfill.

Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky objected to this plan, saying that “the government will have the benefit of presenting its case a whole second time.” Zagel said in reply that he would still consider each of the jury’s requests individually.

Such a request, however, suggests that the jury intends to conduct a lengthy review of the case. The six male and six female jurors continued their deliberations on Monday without sending any further notes to the judge.

Blagojevich is charged with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been vacated by Barack Obama when he won the 2008 presidential election, among other crimes. Robert Blagojevich, Rod’s brother and co-defendant in the case, testified that Rod was trying to manipulate the political situation to his advantage, but emphasized that he engaged in nothing illegal. According to some sources, Blagojevich was interested in leading the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



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August 2, 2010

Canadian singer Justin Bieber to publish memoir

Canadian singer Justin Bieber to publish memoir

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Culture and entertainment
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Image: Kerosene Photography.

Canadian pop and R&B singer Justin Bieber has announced he will publish a memoir. Titled Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever: My Story, the hardcover book features several photos and will cover the sixteen-year-old’s “journey to superstardom”.

In a statement issued through HarperCollins, the memoir’s publisher, Bieber said, “My fans have played such a large part in all of this and they help me live my dreams every day. I’m excited to share just a little bit more of my world with them through this book. Between the behind-the-scenes pictures and the story, I think this is going to be something they can all enjoy. This is just another way for me to say thank you to my fans.”

The book is scheduled to be sold for US$21.99 starting on October 22. Along with a planned biopic and a biographical comic book titled Fame: Justin Bieber, the memoir is to form Bieber’s three-part biography.


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July 22, 2010

Former Illinois Governor Blagojevich rests in corruption trial

Former Illinois Governor Blagojevich rests in corruption trial

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Illinois
Other stories from Illinois
  • 9 April 2015: Plane crash in Illinois kills seven
  • 26 September 2014: Chicago air traffic facility evacuated for basement fire
  • 23 June 2014: Spelling error appears on Medill School of Journalism diplomas
  • 21 April 2014: Wikinews interviews Paúl M. Velazco about new yellow-shouldered bat species
  • 28 January 2014: Warhol’s photo legacy spread by university exhibits
…More articles here
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Despite promises he would testify in his own corruption trial, lawyers for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich rested their case yesterday morning. His defense did not call a single witness, and apparently feels the prosecution has not proven their case. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.

Mug shot of Rod Blagojevich
Image: US Marshals Service.

Speculation that Blagojevich would not testify began on Tuesday, when U.S. District Judge James Zagel adjourned 90 minutes early after a private meeting with the lawyers involved. Robert Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother and co-defendant in the case, had already testified on his own behalf. Blagojevich’s defense team apparently considered resting their case on Tuesday, but Zagel gave them an extra day to consider their decision more carefully.

When Zagel directly asked the former governor about his decision, he replied that he understood what he was doing. “It is my decision, under the advice of my attorneys. I make the decision fully and voluntarily,” he said.

Blagojevich is charged with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been vacated by Barack Obama when he won the 2008 presidential election, among other crimes. Robert Blagojevich testified that his brother was trying to manipulate the political situation to his advantage, but emphasized that he engaged in nothing illegal. According to some sources, Blagojevich was interested in leading the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Related news

  • “US Supreme Court rejects Blagojevich motion to delay Illinois corruption trial” — Wikinews, May 29, 2010
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  • “Former Illinois governor Blagojevich asks US Supreme Court to delay corruption trial, prosecutors to respond by Friday” — Wikinews, May 22, 2010
  • “Former governor of Illinois indicted on corruption charges” — Wikinews, April 3, 2009
  • “Governor of Illinois arrested on suspicion of corruption” — Wikinews, December 9, 2008

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May 26, 2010

Rollover on Illinois Route 59 in Naperville injures one

Rollover on Illinois Route 59 in Naperville injures one

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yellow arrow indicates traffic going southbound on Route 59 and turning onto the ramp to enter Interstate 88. Green arrow indicates traffic going northbound on Route 59. Red dot indicates the probable site of the collision.
Image: Benny the mascot.

A motorist was injured during a collision that resulted in a rollover in the city of Naperville, Illinois, United States. The accident occurred at about 8:15 am (13:15 UTC) on the interchange of Illinois Route 59 and Interstate 88.

