Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Red light camera firm admits it likely bribed Chicago official

Chicago's embattled red light camera firm went to City Hall on Friday in its latest effort to come clean, acknowledging for the first time that its entire program here was likely built on a $2 million bribery scheme.

By its sheer size, the alleged plot would rank among the largest in the annals of Chicago corruption.

An internal probe of Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. and a parallel investigation by the city's inspector general — prompted by reports in the Chicago Tribune — have cost the company its largest North American contract and all of its top executives.

On Friday the company announced the resignations of its president, its chief financial officer and its top lawyer. The head of Redflex's Australian parent company conducted town hall meetings at the headquarters of its Phoenix-based subsidiary to tell employees there was wrongdoing in the Chicago contract and that sweeping reforms were being instituted to win back the company's reputation.

In separate, private briefings with the city inspector general and with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's top lawyer, Redflex attorneys acknowledged it's likely true that company officials intended to bribe a Chicago city official and that they also plied him with expenses-paid vacations.

The company's outside investigator, former city Inspector General David Hoffman, found that Redflex paid $2.03 million to a Chicago consultant in a highly suspicious arrangement likely intended to funnel some of the money to the former city transportation official who oversaw the company contract, according to sources familiar with the investigation and the Friday briefings to city officials.

The arrangement among the city official, the consultant and Redflex — first disclosed by a company whistle-blower — will likely be considered bribery by law enforcement authorities, Hoffman found.

Without subpoena power, it was not possible to check personal financial records of the city official or the consultant, who refused to cooperate, according to the sources familiar with Hoffman's findings. But Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor, said that under applicable law, authorities could consider the arrangement to be bribery even if the payments were not made, the sources said.

The bulk of the consultant's fees — $1.57 million — were paid during a four-year period beginning in 2007, the years the program really expanded in Chicago, Hoffman found.

In addition, the city transportation official was treated to 17 trips, including airfare, hotels, rental cars, golf outings and meals, the sources said. Most of those expenses were paid by the company's former executive vice president, Hoffman found. That official was fired late last month and blamed by the company for much of the Chicago problem.

But Hoffman found that Redflex's president also had knowledge of the arrangement that would have made any reasonable person highly suspicious that it was a bribery scheme, the sources said.

Hoffman also found that Redflex did not disclose its knowledge about the improper arrangement to City Hall until confronted by the Tribune in October. Even then, Hoffman found, company officials lied to Emanuel's administration about the extent of the wrongdoing.

Redflex's Australian parent company was expected to post a summation of Hoffman's findings in a Monday filing with the Australian Securities Exchange that will include the resignations announced to employees Friday.

"Today's announcement of executive changes follows the conclusion of our investigation in Chicago and marks the dividing line between the past and where this company is headed," Robert DeVincenzi, president and CEO of Redflex Holdings Ltd., said in a statement to the newspaper. "This day, and each day going forward, we intend to be a constructive force in our industry, promoting high ethical standards and serving the public interest."

The company will also announce reforms including installing new requirements to put all company employees through anti-bribery and anti-corruption training, hiring a new director of compliance to ensure employees adhere to company policies, and establishing a 24-hour whistle-blower hotline.

The actions mark the latest changes in the company's evolving accounts of the scandal.

Officials at the firm had repeatedly dismissed allegations of bribery in the Chicago contract since they were made in a 2010 internal complaint obtained last year by the Tribune. In October the Tribune disclosed the whistle-blower letter by a company executive and first brought to light the questionable relationship between former city official John Bills and the Redflex consultant, Marty O'Malley, who are longtime friends from the South Side.

Bills and O'Malley have acknowledged their friendship but denied anything improper about their handling of the Redflex contract.

"Totally false, but I appreciate you calling me," Bills told the Tribune on Friday when informed of the Hoffman findings. O'Malley did not return calls.

In the four-month investigation, Hoffman and his team conducted 58 interviews and reviewed more than 37,000 company documents including email traffic among company officials, sources said. Hoffman concluded that company officials used poor judgment and a serious lack of diligence in investigating the allegations contained in the whistle-blower memo.

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Union breaks Quinn, gets raises for state workers in deal

SPRINGFIELD – After months of insisting state workers should not receive wage increases, Gov. Pat Quinn has struck a tentative deal with Illinois’ largest employee union that will bump their pay while also requiring them to pay more for health care coverage.

Under the three-year agreement, which must still be voted on by union members, roughly 35,000 employees would forgo raises this fiscal year but receive a 2 percent pay increase in fiscal 2013 and another 2 percent boost in 2014.

Some workers would also receive “step increases” in those years, which are wage hikes given to employees during the early stages of their careers.

Veteran employees would receive a “longevity increase” of $25 extra a month.

It’s unclear how much the pay raises would cost the state.

Quinn’s office and a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees declined to discuss specifics until workers have a chance to review the proposal next week, but the increases were laid out in a memo sent to members by union executive director Henry Bayer.

In addition to the proposed wage increases, the Quinn administration has agreed to honor raises that thousands of union members were supposed to receive under a previous contract.

Quinn blocked the raises, arguing that lawmakers did not set aside enough money to cover the costs. A court has since ordered Quinn to pay up.

Paying all the back wages owed may prove tricky, however, as Quinn and the union must ask lawmakers to approve the money to cover the costs.
Bayer wrote that the deal is “an agreement that beats back a barrage of attacks on the rights and benefits of union members.”

Quinn and the union had been locked in negotiations for more than 15 months, the longest that such talks have stretched in state history.

The battle quickly grew contentious, with angry workers confronting Quinn during his annual trip to the State Fair last summer as well as at various events around the state over the last year. As talks stretched on, the union warned employees to prepare for a possible strike.

Quinn had argued that the state could not afford pay increases, but backed off as pressure mounted.

During an appearance in Chicago on Friday, Quinn hailed the agreement as “a good one for workers who work so hard for the common good, and the taxpayers of Illinois who are our No. 1 trustees we have to be accountable to.”

In exchange for the raises, workers will be asked to pay more for their health care.

Individuals will pay an extra 1 percent of their salary, while families will be charged more depending on the number of dependents. Co-pays and deductibles also will increase.

The biggest cost saver will be the elimination of free health care premiums for an estimated 78,000 retired workers, an expense that runs taxpayers roughly $800 million a year.

How much each retiree will pay will depend on how much they receive in pension benefits. The more they receive, the more they would pay.

Tribune reporters Ray Long and Bridget Doyle contributed.
Twitter @moniquegarcia

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Collins believes Bulls taking right approach with Rose

Even Doug Collins got swept up in the Derrick Rose hysteria on Thursday.

"I thought for sure he was going to play (Thursday night)," the 76ers' coach said. "Got hurt against Philadelphia, come back against Philadelphia, game on TNT. I could just see him running out with the Adidas commercial."

Instead, Rose's participation got limited to another lengthy, sweaty pregame workout featuring several dunks that drew oohs and aahs from the early-arriving fans. Collins battled serious knee injuries in his playing career and thinks the conservative approach is the right one.

"The Bulls have a tremendous investment in Derrick," Collins said. "You want to make sure this young guy is ready to go. We take a guy like Adrian Peterson and we see him rehab and play football and you sort of expect everybody to have the same timetable. Knees are different. Every player is different. Everybody's game is different.

"Derrick is an explosive player. He plays in the lane. He's landing in a lot of congestion. He's going to have to be very confident when he plays about being able to explode off that leg and come down in a crowd.

"(Chairman) Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls organization aren't short-sighted people. They have a franchise they feel has a chance to be good for a long, long time. And Derrick is the guy who's going to make that special. So I totally understand."

All aboard: All signs point to the Bulls signing Lou Amundson to a 10-day contract on Saturday, bringing their roster to the maximum 15 players. Amundson, who the Timberwolves waived Feb. 8, is big man insurance while Taj Gibson remains sidelined with a sprained MCL in his left knee.

