Will County Drug Court graduates 200th participant

September 3

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced that the Will County Drug Court Program recently graduated its 200th participant and has helped another 17 people who faced criminal charges stemming from their drug abuse kick their addictions. 

The Will County Drug Court Program helps drug abusers who committed non-violent criminal offenses break their addictions. The program then reintegrates them back into their communities as productive, tax-paying citizens. State’s Attorney Glasgow spearheaded the creation of the local drug court in the late 1990s.

The recent ceremony brought the total number of drug court graduates to 203 since the program’s inception in 2000. The 200th graduate, Valerie Stewart of New Lenox, has since enrolled in school to earn her EMT license. 

“For every dollar we spend on a prevention program like drug court, we save ten times the money in remedial costs,” Glasgow said. “But more importantly, we help individuals who previously had been a drain on society become true assets to their communities. Our program helps people like Valerie Stewart open doors that were closed to them while they were abusing drugs. She and other graduates will achieve goals they could not have accomplished without successfully completing the program.” 

During the ceremony, Circuit Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes, who presides over drug court, introduced graduates individually and discussed how the program helped them clean up their lives. Stewart was quoted as saying: “Before drug court, my life was a wreck. The only thing I did was get high. My life was unmanageable and I had no control.”

But through treatment and with the help of a new support network and a 12-step program, she now finds herself with almost two years of sobriety and the opportunity to start school this fall.

“Drug court is a tough program that requires hard work and strong commitments by participants if they are going to turn their lives around,” Judge Policandriotes said. “The graduations are rewarding experiences for me as the presiding judge. By the time I hand them their graduation plaques, I have gotten to know the participants personally. I know how hard they have struggled. And I know they are ready to start their lives over once again.”

Will County Drug Court boasts a remarkable success rate. Ninety-two percent of those who have graduated from the local drug court have gone on to lead productive, drug-free lives.

In drug court, prosecutors and defense attorneys work with the judge and treatment providers to help abusers kick their addictions. The program is a cost-effective alternative to dumping non-violent drug offenders into state prisons, where they cycle in and out of the system.

Drug court is an intensive process. Defendants allowed into the program are carefully screened. They must remain drug free, submit to random drug tests, find employment, follow through with treatment and attend weekly drug court sessions if they are to graduate.

For more information on Will County Drug Court, go to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office Web site at https://willcountysao.com and click on Crime Prevention.

State’s Attorney Glasgow providing gang prevention books free to every school district in Will County

August 28

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced this week his office will give away his gang prevention book free to every educator in Will County to help them protect students from street gang influences.

State’s Attorney Glasgow appeared before a gathering of Will County school district superintendents on Thursday morning (Aug. 28, 2008) to encourage them to place orders on behalf of their districts for the free book: “Gangs: Awareness, Prevention, Intervention.”

The state’s attorney developed the 40-page, full-color book last year in cooperation with the Joliet Township High School District’s YESS! Initiative. Funding for the initial printing of the book was provided through a federal Safe Schools, Healthy Students grant awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Because response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive, Glasgow printed an additional 10,000 copies of the book this summer with the hope of distributing it to educators, counselors, administrators and school liaison officers in every school district in Will County. To fund the additional printing costs, the state’s attorney used money seized from criminals engaged in narcotics or money laundering. No taxpayer funding was used to print the book.

“This book will serve as a critical educational tool to instruct our educators about street gang activity in their own schools and communities,” Glasgow said. “The book provides information about how gangs operate in Will County and includes detailed descriptions and photographs of the clothes they wear, the hand signals they flash and the graffiti they use to identify their turf. Educators must be alert to signs of gang activity around them if they are to keep their schools safe.”

Gang prevention books have been an important component of Glasgow’s administration for 15 years. The state’s attorney published several black-and-white editions of the book in the 1990s. “Gangs: Awareness, Prevention, Intervention” takes the 1990s books to the next level.

