Discreet Discretions

For the IMC Newsroom 

URBANA- Democrat Julia Rietz, Champaign County State’s Attorney, swooned for the press that her recent winning election results show that the public "likes what they see coming out of her office." Try selling that to the neighborhoods north of University Avenue. 

Certainly, it won’t sell during the uproar over Champaign Police Detective Lisa Staples lenient treatment received after the detective's 2:30 a.m. driving rampage in an unmarked squad car, drunk and going the wrong way into head-on traffic on I-72.  

Married to an officer, Rietz has been consistent to insure easy sentences for the misconduct of police officers. During her reign, not one police officer has ever seen a day of jail time despite recent infractions such as rape, falsified police reports, torture, stalking, and domestic battery done by officers.  
 
Rietz often ducks the responsibility of prosecuting an officer citing conflicts of interest. Lucky for Rietz, the blame for who actually tilted the scales of justice gets placed on an unknown special prosecutor appointed in some unknown process. The circuit judge doing the appointing and the state’s attorney bowing out know in advance, however, that requesting a certain type of special prosecutor can likely affect the outcome of the case.  

For example, in the Detective Staples case, selecting a Ford County prosecutor to handle a DUI case, as Champaign County Circuit Judge Mike Jones revealed on WDWS’s Penny For Your Thoughts Show recently, was a choice made knowing how Ford County prosecutors handle first-time DUI’s- far easier than is the norm in Champaign County.

 

It was a perfect recipe for helping a police officer who happened to make one little mistake: an out-of-town lawyer who can do the dirty deed of injustice and no one in the Champaign County Bar Association would have to take a hit. Except maybe, Traffic Judge Richard Klaus, who accepted the plea deal for Staples.   

In the case against Urbana Police Officer Kurt Hjort who was accused of rape, Judge Tom Difanis chose a former-employee in his state’s attorney’s office, James Dedman, now a private defense attorney- to prosecute Officer Hjort. Dedman is known around the county as one of the laziest and most timid of trial lawyers, and to no one’s surprise, Dedman dismissed the entire criminal prosecution against Hjort. Dedman didn’t even charge Hjort with official misconduct for looking up the victim’s address on the METCAD dispatch system and having sex (consensual or not) while Hjort was supposed to be on duty. 

In the Brady Smith case, a middle school dean accused of sexually abusing African-American boys, former State’s Attorney John Piland allowed a close friend of Brady Smith, Elizabeth Dobson, to prosecute her friend. After a stipulated plea agreement, Brady Smith was videotaped by television crews laughing his way out of the courthouse after receiving 4 years probation and a $10 fine. Who the prosecutor is, makes a world of difference how justice gets distributed.

 

We sleepy Christmas consumers will be content to let Rietz wait until the smoke clears over Staples. Later, Rietz will make a public example out of Elizabeth Drewes- another drunk driver who recently killed a young bride-to-be of 24. Detective Staples will be back at her desk*, long forgotten, by the time Rietz will be gloating into television cameras again explaining how "pleased" she is Ms. Drewes won't be getting out of prison in this lifetime. A big media splash over Drewes will help the voters forget about the favors done for Detective Staples.

Most of us remember very little. Most of us can't remember that Julia Rietz gave Kristen Roseberry, a student from Purdue, 4 years probation for driving drunk on highway I-57. Like Drewes, Roseberry collided into oncoming traffic, killing Martha Payne, a 55-year-old grandmother from Mississippi, and injuring four other family members. Most of us also don't remember the pampered treatment given to U of I student, Dongki Yoon** who was driving drunk on campus, killing pedestrian, Nadia Chowdhury, age 20. Yoon left the scene of the accident. Yoon served two months in the county jail in between semesters.
 
State's Attorney Julia Rietz often discusses "the wonderful" power she wields called "prosecutorial discretion". Discretion about whether to go forward with a police report, the decision to charge what kind of crime, and the ability to recommend a sentence are some of the superpowers granted to state's attorneys. The case of Sgt. William Myers, a correctional officer accused of torturing four people at the county jail with a taser, shows how this discretion can minimize the damage against an offender. 

Rietz offered Myers the lightest sentence of conditional discharge, in exchange for Myers pleading guilty to one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The outrageous deal was cancelled when news of the upcoming plea bargain was released to The News-Gazette
 
Cases that involve middle school deans, cops, dentists, bank tellers, restaurant owners, U of I students, and the like reveal how this discretion is used. The outrage North End families have is not because they want to see Dectective Staples or Sgt. Myers go to jail. The sense of unfairness stems from African-Americans and low-income people wishing for the same kinds of mercy granted to the people prosecutors openly favor. 

Equality under the law might mean prosecutors are to abide by an equal application of the law. The problem standing in the way could be the living conditions inside our prisons have been neglected for so long that white cops and white lawyers don’t have the heart to put their kind in the cruel dungeons we call “correctional facilities”.  

Unless a white professional does a crime so infamous, like in the case of an elementary school teacher sexually abusing 8 white children (whose families can afford civil attorneys,) the white professional class can expect they won’t ever be required to do time in prison.  

Jon White was the exception. Normally, white pedophiles are given very lenient sentences. Robert Arnette was allowed a sentence of probation by Assistant State’s Attorney Duke Harris after Arnette was accused of sexually molesting and assaulting four children two months prior to the disappearance of Arnette’s estranged wife, Naomi.    

Justifying her lenient treatment for cops and professionals, Rietz often snaps that the professional white people she dares to prosecute did lose their job, afterall, and that's punishment enough. Rietz needn't worry that unfair, disparate prison sentences will cost her the state’s attorney job, since few of us are aware these are the current courthouse conditions. 

Rietz, longing to be seen as a Democrat, attempted to reach out to local black talk-radio shows and The Ministerial Alliance this year only to be greeted with the unpleasant facts that her reign is perceived to be a continuation of the biased Piland and Difanis eras. Rietz scoffs at any suggestion her prosecutions are racially biased and often too harsh on the African-American community.  