The Bulls have just enough below the hard salary cap of $74.307 million to sign Amundson for the remainder of the season if they choose. He then would be eligible for the playoffs.

Over seven seasons with several teams, the 6-foot-9 forward has averaged 3.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Layups: Marquis Teague turned 20 Thursday. … Collins, on the widespread reaction to his heart-on-his-sleeve postgame news conference after the 76ers' sixth straight loss on Tuesday: "Yeah, I guess I was trending."

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White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks

Speaker of the House John Boehner tells Scott Pelley in a "CBS Evening News" interview that a budget deal is now out of his hands.


  Positions hardened on Wednesday between President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders over the budget crisis even as they arranged to hold last-ditch talks to prevent harsh automatic spending cuts beginning this week.

Looking resigned to the $85 billion in "sequestration" cuts starting on Friday, government agencies began reducing costs and spelling out to employees how furloughs will work.

Expectations were low that a White House meeting on Friday between Obama and congressional leaders, including Republican foes, would produce any deal to avoid the cuts.

Public services across the country - from air traffic control to food safety inspections and education - might be disrupted if the cuts go ahead.

Put into law in 2011 as part of an earlier fiscal crisis, sequestration is unloved by both parties because of the economic pain it will cause, but the politicians cannot agree how to stop it.

A deal in Congress on less drastic spending cuts, perhaps with tax increases too, is needed by Friday to halt the sequestration reductions, which are split between social programs cherished by Democrats and defense spending championed by Republicans.

Obama stuck by his demand that Republicans accept tax increases in the form of eliminating tax loopholes enjoyed mostly by the wealthy as part of a balanced approach to avoiding sequestration.

"There is no alternative in the president's mind to balance," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Obama wants to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies and the lower "carried interest" tax rate enjoyed by hedge funds.

But Republicans who reluctantly agreed to raise income tax rates on the rich to avert the "fiscal cliff" crisis in December are in no mood for that.

"One thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

In one of the first concrete effects of the cuts, the administration took the unusual step of freeing several hundred detained illegal immigrants because of the cost of holding them.

Republicans described that move by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a political stunt aimed at scaring them into agreeing to end the sequestration on Obama's terms.

The issue looked like it might become more controversial on Wednesday when The Associated Press reported that the Homeland Security Department official in charge of immigration enforcement and removal had announced his resignation on Tuesday just after news of the immigrants' releases came out.

But ICE said the report was "misleading." The official, Gary Mead, told ICE weeks ago of his retirement in April after 40 years of federal service, a spokeswoman said. Earlier, Carney denied the White House had ordered the immigrants' release.

Friday's White House meeting will include McConnell and the other key congressional leaders: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and House Speaker John Boehner, the top U.S. Republican.


The chances of success were not high.

One congressional Republican aide criticized the White House for calling the meeting for the day the cuts were coming into effect. "Either someone needs to buy the White House a calendar, or this is just a - belated - farce. They ought to at least pretend to try."

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Kelly out to early lead in race to replace Jackson in Congress

Former state Rep. Robin Kelly is out to a big lead in tonight's special primary election to replace disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress.

With 55 percent of precincts reporting, Kelly had 57 percent to 19 percent for former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson and 11 percent for 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale.

The total number of votes isn’t expected to be large, however, as a storm that brought a wintry mix of snow and slush depressed turnout in the 2nd Congressional District contest.

Chicago election officials reported that as of 1:45 p.m., turnout was about 11 percent among sampled city precincts. The figures included ballots cast today and early and absentee voting.

"This puts us on course for turnout in the mid-teens," said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, in an e-mail. "This is to be expected with a special primary and special election. It is shaping up to be among the lowest turnouts in recent decades."

There are primaries for both political parties in the South Side and south suburban district, but the territory is so heavily Democratic that whoever emerges from the crowded Democratic field is expected to easily win the April 9 special general election.

Today's voting follows weeks of candidate forums, an accelerated campaign schedule and a flurry of TV ads from the mayor of New York. While the top-tier candidates among the 14 Democrats vying for the primary nomination are known, there also are some big unknowns. Voter turnout, already anticipated to be very low, could be exacerbated by nasty weather.

The results of early voting held between Feb. 11 and Saturday demonstrated a lack of interest in the contest, despite its ramifications in deciding who will represent voters and their disparate interests in the vast district.

A majority of the district's Democratic voters live in suburban Cook County, with an additional one-third from the South Side. The district also includes parts of eastern Will County and all of Kankakee County, and together the two regions make up slightly less than 10 percent of the Democratic vote.

In suburban Cook, 4,459 early votes were cast, with 98 percent of those voters taking Democratic ballots. Of the 11 suburban early voting locations, Matteson Village Hall, in Kelly's hometown, had the most with 1,601 voters.

In Chicago, 98 percent of the 2,768 early voters cast Democratic ballots. Only 63 early votes were cast for Republicans.

In Will, 246 voters cast early ballots, all but 40 of them Democratic votes. Kankakee County officials reported 699 early ballots, with 533 voting Democrat and 166 Republican.

"I just think if it was a regular race, then they'd look a little bit different," Kelly said of the low early voting totals. "I also think because (the special primary) came so close to the November election that there's some (voter) fatigue."

But in a large field of candidates and questionable turnout, a nomination for Congress could be decided by mere hundreds of votes. Even as forecasters sounded warnings of a Tuesday smorgasbord of wintry weather, candidates sought to energize core supporters to help get out the vote.

In an email to supporters, Kelly's campaign pleaded for volunteers to help get voters to the polls and asked for money for its get-out-the-vote field operation.

Halvorson acknowledged the early voting numbers were "paltry" and that voter turnout would be a "huge" factor Tuesday. Halvorson said she believed turnout could be driven by the district's history of scandals — including last week's guilty plea by Jackson on federal charges of illegally converting about $750,000 in campaign cash to personal use.

"I think this race has gotten so much attention and people are so angry about what the 2nd Congressional District has had to deal with over the years that they're going to take a special interest to make sure they are going to vote for someone who is completely different than what they've seen," said Halvorson, of Crete.

Halvorson also has been the target of the most extensive advertising in the contest, more than $2.2 million worth of TV and mail attacks by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super political action committee, centered on her past National Rifle Association support. Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC is backing Kelly.

Beale said the low number of early ballots puts all the more importance on Election Day field efforts. He said that well-established organizations in the six city wards in the district could serve as an advantage for his campaign.

"It's just slow across the board, and that just goes to show it is going to be a very low turnout," Beale said of the early votes. "We're just making sure we're targeting our core, solid voters, and we're going to get them out to the polls and be victorious Tuesday night."

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Chicago could see 6 inches of snow in Tuesday storm

Abundant sunshine and temperatures close to 50 degrees in the past few days teased sober Midwestern sensibilities.

Encouraged perhaps by spring training photos, some people deliberately ventured outside. Some even hopped on bicycles for spins. Maybe they dared to think that spring could break a little early this year.

But on Tuesday morning, for the second time in less than a week, a blustery mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow is forecast to hit the Chicago area. Accumulations could reach 6 inches.

Sure, weather predictions being what they are around here, many will shrug off the warnings and be brazenly optimistic. But it might be best to recall the adage that those who ignore history are sure to be victimized by it.

Chicago has plenty of late-season snow history and, regardless of what materializes, the prudent will keep their salt dry, snow shovels handy and snowblowers primed for the next couple of months.

National Weather Service records from 2011 show that 54 of the previous 139 years — nearly 40 percent — experienced at least one day with an inch or more of snowfall on or after March 25. A total of 17 of those years brought multiple days with more than an inch of snow to Chicago.

One year, 1926, included six days when more than an inch of snow fell after March 25.

And, like some cruel trick, the later in the season the snow falls, the heavier and deadlier it tends to be. On the other hand, it also generally melts faster.

Among the grimmest of those late snowfalls was the deadly storm of April 15-17,1961, when a rainy low-pressure system stalled and kept looping over the Chicago region. It transformed cold rain into nearly 7 inches of snow. Six people died from the storm's effects; four were victims of snow-shoveling heart attacks.