Naperville police reported that Pavitra Durgam, a 26-year-old from Chicago, was traveling southbound on Route 59 and tried to turn left onto the ramp to Interstate 88. In doing so, she cut in front of a car heading north on Route 59. The other, currently unidentified driver swerved to avoid her, hit a curb, and collided with her car anyway. 

Northbound traffic on Route 59 north of Diehl Road, including the entrance into eastbound Interstate 88, was blocked as crews cleaned up the area of the collision. The unidentified motorist complained of back pain and was thus sent to nearby Edward Hospital. Durgam received a citation for failing to yield to oncoming traffic as she turned. 



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May 1, 2010

Redistricting reform efforts in Illinois fail for this year

Redistricting reform efforts in Illinois fail for this year

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Illinois
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Location of Illinois

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Chamber of the Illinois House of Representatives in Springfield.
Image: Daniel Schwen.

The Illinois House of Representatives failed last Thursday to approve a Democratic Party-sponsored amendment to the state constitution’s redistricting procedures, killing any hope of reforming the controversial process this year. The vote was 69–47, just two votes short of the 71-vote supermajority needed to propose constitutional amendments for ratification by voters in the next election cycle. 

In the redistricting process, the boundaries of legislative districts are redrawn every ten years following the US census. Districts are redrawn such that they contain constituencies roughly equal in population. During the last three redistricting periods, however, discussions have resulted in deadlock such that the maps were essentially chosen by lottery. Democrats, Republicans, and regular citizens alike have all unsuccessfully attempted to reform that process this year. All constitutional amendments must be proposed by Monday in order to be voted on in a referendum during the election next November. 

The Democratic bill, Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 121, was sponsored by State Senator Kwame Raoul and State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, both from Chicago. The representatives voted mostly on party lines: Democrats hold 70 seats in the House, and 69 of them voted for the amendment. 46 Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. Currie presented the amendment as an improvement because it “gets rid of the tiebreaker.” In fact, she argues that the public benefits from giving the job of redistricting to the legislature as a whole, rather than an appointed committee. “…leaving the decision in the hands of 177 people who are elected by the geographic diversity…is more democratic than giving it instead to the hands of four legislative leaders.”

Currie was referring to the Fair Map Amendment, a citizen-led proposal to create a nine-member commission that would contain no legislators. The party leaders would select eight of the members, however, which Democrats have opposed as intoducing too much bias. Others are against the amendment on the grounds that it does not adequately ensure minority representation. 

The lone Democratic dissenter, Representative Jack Franks from Marengo, disagrees. “I couldn’t get past that because I want to have a system where it’s not legislators choosing their electors, it should be the electors choosing the legislators,” he said. Even Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was not enthusiastic about the bill and thought it was not “true reform”.

Republicans have introduced the citizen-initiated Fair Map Amendment in the legislature as an alternative and have pushed for its passage. The bill was quickly struck down by a Democrat-led committee. At the same time, organizers of the petition drive for the Fair Map Amendment announced that they fell short of the nearly 300,000 signatures needed to bypass the legislature and directly place the question on the ballot. 


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April 24, 2010

Illinois Fair Map Amendment could die before appearing on ballot

Illinois Fair Map Amendment could die before appearing on ballot

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Illinois
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Location of Illinois

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Illinois state capitol building.
Image: Maksim.

The Fair Map Amendment, a citizen-led initiative in Illinois to reform the state constitution’s procedures on legislative redistricting, may not gather enough signatures to be presented before voters during the next election. As of last Friday, organizers have collected only 120,000 of the 279,000 votes needed to bypass the state legislature and have the issue decided on solely by the voters in the November 2 election. 

The current process of redistricting, or redrawing district lines every ten years following the nationwide census, is in the hands of the state legislature, or the General Assembly. The maps are often drawn by party leaders, allowing incumbent legislators to minimize and discourage opposition in their districts and perpetuate the leading party’s dominance statewide. 

Election statistics indicate that incumbents are successful in their reelection 98 percent of the time, and that Democrats have dominated legislative elections since they were able to draw the redistricting map in 2001. The Democratic Party has successfully reinforced their dominance through “spoking”, which involves extending districts in Chicago — a Democratic stronghold — out into the more Republican-leaning suburbs. In addition to allowing more Chicago residents to become legislators, this method severely weakens the strong Republican presence in the suburbs. Republicans, if given the chance to draw the maps, could overturn this trend by keeping key Republican-leaning suburban and downstate communities intact within their districts. 

