WBEZ | Cook County Circuit Court http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county-circuit-court Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Company: Temporary worker to blame for his fatal burns http://www.wbez.org/news/company-temporary-worker-blame-his-fatal-burns-104753 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/raani-outside.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="Raani Corp., a Bedford Park manufacturer of household and grooming products, denies negligence in a wrongful-death suit filed by survivors of the worker, Carlos Centeno. (Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></p><p>The company that was supervising a Chicago-area temporary worker when he suffered fatal burns in 2011 says the man failed to take &ldquo;proper precautions&rdquo; in its factory and calls his conduct &ldquo;the sole proximate cause of the injuries.&rdquo;</p><p>Raani Corp., a Bedford Park manufacturer of household and grooming products, makes those accusations and denies negligence in a 66-page <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/119414572">answer</a> to a wrongful-death suit that survivors of Carlos Centeno, 50, filed in Cook County Circuit Court last year.</p><p>Centeno, a Humboldt Park resident&nbsp;scalded over most of his body with a hot citric-acid solution November 17, 2011, died three weeks later in a burn unit of Loyola University Hospital in Maywood. The death triggered inspections by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Those inspections led OSHA to fine the company $473,000 last May for 14 alleged violations.</p><p>An internal OSHA memo, obtained as part of an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/98-minutes-radio-story-104504">investigation</a> by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity and WBEZ, says more than 98 minutes elapsed after the incident before Centeno reached the hospital.</p><p>Factory officials refused to call an ambulance as Centeno awaited help, shirtless and screaming, OSHA investigators contended. Instead of calling 911, the company had another temporary worker drive Centeno to an occupational health clinic that was not set up to treat life-threatening burns.</p><p>In its court filing, Raani claims Centeno &ldquo;assumed the risk of any injuries allegedly sustained as a result of his conduct&rdquo; and &ldquo;knew or reasonably should have known of the substances that were used in the activities conducted at the places where he worked.&rdquo;</p><p>As Centeno cleaned a 500-gallon tank from which the acid solution erupted, &ldquo;he knew or reasonably should have known of the possible risks of personal injury,&rdquo; the Raani filing adds. &ldquo;By voluntarily undertaking to work with such substances, [Centeno] elected to accept such possible risks.&rdquo;</p><p>The company&rsquo;s position amounts to &ldquo;pouring more acid on an open wound,&rdquo; Stephan D. Blandin, an attorney for Centeno&rsquo;s survivors, said.</p><p>&ldquo;The family has been trying to get over Carlos&rsquo;s loss for well over a year now,&rdquo; Blandin said. &ldquo;Here is somebody who is pleading to be taken to the emergency room and they&rsquo;re intentionally denying him care. And they&rsquo;re blaming him for it now. It&rsquo;s just reprehensible.&rdquo;</p><p>Raani&rsquo;s filing also denies the family&rsquo;s claim that Centeno&rsquo;s employer was Ron&rsquo;s Staffing Services Inc., a temporary-staffing firm based in Northbrook that assigned him to the factory. The family&rsquo;s claim, experts say, is crucial for expanding damages beyond workers&rsquo; compensation, a form of insurance that Illinois requires of employers.</p><p>&ldquo;Ron&rsquo;s Staffing is the employer,&rdquo; said Leone José Bicchieri, executive director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative, a group that advocates for temporary workers. &ldquo;It has the W-2s. It pays the worker. It is in charge of workers&rsquo; comp and all aspects of employment.&rdquo;</p><p>Client companies such as Raani&nbsp;are happy shifting employment responsibility to a staffing agency such as&nbsp;Ron&rsquo;s&nbsp;until a worker is injured,&nbsp;Bicchieri said. &ldquo;Now, suddenly, the client company says it is the direct employer. This is just a game of ping-pong.&rdquo;</p><p>H. Patrick Morris, Raani&rsquo;s attorney in the case, did not return WBEZ&rsquo;s calls for comment after filing the company&rsquo;s answer to the suit.</p><p>Jeffrey Kehl, a lawyer for Ron&rsquo;s Staffing, has declined to comment about the case.</p><p>Raani is also contesting the OSHA citations, six of which the agency classified as willful, indicating &ldquo;plain indifference&rdquo; toward employee safety and health. The agency says it has made no decision on whether it will refer the case to the U.S. Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution.</p><p>OSHA hadn&rsquo;t inspected the Raani factory for 18 years before the Centeno incident.&nbsp;The WBEZ and Center for Public Integrity investigation found that the federal government is not keeping close track of temporary-worker injuries.</p><p><em>The <a href="http://www.publicintegrity.org/">Center for Public Integrity</a>&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/jim-morris">Jim Morris</a> contributed reporting.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Jan 2013 16:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/company-temporary-worker-blame-his-fatal-burns-104753 Charged with terrorism, NATO protesters plead not guilty http://www.wbez.org/news/charged-terrorism-nato-protesters-plead-not-guilty-100563 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NATO5bannerCROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 244px; width: 300px; " title="Occupy Chicago protests Monday at the courthouse. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /><em>Updated July 2 at 3:58 p.m.</em></p><p>Three NATO protesters who face charges under Illinois&rsquo;s terrorism statute pleaded not guilty Monday in a hearing that kicked off what could turn into months of pretrial wrangling over evidence discovery.</p><p>The defendants &mdash; Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Brent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla.; and Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, N.H. &mdash; each face 11 felony counts ranging from material support for terrorism to arson conspiracy. Cook County prosecutors say they plotted to use crude firebombs known as Molotov cocktails during a NATO summit in Chicago.</p><p>On Monday the trio appeared in yellow jail jumpsuits and leg shackles before Criminal Court Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson.</p><p>After the pleas, Assistant State&rsquo;s Attorney Matthew Thrun told Wilson that prosecutors had handed defense attorneys 372 pages of discovery materials. Thrun said those included documentation of secret recordings authorized by another Cook County judge May 4 &mdash; less than two weeks before the trio&rsquo;s May 16 arrests during a police raid of an apartment in Chicago&rsquo;s Bridgeport neighborhood.</p><p>Thomas Durkin, a lawyer for Chase, complained to Wilson that the materials seemed to address evidence no earlier than May. The case&rsquo;s indictment, Durkin pointed out, accuses the trio of committing the terrorism and arson offenses beginning &ldquo;on or about October 01, 2011.&rdquo;</p><p>Thrun responded that &ldquo;discovery is not complete at this time.&rdquo;</p><p>After the hearing, defense attorneys said their pretrial goals include learning more about the case&rsquo;s informants. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s going to be a lot of fighting around the discovery of this case because we know that there were other law-enforcement agencies involved in the investigation and the provocateurs,&rdquo; said Michael Deutsch, an attorney for Church. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s the tension because we need to fight about all these things that we have a right to have in discovery yet, while we do that, our clients are going to be sitting in jail.&rdquo;</p><p>Deutsch said defense attorneys would meet with prosecutors to see if they could reach an agreement to reduce $1.5 million bonds set for each defendant May 19.</p><p>At one point during Monday&#39;s hearing Betterly smiled and nodded to two dozen supporters in the courtroom gallery as they stood and raised their fists in the air &mdash; a gesture that ended seconds later when a sheriff&rsquo;s deputy ordered everyone to sit down.</p><p>Later, a man who identified himself as an Occupy Chicago activist held up a handmade sign expressing support for the trio. A deputy quickly grabbed the activist and brought him to Wilson.</p><p>&ldquo;I absolutely will not tolerate that,&rdquo; Wilson warned. &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t bring any signs in my courtroom again.&rdquo;</p><p>Another NATO protester &mdash; Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, of Chicago &mdash; faces four counts of falsely making a terrorist threat. A fifth protester &mdash; Mark Neiweem, 28, of Chicago &mdash; faces two counts related to explosives or incendiary devices. Arraignments for Senakiewicz and Neiweem were scheduled for Monday but postponed.</p><p>All five defendants were arrested before the summit, a two-day gathering that ended May 21.</p></p> Mon, 02 Jul 2012 05:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/charged-terrorism-nato-protesters-plead-not-guilty-100563 Steep bond for NATO protesters held on bomb charges http://www.wbez.org/news/steep-bond-nato-protesters-held-bomb-charges-99354 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gelsomino1cropscale.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 177px; height: 230px;" title="Defense attorney Sarah Gelsomino on Sunday afternoon calls the amounts ‘punitive.’ (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>A Cook County judge set steep bonds Sunday afternoon for two more activists accused of planning violence during the NATO summit.</p><p>Criminal Court Judge Israel Desierto set a $750,000 bond for Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, a Chicago resident charged with falsely making a terrorist threat. Desierto set a $500,000 bond for Mark Neiweem, 28, a Chicago resident charged with solicitation for explosives or incendiary devices.</p><p>&ldquo;These bonds are extremely high and punitively so, as a result of the sensationalized and politicized allegations that the state&rsquo;s attorneys raised today,&rdquo; said Sarah Gelsomino, an attorney representing the defendants.</p><p>Jack Blakey, head of special prosecutions for the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s Office, declined to comment about the bond hearing after reading a prepared statement about the charges.</p><p>Blakey said Senakiewicz identified himself as an anarchist and part of the Black Bloc movement and claimed several times he had bombs. At one point, Senakiewicz said he had &ldquo;two homemade explosives that could blow up half of an overpass for a train and that he was holding off on using them until NATO,&rdquo; Blakey said. Prosecutors said a search of Senakiewicz&rsquo;s home did not turn up any explosives.