The new gang prevention book is an eye-catching, full-color book that will appeal to parents and teachers. All of the information is presented in short, easy-to-read chapters that are illustrated through original art as well as high-quality photographs provided by local police departments. With input from gang experts in local law enforcement, the new prevention book also includes short, real-life stories about gang cases that have been investigated and prosecuted in Will County. 

The state’s attorney’s office this week began rolling out the free gang prevention books to more than a dozen Will County school districts. 

School administrators can place orders for “Gangs: Awareness, Prevention, Intervention” by calling the state’s attorney’s office at (815) 723-1630.

Undercover investigation by Peotone police leads to arrest, felony drug charges

August 26

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and Peotone Police Chief Bill Mort announce that a three-month investigation has resulted in felony drug charges against a 26-year-old man accused of dealing cocaine.

Jeremy Rutnicki, of Peotone, was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and three counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance. He faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted.

Kevin Carvelli, 28, also of Peotone, was also charged with possession of a controlled substance. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

Rutnicki appeared in court Monday where his $750,000 bond was upheld. He must post 10 percent to secure his release while he awaits trial. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 19 in courtroom 405.

Bond was set at $10,000 for Carvelli. He must post 10 percent to secure his release while awaiting trial. A preliminary hearing in his case was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 29 in courtroom 405.

The Peotone Police Department on Aug. 22 executed a search warrant at Rutnicki’s apartment in the 100 block of North Second Street in Peotone and found approximately 60 grams of suspected cocaine, drug paraphernalia and cash.

The arrests were the culmination of the department’s undercover investigation into the availability of drugs locally.

“Chief Mort and the Peotone Police Department should be commended for taking an aggressive stand in the fight against illegal drugs in our community,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. 

Chief Mort thanked the Peotone Village Board for providing his department with the backing it needs to take illegal drugs off the streets.

“With the village board’s support, we’re going to add a canine unit to our department,” the chief said. “This unit will be another weapon in our arsenal in the battle against illegal drugs.”

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office reminds the public that charges are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Free domestic violence training seminar to focus on abusers who are police officers

August 19

JOLIET – Law enforcement professionals and social service providers are encouraged to attend a free domestic violence training seminar scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26 at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, 201 N. Bluff St., in Joliet.

This year’s seminar deals with domestic violence cases involving abusers who are police officers. The presenter will be attorney and domestic violence specialist Jan Russell.

Russell created a program within the Chicago Police Department to provide services to victims who were abused by members of the police department. The Chicago Police Department was the first in the nation to create a response plan for officer-involved domestic violence cases, and its protocol has received national attention.

Russell will discuss her experience developing and implementing the program and insights gained from nearly 16 years of experience dealing with officer-involved domestic violence.

The topics she will cover include the differences in dynamics when an officer is the abuser; issues and concerns departments should consider in developing their own policies; legal issues such as liability for departments and responding officers; federal firearms provisions as they affect officers; and best practices for improving victim safety. 

“Jan Russell is an acclaimed specialist on domestic violence issues who will provide an important perspective on how to deal with the most difficult of these serious cases,” said Tony Ray, who is the coordinator for the Family Violence Coordinating Council under the direction of the 12th Judicial Circuit and Chief Judge Stephen White. “We hope that law enforcement officers and social service providers will take advantage of this free training seminar.”

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, whose office is a cosponsor of the seminar, said: “Jan Russell knows the difficulties police departments face when an officer is accused of domestic abuse. Her training will provide departments with information to help them establish protocols that are critical in protecting vulnerable women. Advocates who fight on behalf of abused women also will receive the benefits of her wisdom and experience.”

Russell also served as a family issues specialist for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and as the founding executive director of a legal advocacy agency dealing with parental child abduction.

She is a sought after trainer on domestic violence and child abduction issues and has trained more than 15,000 domestic violence workers, police officers, lawyers and social service providers over the years.

To register for this free training call: (815) 439-6915 for law enforcement officers and (708) 383-2251 for social service providers.

A continental breakfast will be provided by Tri-River Police Training Association. Lunch is on your own.

The training seminar provides for five free continuing education credits for law enforcement officers and social workers.

