Durbin favors “Medicare-like plan” providing universal coverage

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., expressed fear for the human and economic toll if Congress proceeds with a Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

 

 

BY CLARE HOWARD

Minutes before U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan announced he couldn’t deliver majority support and postponed the vote to replace the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Dick Durbin was in Peoria speaking at Heartland Health Services about the devastating human and economic costs the Ryan bill would impose.

If there is anything positive about this bitter, emotional national debate over health care, it’s that more Americans understand what the Affordable Care Act means to them and even those who were once critical now support the ACA, Durbin said.

People are now aware of what they stand to lose, he said, noting that no major medical groups in the country supported Ryan’s replacement bill, the American Health Care Act.

The ACA resulted in the largest expansion of Americans covered by health insurance in history.

Also speaking at Heartland was David Gross, vice president of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association representing 200 hospitals and 50 health systems. He said under the Republican bill, Illinois stands to lose 25 percent of federal Medicaid funding, amounting to at least $40 billion over 10 years.

Gross said the impact of these cuts on the state would be more than $8 billion in reduced economic activity, 55,000 to 60,000 lost jobs, 5,000 of those lost jobs in Peoria’s two Congressional districts.

Durbin said he’s been told House Republicans have called hospitals and medical associations in their Congressional districts to explain they have no choice but to vote for the Republican plan, but they expected the Senate vote next week would kill the Republican plan.

The Republican plan would force 63,400 people in the 17th Congressional District in Peoria to lose health insurance. Nationwide, an estimated 24 million would become uninsured by 2026.

Clearly, enough Republicans refused to pledge support for a dramatically flawed plan, and Friday’s vote, at least, was postponed.

Gross said his organization has urged representatives not to support the Ryan plan.

Durbin cited skyrocketing costs of pharmaceuticals as one factor in rising premiums under ACA. He said the same drugs sold at extremely high prices in America are available in Canada at a fraction of the cost.

He supports a “Medicare-like plan” that would provide universal coverage.

Heartland CEO Charles Bandoian said the ACA “opened the door for high quality health care for many in central Illinois” and Heartland was disappointed with the proposed replacement plan.

Under ACA, he cited improved health care for diabetic patients resulting in dramatic health improvements that likely made the difference between life and death for some and eliminated the prospect of limb amputations for others.

Heidi Yerbic of Canton said the Affordable Care Act meant her family had coverage shortly before her husband had a type A aortic dissection. Today her husband, 40, is back to work and on medication that costs more than $2,000 a day paid by health insurance.

Without the ACA, the family would have lost everything, she said.

At one time, Durbin and his wife had a sick baby and were without health insurance.

“I don’t want anyone else to go through that,” he said.

He pledged to sit at the table and negotiate changes to the ACA if Republicans pull the plug on their “repeal and replace” campaign.

After the press conference Heartland’s CEO said he and his organization have given serious consideration to a complaint from the ACLU about inadequate access to contraception among female patients at Heartland. He said the organization soon will be announcing new locations without religious restrictions on dissemination of comprehensive contraceptive counseling.

 

Native American Spring Gathering March 18

The sixth annual Native American Spring Gathering is scheduled for Saturday March 18 at Dickson Mounds Museum.

“Celebrate, honor and remember the gifts of our ancestors,” is the purpose of activities throughout the day.

Activities start at 11 a.m. and include a heritage program at 2 p.m., a pipe ceremony at 3:15 p.m. and a drum and dance ceremony at 3:45 p.m. Vendors will be set up from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dickson Mounds Museum, 10956 N. Dickson Mounds Road is located between Lewistown and Havana. It is across from Emiquon Nature Preserve. The museum is part of the Illinois State Museum system. For more information call 547-3721.

 

Heidelberg testifies for first time; claims he’s innocent

CleveHearing

Cleve Heidelberg walks slowly to the witness stand — for the first time in nearly 47 years able to testify under oath about his innocence.

BY CLARE HOWARD

For the first time in nearly 47 years, Cleve Heidelberg testified under oath Tuesday about events before and after Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Espinoza was shot and killed.