Would she be willing to "prove it" by opening the books and really tracking significant information after verdicts? Not likely. Like the traffic study that police were required to do, the results of an objective study at the courthouse might show local prosecutors preferring to incarcerate African-Americans, and always incarcerate people of low-income, not represented by private attorneys. 

While State’s Attorney Rietz cannot comprehend what black people are so upset about, she does understand the plight of her legal colleagues trying to eek out a living. Rietz, herself, was once a private attorney. She knows defense attorneys who can successfully get their clients good deals from the prosecutors can expect more business. In Champaign County, the ability to pay a private attorney is equivalent to deserving a community-based sentence. These double standards of the Champaign County “Just-Us” system would be kept a better secret if cops wouldn’t drink after work.

* Lisa Staples resigned January 5, 2009. She remains quailified to receive a pension from the City of Champaign, and could potentially still get a job in law enforcement. After Urbana Police Officer Kurt Hjort was allowed to resign from the Urbana Police Department, (again, to protect a pension,) Hjort was hired to be a patrolman in the Gibson City Police Department. News of the hire was leaked to The News-Gazette, and officials in Gibson City rescinded their job offer to Hjort.

**for earlier readers of this article, there has been a retraction in the facts of the Choudhury case. See thread below for details.  

The punishment for Detective Staples

Here is the laundry list Detective Staples recieved for pleading guilty to Driving Under the Influence of alcohol. It should be noted from the start, that Illinois statutes require an automatic six-month suspension of a driver's license if the offender refuses to submit to a brethalyzer test the night of the offense.

Staples was represented by local defense attorney Ed Piraino. The presiding judge of Champaign County, Tom Difanis, appointed Tony Lee, a recently retired Ford County prosecutor of 16 years. Lee was appointed when Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz asked for a special prosecutor  because of a professional relationship with Detective Staples. Piraino and Lee worked out the following plea bargain before traffic court Judge Richard Klaus. Klaus accepted the following:

Staples pled guilty to Driving Under the Influence. Charges of Improper Lane Usage and Driving Without a License were dismissed by the state. Staples punishment was:

  • pay a fine of $750 dollars
  • pay court costs of $2,258
  • pay the above $3008.00 within 300 days.
  • pay a anti-crime fee of $10.00
  • pay a probation service fee of $10.00 a month for 18 months ($180.00)
  • sumbit to 18 months of court supervision with the Champaign County Court Services
  • Perform 250 hours of public servic work (Staples will get credit for public service hours performed any time Staples does the following: education treatment, aftercare, sobriety-based self-help group meetings, attends victim impact panels)
  • Attend a Victim Impact Panel. (The Victim Impact Panel is a proceeding hosted by the Champaign County Court Services department, where DUI offenders are gathered to hear the stories from former victims of drunk drivers or former drunk drivers who hurt someone in an accident.)
  • Obtain a substance/alcohol abuse evaluation with an agency approved by the Champaign County Court Services department and follow any recommendations for treatment or counseling.
  • [In exchange for Staples' plea of guilty,] the State agrees not to file any criminal charges against the defendant based solely on the conduct described in the police reports contained in this written order.

Staples' employment status

Currently, Champaign police dectective, Lisa Staples is suspended with pay and has been suspended with pay since December 1, 2008. Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said he would make a final determination about Detective Staples after Champaign Police finish their investigation into the incident with Staples. Finney said Staples could face discipline, and that discipline could be termination if necessary.

Staples has been on the police force since 1995.  

Staples resigns

Champaign police officer resigns after plea in DUI case By Mary Schenk Tuesday January 6, 2009

CHAMPAIGN – A Champaign police officer who pleaded guilty last month to driving under the influence has resigned her post.

Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said Lisa Staples, 39, resigned effective at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"She resigned this (Tuesday) morning. It was a part of the process of meeting with her attorney and one of the numerous meetings we have had," said Finney.

Staples pleaded guilty on Dec. 18 to misdemeanor driving under the influence. An 11-year employee of the department, Staples had been a detective for the last four years.

She admitted that she drove the wrong way on Interstate 72 on Nov. 30 about 2:30 a.m., at a time when she was drunk and in a departmental squad car.

Special prosecutor Tony Lee of Paxton and Staples' attorney, Ed Piraino of Champaign, negotiated a deal that allowed Staples to receive a sentence of 18 months of court supervision, 250 hours of public service and a $750 fine. Champaign County Judge Rich Klaus accepted the plea agreement.

Staples had been paid while she was on administrative leave. Her pay ends as of 5 p.m., Finney said. The resignation does not affect her ability to collect whatever pension she might be eligible for based on her years of service, he said.

A Hypocritical Public and Press

One would hope that Staples made this decision based on what she felt was best. I rather doubt that. The hue and cry about this case by a few citizens and the News-Gazette was a lot like the scenes in the Frankenstein movies where the ignorant peasants march on the castle with torches and pitchforks. This article here on IMC was a little different, but still left me uncomfortable.

Why?

It's not that I think she should have gotten a wrist slap. She did a very stupid thing and copuld have killed someone. A wrist slap didn't happen anyway, in fact could NOT happen under Illinois law.

However, what the case revealed is that justice in Champaign County is a twisted mess of politician/judges and a bloodthristy press that makes criminals here look like they are monsters. They are not, in most cases, but getting painted like that gets judges and prosecutors elected and papers sold. All I think she deserved is the same treatment as first-offenders in other counties get. Nothing less, but surely nothing more. The real crime is that you have to be a cop in Champaign County to get a case like this handled fairly.

Some poor working schlep surely would have suffered far worse punishment.