The Fair Map Amendment, supported by Republicans and good-government groups such as the League of Women Voters of Illinois, would take the redistricting process out of legislators’ hands and instead give that task to an independent, nine-member commission. The amendment would apply to the redistricting of only state legislative districts, not US congressional districts.  The General Assembly would still have to approve the commission’s suggested map, however. 

Proponents initially aimed to collect the required signatures by April 1, but their inability to do so forced them to push their deadline to last Friday. Even then, organizers were still unable to meet their goal, and they now have until May 3 to send the necessary paperwork to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. “We’re not having so much trouble; it’s two weeks before we have to file,” says Jan Czarnik, a member of the League of Women Voters. 

Czarnik suggests that the petition low number of signatures is due in part to not having “enough people circulating petitions in such a short amount of time.” As Kent Redfield of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois–Springfield commented, “If you’ve got basically volunteers circulating petitions rather than, say, political parties, people that are normally used to doing this, you’re going to have to have a larger margin of error.” Another possible setback is that public opinion may not carry as much fervor as for other previously proposed amendments. 

Republicans, who hold the minority in the legislature, have proposed the amendment through more conventional means — via the General Assembly — but have been unsuccessful. Legislators also have considered other ways to reform the redistricting process. A few Republican party leaders’ campaign funds have donated cash to the group organizing the petition, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross has asked the governor to call a special session on legislative redistricting. Some Democrats support the amendment, including Sheila Simon, her party’s candidate for Lieutenant Governor. 

Other Democrats, however, strongly oppose the proposal. Senator Martin Sandoval from Chicago warns that “Hispanics will not see a proportionate and fair increase in Hispanic-majority districts,” and the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund wants assurances that minority rights will not be curtailed. 


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April 19, 2010

Son of Illinois Senate President charged with driving under the influence

Son of Illinois Senate President charged with driving under the influence

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Monday, April 19, 2010

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The son of Illinois Senate President John Cullerton allegedly drove under the influence (DUI) early Sunday morning while using a state-funded vehicle. Local police report that 26-year-old Garritt M. Cullerton was pulled over in downtown Chicago shortly after midnight and registered a blood alcohol level of .188, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Chicago police spokeswoman Antoinette Ursitti told the local press that Cullerton has been charged with “DUI, negligent driving and improper lane usage.” He is to appear in court on May 26. Senator Cullerton’s office confirmed that his son was driving a 2009 Ford Escape registered to the state Senate, and added that “the Senate President is disappointed that this incident occurred and takes this matter very seriously. He will work to ensure that this does not occur in the future.”

John Cullerton in 2008 sponsored legislation that requires DUI offenders to prove that they are sober by blowing into an electronic device every time they want to start the car. One of the strictest in the country, this law primarily targets first-time offenders.


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March 30, 2010

Illinois judge lifts restraining order on pre-abortion parental notification law

Illinois judge lifts restraining order on pre-abortion parental notification law

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Map showing which states require parental notification.

██ No parental notification or consent laws

██ One parent must be informed beforehand

██ Both parents must be informed beforehand

██ One parent must consent beforehand

██ Both parents must consent beforehand

██ Parental notification law currently enjoined

██ Parental consent law currently enjoined

A Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court judge has lifted a temporary restraining order on a law that requires a girl’s parents to be notified before she has an abortion. In a complicated ruling, however, the judge also issued an order banning state officials from enforcing the law pending an appeal. 

The law, which was passed by the Illinois legislature in 1995, has never been enforced due to appeals. Last November, the Illinois medical disciplinary board allowed the law to be enforced, but hours later Judge Daniel A. Riley granted a temporary restraining order filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.

When Judge Riley issued another ruling yesterday, he said the ACLU lawsuit was flawed, finding the law itself to be constitutional. He added, however, that “the law in question is a rather unfortunate piece of legislation” that is inherently discriminatory against pregnant minors. 

ACLU lawyers plan to file an appeal, which Judge Riley will rule on with a new restraining order in place. They argue that the law is an invasion of privacy and dangerous to minors who live in an abusive environment. The Illinois Attorney General’s office is defending the law, saying that parents should be able to give their children advice on complicated matters. 