That storm remains the latest major snowfall of 6 inches or more in the Chicago area.

More recently, the area was hit with nearly 2 inches of snow on March 27, 2008. On March 29, 2009, 1.2 inches accumulated. A week later, more than 2 inches of snow fell.

Tuesday's forecast, which calls for heavier snow north of Interstate 80 and winds whipping up to 35 mph, weighed on Jason Marker's mind while he stood at the Downers Grove Metra station Monday.

"I have a job interview tomorrow," said Marker, 30, of Downers Grove. "It's going to be tough getting there because I have to ride my bike."

Still, he said the winter has been a moderate one so far, "but maybe it will catch up with us tomorrow."

Ashley Feuillan and Bernard Thomas, also of Downers Grove, will be commuting in opposite directions Tuesday morning. Thomas commutes to a job in Aurora, which he starts at 7 a.m. Feuillan hops the train to Columbia College Chicago three times a week.

Both said they plan to leave earlier Tuesday.

"I actually like the snow," said Feuillan, 24, "but it can be a hassle when you're trying to get someplace."

Rather than focusing on what could be a nasty storm, Thomas, 40, kept an upbeat perspective.

"It hasn't been a bad winter," he said. "We haven't really had any big snowstorms."

If the forecast is accurate, Jake Weimer could receive a little relief.

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Oscars live: Christoph Waltz best supporting actor

7:59 p.m.: Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy present the best animated feature film award, which goes to "Brave." Director Mark Andrews accepts the award wearing a kilt. John Kahrs wins best animated short film for "Paperman."

7:50 p.m.: Christoph Waltz wins the first award of the night, as best supporting actor for his role in "Django Unchained." The award is given by Octavia Spencer.

MORE OSCARS: Red carpet pics | Live stream | Oscars trivia quiz

7:35 p.m.: The 85th Academy Awards are under way, with Seth MacFarlane as host. He announces that this year's Oscars will have a musical theme.

The show's first surprise is William Shatner as Captain Kirk from "Star Trek," telling MacFarlane he is doing a terrible job as host.

The first song of the night is MacFarlane singing a song called "We Saw Your Boobs."

MacFarlane then sings a rendition of the Frank Sinatra hit "The Way You Look Tonight" with Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron dancing.

He then sings "High Hopes" with Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.


Here's a preview of the Oscars from Reuters:

LOS ANGELES -- The Oscars rolled out the red carpet on Sunday for the movie industry's biggest night, with Iran hostage drama "Argo" and presidential drama "Lincoln" in a tight race for Best Picture.

With several contests too close to call, a slate of big box office hits to celebrate and an unpredictable first-time host in Seth MacFarlane, movie fans could be in for surprises when the curtain rises on the 85th annual Academy Awards.

Before the festivities begin, nominees including Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Sally Field, Jessica Chastain, British singer Adele and "Argo" producer George Clooney, along with performers Barbra Streisand and Jennifer Hudson will parade along the 500-ft long (152 meter) red carpet before dozens of photographers and camera crews.Inside Hollywood's Dolby Theatre, Academy Awards history could be re-written.

Daniel Day-Lewis as U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is considered an unstoppable force to become the first man to win three Best Actor Oscars.

Buzz is building over a possible late upset by France's Emmanuelle Riva, 86, in the Best Actress contest that would make the star of harrowing Austrian entry "Amour" the oldest person ever to win an acting Oscar.

"Lincoln" goes into Sunday's three-hour plus ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, including a directing nod for double Oscar winner Steven Spielberg.

But its front-runner Best Picture status has been dented by the six-week victory streak enjoyed at other Hollywood awards by Ben Affleck's "Argo."

"It's been an interesting year," said Matt Atchity, editor in chief of movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.

"I think 'Argo' probably has the best shot. It's certainly got the momentum. It has won so many top awards, and I think it's probably the movie to beat," Atchity told Reuters.

If "Argo" does prevail for the top prize, it will be the first movie to win Best Picture without its director even getting a nomination since "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990.


Musical "Les Miserables," comedy "Silver Linings Playbook," shipwreck tale "Life of Pi," Osama bin laden thriller "Zero Dark Thirty," slavery Western "Django Unchained," indie film "Beasts of the Southern Wild," and "Amour" round out the contenders for the best film of 2012.

In other categories, only Anne Hathaway is considered a sure bet to take home a golden statuette after starving herself and chopping off her long brown locks for her supporting turn as tragic heroine Fantine in "Les Miserables."

Awards pundits says Spielberg could lose out in the director's race to Taiwan's Ang Lee for his technical and imaginative feat in filming fantastical adventure "Life of Pi" with a cast of exotic animals.

And the supporting actor Oscar could go to any of the five nominees - Robert De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook"), Alan Arkin ("Argo"), Christoph Waltz ("Django Unchained"), Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln") and Philip Seymour Hoffman ("The Master").

The Oscar winners are chosen in secret ballots by some 5,800 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and handed out before an audience of 3,300 guests and tens of millions more watching around the world on television.

After several years of nominating little-seen movies, this year's nine Best Picture contenders have pulled in more than $2 billion in tickets worldwide.

"We are so fortunate to inherit this great group of films that are also popular at the box office ... We just lucked out and had this fantastic year in film," Academy Awards telecast co-producer Neil Meron told Reuters.

Producers are promising a fast-paced show packed with music and big performances. But the man getting the early attention will be MacFarlane, the provocative comedian behind animated TV series "Family Guy" and an unknown quantity as Oscar host.

"We are not going to know what works until we put it out there and see what plays in front of an audience," co-producer Craig Zadan said.

"It's a live show and that is always unpredictable. Once the train has left the station, whatever happens, happens."

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2 hurt in melee near Ford City Mall

Two people suffered minor injuries in a disturbance involving large crowds of "kids" tonight at Ford City Mall on the Southwest Side.
A Chicago Lawn District police sergeant confirmed officers were called to the mall, 7601 S. Cicero Ave., where a “bunch of kids are running around.’’

“A rap group was playing there and a large group of teens got out of hand,’’ said Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala.

Zala said officers are doing their best to control the disturbance.

“We’re trying to get everyone out of there safely,’’ Zala said.

By 6:25 p.m. two people had been taken to hospitals from the "fluid"  situation, according to Chicago Fire Department Chief Joe Roccasalva, a department spokesman.
A CTA bus driver suffered minor injuries and was taken to Holy Cross Hospital, said Roccasalva, who added he did not know what happened to him.
A “kid’’ was also hurt, and that person was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, also in good condition, said Roccasalva.

By 7 p.m. the Fire Department confirmed the one adult and one pediatric patient with minor injuries were the final tally.
At 4:45 p.m. police responded to a battery in progress report at the Cicero Avenue address, police said.

About 50 police squad cars assigned to multiple South Side districts, including Chicago Lawn, Englewood and Deering, and a helicopter responded to the scene, police said.

A spokeswoman for mall security said she was not authorized to talk about it.

According to the Ford City Mall website, members of the teen band Mindless Behavior appeared at the mall food court from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to promote their new release, "All Around the World."

During the disturbance the CTA had to reroute the No. 79 buses, which travel on 79th Street, as well as other buses in the immediate area.

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Drew Peterson transferred to Pontiac prison

Drew Peterson’s new life as an Illinois Department of Corrections inmate has begun.

Peterson was transferred this morning to the Stateville Correctional Center near Crest Hill, where he was evaluated for placement based upon factors such as his conviction, length of sentence, program needs and medical and mental health requirements.

Peterson stayed at Stateville only a few hours before being sent to his new home at Pontiac prison northeast of Bloomington, a maximum security facility that has a protective custody unit.  The assignment was based upon factors such as his conviction, length of sentence, program needs and medical and mental health requirements, per Illinois Department of Correction protocol.

Officials have not said whether he has a cellmate or if he will be in solitary confinement like he had been during his jail stay.