So there's a whole lot of hypocrisy going on here. Local Yocal, based on his past stories, may not be a part of that. Unfortunately, it's clear that many in Champaign County are outrageous fakers when it comes to concern about fairness and justice. They get all bent out of shape over Staples' poor judgment, but where were they when people are dying in the back of squad cars, torturing people with stun guns in jail, or raping women they track down using their squad car computers?

Yeah, they were all saying it just wasn't fair to those poor, hard-working cops when a few voices spoke up about the human rights pit of despair that is far too well-funded and defended in Champaign County.

News-Gazette Editorial on the Staples Case

News-Gazette Editorial
 
Plea deal in cop's DUI case raises questions
Sunday December 28, 2008 Why did a Champaign police officer charged with drunken driving get
kid-gloves treatment in the court system?
 
Elizabeth Drewes remains in the Champaign County Jail, where she's being
held on $5 million bond in connection with her involvement in a terrible
car crash that killed a 24-year-old Ogden woman.
 
Drewes, who was allegedly intoxicated, struck the vehicle in which
Brittany K. Babb was riding about 1 p.m. Dec. 19 on Interstate 74 between
the Neil Street and Lincoln Avenue exits. Drewes was driving her Cadillac
Escalade west in the eastbound lane when the crash occurred.
 
Funeral services for Miss Babb, who was engaged to be married, were held
Tuesday. Needless to say, Babb's friends and family are heartbroken, and
her home community is in shock.
 
Lisa Staples, a 39-year-old Champaign police officer, was much more
fortunate than Drewes, just as the motorists who dodged the car Staples
was driving were much more fortunate than Brittany Babb.
 
Staples, a detective and 11-year police veteran, was arrested Nov. 30 as
she was driving her unmarked squad car west in the eastbound lanes of
Interstate 72 west of Mahomet. Police were alerted by motorists who
reported a car headed the wrong way on the interstate. Staples also was
intoxicated, telling police she didn't know where she was and refusing to
take field sobriety and breath tests.
 
There is a great difference in the result of Drewes' and Staples'
behavior. Drewes' conduct led directly to another person's death. But
there is hardly any difference at all in their behavior.
 
That's why it was not just shocking, but inconsistent with common practice
in Champaign County Circuit Court, to see Staples benefit from a
sweetheart plea agreement in which the principal goal of both special
prosecutor Tony Lee and defense lawyer Ed Piraino was to ensure that
Staples keep her job as a police officer. Piraino stated during a court
hearing: "If she can't drive, she can't be a police officer."
 
Under the terms of the agreement, Staples was sentenced to 18 months of
court supervision. If she complies with the conditions of her plea
agreement, her conviction will be expunged. Currently on administrative
leave from the police department, Staples' disciplinary status remains
uncertain. But she has cleared a major hurdle, and it's obvious Staples
received far gentler treatment than DUI defendants in similar or even less
serious circumstances.
 
Associate Judge Richard Klaus' decision to accept this plea agreement was
a mistake. It would have been far better if he'd rejected it and told the
lawyers to try to sell it to another judge.
 
The deal itself was negotiated by Lee and Piraino, and the aggravating
factors stand out like bright, flashing lights.
 
The danger Staples posed is undeniable. Witness the Babb tragedy. Further,
the facts indicate that Staples was not just barely over the line of legal
intoxication. Staples was intoxicated to the point of not knowing what she
was doing.
 
The only mitigating factor is that, prior to the night of her arrest,
Staples had a clean driving record. As a general rule, however, that
hasn't been good enough to persuade a judge to grant a sentence of court
supervision in the more serious DUI cases. Just ask any veteran defense
lawyer.
 
It will be no surprise when members of the defense bar start arguing that
their DUI clients deserve the same generous treatment, just as it will be
no surprise when they don't get it. The Staples plea agreement was a
disturbing departure from the usual rules, one that should not be
repeated. Indeed, it should not have happened in the first place.