Now 74, stocky and slightly stooped, Heidelberg walked slowly to the stand and began answering questions about a night in May when he was 27 years old.

He told the court he has spent the past 46 years, nine months and three days in prison for a crime he did not commit.

He testified he had been at the T.T. Club in downtown Peoria the night of May 26, 1970. He had loaned his car to a friend who wanted to pick up his girlfriend. Hours later, Heidelberg learned his car had been involved in a crash. His last walk as a free man was to the corner of Blaine and Butler to retrieve his Dodge Rambler.

Later, he learned the car had been used in committing an armed robbery at the Bellevue Drive-In movie theater.

Andy Hale, Heidelberg’s attorney, said by the time his client was arrested in the early morning hours of May 27, the police were already convinced they had the shooter. Hale has spent nearly two years investigating the case and contends sloppiness and Constitutional violations merit either a retrial or release of Heidelberg.

Also testifying Tuesday for the first time was Lester Mason, the man who had borrowed Heidelberg’s car.

With shackles around his ankles, Mason, 73, entered the courtroom. He and Heidelberg fist-bumped as Mason walked past the defense table.

“I never killed anyone, raped anyone, molested anyone,” he said. But he’s in prison for life following three convictions, at least one an armed robbery.

He testified he knew Heidelberg was innocent but didn’t testify in his behalf because he had been coerced and promised leniency by prosecutors in the Heidelberg case. Mason took the Fifth, refusing to testify at the original trial.

Mason said in court Tuesday that he has regretted that decision.

He and Heidelberg had been together at the T.T. Club in Peoria when Mason asked to borrow Heidelberg’s car to go pick up his girlfriend. But instead, he met with James Clark and Junius Whitt, and the three talked about doing a “stickup.” When Clark and Whitt decided to rob the Bellevue Drive-In movie theater, Mason bailed out and went to the Blue Shadow Club, he said.

He told Judge Albert Purham he thought the idea of driving to the Bellevue Drive-In was “ludicrous” and questioned how much cash the drive-in would even have on hand.

Later that night, Mason said he got a call from Clark who told him, “Things didn’t go right on the robbery. It was kill or be killed.”

The car had been driven as a get-away car and had crashed at the intersection of Blaine and Butler.

Prosecutor Matt Jones asked why anyone should believe Mason’s story now and Mason said, “It’s the truth. I have nothing to gain. I know James did it. There is no watermelon, fried chicken or apple pie in this for me. I have no reason to lie.

“I have no dog in this fight.”

He said Heidelberg was the only one who had a job at that time in 1970 and he was perplexed why he even hung out with the other three guys.

Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Emanuel Manias had been the lead investigator in the case in 1970, and he was also called to testify in Tuesday’s hearing.

Manias had filed a report some time after Heidelberg was arrested contending Heidelberg had confessed to him and wanted to make a statement and speak with a lawyer. Manias arranged a late night meeting between Heidelberg, then in the old Peoria County jail, and his public defender. Manias then wrote up a report about eavesdropped snippets of conversation said during that attorney-client consultation.

Attorney Hale questioned Manias, 79, about the alleged confession. He suggested that if this alleged confession had been true, it would have been introduced into evidence in the original trial, and it was not.

“This whole thing was a ruse to get the attorney to come to jail so you could eavesdrop on the client-attorney conversation held after 10 p.m. at night,” Hale said.

Manias strongly denied that.

At one point, Hale said he wanted Manias declared a hostile witness.

Manias denied there was ever any effort to coerce or bribe Mason about testimony at the original trial.

Prosecutor Jones said Hale was trying to create unsubstantiated allegations of eavesdropping.

“There is no basis for improper police work. No basis for a Sixth Amendment violation,” Jones said.

Heidelberg testified that he felt spied on constantly when he was in the Peoria County jail. When he spoke with his parents and sister on the phone about contacting eyewitnesses who could place him at the T.T. Club, police always seemed to get there first.

At one point, Heidelberg said he called the daytime bartender at the T.T. Club and the guy was irate because the parking lot was filled with police cars.

Heidelberg said it was tough because he knew his life was in the hands of his public defenders but he couldn’t trust them because he couldn’t figure out where the leaks were coming from.