As part of his daily routine there, he will remain in his cell for most of the day, though he will remain in his cell for most of the day, though he will be allowed out for meals and showers. Most inmates also get about five hours of recreation time outside per week, Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Stacey Solano said.

The Will County jail – which had held Peterson in solitary confinement since his May 2009 arrest for his own safety – had the paperwork prepared for his transfer by the time he returned from his sentencing hearing Thursday, officials said.

The sheriff’s department, which oversees the jail, kept the former Bolingbrook police sergeant segregated from the general population there amid concerns that his high-profile case and law-enforcement background would make him a target of inmates looking to build tough-guy reputations.

Jail supervisors began preparing Peterson at 8:30 a.m. and he left without incident by 9:22 a.m., officials said.

Drew Peterson wanted to make sure he was heard when he was given one last chance to speak Thursday, shortly before being sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Declining to speak from the defense table, where there was no microphone, the former Bolingbrook police sergeant shuffled to the witness stand in his jail-issued blue scrubs and orange shoes and began quietly.

"I hope I don't aggravate the situation," he turned and told the judge. Then Peterson screamed into the microphone, "I did not kill Kathleen!" startling almost everyone in the courtroom.

"Yes, you did!" Savio's sister Sue Doman yelled back from the gallery, prompting Will County Circuit Judge Edward Burmila to order her out of the courtroom.

It was an odd end to a case replete with oddities and circuslike sideshows. For the next 40 minutes, Peterson cried, raged and whispered, challenged the state's attorney to look him in the eye and indulged in self-pity as he unleashed his multitudinous thoughts like a character in a Dostoevsky novel.

The 59-year-old said he expects to die in prison. Barring any successful appeal, he won't be eligible for release until he's 93.

Peterson claimed that lies and mistakes by witnesses, prosecutors and police led to his conviction, and made disparaging remarks about Savio's family, attorneys and others involved in the case. His defense attorneys called the monologue an impassioned plea for leniency, but prosecutors said it was proof that Peterson is a psychopath.

"When he got up on the stand and (in) that shrill, kinda-feminine screech that he didn't kill Kathy — that's the guy that killed Kathy," Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow said. "You got a glimpse into his soul."

But in describing himself on the stand Thursday, Peterson said he was maligned and misunderstood.

"Until this happened, I thought I was viewed as a great guy," Peterson said, giving a litany of public and private good deeds before announcing he planned to tattoo the phrase "No good deed goes unpunished" across his shoulders.

"The state took an accident and staged a homicide," Peterson said, before turning to the judge. "Can I get some water?"

Once refreshed, Peterson said he had upheld the oath he swore when he became a police officer.

"I always took my job seriously, I never violated the public trust," he said, his voice husky with emotion before quoting one of the Ten Commandments. "And I never beared false witness against anyone."

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Drew Peterson: 'Until this happened, I thought I was a great guy'

Moments after screaming in court, "I did not kill Kathleen," Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the 2004 murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio.

Peterson had faced as much as 60 years, but Judge Edward Burmila said he gave Peterson some consideration for his years as a police officer and his service in the military. Peterson is 59.

The sentence was handed down after Peterson, who did not testify at his trial, made an emotional appeal to the judge, at times appearing to choke up as he argued that he was convicted by "rumors, gossip, outrageous lies and, most importantly, unreliable hearsay."

"I don't deserve this," he told Burmila. "I don't deserve this."

Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, was convicted last fall of drowning Savio in her bathtub. Prosecutors have said they believe Peterson also killed his missing fourth wife Stacy and could seek charges in that case.

Peterson began his appeal to the judge today by telling him, "Good day, my name is Drew Peterson. I hope I don't aggravate the situation here, but I have a lot of things to be said." Then he screamed, "I did not kill Kathleen!"

"Yes, you did," a woman said.

"Ma'am, I'd like you to leave the courtroom," Burmila said. "And Mr. Peterson, don't make any outbursts that are designed to aggravate people."

"I'm sorry, your honor. I must have been woozy," Peterson said.

After the sentencing, State's Atty. James Glasgow dismissed the outburst as a "shrill, kind of feminine screech."

Peterson insisted to the judge he is the victim of an unjust and invasive police investigation that ignored or lost evidence that could have shown his innocence. He accused the state police of falsifying reports.

"What they did uncover was rumors, gossip, outrageous lies, and most importantly, unreliable hearsay. Hearsay that pierced three privileges that have stood for centuries," Peterson said.

Peterson bitterly complained that the Rev. Neil Schori betrayed his promise never to repeat anything that was said by Peterson or Stacy. Schori testified at trial that Stacy confided to him that she lied to state police about Peterson's alleged slaying of Savio.

"Out of the privileged information from Neil Schori, the state police was able to create" a case, he said. "I find it hard to believe that the state was able to take information that they obtained illegally and turn it to their benefit."

Kathleen Savio’s divorce attorney Harry Smith, who also testified at trial about a conversation he had with Stacy before she disappeared, "gave up privileged information from both Kathy and Stacy, like it was yesterday's garbage," Peterson said. "Ultimately, it led to my conviction.

"Hearsay is a scary thing. There's no proof. Anything can be said and nobody's accountable for the truth.

"In my experience, in divorce situations everybody lies, and everybody lies under the instruction of their attorneys.

"There was an incident where Kathleen exited the house ... and punched Stacy in the face. They went to trial, my 9- and 10-year-old sons were called to testify, and under oath they lied," Peterson said.

"On their next visit, I questioned them, 'Why’d you guys lie?' They said Harry Smith told them to. They didn’t want their mom to go to jail,” Peterson said, growing emotional as he spoke. “I couldn't be mad at them.”

"Stacy provided me an alibi for Kathleen's death. Then she later said she was lying about that. Seems like Stacy was lying all the time about everything. But the state's attorney picked and chose what they wanted to believe.

"Stacy clearly had a crush on the Rev. Schori, which I think was a factor in this.

"There was a constant and consistently illegal activity by the state’s attorneys, including the state’s attorney himself.

"So what did the state’s attorney do? They hire a skinny ... spokesperson (Stacy Peterson family spokeswoman Pam Bosco) to go out and say anything she wants. It buffered the state’s attorney’s office from anything the court might bring.

"And when it came time for a vote from the grand jury, only a handful of people were selected. Not the entire grand jury was brought in to do the vote. Pretty much guaranteed ... that I was indicted, which I was.

"There was a first investigation on this case, in which probably one of the most experienced investigators was the first one on the scene in this case, and he determined Kathleen's death was an accident.

"Dr. (Bryan) Mitchell looked at Kathy's body when it was in its freshest state. He determined her death was an accident."

So did the coroner's jury, Peterson said. "All this was done when the evidence was freshest."

Peterson then paused and asked for some water. He resumed by talking about his service in the military and lengthy law enforcement career.

"I was probably one of the highest-decorated officers in the Bolingbrook Police Department," he said.

"I always took my job seriously, I never violated the public trust," he said, his voice husky with emotions. "And I never beared false witness against anyone.

"I loved having a job that helped people," he said. "In my private life, I ran up to six companies at one time. I employed nearly 100 people.

"Until this happened, I thought I was a great guy," he said. "And in moments, the media turned me into a monster.

"As soon as I get a chance, I'm going to get a tattoo on my back, from shoulder to shoulder, that says, 'No good deed goes unpunished.' "

He said he loved Savio and called her a good wife and mother who did not deserve to die, but insited it was an accident. He then talked about Savio’s upbringing, calling it difficult and abusive.

"The most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen in my life was the night after our wedding, when I held Kathy and she cried because her father failed to show up and give her away on her wedding.

"At Kathy's wake, friends and family put money in cards and envelopes to help cover the cost of the funeral.

“I paid for the funeral."

"That's a lie right there," a man in court shouted.

"I paid for Kathy’s funeral at the request of her sister, who's sitting right there," Peterson said.

He then attacked State's Atty. James Glasgow.

