State Briefs 3/19/09
Optional moment of silence passes House
SPRINGFIELD – An effort to let schools choose to set aside time for silent reflection is moving forward in the legislature.
The House voted 79-33 Thursday for House Bill 288, which tries to resolve a legal dispute over a measure approved two years ago forcing schools to have a moment of silence for students at the beginning of each school day.
That requirement has been struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge in recent weeks.
The newest version would take language about prayer out of the law and give schools the option of having the silent moment, not require them to do so.
The measure now heads to the Senate, where it was blocked a year ago. Some lawmakers say schools should be required to set aside time for students to think about the day ahead, through prayer or reflection.
State Capitol Bureau
Former teacher sentenced for relationship with teen
ROCKFORD – A former Belvidere High School English teacher and volleyball coach pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse Wednesday stemming from a sexual relationship she had with a 15-year-old student in December 2007.
Loren Leoni, 25, of Rockford, entered the plea before Judge Joe McGraw on Wednesday afternoon. She is scheduled to be sentenced May 8.
Leoni faces up to seven years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.
Leoni was arrested in February 2008 after Belvidere School District Superintendent Michael Houselog reported “inappropriate contact between a teacher and a student” to Belvidere police in December 2007.
Leoni was the head coach of Belvidere High School’s freshman girls volleyball team. Students said Leoni no longer worked at the high school after the school’s 2007-08 winter break. School officials would not say when or under what conditions Leoni left the district.
Rockford Register Star
Quinn won’t pardon mayoral candidate
PEORIA – Gov. Pat Quinn said he is not going to act on Peoria mayoral candidate General Parker’s request for a pardon from a felony conviction on his criminal record.
“My view is I’m not going to act on that matter,” Quinn said following a news conference Thursday in Peoria where he promoted his budget plan. He did not elaborate.
Parker was convicted of a 1984 felony theft conviction for stealing a car in Peoria. Without a pardon, Parker couldn’t serve as mayor under the Illinois Municipal Code that renders him ineligible to hold office.
Parker said he has been pursuing a pardon since the early 1990s, when Gov. Jim Edgar was in office and his pardon then was denied. He also has an early-1980s felony conviction in Michigan, but has said he won’t pursue a pardon from that conviction until the Illinois matter is cleared.
Peoria Journal Star
Teen’s shooting ruled homicide
SPRINGFIELD – A Sangamon County coroner’s jury has ruled the death of 15-year-old Devante L. Green on Feb. 2 a homicide.
Green died from multiple gunshot wounds to the body suffered during an altercation.
Springfield police detective Ryan Sims testified that Green and some of his family and friends went to the intersection and argued with another group of people there. Some of those present began fighting, and Green was shot several times.
Green, who formerly attended Springfield High School, was the only one shot during the altercation.
No one has been charged in connection with the incident.
Man who accidentally shot sister in head pulled trigger several times
SPRINGFIELD – Police say a man who accidentally shot his sister in the head during the weekend thought no bullets were in his revolver and that he pulled the trigger several times before it finally went off.
The sister, 16-year-old Taylor Stanton, remains hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Her brother, William G. Howard, 21, remains jailed on charges of reckless conduct and reckless discharge of a firearm.
The siblings were at their home Saturday. About 1:30 p.m., someone called 911 to say a woman had been shot in the head. Police arrived to find Howard’s and Stanton’s distraught 20-year-old brother, Michael Howard, in the kitchen.
Michael Howard said he couldn’t believe “there’s a (expletive) gun in the house” and said he didn’t know what happened, according to police. He said he’d been downstairs with his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son and heard a gunshot. He ran upstairs and discovered Stanton, a student at Lanphier High School, in a bedroom, unconscious from a gunshot wound to the head.
Police said William Howard was showing off the gun, which he’d gotten in Chicago, and it went off.