State Briefs 2/26/08
Students face felony charges after attacking police officers
ROCKFORD – A pair of West Middle School eighth-graders are facing charges of felony aggravated battery after attacking school police officers, Sgt. Michael Spelman said Monday.
A police officer suffered a left knee injury Friday afternoon when she attempted to break up what appeared to be a brewing altercation between students in a hallway near the gym. Spelman said when she took a 14-year-old student by the arm to de-escalate and remove him from the situation, the boy punched the officer in the head.
“This was a very serious attack on a police officer,” Spelman said. “They are not like little eighth-graders ... they were 170 to 180 pounds. It was very scary for the officer involved.”
Although another officer came to her aid, a friend of the boy jumped into the situation and attacked the officers as well, Spelman said. The female officer was kicked in the head and chest before the officers brought the situation under control and arrested the students.
A crowd of dozens of students who gathered to watch the events unfold clogged the hallway, making it difficult for school personnel to come to the aid of the officers, Spelman said.
Meanwhile, Spelman said, as the officers dealt with the eighth-graders, school personnel requested police help in breaking up another fight between two girls in the gymnasium.
The injured police officer responded to that altercation and assisted school personnel in taking the 14-year-old girls into custody, Spelman said.
There was no connection between the two incidents that occurred simultaneously, West Principal Christy Kutz said.
“It disappoints me the lack of respect for the hard work the police do not only in the school but in the community,” Kutz said. “We continue to impress on all students that you need to respect all adults in the building.”
Police said all four students, who face charges of felony aggravated battery for attacking police and school personnel, have been given 10-day suspensions from school and face possible expulsion.
Police would not release the names of the students arrested because they are juveniles.
Rockford Register Star
Write-ins incorrectly told they were elected
PEORIA - More than two dozen write-in candidates got at least one vote, the minimum they thought was required to be elected as precinct committeemen.
After all, that's the way Peoria County and city officials say they've operated for years.
It wasn't until after the election that they learned they actually needed 10 votes, equal to the number of signatures otherwise required on a petition to get their names placed on the ballot.
"I asked for a legal opinion to make sure we were clear before we certified the winners. It is pretty clear in the statute it does take 10. We had in the past, as I understand it, taken the position of one vote is the winner," said Peoria County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker.
Peoria County Democratic Party Chairman Billy Halstead said 20-plus candidates easily could have gotten 10 votes had they known. Halstead now will appoint all the Democratic write-ins to office.
The biggest difference between being elected and appointed is appointed candidates can't cast votes for party chairman, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. So the write-ins won't have a say in that vote, which will take place March 5 for both parties locally.
Former state Sen. George Shadid ran as a write-in but didn't get the required 10 votes, so he can't vote for Democratic Party chairman.
Local attorney Don Jackson, who also ran as a write-in, said he, too, was under the impression only one vote was needed for election. "You live and you learn," he said.
Journal Star, Peoria.
Ex-teacher gets second prison sentence
PEORIA - Former teacher Jodi Church is now a twice-convicted felon after pleading guilty Monday to having sex with a student last year.
Church, 27, a former Manual High School teacher, was in federal court last week and was sentenced to seven years for attempting to entice a different student to have sex with her.
On Monday she pleaded guilty to one count of criminal sexual assault and received a 4 1/2 year prison term.
The sentence in state court will run concurrently to, or at the same time as, her federal sentence, meaning Church will spend all her sentence in a federal facility in Texas rather than coming back to Illinois.
Her attorney, Mark Wertz, said the sentence was a fair one and will allow her to contribute to society when she is released from custody.
Assistant State's Attorney Deborah Shelby said Church had developed a relationship with a Manual student that ultimately led them to engage in oral sex in February and March of last year. Another teacher noticed Church was giving inappropriate attention to the student, and an investigation was launched.
When asked by Brandt about Church's criminal history, Shelby said she had none, before adding neither the victim nor the victim's mother wanted to see Church prosecuted.
The federal sentence stems from a chat log in December 2006 when Church logged onto MySpace and tried to persuade another student to have sex with her, which he did not.
Journal Star, Peoria.
Cathedral to be closed for restoration
SPRINGFIELD – The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception will close for more than a year, starting this fall, as part of an $11 million restoration and preservation project.
There have been no substantial improvements in the Cathedral since it was built in 1928, Bishop George Lucas said Monday.
“The building is still in good shape after all these years,” Lucas said. “But much of the interior beauty has been obscured by dirt and grime. ... What was once flawless and inviting has become weathered and outdated.”
The most obvious change will be the addition of an atrium on the west side of the building. The atrium will serve as another entrance as well as a parish hall for meetings and other gatherings.
Part of the old convent will be demolished to accommodate the addition, which will temporarily displace some students at adjoining Cathedral Grade School.
Principal Michelle Watson and the parish’s pastor, the Rev. Peter Harman, have been working with architects Graham & Hyde on the necessary adjustments. Watson and Harman said there will be no reduction in services for the students.
“It might be a case of instead of having art there, the art teacher will come to the classroom,” diocesan spokeswoman Kathie Sass said.
In addition to cleaning of the church’s stained-glass windows, interior pillars, ceiling and decorative artwork, repairs to the building will include extensive work on the roof. New plumbing and an electrical system will be installed, and the bell tower is in need of tuckpointing.
The Cathedral’s altar will be replaced as well. The current altar is usually kept covered because it is a temporary version that church officials had planned to replace. According to Sass, it has been a “temporary” altar for several decades.
About $4 million of the $11 million has already been raised, but parishioners in all of the diocese’s 131 parishes will be asked to contribute to the remainder of the estimated cost.
Two men accused of throwing Molotov cocktails
GALESBURG — Two men were arrested on arson charges after throwing Molotov cocktails at a house Monday night.
Shawn M. McCormick, 21, and John I. Cox, 18, were each arrested on charges of aggravated arson and possession of an explosive device.
Police were called at 10:22 p.m. Monday after witnesses told police someone threw Molotov cocktails — glass bottles containing gasoline with a rag held in place by the bottle’s stopper — at their residence.
Officers observed a burn mark in the siding about 18 inches in diameter and about 15 feet above the ground on the west side of the residence.
The residents of the home told police they heard several thumps before they smelled gasoline. They went outside and saw a fire on the ground next to a car parked in the driveway. The car was not damaged.
One witness told police he had seen a green Dodge Ram truck in the area. Police stopped McCormick, who told police that he plows snow and had been driving around surveying the snowfall. There was no snow blade on his truck.
Police checked the men’s shoe soles and found they matched shoe impressions found at the scene. Police also found a pair of orange gloves with a strong odor of gasoline in a child’s booster seat in the truck.
McCormick admitted dropping Cox off in the area. Cox admitted to throwing the bottles at the house with the intent to set it on fire.