"Mr. Glasgow, all aspects of my life have been destroyed. Everything from my personal life to my professional life to my social life -- all aspects have been destroyed. And I tell you this to give you greater cause for celebration, when you celebrate the fact that you perpetrated the largest railroad job in the history of this country.

"Since I've been incarcerated, I've had nine family members who have died, six of which were cousins," Peterson said. None of them made it past the age of 60, he said.

“And in telling you this, I'm not looking for any sympathy, but anything you sentence me to, you're sentencing me to the Department of Corrections to die!" Peterson said.

Peterson said he believes his constitutional rights have been violated.

"And I think the only thing left to make this case run true to form would be a cruel and unusual punishment. And I don't think anybody would care because nobody cares. I can't believe I spent 32 years defending a constitution that allowed this to happen to me. I can't believe people fought and died in wars protecting a constitution that allowed this to happen to me.”

America should be outraged, but nobody cares, he said.

"I take full responsibility for my relationship with the media," Peterson continued. "I just wanted them away from my home because they were scaring my kids. They hounded me. I agreed to go on TV and tell my story and ask for legal help.

"Everybody from busy bodies like Nancy Grace ... to that ridiculous movie that played repeatedly before and during my trial.

"It pretty much guaranteed that I would not get a fair trial. It's pretty clear that the state took part in that movie because things I remember saying only to the state police appeared in that movie," Peterson said, apparently referring to a Lifetime TV movie starring Rob Lowe as Peterson.

"I'm an obnoxious man by nature, truly. And after 30 years as a police officer, as is normal with a police officer, my defense mechanism is comedy. The media took that and capitalized on that, and my obnoxious nature showed through. But I want to ensure the court that at no time did I want to portray any insensitivity about Kathy's death. That was not my intention.

“I hope Mr. Glasgow looks me in the eye right now. Never forget my face! Never forget what you’ve done. 

“Originally I had some cute and funny things to say. But now in closing, it's time to be sentenced to a life of hardship and abuse in prison. I don't deserve this, I don't deserve this.

“Thank you.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Savio’s sister Anna Marie Savio-Doman told the judge that "my loss of my baby sister is beyond words. There will be no more birthday parties, backyard gatherings, holiday celebrations or other family activities to share. The laughter, hugs, guidance, advice, sense of security and those opportunities to say ‘I love you’ are forever gone.

“One of the hardest things for me is knowing the pain and fear that Kathleen must have suffered at the time of her murder. The horror and betrayal she must have felt when she realized that someone she had trusted and loved more than anything was actually killing her. I wonder if she could feel her heart breaking when she thought about leaving her two boys forever. The helplessness she must have felt knowing she was going to die.

“I have to say it hurts a lot. I hope it gets better, but I am not confident it will get better. I still talk to her. I hope she can hear me.”

Susan Doman described her sister as a “rock” and told the court she looked up to Savio, even though Savio was younger. She also expressed her anger toward Peterson.

“He showed no remorse,” she said. “For years I watched Peterson parade on TV, radio, photo shoots, and (that) radio promotion to win a date with him. That was a big joke to him. And he loved all the attention.

“Your honor, the defendant shows no remorse to this day for the horrible crime that he did to my sister Kathleen. This senseless action is inexcusable. I am placing my trust that you will give Kathleen justice once and for all.”

The judge also read a statement from Savio’s father, but not aloud.

In arguing for a maximum sentence, Glasgow reminded the judge about the damage done to his young children with Stacy. Prosecutors have said they believe Peterson killed Stacy and could seek charges in that case.

"Not only is their mother gone, but also their father is gone, as he sits before you," Glasgow said.

Glasgow said Peterson also should not get a break for living a law- abiding life because of his attacks on his second wife, when he threatened to kill her.

"There's a recurring them here with Mr. Peterson. He’s a police officer, and there's a number of occurrences with the victims here being afraid to call the police department.

"These are obviously very dangerous situation, and in this case, led to the demise of two young women."

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Source: 2 bodies found at house after fire might have been stabbed

Firefighters found the bodies of two women at a South Side residence this afternoon while putting out a fire at the home, according to authorities, and police confirmed foul play is suspected.

The bodies were found about 4 p.m. as firefighters were extinguishing a fire in the 8100 block of South Maryland Avenue, according to Larry Langford, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman.

The victims are a 24-year-old woman and a 43-year-old woman, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Both women were pronounced dead on the scene at 5:35 p.m., according to the medical examiner’s office. Their names and home addresses were not being released immediately pending notification of next of kin.

An arson and homicide investigation is under way, said Police News Affairs Sgt. Antoinette Ursitti.

No one is in custody Wednesday night, she said.

Preliminary reports indicate that at least one of the victims was found stabbed to death, and the residence may have been set ablaze to conceal their deaths, a source said.

The bodies were found in a bathroom, according to a source.

Chicago police officers sealed off the three-story multi-unit building near the southwest corner of East 81st Street and South Maryland Avenue with yellow and red crime tape. Several onlookers gazed at the building in the fire's aftermath.

Investigators could be seen inside the first-floor apartment unit where the fire erupted, its rear window broken and covered by a tarp. Several men working for two different board-up companies also stood in the alley while police conducted their investigation.

Brittany Pullum was inside her apartment across the alley when she saw black smoke coming from the first-floor unit. She said she then ran outside and saw about 15 to 20 people who evacuated from the fire building.

Pullum said a lady who evacuated told her she called 911.

"It's crazy. It's crazy," Pullum said, still appearing somewhat shocked at the news of the two deaths. "It's scary. Very scary."

One of the fire building's tenants, Alexander Brown, said his wife was home during the fire, but their unit wasn't damaged.

He said their unit, where he's lived for about five years, is next-door to the burned apartment. Brown was outside of the building after the blaze and said he was eager to find shelter because of the frigid temperatures.

Brown didn't know the occupants of the burned unit too well, but he said he's seen two women coming and going from there, periodically.

Police said the two victims were females. Although an autopsy Thursday will determine the official cause of their deaths, police said at least one of the deaths might be a domestic-related homicide.

Police said the fire was confined to the one unit, which appeared badly damaged.

Langford said the investigation has been turned over to the Chicago Police.

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Jacksons set for plea hearings in D.C. on Wednesday

WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, are expected to plead guilty to federal charges Wednesday, when more details may emerge about an alleged crime spree in which he is accused of spending more than $750,000 in campaign cash to buy luxury items, memorabilia and other goods.

Attorneys familiar with public corruption investigations said the amount of campaign cash allegedly converted to personal use in this case is the largest of any that they can remember.

Jackson Jr., who has been largely out of the public eye for eight months, is to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. Chicago time. His wife is to appear at 1:30 p.m. Chicago time. Both Jacksons will stand before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins.

Sentencing is not expected for several weeks. Jackson Jr. faces up to five years in prison, while she faces up to three years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Jackson Jr., 47, was in the House of Representatives for 17 years until he resigned last November. Sandi Jackson, 49, was a Chicago alderman from 2007 until she stepped down in January.

He is charged with conspiracy in a case involving a $43,350 men’s Rolex watch, nearly $9,600 in children’s furniture and $5,150 in cashmere clothing and furs, court papers show. She is charged with filing false tax returns for six years, most recently calendar year 2011.

When separate felony charges were filed against them Friday, their attorneys said the two would plead guilty.

Prosecutors also are seeking a $750,000 judgment against Jackson Jr. and the forfeiture of thousands of dollars of goods he purchased, including cashmere clothing, furs and an array of memorabilia from celebrities including Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Jackson Jr. began a mysterious medical leave of absence last June for what was eventually described as bipolar disorder. Though he did not campaign for re-election, he won another term last Nov. 6 while being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He left office two weeks later, saying he was cooperating with federal investigators.

Married for more than 20 years, the Jacksons have a 12-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. The family has homes in Washington and on Chicago’s South Side.