</p><p>Blakey said Neiweem told an associate about a store where materials to make a pipe bomb could be purchased, then &ldquo;pressed a piece of paper into the palm of the associate&rsquo;s hand and stated that, if the associate obtained the items and brought them to his house, then they could create a bomb.&rdquo;</p><p>On Saturday, Cook County Judge Edward S. Harmening set $1.5 million bonds for three other activists, all charged with terrorism conspiracy, possession of explosives or incendiary devices and providing material support for terrorism. Authorities accused the trio of possessing Molotov cocktails and planning or proposing attacks on President Barack Obama&rsquo;s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s home, four police stations and financial institutions downtown.</p><p>Prosecutors called those three defendants &ldquo;self-proclaimed anarchists&rdquo; and listed them as Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire; Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Brent Betterly, 24, of Massachusetts.</p><p>Chase, Church and Betterly were among nine people arrested during a Wednesday night police raid in the Bridgeport neighborhood. The raid targeted the apartment of some leaders of Occupy Chicago, a group leading protests against the summit. Senakiewicz and Neiweem were arrested Thursday at other locations.</p><p>Prosecutors said all five cases stem from the same investigation.</p><p>Defense attorneys said authorities built all the cases using an informant duo &mdash; a man who went by the name &ldquo;Mo&rdquo; and a woman who went by &ldquo;Gloves.&rdquo; The attorneys said that the duo tried to manufacture crimes.</p><p>Defense attorneys also claim that authorities targeted the activists for their political beliefs.</p><p>Court filings by prosecutors state that most of the defendants self-identify as anarchists. State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez, questioned Saturday about the relevance to the criminal case, answered that &ldquo;some of the techniques that they were exhibiting all go in line with their beliefs.&rdquo;</p><p>Another possible issue is the length of time authorities held the defendants before allowing them to go before a judge. The bond hearing for Senakiewicz and Neiweem did not occur until almost three full days after their arrests. Their attorneys say neither defendant had an earlier opportunity to see a judge.</p><p>Leonard Cavise, a DePaul University law professor, points to a 1991 judicial ruling. &ldquo;The United States Supreme Court has said that the police have an obligation to get the defendant in front of a judge as soon as practically possible but not longer than 48 hours,&rdquo; Cavise says. &ldquo;The reason we have this 48-hour rule is because we want to get the person away from the police as soon as possible before they coerce a confession out of them.&rdquo;</p><p>Violating that rule, Cavise adds, could lead a judge to throw out any confession from trial.</p><p>Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the state&rsquo;s attorney, insisted that Senakiewicz and Neiweem were held according to the law.</p></p> Sun, 20 May 2012 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/steep-bond-nato-protesters-held-bomb-charges-99354 Preckwinkle asks for study of bail bonds http://www.wbez.org/story/preckwinkle-asks-study-bail-bonds-95519 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-12/By Bill Healy - July 27 2011 - 005.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday defended an ordinance that frees some inmates wanted by immigration authorities. Instead of reconsidering the measure, she asked for a study to identify better ways for the county’s judges to set bail in criminal cases.</p><p>The ordinance, passed in September, bars compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests that certain inmates remain in the county’s jail up to two business days after they have posted bond or completed their court cases. The requests, known as detainers, gave ICE time to pick up the inmates for possible deportation.</p><p>Last week a letter to Preckwinkle from ICE Director John Morton said the ordinance “undermines public safety in Cook County and hinders ICE’s ability to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.”</p><p>Morton’s letter says ICE has lodged detainers against more than 268 Cook County inmates since the ordinance passed. It says the county has not honored any of them, “preventing ICE from considering removal proceedings against all but 15 of these individuals whom we were able to locate independently and arrest following their release into the community.”</p><p>The letter also refers to a case that local newspapers have been covering. As the story goes, a Mexican immigrant named Saúl Chávez allegedly killed a pedestrian in a Northwest Side hit-and-run incident last year. Despite a previous DUI conviction, a Cook County judge set Chávez’s bond at $250,000, Preckwinkle’s office says. When Chávez posted the required 10 percent, or $25,000, the jail released him last fall, reportedly disregarding an ICE detainer. Since then, the newspapers add, Chávez has missed his court appointments, leading to a federal arrest warrant.</p><p>Preckwinkle on Thursday afternoon said that case “outraged” her but said she was sticking by the ordinance and introducing a board resolution for the county’s Judicial Advisory Council to undertake a six-month study of the bail bond system. The five-member panel, chaired by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, will recommend ways to improve pretrial services so judges can “make better-informed decisions on bond amounts,” a statement from Preckwinkle’s office says.