Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Corrections officer charged wth bribery for buying cigarettes for an inmate

November 26, 2008

BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter/
A Cook County correctional officer has been charged with bribery and official misconduct for allegedly purchasing cigarettes for a female inmate.

The inmate allegedly asked Cook County Jail guard Javier Toro, 23, about bringing her supplies at the jail, Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Evans said during Toro’s bond hearing today. She gave him the phone number of a woman who would pay for the supplies, prosecutors said.

During his lunch break on Nov. 18, Toro allegedly met the woman at a Citgo gas station at 4319 W. 47th, Evans said. He then charged to his credit card six packets of loose Kite brand tobacco and two lighters. The woman allegedly gave Toro $100 on behalf of the inmate.

Toro was stopped by authorities when he tried to give the tobacco to the inmate back at the jail, Evans said.

Judge Laura Sullivan ordered Toro held in lieu of $20,000 bail

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cheney, Gonzales Indicted In South Texas County
McALLEN, Texas (AP) ― Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have been indicted on state charges involving federal prisons in a South Texas county that has been a source of bizarre legal and political battles under the outgoing prosecutor.

The indictment returned Monday has not yet been signed by the presiding judge, and no action can be taken until that happens. The seven indictments made public in Willacy County on Tuesday included one naming state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and some targeting public officials connected to District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra's own legal battles. Regarding the indictments targeting the public officials, Guerra said, "the grand jury is the one that made those decisions, not me." Guerra himself was under indictment for more than a year and half until a judge dismissed the indictments last month. Guerra's tenure ends this year after nearly two decades in office. He lost convincingly in a Democratic primary in March. Guerra said the prison-related charges against Cheney and Gonzales are a national issue and experts from across the country testified to the grand jury. Cheney is charged with engaging in an organized criminal activity related to the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, which holds financial interests in the private prison companies running the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees because of his link to the prison companies.

Megan Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on Tuesday, saying that the vice president had not yet received a copy of the indictment. The indictment accuses Gonzales of using his position while in office to stop an investigation in 2006 into abuses at one of the privately-run prisons. Gonzales' attorney, George Terwilliger III, said in a written statement, "This is obviously a bogus charge on its face, as any good prosecutor can recognize." He said he hoped Texas authorities would take steps to stop "this abuse of the criminal justice system." Another indictment released Tuesday accuses Lucio of profiting from his public office by accepting honoraria from prison management companies. Guerra announced his intention to investigate Lucio's prison consulting early last year.
Lucio's attorney, Michael Cowen, released a scathing statement accusing Guerra of settling political scores in his final weeks in office. "Senator Lucio is completely innocent and has done nothing wrong," Cowen said, adding that he would file a motion to quash the indictment this week. Willacy County has become a prison hub with county, state and federal lockups. Guerra has gone after the prison-politician nexus before, extracting guilty pleas from three former Willacy and Webb county commissioners after investigating bribery related to federal prison contacts. Last month, a Willacy County grand jury indicted The GEO Group, a Florida private prison company, on a murder charge in the death of a prisoner days before his release. The three-count indictment alleged The GEO Group allowed other inmates to beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. to death with padlocks stuffed into socks. The death happened in 2001 at the Raymondville facility.

In 2006, a jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a civil judgment. The Cheney-Gonzales indictment makes reference to the de la Rosa case.

None of the indictments released Tuesday had been signed by Presiding Judge Manuel Banales of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region.

Last month, Banales dismissed indictments that charged Guerra with extorting money from a bail bond company and using his office for personal business. An appeals court had earlier ruled that a special prosecutor was improperly appointed to investigate Guerra.

After Guerra's office was raided as part of the investigation early last year, he camped outside the courthouse in a borrowed camper with a horse, three goats and a rooster. He threatened to dismiss hundreds of cases because he believed local law enforcement had aided the investigation against him.
(© 2008 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rezko plea for acquittal denied

BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter
A federal judge has denied Tony Rezko’s plea for an acquittal or new trial, giving the convicted businessman even more incentive to cooperate with the feds.

In a 34-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve didn’t buy the argument that

Rezko’s conviction relied solely on the testimony of a shaky witness: Stuart Levine.

Levine sat on two state boards that Rezko was convicted of defrauding with Levine.

Levine was the chief witness in the case, testifying for 15 days.

“The government introduced substantially more evidence than just the testimony of Stuart Levine to prove defendant Rezko’s criminal conduct, including extensive corroborating wire taps,” St. Eve wrote. “When viewing all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the government proved defendant’s knowledge and intent beyond a reasonable doubt. A new trial is not required in the interest of justice.”

Rezko has been providing information to federal prosecutors since August. The two sides haven’t signed a cooperation deal, however.

St. Eve’s opinion allows Rezko to appeal his conviction with a higher court. The next hearing in Rezko’s case is scheduled in January.

Rezko’s attorney declined to comment.


Man arrested for trespassing dies in police station

November 13, 2008

A man arrested for trespassing died Wednesday morning while being detained at a South Loop police station.

Rafe McMullen, 52, died in police custody at the Central District police station at 1718 S. State St., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

McMullen, of an unknown home address, was pronounced dead on the scene at 6:20 a.m., according to the medical examiner’s office.

McMullen was discovered unresponsive at the station after being arrested for trespassing, a misdemeanor, police said. Further details on his arrest were not available.

A Wednesday autopsy was inconclusive and “pending further studies,” according to the medical examiner’s office.
U.S. rep: 'I hope this was not a case of racial profiling'
NOT GUILTY | Davis claimed last year he was given ticket for 'driving while black'

November 13, 2008

BY MARK J. KONKOL Staff Reporter/
Rep. Danny Davis was found not guilty Wednesday of "driving left of center" in Lawndale last November -- a ticket Davis had blamed on racial profiling.

The Traffic Court trial did little to shed light on what happened when Chicago Police curbed Davis' black sedan and ticketed him for an alleged lane violation. The Chicago Police officer who spoke to Davis during the traffic stop did not appear in court. That officer's partner, Police Officer Laura Kuhlmann, testified that Davis was driving a gray car on 16th Street and crossed the double yellow line when turning left onto Kedzie.

Cook County Judge Martin Coughlin kept discussion focused on Davis' alleged left turn crossing the center line and refused to hear testimony from Kuhlmann about a second time she claimed Davis' vehicle drifted over the double yellow lines. Davis remained silent.

Coughlin dismissed the charge, saying "of course" Davis crossed the double yellow line -- that's what happens when you make a left turn.

Last November, Davis made headlines for filing a complaint with police claiming the traffic stop was an example of racial profiling.

After court Wednesday, Davis said he hoped the white officers who ticketed him simply had made a mistake and that he wasn't stopped for "driving while black."

"I hope this was not a case of racial profiling," Davis said. "All I know is that I was driving a black car. The officer said I was driving a gray car. . . . The officer said I made a left turn off 16th Street onto Kedzie. And I've never been on 16th Street."