Washington defense attorney Stan Brand, the former general counsel of the House of Representatives, said Tuesday that Jackson Jr.’s case involved the largest sum of money he’s seen in a case involving personal use of campaign money. “Historically, there have been members of Congress who either inadvertently or maybe purposefully, but not to this magnitude, used campaign funds inappropriately,” he said.

Brand said that when the dollar figure involved is low, a lawmaker may be fined and ordered to reimburse the money. “This is so large, the Department of Justice decided to make his case criminal,” he said.

Other attorneys said they could not remember a bigger case of its kind. Washington attorney Ken Gross, a former lawyer for the Federal Election Commission, said: “Directly dipping into your campaign coffers, and spending money on personal items, I can’t recall a case where it involved this much money.”

Brand once represented another disgraced Illinois Democratic congressman, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, who in 1996 pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud. Rostenkowski was represented by attorney Dan Webb, who is Sandi Jackson’s counsel.

Rostenkowski, who died in 2010, entered his pleas and received his punishment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — the same venue on the Jacksons’ calendars on Wednesday.

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Rose returns to 5-on-5 drills for first time since injury

A sense of doubt has evolved into a hint of optimism about Derrick Rose's comeback from knee surgery.

The Bulls guard, who last week mentioned the possibility of sitting out the season, appeared to take another step Monday as he participated in 5-on-5 drills during practice.

"He was able to get out there, and it's good," teammate Kirk Hinrich said. "It was something that (we) as a team needed, as far as every individual coming off the (All-Star) break needed to scrimmage a little bit. And I'm sure it was good for (Rose), helpful to ... give him a good gauge of where he's at."

Coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose did "what everyone else did'' and said his participation wasn't out of the ordinary based on the previously stated outlook. The plan all along was to have Rose return to 5-on-5 action after the break.

Rose cited his inability to dunk as the reason he knew he hadn't fully recovered, and Joakim Noah said Rose still wasn't dunking Monday. The Bulls went through three scrimmages of seven to eight minutes, during which Rose ran full-court. It was unclear how much contact Rose endured or how much pressure he put on his left knee.

"He's doing what he should be doing,'' Thibodeau said. "He's focused on his rehab, doing more and more. We just have to be patient. When he's ready, he'll go.''

Thibodeau reiterated how his players need to pick up their intensity after dropping five of the last seven games and six of the last 10. A Rose return would instantly inject life into the 30-22 Bulls, although they've performed admirably at times in his absence while currently holding the Eastern Conference's fifth seed.

Until Rose steps on the court for a game, his teammates have to lean on each other.

"When we're right and we're playing the right way, we've proved that we can beat everybody,'' Noah said. "We've also proved that if we don't come with the right (attitude), don't play together, we can lose to anybody.''

The return of Hinrich to the lineup for Tuesday night's game in New Orleans should provide a boost. The Bulls went 2-5 with Hinrich sidelined by a right elbow infection and committed 15.6 turnovers per game in the losses.

With all due respect to Nate Robinson and his scoring ability, Hinrich runs the offense more efficiently and is a better defender.

"He's a huge part of what we do, and it just feels good to have Kirk back,'' Noah said. "What he brings to our team, it's hard to measure. His defensive intensity, the ball movement ... it's all big.''

The Bulls have lost two straight and take on a 19-34 Hornets team that has won its last two and is 5-5 over the last 10. Four of the Bulls' next six opponents have sub-.500 records, but the Heat (36-14) and Thunder (39-14) are in that stretch too.

"We have to clean some things up offensively and defensively,'' Thibodeau said. "But the biggest challenge is going to be the level of intensity, to get that back.''

Twitter @vxmcclure23

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Blackhawks keep rolling with 3-2 win over Kings

A couple of hours after taking a slap shot directly below the belt, Brent Seabrook sat in the victorious Blackhawks dressing room and put it simply: "Whatever it takes, I guess."

The Hawks continued to throw themselves in front of pucks, dive headfirst into net-front scrums and scrap and claw their way to keep their streak of games without a regulation loss alive.

On Sunday afternoon at the United Center, the Hawks extended that run to 15 contests with a 3-2 victory over the Kings in front of 21,843. Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each had a goal and an assist and Patrick Sharp also scored as the Hawks improved to 12-0-3 and moved within one of the Ducks' NHL record of 16 games to start the 2006-07 season without a regulation defeat. Duncan Keith added two assists and goaltender Ray Emery improved to 5-0-0 on the season with a 25-save effort.

"It hurts to look at your teammate and see how much pain they're in when they take a shot like that, but it motivates you and gets everyone into the right frame of mind of what we need to do to win," Toews said of the shot Seabrook took off the stick of the Kings' Trevor Lewis late in the first period. "When you've got a teammate like that laying himself on the line, it inspires your teammates."

Seabrook left the ice for the rest of the period but returned to help the Hawks keep rolling. In the second, fellow defenseman Johnny Oduya took a stick to the face while diving to make a save on a Jeff Carter chance in the slot. Oduya also went to the dressing room but returned in the third period to help stave off a Kings rally as the defending Stanley Cup champions scored twice to trim the Hawks' lead to a goal.

"We were blocking shots, getting in the way of things (and) Ray was making stops," Seabrook said. "They're the defending champs for a reason. They have a lot of the same roster they had last year and they can put the puck in the net. I thought the guys did a real nice job of keeping things in front of us and trying to limit their better shots."

Up until that third period, the Hawks were in complete control, but Mike Richards scored a power-play goal early and another one late to make things uncomfortable.

"We were fortunate to give ourselves the lead and we kept that lead even though it got a bit closer than we'd have liked it to," Emery said.

Added Hawks coach Joel Quenneville: "We had a great first 40 minutes. They got some momentum off that power-play goal early in the third period. They had a great third period. We had 40 (minutes) and they had a great 20. (Then) the clock ran out, which was nice."

Twitter @ChrisKuc

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Bob Brenly: 'It was unbelievably tough to leave'

Former Chicago Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly talks about how he was set to return to the Cubs until a last-minute snag in negotiations.

MESA, Ariz. – Former Chicago Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly said he was planning to return to the team’s broadcast booth last year until a snag in negotiations led to his new job with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D’backs quickly signed Brenly to a five-year deal after the Cubs’ deal fell through.  

“It was unbelievably tough to leave,” Brenly said Saturday during a visit to Cubs camp, where his son, Michael is a non-roster invitee. “Long story short, we thought we had a deal done, and actually went out and celebrated with my family and ran up a pretty good tab at Joe’s (Stone Crabs).

“Woke up the next morning and there were some issues with the contract. One thing led to another and that kind of opened up negotiations with the Diamondbacks and it rolled downhill quickly. The Diamondbacks were willing to give me the years and the money that WGN and Comcast (Sports Net) could just not guarantee. Not a bad Plan B.”

The Cubs could not guarantee Brenly more than two years because they plan to open up bidding rights to games next year. The contract with their longtime home, WGN-TV expires after 2014, and the Cubs figure to cash in after the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly reached an agreement with Time Warner Cable on a deal expected to be worth $7 billion to $8 billion over 25 years.

“There were some last-minute technical issues, a lot of financial maneuvering going on with the Tribune Co. and WGN," he said. “And their contract expires after next season with the Cubs. And with the money that’s there for the TV rights now, there was no guarantee who was going to get the contract.

“I certainly understand their position. They certainly did not want to guarantee me a contract when they might not even be carrying the games. It was just one of those things that happen in the game of baseball. It happens in broadcasting. It happens in just about every livelihood. But, like I said, a real good plan B.”

Brenly, who managed the D’backs to then 2001 championship, said he’s no longer thinking about the possibility of getting back in the manager’s seat down the road. He took himself out of consideration for the job that eventually went to Mike Quade in 2011.  

“I think that boat has sailed,” Brenly said. “There’s always a chance that some of the older people in the game may recall what we did back here in ’01 in Arizona, but I’m content. I like my job. Working with Len (Kasper) for eight years was as good as it gets. Going to Wrigley and traveling with the club… I’m breaking in a new partner this year in Steve Berthiaume, who just has a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm for the game.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to get back in the booth. I think the Diamondbacks are going to have a really good team this year, so I’m looking forward to it.”