The seminar is co-sponsored by: the 12th Judicial Circuit Family Violence Coordinating Council, the Office of Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, Social Work PRN, the Take Back the Night Committee and Tri-River Police Training Association.

State’s Attorney Glasgow reads to preschool children, joins call for expanded preschool funding

August 12

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, Joliet Police Chief Fred Hayes, and Channahon Police Chief Joe Pena visited a preschool class in Joliet today to call for expanding availability of preschool in Will County. Glasgow, Hayes and Pena joined State Senator A.J. Wilhelmi to read to preschoolers at St. John’s Center in Joliet.

The law enforcement leaders called on the General Assembly and Governor Blagojevich to expand funding for pre-kindergarten programs so all children have access. They pointed to evidence that preschool cuts future violent crime and saves money.

“As a prosecutor, I believe in being tough on violent criminals. But it’s just common sense to ensure our public safety by preventing crime early rather than paying more in lives and taxpayer dollars later,” Glasgow said. “If you care about crime prevention, if you care about saving money, and if you care about saving lives, than you must care about high-quality early education programs.”

Over the past five years, Illinois has made great strides in expanding preschool opportunities for families. With recent expansion of the Preschool for All Program, Will County has added over 800 slots for 3-and 4-year olds, increasing the number of children enrolled in state-funded preschool to 1,500. 

Glasgow, Hayes and Pena cited Sen. Wilhelmi’s leadership in the General Assembly as one reason for the increased availability of preschool in Will County and across Illinois.

“Senator Wilhelmi knows that if we don’t invest now in proven programs for at risk kids, we will pay more later in the cost of crime,” Pena said.

Still, there are far too many families unable to access high quality programs because of cost. In Will County there remain more than 8,400 3- and 4-year-olds in families who cannot afford to pay for quality preschool on their own. 

“We have to do more on the front end before kids get involved in crime. The research is compelling and clear. Early childhood is a crucial time when we form the core of conscience, develop the ability to trust and relate to others, and lay down the foundation for life-long learning and thinking,” Hayes said “Investing in quality preschool today is one of the best crime fighting tools we have.” 

Law enforcement’s experience and rigorous research supports the value of pre-kindergarten. A study of the Perry Preschool in Michigan tracked at-risk children who attended the program and similar children left out until age 40. At age 27, those left out as children were five times more likely to have been arrested for drug felonies and twice as likely to have been arrested for violent crimes. Another study of the publicly funded Child-Parent Centers in Chicago, which have provided early care and education to more than 100,000 children since 1967, found that kids left out of the program were 70 percent more likely to have been arrested by age 18 than those who participated.

FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS ILLINOIS is the state office of a national, non-profit bipartisan, anti-crime organization of more than 3,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, leaders of law enforcement organizations, and victims of violence. It has over 200 members in Illinois.

State will appeal Judge Burmila’s decision to dismiss drug case

July 29

JOLIET – The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office announces it will appeal Associate Judge Edward Burmila’s decision on Tuesday to dismiss drug dealing charges and release from custody a defendant alleged to have possessed more than 500 grams of cocaine and more than 700 grams of marijuana.

Judge Burmila had previously ordered the state to turn over to a defense attorney the date and time frame that an undercover police informant visited an alleged drug house.

Prosecutors, however, declined. They argued in court that turning over the information to the defense would essentially identify the undercover police informant and could jeopardize the informant’s safety. The prosecution also argued the judge had abused his discretion in ordering the disclosure and that the defense had not established the legal basis to show the disclosure was warranted.

The State’s Attorney’s Office will move forward immediately to file an appeal with regard to the judge’s dismissal of the case. The office’s goal is to have the charges reinstated so the state can litigate the criminal case against Donnie Creal Jr., 33, of Joliet, (Case Number 2008CF375). Creal was indicted by a Grand Jury for unlawful possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) with intent to deliver and unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver.

The cocaine charge is a Class X felony that carries a minimum sentence of 12 years in prison with no option for probation upon conviction. The cannabis charge is a Class 2 felony that carries up to seven years in prison upon conviction.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow praised his top prosecutors for taking such a principled position on this important case.