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March 28, 2010

Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek gets hero\’s welcome in hometown

Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek gets hero’s welcome in hometown

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Illinois
Other stories from Illinois
  • 9 April 2015: Plane crash in Illinois kills seven
  • 26 September 2014: Chicago air traffic facility evacuated for basement fire
  • 23 June 2014: Spelling error appears on Medill School of Journalism diplomas
  • 21 April 2014: Wikinews interviews Paúl M. Velazco about new yellow-shouldered bat species
  • 28 January 2014: Warhol’s photo legacy spread by university exhibits
…More articles here
Location of Illinois

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Evan Lysacek holds his gold medal during the men’s medals ceremony at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships.
Image: David W. Carmichael.

Residents of the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois celebrated Evan Lysacek Day last Friday. Held in honor of the gold medalist in figure skating at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the day started with a rally at the former Naperville resident’s high school, Neuqua Valley High School. 

Neuqua awarded Lysacek its first-ever Distinguished Alumni Award. He was the first American since 1988 to win the gold in men’s figure skating, having started the sport since he was eight. Despite being busy with other engagements and starring in the TV show Dancing with the Stars, Lysacek was excited about the opportunity to visit his hometown. 

He also took the opportunity to thank his former teachers, who he said worked hard to keep him caught up in his studies amidst his hectic skating career. “I’ve been waiting to get back home and celebrate with the community that’s backed me and been so instrumental in my development as a person, as an athlete and take this opportunity to say thank you, not just to the community but more so to the faculty here,” he told the crowd at Neuqua. 

The skater’s achievements have inspired the residents of his hometown. “I was inspired by what he showed me. He showed that I can do anything I want to do,” said Neuqua student Gbenja Okubaja. At a Chamber of Commerce lunch held later that day, Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel awarded Lysacek the key to the city, saying “I don’t know what it opens, but I’ve been told its already opened the hearts of everyone here in Naperville.” In response Lysacek joked, “I hear it opens all the banks here in Naperville.”

Afterwards, Lysacek attended a fundraiser held in honor of skater and long-time friend Stephanie Joseph, who died of cancer at the age of 21. 



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March 15, 2010

Four arrested in three Naperville, Illinois prostitution stings

Four arrested in three Naperville, Illinois prostitution stings

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Illinois
Other stories from Illinois
  • 9 April 2015: Plane crash in Illinois kills seven
  • 26 September 2014: Chicago air traffic facility evacuated for basement fire
  • 23 June 2014: Spelling error appears on Medill School of Journalism diplomas
  • 21 April 2014: Wikinews interviews Paúl M. Velazco about new yellow-shouldered bat species
  • 28 January 2014: Warhol’s photo legacy spread by university exhibits
…More articles here
Location of Illinois

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An undercover investigation by Naperville, Illinois law enforcement has led to the arrest last Thursday of four people allegedly involved in prostitution. The stings came after police received tips that people were using websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com to sell sexual performances in Naperville hotels. 

Patricia H. Scoleri of Naperville was arrested after an unidentified neighbor observed consistently suspicious activity at Scoleri’s home. Traffic was unusually heavy and consisted mostly of luxury cars in an otherwise quiet, middle-class neighborhood. Also, the visitors were mainly middle-aged men, and an odd string of lavender-colored lights were hung on the front window.

Police say Scoleri worked alone. She was arrested at 2 p.m. local time (2000 UTC) and is charged with violation of anti-prostitution laws, anti-cannabis laws, and the Massage Licensing Act. She apparently has four children, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has neither contacted her nor received a police report on her.

The second sting occurred at 5:30 p.m the same day (2330 UTC) and resulted in the arrest of Chicago resident Tonya M. Adams. She is charged with prostitution and driving without a license. Another sting about an hour later resulted in the arrests of Jessica M. Walley, a Skokie resident, and Mark A. Williams, a self-admitted Schaumburg gang member. “Walley was charged with prostitution and unlawful possession of cannabis. Williams was charged with pimping, obstructing a peace officer, driving with a suspended license and driving without insurance,” reports WBBM News Radio 780.

All four suspects are free, having paid the required ten percent of their $1,000 bail. They may face additional charges related to crack cocaine discovered during the police investigation. Arraignment is scheduled for next month at the DuPage County Circuit Courthouse in Wheaton.



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