The Cubs later signed Astros analyst Jim Deshaies to a four-year deal to replace Brenly in the booth.

Twitter @PWSullivan

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Lawyers: Jackson Jr., wife intend to plead guilty to charges

Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi intend to plead guilty to federal charges alleging the former congressman misused $750,000 in campaign funds while she understated their income on  tax returns for six years, their lawyers say.

Jackson Jr., 47, a Democrat from Chicago, was charged in a criminal information today with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements. He faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties.

Sandi Jackson was charged with one count of filing false tax returns. She faces up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties.

Jackson Jr. is accused of diverting $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

Federal authorities allege that Jackson Jr. used campaign funds to purchase a $43,350 men’s gold-plated Rolex watch, $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas, and $9,588 in children’s furniture. The purchases were made between 2007 and 2009, according to the criminal information, which authorities noted is not evidence of guilt.

Other expenditures listed by prosecutors include $10,105 on Bruce Lee memorabilia, $11,130 on Martin Luther King memorabilia and $22,700 on Michael Jackson items, including $4,600 for a "Michael Jackson fedora."

The government also alleged that Jackson Jr. made false statements to the House of Representatives because he did not report approximately $28,500 in loans and gifts he received.

"He has accepted responsibility for his actions and I can confirm that he intends to plead guilty to the charge in the information," Jackson Jr.'s attorney Brian Heberlig said.

Sandi Jackson is accused of filing incorrect joint tax returns with her husband for calendar years 2006 through 2011, reporting income “substantially less than the amount of income she and her husband received in each of the calendar years,” with a substantial additional tax due.

Her attorneys released a statement saying she has "reached an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office to plead guilty to one count of tax fraud."

Jackson Jr. stepped down from the House of Representatives on Nov. 21, citing both his poor health and an ongoing federal probe of his activities. In a statement then, he said he was doing his best to cooperate with federal investigators and to accept responsibility for his “mistakes.”

In a statement today, Jackson Jr. said:

“Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties. Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made. To that end I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right.”

Sandi Jackson's attorneys released a statement saying she "has accepted responsibility for her conduct, is deeply sorry for her actions, and looks forward to putting this matter behind her and her family. She is thankful for the support of her family and friends during this very difficult time."

Jackson's father, the Rev.  Jesse Jackson Sr., said he wanted to attend President Barack Obama's speech Friday at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago but traveled to Washington, D.C., instead, to be with family members while they waited for the federal charges to come down.
"This has been a difficult and painful ordeal for our family," the civil rights leader said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he would "leave it up to the courts system" to determine his son's fate.

"We express our love for him as a family," he said.

Jackson Jr.’s political fortunes sank beginning late in 2008, when he sought unsuccessfully to have Gov. Rod Blagojevich appoint him to the Senate seat that came open with the election of then-Sen. Barack Obama to the White House.

Jackson Jr. or an emissary reportedly offered to raise up to $6 million in campaign cash for Blagojevich, who now is in federal prison for crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat. Jackson Jr. was never charged in the case, which became the subject of an ethics probe in the House.

Last June, Jackson Jr. began a mysterious leave of absence for what originally was called “exhaustion” but later emerged as bipolar disorder. He spent months in treatment and won re-election Nov. 6 despite never returning to service in the House or staging a single campaign appearance.

A campaign to replace him is being conducted now in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of the South Side and south suburbs.

Jackson Jr. was first elected to Congress in 1995. Sandi Jackson was a Chicago alderman until she resigned her post last month. They have two children.

Sandi Jackson’s firm, J. Donatella & Associates, has been paid at least $452,500 from her husband’s campaign committee since 2002, Federal Election Commission reports show.

The former congressman’s campaign committee reported $105,703 in cash on hand on last Nov. 26, FEC reports show. Leading up to the last election, it reported $1 million in contributions and $1.06 million in operating expenditures, reports show.

Once considered a potential candidate for mayor of Chicago, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years because of the Blagojevich scandal and also because of news reports in 2010 that a suburban Chicago businessman told federal investigators he twice paid to fly a woman — a hostess from a Washington, D.C. bar — to Chicago at Jackson’s request.

In the wake of the reports, Jackson Jr. issued a statement calling the woman a “social acquaintance” and describing the matter as a  “private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago.”

Jackson Jr. subsequently told the Tribune editorial board he had apologized to "my absolute best friend, my wife."

Still, he also acknowledged he asked longtime supporter Raghuveer Nayak to pay to fly the woman from Washington to Chicago. House ethics rules prohibit members from soliciting gifts of personal benefit. Jackson said Nayak’s purchase was "a friendly gesture" by "a close and dear friend of mine, one who knows members of my family, has worked with members of my family, has been a friend of our family's for a number of years."

The woman's travel was "not a personal benefit to me, I don’t believe, under the House rules. A benefit to the person for whom he bought the ticket. He didn't buy tickets for me. Did I direct him? I did."

Tribune reporters Kim Geiger, Rick Pearson and Patrick Svitek contributed.

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Cruise executive: 'Sorry for what guests had to endure'

MOBILE, Alabama—

Reeking of raw sewage, a crippled cruise ship carrying more than 4,200 people was limping into Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday as passengers awaited the end of a vacation voyage some described as hellish.

The Carnival Triumph was being towed into port by tugboats as the drama played out live on U.S. cable news stations, creating another public relations nightmare for cruise giant Carnival Corp. Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury ship grounded off the coast of Italy, with 32 people killed.

Passengers described an overpowering stench on board the ship four days after an engine room fire knocked out power and plumbing across most of the 893-foot vessel and left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship, which went into service in 1999, was on a four-day cruise and on its way back from a stop in Cozumel, Mexico.

After the mishap, toilets and drainpipes overflowed, soaking many cabins and interior passages in sewage and turning the vessel into what some have described as a giant Petri dish.

"The thing I'm looking forward to most is having a working toilet and not having to breathe in the smell of fecal matter," said Jacob Combs, an Austin, Texas-based sales executive with a healthcare and hospice company.

Combs, 30, who said he had been traveling with friends and family on the Triumph, had nothing but praise for its crew members, saying they had gone through "hell" cleaning up after some of the passengers on the sea cruise.

"Just imagine the filth," Combs told Reuters. "People were doing crazy things and going to the bathroom in sinks and showers. It was inhuman. The stewards would go in and clean it all up. They were constantly cleaning," he said.

Terry Thornton, a Carnival Cruise Lines senior vice president, told reporters in Mobile that additional provisions were laid in on Wednesday and the ship was now "in excellent shape."

Passenger Donna Gutzman said those aboard the ship were treated to steak and lobster for lunch on Thursday afternoon.

"Our basic needs are being met. For the most part, they are making us happy," Gutzman told CNN.

The ship was expected to arrive in port around midnight CST, Carnival said. A senior Carnival official said it could take up to five hours to remove all the passengers from the ship, which has only one functioning elevator.

Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of Carnival Corp, the ship left Galveston, Texas, a week ago carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew. It was supposed to return there on Monday.

A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 3,000 pounds of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship late on Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, some passengers reported on the poor conditions on the Triumph when they contacted relatives and media before their cell phone batteries died. They said people were getting sick and passengers had been told to use plastic "biohazard" bags as makeshift toilets.


Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said in a statement late on Wednesday that the company had decided to add further payment of $500 a person to help compensate passengers for "very challenging circumstances" aboard the ship.

"We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure," Cahill said.

Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the Triumph on Monday, rejected Cahill's apology in comments to CNN on Thursday, as she waited anxiously in Mobile with a friend for the Triumph's arrival.

"Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What's the emotional cost? You can't put money on that," Porte said.