“These fine prosecutors displayed the utmost respect for the court and the judge. But they were placed in an impossible situation in their struggle to protect the safety of a confidential police informant during the prosecution of a major drug case,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “We are confident we will be successful on appeal and this case will be reinstated.”

Joliet Police Chief Fred Hayes, whose department executed the search warrant and arrested Creal in the drug case, commended the prosecutors for protecting the undercover informant.

“The decision by Judge Burmila to release the defendant could endanger the safety of our informant and will require the immediate and costly relocation of the informant,” Chief Hayes said. “Additionally, this ruling will have a serious chilling effect on our informant network. Law enforcement must have the ability to obtain credible information from undercover sources and then protect them from retaliation if we are to be successful in shielding our children from dangerous street drugs.”

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office reminds the public that charges and indictments are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Will County Children’s Advocacy Center recognized by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois for community service

July 16

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced that The Will County Children’s Advocacy Center has been recognized by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois for its success in improving the quality of life for underserved members of the community and has been awarded a $5,000 grant to continue its mission of protecting abused children.

This is the second year the grant has been awarded to the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center, a not-for-profit agency with a staff that is trained to interview children who are the victims of sexual abuse and severe physical abuse.

State’s Attorney Glasgow established the Children’s Advocacy Center in 1995 to improve the way cases of child abuse are investigated and to limit the trauma to these young and vulnerable victims.

“I want to thank Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois for acknowledging the important work The Will County Children’s Advocacy Center performs on behalf of abused children,” Glasgow said. “Support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will enable our staff to continue its critical mission of assisting the most fragile crime victims.”

Children’s statements, which are recorded at the center in a non-suggestive, non-threatening environment, have been used in the successful prosecution of literally hundreds of sexual predators in Will and Grundy counties over the past 13 years.

The Will County Children’s Advocacy Center is one of 185 organizations to receive a grant or donation this year from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, which focuses its giving in three key areas: health services for the uninsured and underserved; human services; and education.

Additional information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois’ charitable giving program is available at www.bcbsil.com/about_us/involvement.htm. For more information on the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center, go to www.willcountychildadvocacy.com

The Children’s Advocacy Center is also a partner agency of the United Way of Will County.

Joliet man sentenced to 87 years for murdering toddler

July 14

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced that a Joliet man was sentenced to 87 years in prison on Monday for the beating death of his girlfriend’s 17-month-old son.

A jury in February found Robert Johnson, 36, guilty of first-degree murder for beating Trayvon Joseph multiple times about the body while the boy’s mother was out of her house running errands on March 18, 2002. Circuit Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes sentenced Johnson.

The toddler’s mother called 911 the morning after the beating when she discovered that her child was unresponsive and not breathing. Trayvon was pronounced dead later that day at Silver Cross Hospital.

An autopsy revealed that his bowel had been perforated and that his stomach artery had been torn during the beating. Trayvon also suffered a skull fracture and a collar bone fracture, and he had bruises over much of his body, including 14 circular bruises on his stomach that were consistent with closed-fist punches.

“Robert Johnson is a brutal monster who took the life of an innocent baby,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “He savagely attacked a defenseless child and now he will spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Under state law, Johnson must serve 100 percent of his sentence.

A nurse and a deputy coroner testified during the trial that they heard Johnson apologize to the dead boy at the hospital, saying: “I’m sorry I did it.” Prosecutors also presented as evidence a letter Johnson sent to his girlfriend stating that he didn’t hit Trayvon that hard.

Glasgow praised Joliet Detective Sgt. Bruce Larson and Detective Rich Klepfer for their thorough investigation, as well as his prosecutors, Assistant State’s Attorneys Tina Filipiak, Dede Osterberger and Jessica Colon-Sayre, for their skillful trial work.

“Their dedication to this investigation and prosecution has taken a dangerous man off of our streets for good,” he said.

Joliet Township officials donate $3,000 to Will County Children’s Advocacy Center

July 11

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow recently accepted a $3,000 contribution from Joliet Township officials on behalf of the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center.