Good Bye Trey McBride

 The News-Gazette has published this "victim impact statement" one month prior to the drunk driver going to court. It's unlikely he will get the Roseberry/Tzicigakis/Yoon/Staples deal since he has no connection to the U of I, is not a professional, and does not work in law enforcement. The timing of his case is going to affect the prosecution. With sentiment running like this, look for at least 10 years in prison for McBride. Family mourns Rantoul woman lost to alleged drunken driver By Mary Schenk Monday January 26, 2009Kym Gibson, left, and her son Braeden hold photographs of Kym's daughter Amanda Gibson, who was killed in a traffic accident with an alleged drunken driver on Thanksgiving. Trey McBride, 22, of Rantoul is in jail awaiting trial in the incident. Amanda Gibson was a free spirit who loved to dye her hair bright colors, listen to rock 'n' roll bands and sell kitschy clothing.At 25, she had already been a mother for eight years. She was also a devoted friend, daughter and sister.On Thanksgiving 2008, she became another tragic statistic in a year of bad statistics for Illinois State Police in District 10. Capt. Stuart Shaver said Miss Gibson's death was one of 23 traffic deaths troopers investigated just in Champaign County, half of which involved alcohol.Trey McBride, 22, of Rantoul is in jail waiting for his trial on aggravated driving under the influence. He is accused of being drunk when he hit Miss Gibson's sport utility vehicle from behind on Interstate 57, just west of Champaign at about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 27, with such force that it threw the seat-belted woman out of her Honda CRV. She was dead within an hour.She was on her way home to Rantoul, having just listened to bands at a Tolono bar. Friends who were in another car in front of her saw tumbling lights behind them and helped McBride from his burning vehicle. They could not help their friend."We would hope people would decide not to drink and drive, and if we can help them be more paranoid about that, we're going to try our best. We do it unapologetically," Shaver said. "When you talk to the families of these people, whether the death is caused by a drunk driver or their son or daughter was (driving) drunk, it rarely matters. These are tragedies. We get to see how much heartache and hurt goes along with these statistics. It's very personal to our troops to reduce the number of fatalities."Miss Gibson's mother, Kym Gibson, 45, of Monticello, is living with the heartache of losing her first-born. So is Miss Gibson's father, Steve Gibson; her brothers, Colton, 13, and Braeden, 9; her daughter, Samantha Deppa, 8, and scores of other family and friends."Was she perfect? Of course not. But she was a really cool person," said Kym Gibson, who transforms from grieving mom to Energizer bunny when talking about her daughter."What she was really good at is the gift of gab. She was so prolific. She could have fun and be a 25-year-old girl or sit across from me in a board room and just lay it out there. She just was so gifted in that manner," she said.Miss Gibson grew up in rural Rantoul, attending schools in Thomasboro and Rantoul. She graduated from Rantoul Township High School in 2001. During her senior year, she gave birth to Samantha, now 8, who is also the daughter of Ryan Deppa.Kym Gibson said Miss Gibson and Deppa were devoted parents who were always close, although they never married. Samantha now lives with her father in Rantoul."He's always been a super dad," Kym Gibson said of Deppa, 27. "We love him, and he loves us. Our families love one another. We're so lucky."Miss Gibson had a series of sales jobs but was particularly happy with the one she had at the time of her death as an assistant manager at Hot Topic, a store that specializes in accessories related to alternative rock bands and pop culture, at Market Place Mall in Champaign.Kym Gibson said her daughter's penchant for brightly dyed hair and her tattoos were "marketing genius." And both were the topic of discussion only hours before she died.On the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 26, the family gathered at Pizza Hut in Monticello to celebrate Kym Gibson's father-in-law's birthday. Miss Gibson warned her mother that she might "freak out" that her light blond hair was "really, really pink.""She comes walking in with Samantha, and here's this pink and black hair and it was gorgeous. It was so cool. My husband even said it was cool," she said, adding that Miss Gibson reported her sales at Hot Topic had "blown out" since she dyed her hair about 10 days earlier. "She was thrilled."That same night before Miss Gibon left to go hear bands in Tolono, Kym Gibson said they talked about a tattoo on Amanda's arm."It was a bluebird of happiness holding a banner that said 'His.' I just couldn't stand it. We didn't fight about it, but she knew it got under my skin," she said.The 'his' was for a guy who hadn't exactly worked out for Miss Gibson, so her mother suggested she get the tattoo "fixed.""She said to me, 'How do you know it doesn't mean "His"?' and she pointed to heaven," Kym Gibson recalled. "I said, 'You still remember your upbringing, going to church?' She said, 'Of course.'"Do you know how comforting that was the next day? For us to have actually talked about it and had a meeting of the minds over the tattoo. I cling to that," she said.Kym Gibson considers that a huge blessing amid the curse that is losing a child.There have been many other blessings – the blue-haired rockers who came to the funeral home to pay their respects, $300 worth of gift cards for the family from a sorority in Monticello, the planning of a Jan. 31 concert to raise education money for Samantha, donations to that fund, and an outpouring of support from people they don't even know.A card that particularly moved her came from another Monticello woman whose 13-year-old daughter was killed in a traffic accident in town one week before Miss Gibson's daughter's death.And on Dec. 19, the Gibsons were on their way to visit with Assistant Champaign County State's Attorney Chris Kanis about McBride's case, when they learned Kanis had been called to a fatal crash on Interstate 74.Kym Gibson said she and her husband were caught in the traffic backup created by the head-on collision between an alleged drunken driver and the minivan that Zachary Acton was driving. Brittany Babb, 24, of Ogden, Acton's fiancee, was killed. Kym Gibson's mother contacted them by phone and let them know what was happening."My husband said, 'We know exactly how they feel this minute and how they're going to feel tomorrow.' It's so raw. We completely understand. We think about them so much," she said of the Babbs and the Actons.On Jan. 9, the Gibsons got their first look at McBride in court, when his attorney asked a judge to reduce his bond so he could be released from jail, a request that was denied."It was the exact same feeling I had as when they said, 'We're taking her to the morgue.' You just kind of breathe it through, pray it through, find your strength and do what you need to do. You just have faith in God and court and the law ... that you're going to be seen through it."Because the ultimate price was paid by us, by Amanda, the ultimate price in penalty should be paid," she said.If convicted and sentenced to the maximum 14 years in prison, McBride would be out in less than 12 years."He'll still be very young. He can still have a family. She doesn't get to," she said. "People say he will have to live with this the rest of his life. I say, he has a rest of his life."

Good Bye Trey McBride?

I must say it should disturb the "civil" public , when forums such as this one are allowed to have such trials and executions of a young man before he's had his day in court. After all , he is still innocent until proven guilty. I understand the grief suffered by friends and family at the loss of a loved one , but being vindictive and filled with hate to the point of ruining another young persons life will not bring her back. Also , it does'nt appear that anyone bothered to get Trey McBride's side of the story much less his family's. In defense of a young man ( who by the way is innocent at this point ) who is not offered the opportunity to defend himself in this public character execution , I must say that there are MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS about that tragic Thanksgiving night. While we should all detest character assination of "either victim" in this case , we should not fear seeking the TRUTH. Amanda's friends have stated that she had been downing Yagerbombs at the bar ( it took 2 days to draw a blood specimen from her ). On such a cold night , why were the windows rolled down on her vehicle? And how could she be struck so hard that , although seat belted , she was thrown from the vehicle? The officer on the scene asked her friends if there was any reason she would "stop in the middle of the highway". Why would he ask that? No , as stated above , Im sure Amanda was not perfect. None of us are. And neither is this scenario of how she died. Dont be to qiuck to say "Good Bye Trey Mcbride" until the fat lady sings in court.

The Fat Lad Sang

She sang about loss of a child to a crime that didn't have to be. The article in the News Gazette protrayed a person, a person who was lost to a family. Miss Gibson was not the one shooting Yaeger Bombs, Mr. McBride was. Get your facts straight. Her blood was not drawn two days later, it was done in the ER where she lay dead. You question her windows rolled down in November? Is grasping at straws your professional job or a hobby?