Carnival Corp Chairman and CEO Micky Arison faced criticism in January 2012 for failing to travel to Italy and take personal charge of the Costa Concordia crisis after the luxury cruise shop operated by Carnival's Costa Cruises brand grounded on rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio. The tragedy unleashed numerous lawsuits against his company.

The cruise ship mogul has taken a low-key approach to the Triumph situation as well, even as it grabbed a growing share of the U.S. media spotlight. His only known public appearance since Sunday was courtside on Tuesday at a game played by his Miami Heat championship professional basketball team.

"I think they really are trying to do the right thing, but I don't think they have been able to communicate it effectively," said Marcia Horowitz, an executive who handles crisis management at Rubenstein Associates, a New York-based public relations firm.

"Most of all, you really need a face for Carnival," she added. "You can do all the right things. But unless you communicate it effectively, it will not see the light of day."

Carnival Corp shares closed down $0.11 at $37.35 in trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares closed down 4 percent at $37.46 on Wednesday after the company said voyage disruptions and repair costs related to Carnival Triumph could shave up to 10 cents a share off its second-half earnings.

The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and the Bahamas Maritime Authority will be the primary agency investigating the cause of its engine room fire.

For all the passengers' grievances, they will likely find it difficult to sue the cruise operator for any damages, legal sources said. Over the years, the cruise industry has put in place a legal structure that ring-fences operators from big-money lawsuits.

Rules for seeking redress are spelled out in complex, multi-page ticket contracts that have been the subject of decades of court battles. Victims are often required to proceed with any litigation in remote jurisdictions.

(Reporting by Tom Brown, Kevin Gray and David Adams; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Remains found in burned cabin after standoff with rogue cop

The manhunt for fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner appears to have come to a dramatic and deadly end at a burned-out cabin near Big Bear Lake, Calif. CBS News' Carter Evans reports.

Although San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said he could not "absolutely, positively confirm" the body found in the charred rubble of a cabin was that of Christopher Dorner, he stressed that the manhunt for the fugitive former LAPD officer had been called off.

"We believe the investigation is over at this point," McMahon said at a news conference Wednesday.

Coroner's officials have yet to positively identify the body found in the Big Bear area cabin after a man thought to be Dorner engaged in an intense gun battle with officers. The cabin later caught fire and burned to its foundation.

PHOTOS: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer

McMahon denied speculation that officers intentionally set the fire, saying officers first used traditional tear gas to flush the man out. When that didn't work, they opted to use CS gas canisters, which are known in law enforcement parlance as incendiary tear gas. These canisters, filled with more potent gas, have a significantly greater chance of starting a fire.

"We did not intentionally burn down that cabin," McMahon said.

Tuesday brought an end to a massive, days-long search for the wanted ex-police officer, sought in a series of killings that began Feb. 3 with the death of a newly engaged Irvine couple: Monica Quan, a Cal State Fullerton assistant basketball coach, and Keith Lawrence, a USC public safety officer.

WHO THEY WERE: Dorner's alleged victims

Quan was the daughter of the retired LAPD official who represented Dorner at his disciplinary hearing. According to a manifesto that officials say Dorner posted on Facebook, he felt the LAPD unjustly fired him after that hearing several years ago, when a disciplinary panel determined that he lied in accusing his training officer of kicking a mentally ill man during an arrest.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has promised to review the case.

While on the run Thursday, Dorner allegedly shot three police officers in Riverside County. Riverside Officer Michael Crain, 34, a married father of two, was killed. He was laid to rest Wednesday.

The search for Dorner — which triggered statewide alerts in California and Nevada, and stretched across the Mexican border — centered on Big Bear on Thursday when Dorner's burning truck was found on a forest road.

TIMELINE: Manhunt for ex-LAPD officer

Hundreds of officers swarmed the area, conducting cabin-by-cabin checks for any sign of the wanted man. But no fresh leads surfaced, and the search effort was scaled back Sunday.

But Dorner apparently resurfaced Tuesday morning, when two cleaning workers discovered him inside a Big Bear condo not far from where authorities had been holding news conferences about the manhunt. He allegedly tied them up, stole a Nissan and took off. About 12:20 p.m., one of the women broke free and called police.

Nearly half an hour later, officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife spotted the stolen vehicle and called for backup, authorities said. The suspect turned down a side road in an attempt to elude the officers but crashed the vehicle, police said.

DOCUMENT: Read the manifesto

A short time later, authorities said, the suspect carjacked a light-colored pickup truck from a local camp ranger. That man, Rick Heltebrake, said he noticed something moving in the trees as he drove down Glass Road. It was a person with a gun dressed in camouflage and a ballistics vest, with pockets that were full.

“He was ready for action,” Heltebrake said. “Right away I knew it was Mr. Dorner.”

And behind the man alleged to be Dorner was a wrecked vehicle.

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Ex-cop shootout: Cabin on fire, search for suspect

Raw footage of Christopher Dorner's cabin engulfed in flames. It is unclear who set it. There are also reports of ammo exploding inside.

A single gunshot was heard as authorities moved into the cabin where Christopher Dorner was believed holed up.

According to a law enforcement source, police had broken down windows, pumped in tear gas and blasted a loud speaker urging Dorner to give up. When they got no response, police deployed a vehicle to rip down the walls of cabin "one by one, like peeling an onion," one law enforcement official said.

By the time they got to the last wall, authorities heard a single gunshot, the source said. Then flames began to spread through the structure. Then, they heard gunshots likely set off by the fire.

Dorner's body has not been found. Police will search will be focused in the basement area, the source said.

A tall plume of smoke was rising from the area where the standoff occurred. Hundreds of law enforcement personnel swooped down on the site near Big Bear after the gun battles between Dorner and officers that broke out in the snow-covered mountains where the fugitive had been eluding a massive manhunt since his truck was found burning in the area late last week.

Law enforcement personnel in military-style gear and armed with high-powered weapons were involved in a tense standoff after Dorner took refuge in the cabin Tuesday afternoon. 

One San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy died of his wounds after he and another deputy were wounded in an exchange of gunfire outside the cabin in which hundreds of rounds were fired, sources told The Times. The deputy was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he died of his wounds.

The afternoon gun battle was part of a quickly changing situation that began after Dorner allegedly broke into a home, tied up a couple and held them hostage before fleeing with their white pickup truck, authorities said. 

Then Dorner was allegedly spotted by a state Fish and Wildlife officer in the pickup truck, sources said. A vehicle-to-vehicle shootout ensued. The officer's vehicle was peppered with multiple rounds, according to authorities.

Dorner crashed his vehicle and took refuge in a nearby cabin, sources said. One deputy was hit as Dorner fired out of the cabin and a second deputy was injured when Dorner exited the back of the cabin, deployed a smoke bomb and opened fire again in an apparent attempt to flee. Dorner was driven back inside the cabin, the sources said.

During the unprecedented manhunt, officers had crisscrossed California for days pursuing the more than 1,000 tips that poured in about Dorner's possible whereabouts -- including efforts in Tijuana, San Diego County and Big Bear -- and serving warrants at homes in Las Vegas and the Point Loma area of San Diego.

Statewide alerts were issued in California and Nevada, and border authorities were alerted. The Transportation Security Administration also had issued an alert urging pilots and other aircraft operators to keep an eye out for Dorner.

The search turned to Big Bear last week after Dorner's burning truck was found on a local forest road.

At the search's height, more than 200 officers scoured the mountain, conducting cabin-by-cabin checks. It was scaled back Sunday -- about 30 officers were out in the field Tuesday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said.

Dorner allegedly threatened "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against police in a lengthy manifesto that authorities say he posted on Facebook. The posting named dozens of potential targets, including police officers, whom Dorner allegedly threatened to attack, according to authorities.

Records state that the manifesto was discovered by authorities last Wednesday, three days after the slaying of an Irvine couple: Monica Quan, a Cal State Fullerton assistant basketball coach, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, a USC public safety officer.

Quan was the daughter of a retired LAPD captain whom Dorner allegedly blamed in part for his firing from the force in 2009.

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