For two years, former Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd has been a driving force behind the push to win Melissa Calusinski a new trial on charges she murdered a 16-month-old boy she was watching at a Lincolnshire day care center.
It was Rudd who publicly questioned autopsy findings linking the Carpentersville woman to Benjamin Kingan's 2009 death. It was Rudd who went on national television and declared, "I feel she's 100 percent innocent." And it was Rudd who in 2015 officially changed the cause of Benjamin's death from "homicide" to "undetermined."
So what does the former coroner's stunning indictment Wednesday on perjury charges stemming from his failed re-election effort mean for Calusinski?
Calusinski attorney Kathleen Zellner would not comment and Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said through a spokeswoman that with the case now before the Illinois Second District Appellate Court, it'll be up to an appellate prosecutor to decide what to make of Rudd's indictment.
But Bill Bligh, a McHenry County attorney who has practiced as both a prosecutor and defense lawyer, said the charges could be damaging if Rudd is called to testify on Calusinski's behalf.
"Having a perjury indictment certainly undermines your ability to be an advocate for any position," Bligh said.
Calusinski, 30, is serving a 31-year prison term. A Lake County judge rejected her request for a new trial in September, a decision her attorneys are now appealing.
With gang violence increasingly moving from Chicago's side streets onto expressways, Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling for the funding of two Illinois State Police cadet classes to add as many as 200 new troopers to the agency's ranks.
"Those officers will allow us to send more patrols to the Chicago-area expressways to counter the violence that has spilled over onto the highways," Rauner said in his budget address Wednesday.
According to a recent Reuters report, there were nine shootings on Chicago-area expressways in both 2011 and 2012. The number rose to 14 in 2013 and 19 in 2014, then soared to 37 in 2015 and 47 last year. Three of last year's shootings were fatal, Reuters reports.
In 2008, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran served a seven-day stint in the county jail to learn what it's like to live as an inmate.
This week, he tried things out on the other side of the locked doors, working five days as a jail guard.
"I felt it was important to do this," said Curran, who spent five weeks training in preparation. "My discernment is always to do whatever I can do to learn about the job and the functions of the sheriff's office."
Curran said he's come away from the experience with a renewed respect for his correctional officers and the challenges they face. He noted that officers watch over 60-inmate pods filled with people "a judge decided were not fit to be on the street."
"You've got to be good at looking out for trouble," he said. "In the regular world, you may give people the benefit of the doubt. For a correctional officer, it's just the opposite."
The IRS is releasing, bit by bit, its annual "Dirty Dozen" list of things that cause trouble.
Among ways to avoid fines and stay out of the pokey: Don't falsify your income to claim tax credits. Don't believe frivolous arguments (such as that you can refuse to pay taxes on religious grounds by invoking the First Amendment). Don't pad your deductions.
Failing to file a return is a misdemeanor. Filing a fraudulent one is a felony. Don't be like movie star Wesley Snipes, who spent more than two years in federal prison for misdemeanor tax evasion.
If you have questions, an IRS supervisory special agent is going to be at a "Coffee With the Chief" at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Crystal Lake Police Department. Call (815) 356-3731 to reserve a spot.
The local police blotters will soon have report after report of people who filed returns and expect refunds, only to be told by the IRS that they have filed a return already. Thieves might have gotten your info, including Social Security number and income, by "phishing" for it with false emails to your employer or worming it out of you with clever phone calls.
That's just one of numerous common tax scams.
Here's one to remember: If the IRS has a problem with you, it does not call you on the telephone to threaten to have you arrested.
So if you get such a call, don't ever agree to fork over money or prepaid cards to settle your "case."
Last year, a Streamwood man lost $2,500 that way. The fake agent told him he could settle his so-called debt by buying iTunes cards, then giving the agent the access codes.
You learn something every day on this beat: If you carry rolls of coins into the Kane County courthouse, security officers will ask you to break them open before you can enter, we found out firsthand.
Because, as some of us were taught in our youth, holding a roll of coins makes for a heavier, more-solid fist when you are going to punch somebody, according to a Kane County sheriff's department spokesman.
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