The not-for-profit center’s professionally-trained staff interviews children who are the victims of sexual abuse. The children’s statements have been used in the successful prosecution of literally hundreds of sexual predators in Will, Grundy and Kendall counties over the past 13 years. 

State’s Attorney Glasgow founded the Children’s Advocacy Center in 1995 to improve the way cases of child sexual abuse are investigated and to limit the trauma to these young and vulnerable victims.

“The funding provided by Joliet Township will enable the Children’s Advocacy Center to continue the important work the staff performs on behalf of abused children,” Glasgow said. “Thank you to Township Supervisor Dan Vera and Joliet Township’s Trustees for recognizing the critical service the center provides.”

The center’s staff last year interviewed 325 children. Seventy-four of those children were residents of Joliet Township.

The Will County Children’s Advocacy Center is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization. The center relies on grants, local funding, foundations, and fund raisers to operate and fulfill its critical mission of protecting children. The center also is a member of United Way of Will County.

Seven additional men charged with murder in connection with shooting of innocent bystander outside Joliet Walgreens

July 3

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and Joliet Police Chief Fred Hayes announce murder charges have been filed against seven individuals in connection with their alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of a Joliet man outside a local Walgreens in April.

Alfredo Lopez was caught in the middle of an alleged gang fight between the Latin Kings and the Vice Lords. He was shot and killed as he walked with his 11-year-old and 8-year-old children while approaching the entrance to the Walgreens at 358 E. Cass Avenue on April 16.

The alleged shooter, Daniel Huizar, 18, of Joliet, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm shortly after Mr. Lopez was killed. Huizar was arrested and indicted. He is awaiting trial in the Will County Jail.

The murder charges filed Wednesday are against seven other individuals – two alleged members of the Latin Kings and five alleged members of the Vice Lords – all of whom allegedly were involved in the mob action that led to the death of Mr. Lopez. The charges follow an exhaustive compilation and review of evidence by Joliet police and the state’s attorney’s prosecutors.

Joliet Police arrested the seven men on Wednesday. Will County Circuit Judge Sarah Jones signed arrest warrants with bonds for each defendant ranging from $5 million to $1 million.

The two alleged Latin Kings – Reyes Velasquez, 19, and Miguel Garcia, 18, both of Joliet – were each charged with one count of felony mob action, one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm and three counts of first-degree murder.

The five alleged Vice Lords – Juan Ornelas, 20, Jose Aguirre, 20, Sergio Garcia, 20, and Erik Perez, 20, all of Joliet; and Fabian Vargas, 19, of Channahon – were each charged with one count of felony mob action and one count of first-degree murder.

Under well-established Illinois law, police and prosecutors can seek to hold these individuals accountable for instigating and advancing the violent altercation that claimed the life of Mr. Lopez. All of the individuals who were charged Wednesday face up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

“I approved these charges to send a resounding warning to every gang banger in Joliet and Will County that we will never tolerate these gutless acts of violence,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “We’re putting the gangs on notice: steer clear of weapons and violent altercations. If there’s a gang fight and someone dies, we will relentlessly pursue everyone involved – both on the streets and in the courtroom – no matter who pulled the trigger. The theories of accountability and felony murder create far-reaching legal tentacles that give law enforcement the power to prosecute everyone involved in these senseless atrocities.”

According to Joliet Police Chief Fred Hayes: “The Joliet Police Department continues to focus its efforts on the deadly combination of gangs, guns, and drugs which leads to senseless acts of violence.  This case is yet another example of how, working closely with the Will County State’s Attorney, we can rid our city streets of gang bangers so citizens can live peacefully and without fear.”

The state’s attorney credited Chief Hayes and Joliet’s team of first-rate detectives for tirelessly pursuing this investigation and developing the evidence that allowed his office to file these additional murder charges.

“The excellent relationship we have with Chief Hayes’ department allows both our agencies to perform at the highest level in protecting the public” Glasgow said.

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office reminds the public that charges are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.