Trey McBride pled guilty, he was a man about it and said he was sorry. No jury convicted him, families worked together to stop the pain. The pain of ignorance of those who would speak against are children is beyond our power to change.

Adieu annonymous coward writer of false facts.    

The extent of the drunken driving epidemic

State police increasing efforts on safe driving education By Mary Schenk Monday, January 26, 2009 11:05 AM CDT

State police hope that by constantly reminding the public about the number of people killed in traffic accidents, they can reduce the number.

Although statewide there were fewer fatalities on Illinois roads in 2008 than in 2007, the number in the nine counties that make up District 10 was up, according to Capt. Stuart Shaver of the Pesotum post.

There were 69 deaths in the district, compared with 59 in 2007. Of the 69 deaths, 23 were in Champaign County.

"The Illinois State Police's goal is to reduce fatalities by 2010 to 1,010. (In 2008) we were at 1,042 fatalities, which is 204 fewer than in 2007," he said.

Shaver attributes the lower numbers statewide to better seat-belt use and more efficient patrolling.

"We like to think that, enforcement-wise, departments have gotten smarter about patrolling and being visible at the right times and looking for specific violations," he said.

Troopers now try to prevent the "fatal five" – no seat belts, driving under the influence, speeding, following too closely and improper lane usage – rather than merely reacting to an area where there were more accidents than usual.

Shaver said that in half the 23 fatal accidents in Champaign County, alcohol was involved. In about two-thirds, those killed weren't wearing seat belts.

Shaver said the parents of a teen killed in September when he was thrown from a truck came to see the troopers who handled the accident.

"They made a point of saying they had begged him to wear his seat belt and just couldn't get him to do that. You feel for them. This is a young man who's not only been told by us but by his parents. He's 19. It's his decision not to put it on, and unfortunately, it cost him his life. That's the type of person we're targeting," Shaver said.

Troopers give extensive education in high schools about wearing seat belts and the dangers of mixing drinking and cell-phone use with driving. And seven of the 55 in the district are now assigned exclusively to alcohol- and drug-impairment enforcement patrols, Shaver said.

Shaver said five of the people killed in Champaign County last year were motorcyclists: Three died because of other drivers; two were speeding when they hit other vehicles.

No matter who's at fault, Shaver said, motorcyclists are more vulnerable where there is more traffic. And with more people getting motorcycles to conserve gas, the need for safety training and helmets has increased

The Fat Lady is the News-Gazette

To Annonymous 8:01 p.m.,

Your points about Trey McBride being roasted before a trial is exactly why I posted the N-G article about Mr. McBride. I was struck by the timing of the article and, in my opinion, objective justice gets tainted when the News-Gazette seeks to publish these "victim impact statements" just before a defendant's trial. If I were Mr. Bruno, I would have marched into court with the N-G front page story in hand, and have McBride's case moved out of county. McBride cannot hope to get a fair trial if jurors share the sentiments expressed in this article.

Since the State's Attorney is an elected position, the prosecution will likely cater to the public's general impatience with drunk drivers. You are right to point out, however, that a car crash can have nuances not known; and remain hidden when we assume the drunk driver was entirely at fault just because they happened to be drunk.

Your complaint against this site is better aimed at the News-Gazette. I only noted that McBride will likely be sent to prison because the News-Gazette is trying to dictate to the state's attorney what she ought to do. The "Good Bye Trey McBride" crack was not a wish that McBride be sent away, but rather, it was an observation of how the News-Gazette has attempted to guarantee it.

This portion of the "civil" public has been consistently disturbed by the State's Attorney and the police departments using the media to try their cases before trials. See the article on this site called, "Has Fitzgerald Fumbled On The One-Yard Line?" which raises the question in the Governor's case.

Thank you Annonymous 8:01 p.m for your excellent contribution to the post.   

Trey Mcbride

Just let me say to you, I was a very good friend of Amanda Gibson, and I truly believe that Trey deserves to get more than 14 years in prison. Have you seen the myspace evidence? Probably not. He loves to "top out his vehicle", and videotape it. He killed a great person, a very selfless, happy, and humble woman. He took away an 8 yr. olds mother. Trey is lucky to be alive, thanks to Mandys friends. I can only say that I hope Trey never forgets November 27, 2008.

Again, the point is to not do this in the media

To Annonymous 2:55 a.m.,

Your points are equally valid. We, as readers of The News-Gazette, are in no position to judge Trey McBride's innocence or guilt. We weren't there on November 27, and we don't have access to the total amount of information that is involved in any car crash. It sounds like there are many issues involved in this case from both sides. 

Trey McBride's name has come up here only because The News-Gazette made it a front page story and I sensed an agenda on the part of The News-Gazette. For the reasons cited by both Annon 8:01 and Annon 2:55, I find journalists who seek to blame and suggest punishment before a trial, even if it comes out of the mouths of others, irresponsible and disrespectful to the court of law. Courtrooms, The News-Gazette forgets, is the place where a full inquiry into how those two cars collided should be conducted. And quoting grieving mothers before a trial is no way to determine punishment, especially when she's in an "eye for an eye" mood. 

I understand that if you were there the night of November 27, and had to see the horror of your friend killed and have the unpleasant task of rescuing someone from a car, you would feel like the other driver is responsible and deserves prison for a long time. I also understand that if you believe the driver in Amanda's car was also drunk while driving, and the collision was their fault- not McBride's-  you would not support sending McBride away.

So you both agree, I would hope, that neither the IMC nor The News-Gazette should be publicizing what McBride did or did not do before a trial, since both your posts indicate none of us in the media have all the information at this point.