</p><p>The release of county inmates should be left to the courts, not immigration officials, Preckwinkle said at a downtown news conference. “It’s the responsibility of the judicial system to determine whether or not someone is a flight risk, a danger to themselves or a danger to society,” she said. “And once the judicial system makes that decision, that should be the end of it.”</p><p>Preckwinkle’s stand is getting flak from some County Board members who voted against the ordinance. Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) said he shared her concern about the county’s bond system. But he said the board should allow the sheriff to honor the ICE detainers. “We should return that discretion to the chief law-enforcement officer of the county,” Silvestri said.</p><p>ICE took custody of 721 Cook County inmates on detainers in 2011 and 1,665 in 2010, according to Sheriff Tom Dart’s office. The ordinance requires the jail to free such inmates unless the federal government agrees in advance to pay for the extended confinement.</p><p>Jesús García (D-Chicago) and other commissioners who backed the measure say the detainers violated inmates’ due-process rights and eroded community trust in local police. A federal court ruling in Indiana last summer said compliance with ICE detainers is voluntary.</p></p> Thu, 12 Jan 2012 23:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/preckwinkle-asks-study-bail-bonds-95519 Settlement could lead to big park for Mexican neighborhood http://www.wbez.org/story/settlement-could-lead-big-park-mexican-neighborhood-90552 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-12/00_580x350_parks6.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago could be near the end of a five-year legal battle for control of a former industrial site with potential to help form a 24-acre park. If an eminent-domain settlement holds up, the land could be an asset for a Mexican-American area of the Southwest Side.<br> <br> Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sanjay T. Tailor this week signed off on the deal, under which the city will pay more than $7.5 million for about 19 acres owned by 2600 Sacramento Corp.<br> <br> “I don’t get a penny,” company owner Joanne Urso said Friday afternoon. The money will go to the Cook County Treasurer’s Office and remain there as Urso tries to settle with a bank that has filed suit to foreclose on the property, according to her attorney.<br> <br> Urso’s land could combine with an adjacent five acres the city already controls. The park would total about five blocks, all just west of South Sacramento Avenue and north of West 31st Street. The perimeter would pass residential buildings, industrial properties and the Cook County Jail.<br> <br> Activists in the Little Village neighborhood hailed the settlement. “We have not seen any park development in over 75 years,” said Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.<br> <br> Wasserman said the deal could inspire other neighborhoods to push for public amenities and services. “Regardless of language and regardless of immigration status, as long as there is determination in these communities, we can continue to get the things that we need,” she said.<br> <br> The park concept has the backing of the local alderman. “That’s what we’re pushing for,” said Juan Manzano, an aide to Ald. George Cárdenas, 12th Ward.<br> <br> The property served industrial manufacturers for more than 70 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Their output included asphalt, coal tar and driveway sealer. Celotex Corp. made roofing products on the site from 1967 to 1982, the EPA says.<br> <br> Allied Chemical and Dye Corp. purchased that operation. A series of mergers and acquisitions turned Allied into New Jersey-based Honeywell International Inc. The corporation dismantled the Celotex facilities between 1991 and 1993, according to the EPA. Urso’s company bought the property later.<br> <br> After cancer-linked chemicals turned up in nearby homes and yards, the EPA designated the area a Superfund site. A Honeywell cleanup consisted largely of covering the land with gravel. The cleanup finished last year, the agency says in a statement.<br> <br> Chicago filed the eminent-domain suit in 2006. The case became more complicated in August 2010, when Texas-based United Central Bank filed the foreclosure suit, a nearly $10 million claim, in federal court. The loan involves both the Celotex site and another Urso property.<br> <br> The city’s payment for Urso's land will consist of $6 million from the Chicago Park District and more than $1.5 million from city general-obligation bonds, according to Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.<br> <br> But the timeframe for creating the park is not clear. Ownership of Urso’s property will transfer to Chicago upon payment, due September 7, but the city is not specifying a date for turning over the acreage to the Park District. “Possibly later this year,” Hoyle wrote Friday afternoon.<br> <br> A possible obstacle is a Chicago Fire Department facility on the adjacent five acres.</p><p>The biggest challenge could be funding the park construction. Wasserman’s group is calling for playgrounds, a farm, sports fields, an amphitheater and a community center. Building all those amenities could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, the group says.</p></p> Fri, 12 Aug 2011 22:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/settlement-could-lead-big-park-mexican-neighborhood-90552