My apologies to you both, anon 8:01 and 2:55, for the "Good Bye Trey McBride" crack. It was a title chosen to reflect the attitude of The News-Gazette and the likley political prosecution the elected state's attorney will engage in as a response to the article.

I have no idea what should be done with Trey McBride. My hope is for a fair trial, with all the available witnesses and physical evidence presented at that time, and that will hopefully determine the truth of that night. Whoever is repsonsible for this tragedy should be held accountable in some way. Proper punishment or rehabilitation for proven wrongdoing is beyond my expertise. And since I wasn't there on November 27, I'm not even sure if blame on either driver can be placed at this time.

What I'm concerned about is Miss Mary Schenk's occasional forays into executing justice before trials and her exploitation of someone's feelings for another front page story.  

Trey mcbride

I believe that justice has officially died.  Trey Mcbride has no chance of justice and will be denied his basic right to a day in court.  I happen to fight for freedom and I have a hard time believing that what I fight for has been taken for nothing by people in my home town with that close minded mid-west mentality.  I happen to be in the military and I also happen to be Trey Mcbride's brother.  What happened on that night was a trajedy.  It took one woman's life and one young man's.  Neither was perfect, but both we pay with there lives.  If people want to talk about the "myspace page".  Lets talk about the people that wrote in death threats to burn down Trey's house.  Which incidently he just lives in, with my parents.  My parents shouldn't be held accountable for the mistakes that Trey did or did not make.  I applaud the N-G for stirring all of this emotion up with there candid unbiased reporting.  Interupting the legal process for profit is the most disgusting lack of respect for this country and the media just continues on with it by saying they are just giving the facts.  I will wait patiently for Trey's outcome.  I will also wait for the Nazi's at the N-G to slip up in some regard with something in there personnal lives and then I will throw it into the ring of society and let pre-judgement be cast on them.

...And The Beat Goes On....

Former Newman Center priest gets probation over cocaine By Mary Schenk Thursday February 12, 2009

URBANA – A Catholic priest formerly assigned to the Newman Center at the University of Illinois admitted to a Champaign County judge Thursday that he was a cocaine dealer.

Christopher Layden, 34, now of Peoria, was sentenced to four years of probation after pleading guilty to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, a Class 1 felony.

Under the terms of an agreement negotiated by his Champaign attorney Mark Lipton and Assistant State's Attorney Dan Clifton, the state dismissed more serious charges alleging that Layden delivered cocaine and possessed cocaine with intent to deliver it, each of which carried mandatory prison terms.

Layden admitted on Sept. 10, 2008, he had 1.9 grams of cocaine intended for sale in his residence at the Newman Center in Champaign.

He was also fined $2,500, ordered to do 150 hours of public service work, get a substance abuse evaluation and follow treatment recommendations. Lipton said Layden already has been through in-patient drug treatment and is now in continuing care.

State's Attorney Extends Further Professional Courtesies

To see the difficulty in rooting out bad apples from the professional class in Champaign County, note in the article below that despite the very real concerns and complaints made by the parents of the second-grade school girls, Unit 116 Superintendent Gene Amberg gives pedophile Jon White a clean review and allows White to keep "teaching".

Ex-Urbana superintendent found guiltyBy Mary Schenk Tuesday February 24, 2009

URBANA – Former Urbana school district superintendent Gene Amberg was found guilty of failure to report suspicions of child abuse to the Department of Children and Family Services.

In a stipulated bench trial Monday, Judge John Kennedy found the evidence sufficient to prove Amberg, 58, of Urbana guilty of failure to report to DCFS suspicions that Jon White enga- ged in conduct with female students designed to satisfy the former Thomas Paine Elementary School teacher's sexual urges.

Amberg admitted to hearing concerns from parents regarding White's behavior with their daughter and ordering in-district investigations into the concerns.

But under Illinois law, all adults regularly working with children – called "mandated reporters" – are required to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect to DCFS. Neither Amberg nor other school officials reported any of the concerns to DCFS.

Like his colleague Carmelita Thomas, 58, of Champaign, Amberg will not have a conviction on his record if he completes the terms of the court supervision he was granted under an agreement negotiated by State's Attorney Julia Rietz and his attorney, Tony Novak of Urbana.

He was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision, fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of public service.

Novak released a statement later Monday afternoon, stating: "Dr. Amberg never intended to violate the mandatory reporting act. However, as superintendent at the time, Dr. Amberg takes full responsibility for his actions and decisions."

Novak said neither he nor his client would answer any questions.

"He admitted the facts, and the judge found him guilty," Rietz said.

According to those facts that Rietz and Novak agreed the judge could consider, Amberg was alerted on Nov. 2, 2006, by the parent of a second-grade girl that White had blindfolded th child for a so-called "taste-testing" game that involved her licking substances off a banana. The mother also told Amberg that White put warm toppings on her daughter's belly.

Amberg then contacted Principal Janice Bradley, who arranged to meet the next day with the parents. After talking to them and White, Bradley sent the parents and Amberg a letter saying she was satisfied that White was using "a legitimate teaching technique."

Rietz said the parents, still dissatisfied with Bradley's follow-up, met with Amberg again on Nov. 6, 2006, and had their child transferred to another school. Amberg told the parents he would have Thomas do an investigation.

Rietz said Thomas wrote a report in which she said the parents believed criminal activity might be going on, and that's why the district did further investigation of White.

Amberg currently teaches at the University of Illinois in the College of Education. He retired from the Urbana school district at the end of the 2006-07 school year.

Thomas pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision, fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

Bradley, 56, of Champaign, now retired, has a court appearance later this week. She is charged with two counts of failure to report.

"I hope to get her case resolved on Thursday," Rietz said Monday.

Thomas, who is also retired, was the human resources director for the school district when parents came forward in the fall of 2006 with complaints that White, 28, was playing "taste-testing" games with their second-grade daughters. White was arrested at school Jan. 31, 2007. He is serving a 60-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in February 2008 in Champaign and McLean counties to 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

White's father, Robert White of Villa Grove, attended Amberg's hearing.

News-Gazette staff writer Amy F. Reiter contributed to this report.

Meanwhile, State's Attorney Goes After Black "Gangs"

While the former the Unit 116 superintendent gets his two years of mildly inconvenient court supervision for allowing a pedophile to molest second graders, look how the state's attorney is so eager to destroy these youths from the Garden Hills area: 

Youth gang activity might be escalating in C-UBy Mary Schenk Saturday February 14, 2009

URBANA – Two recent crimes in Urbana and Champaign involving teens may be an indication that gang activity among middle and high school-age students is becoming more serious, the Champaign County state's attorney said.

"In the past, what we were seeing with these gangs was turf fighting, turf battles. They would fight with each other in parks. It has been escalating. These cases involve guns," said State's Attorney Julia Rietz.

She was referring to a Jan. 11 incident at an Urbana apartment where four armed youths pushed past a fifth unarmed man to get into an apartment where they were apparently looking for drugs or money, and a Jan. 22 carjacking at the Market Place Mall by three young men, two of whom had guns. Two others were implicated. Some of the same boys were involved in both crimes, Rietz said.

Just this week, Rietz filed charges against two teens who are old enough to be tried as adults for the Jan. 11 incident.

Charged with attempted armed robbery and residential burglary were Allen Williams, 17, of the 1400 block of Queen's Way Drive, Champaign, and Ryan Layendecker, 17, of the 1500 block of Cobblefield Road, Champaign.

Also charged are a 16-year-old boy from Urbana, and a 13- and 14-year-old, both from Champaign. The boys were students at Franklin Middle School and Centennial High School, Rietz said.

Rietz said Layendecker is alleged to have driven the group to the home on Prairie Green in Urbana, where Layendecker knocked on the door and when resident Treena Feauto, 21, answered, four other young men with guns rushed in demanding "the stuff."

Rietz said they rifled cabinets and in the melee, one fired a gun in the direction of Demario Huff, the 25-year-old man living there, before they fled empty-handed.

Police responded and after a couple of hours, found Huff hiding in a closet. He and Feauto were both charged with possession with intent to deliver cannabis after police found several bags packaged for sale.

Rietz said Layendecker did not have a weapon and waited in his vehicle but admitted that he knew the others had guns and that they had gone to the residence for cannabis.*

Rietz said that after Feauto was released from jail, she returned home and found on her kitchen floor a digital camera, which she turned over to Urbana police. With the help of school resource officers from Champaign police, several people on the camera were identified and interviewed, leading to the charges.

Rietz said the young men involved claim to be members of the Outlawz, a gang centered in the Garden Hills area, according to Champaign police reports.

In a separate case in court Friday, Devonte Fondia, 17, of the 1600 block of Williamsburg Drive, Champaign, was sentenced to two years of probation for aggravated battery. He admitted that on Jan. 1, he took part in beating a 19-year-old Champaign man in the head and the face until the man lost consciousness.

Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar said Fondia was among a group of 50 to 70 or so people fighting in the 1500 block of Hedge Road. The victim had gone there to confront another man for hurting one of his sisters and was attacked by a number of young men.

Fondia was one of five charged with aggravated battery. Lozar said Champaign police officers identified those involved as being members of the Outlawz.

[*It's odd that the State's Attorney provides mitigating evidence for Ryan Layendecker whereas the other youth do not get described with the same consideration. Could it be the state has decided to go easy on Layendecker because he's the white kid of the bunch?]

 

Youth need to be punished too

I understand that they are young but these kids deserve to be punished.  They are headed down the wrong path and could end up doing worse than home invasions and stealing out of cars in the mall parking lot.  What if the bullet wouldnt have missed the victim?  Then they would be murderers!  I dont feel sorry for any of them and I personally hope they get what they deserve.. including Layendecker!

Keeping Our Community "Safe"- Part 1

Champaign County courtBy Mary Schenk Thursday February 19, 2009

URBANA – The following criminal cases were resolved recently in Champaign County Circuit Court with guilty pleas entered by defendants or sentences imposed by judges:

– Tarek Abbed, 30, of the 1700 block of East Florida Avenue, Urbana, pleaded guilty to residential burglary and was sentenced to eight years in prison, to be served after an eight-year sentence he received in Ford County for stealing a motor vehicle from Paxton on Dec. 31, 2007.

In the Champaign County case, Abbed admitted he broke into a home in the 1700 block of East Olympian Road in Urbana sometime between June 20 and 23 and stole guitars, a television, a speaker, an electronic game console and baseball cards.

– Joshua Nickerson, 17, who listed an address in the 500 block of East Church Street, Champaign, pleaded guilty to residential burglary and was sentenced to 4½ years in prison. He admitted that on Dec. 11 he broke into the home of a relative in the 1700 block of Paula Drive, Champaign, and stole electronic equipment. Nickerson was in a vehicle with two other young men that crashed not far away after fleeing from the home, Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar said.

– Raven Holt, 28, whose last known address was in the 1300 block of Fairfax Drive, Champaign, was sentenced to 30 months of probation, 100 hours of public service, and fined $1,575. She pleaded guilty in January to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, admitting that on Sept. 10 she had about 3 grams of cocaine for sale at her home.

– Willie Keyhea, 31, who listed an address in the 1100 block of Dorsey Drive, Champaign, was sentenced to 30 months of probation and fined $1,350 for possession with intent to deliver cannabis. He pleaded guilty in December to having about 4 ounces of cannabis in his home along with packaging materials for selling it. Keyhea was also ordered to get a job, a substance abuse evaluation and perform 100 hours of public service work.

Playing God In The Criminal Justice System

NOTE IN THE NEWS-GAZETTE'S ANALYSIS OF THE GENE AMBERG CASE, THE GAZETTE DECIDES AMBERG TO BE WORTHY OF MERCY SINCE HE'S CONSIDERED A "GOOD" GUY. COULD THE GAZETTE SELL THAT TO THE VICTIMS OF JON WHITE? WOULD THE GAZETTE EVEN ASK THE VICTIMS  IF AMBERG'S DECISIONS WERE PUNISHED "CORRECTLY"? WASN'T AMBERG AN ACCOMPLICE TO THE SEXUAL DEVIANCY OF JON WHITE AND ENABLED JON WHITE TO COMMIT FURTHER CRIMES?

Correct conclusion to case against Amberg

Friday February 27, 2009

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz was absolutely correct to prosecute former Urbana school Superintendent Gene Amberg for failing to report suspicions of child abuse. And Amberg's sentence – a misdemeanor conviction that will be erased from his record after he successfully completes 18 months of court supervision – is the right penalty.

The sad saga of Jon White, a former Urbana public school teacher who is serving a 60-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, is bound to go down as some precedent-setting case in Illinois. Never before in Illinois have local school officials been held accountable for not acting as the "mandated reporters" they are in cases where there were suspicions of child abuse.

But Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz did hold them accountable, and that is to her credit. From now on, in Champaign County at least, all of those mandated reporters – teachers, scout leaders, doctors and others who work with children – will know that there are consequences if they fail to report suspicions of abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Family Services. It cannot be said that nothing good came out of the Jon White case. There is now a much clearer understanding and expectation of what the law is, and how it is properly enforced.

Truth be told, the justice system's penalty meted out to former Urbana school Superintendent Gene Amberg – a $2,000 fine, 18 months of court supervision and 100 hours of public service – was hardly stinging. Knowing what we do of Amberg's reputation, and the work he did for 15 years in Urbana, that's fine. We suspect the anguish he has been carrying in the aftermath of the White case was a much greater burden than a judge's sentence.

Amberg was once considered a model school administrator. He still is, but for an additional reason: teachers, principals, superintendents and others in Illinois schools now know that it is not their role to "investigate" allegations of child abuse or neglect. That role must be left to neutral, independent professionals at DCFS.

There should be no equivocation on what this law means, either by "mandated reporters" or by prosecutors. If society really is committed to protecting innocent children from abusers and from neglect, the law will be followed and enforced in the rest of Illinois' 101 counties just as it has in Champaign County. Further, there will be no retreating from a law that is good, reasonable and needed.

Let's Have A Local Study Of This Criminal Justice System Then...

What would the numbers be in Champaign County, one has to wonder.....

CONTACT: Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Tel: +1-212-216-1832
Email: hrwpress@hrw.org

US: Drug Arrests Skewed by Race
National Data on 1980-2007 Cases Show Huge Disparities

WASHINGTON - March 2 - Blacks have been arrested nationwide on drug
charges at higher rates than whites for nearly three decades, even
though they engage in drug offenses at comparable rates, Human Rights
Watch said in a report
released today.  Using data obtained from the FBI, the report reveals
the extent and persistence of racial disparities in US drug-law
enforcement. The data also show that most drug arrests are for nothing
more serious than possession. 

The 20-page report, "Decades of Disparity: Drug Arrests and Race in
the United States,"  says that adult African Americans were arrested on
drug charges at rates that were 2.8 to 5.5 times as high as those of
white adults in every year from 1980 through 2007, the last year for
which complete data were available. About one in three of the more than
25.4 million adult drug arrestees during that period was African
American.

"Jim Crow may be dead, but the drug war has never been color-blind,"
said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch's US Program
and author of the report. "Although whites and blacks use and sell
drugs, the heavy hand of the law is more likely to fall on black
shoulders."

The report also says that arrests for drug possession have greatly
exceeded arrests for drug sales every year since 1980. Indeed, the
proportion of drug arrests for possession has been increasing,
amounting to 80 percent or more annually since 1999. Marijuana
possession accounts for a large proportion of drug arrests: in the
years 2000 through 2007, the proportion of all drug arrests that was
for marijuana possession ranged from 37.7 percent to 42.1 percent. The
report today is the latest by Human Rights Watch exploring human rights
violations, including racial discrimination, in the context of the "war
on drugs".

"Hauling hundreds of thousands of people down to the station house
each year because they have some weed or a rock of crack cocaine in
their pocket has had little impact on drug use," said Fellner. "But the
stigma of a drug arrest, especially if followed by a conviction, limits
employment, education and housing opportunities. A more effective, less
destructive drug policy would prioritize treatment, education, and
positive social investments in poor communities over arrest and
incarceration."

###

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent
organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By
focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we
give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their
crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted
advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human
rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously
to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has
fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the
world.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Links: HomepageHuman Rights Watch (Press Center)Human Rights Watch (Action Center)

Reporter Bias Slanders Innocent Citizen

The author of "Discreet Discretions" must acknowledge he wrote with a biased assumption that the State's Attorney's office currently favors U of I students in charging and sentencing. While the author insists this is usually the predominant case, it does not excuse letting that assumption and usual occurance print total falsehoods as assumed fact.

This bias, or reporter's "hunch" resulted in a failure to double-check a "fact" during the research into the making of this story. Earlier readers might remember, it was assumed that a co-defendant in the Choudhury accident had their charges dropped because they were a U of I student. In fact, the person named had their charges dropped because the results of the police investigation determined they were innocent. For far too long, this person may have been charged without merit, and eventually the state relented.

The Independent Media Center would like to thank the reader who brought this situation to our attention and regret the error. We encourage all readers to challenge our authors when you see glaring mistakes that have no factual basis. The back and forth dialogue readers have in cyberspace can only improve First Amendment expression and accuracy. Part of that improvement requires we don't slander innocent people in a rush to judgment. Thanks again to our concientious reader.

   

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