Jones told Heidelberg he could not identify one of these eyewitnesses who didn’t testify. Over Hale’s objection, Jones solicited from Heidelberg that he had a couple of felony convictions in his past and one armed robbery in the 1960s.

Judge Purham set 1 p.m. March 31 for final arguments in the case.

As he has in almost every hearing, Heidelberg, who has congestive heart failure, objected to scheduling the next hearing weeks in advance because he thinks the evidence is clear he’s innocent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combating Hate: Peoria Holocaust Memorial

Womens RallyWomens Rally

Sid Ruckriegel, left, chairman of the board of Peoria Riverfront Museum, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the relocation of the Peoria Holocaust Memorial. Dignitaries and elected officials line up, shovels in hand, for the groundbreaking on an unseasonably mild Sunday afternoon in February.

BY CLARE HOWARD

After 11 years at Shoppes at Grand Prairie, the Peoria Holocaust Memorial is relocating to Peoria Riverfront Museum. Groundbreaking for the new location was Feb. 26 with dedication scheduled for Holocaust Remembrance Day April 23.

The memorial includes glass structures holding 11 million buttons representing those killed in the Holocaust. Six million buttons represent the six million Jewish adults and children murdered in the Holocaust, and five million buttons represent enemies of the state who were killed.  The glass structures will be installed on the south west corner of the museum on Washington and Liberty streets.

“The new location will allow for a more sensory experience and more ability to contemplate the meaning of the memorial,” said Sid Ruckriegel, chairman of the museum board of directors.

The museum will be planning lectures, films and exhibits to strengthen the message of the memorial.

Mayor Jim Ardis commended the new location that’s near the museum, the sculpture walk, Caterpillar Visitors Center and the Warehouse District.

“Our country is going through a challenging time right now and the more we can have displays and talk about our history and be inclusive, the better we will be as a community moving forward,” Ardis said before the groundbreaking.

In his formal remarks, the mayor said it is critically important to remember the Holocaust and remember it could happen again.

“We can’t rest on history. We have to make sure it never happens again,” he said. “In some cases, it’s again starting to happen.”

He was referring to the proliferation of hate incidents that have been documented around the country leading up to and following the November election.

Susan Katz, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Peoria, said “This is the perfect space for our mission near the museum that can address these important issues.”

Hate spreads when people turn a blind eye to racism and bigotry, she said, urging people to step forward when they witness incidents.

“Be an upstander not a bystander,” she said.

Katz explained the significance of indicating six million Jews were killed and five million enemies of the state by quoting Elie Wiesel who said, “Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.”

Michelle Eggert and Brian Smith were co-chairs of the Peoria Holocaust Memorial Re-Birth Project.

Rabbi Robert Feinberg, Congregation Anshai Emeth, led a prayer.

Peoria County Board Chairman Andrew Rand referred to efforts to force Amazon to stop selling books that deny the Holocaust. He said bigotry, racism and bullying of any kind stand in opposition to all that is good in humanity.

For more information go to www.peoriaholocaustmemorial.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another skirmish in war on science; Trump team changes energy information on children educational website

References to the well-documented damage from coal and hydraulic fracturing are among changes made on the “Energy Kids” website.

See article in ProPublica: https://www.propublica.org/article/childs-play-team-trump-rewrites-a-department-of-energy-website-for-kids

 

Examples of changes:

 

** On a page dedicated to coal, the following sentences were deleted: “In the United States, most of the coal consumed is used as a fuel to generate electricity. Burning coal produces emissions that adversely affect the environment and human health.”

 

** “There are environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing” became “Hydraulic fracturing has some effects on the environment.”

 

**   Deleted:

“The United States, with 4 percent of the world’s population, produced about 17 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels in 2011, the most recent year for which global data are available. The United States has the world’s largest economy and meets 83 percent of its energy needs by burning fossil fuels.”

Hundreds rally in support of Planned Parenthood

Womens Rally Womens Rally Womens Rally Womens Rally Womens Rally

BY CLARE HOWARD

Hundreds of women, men and children lined both sides of Knoxville Avenue Saturday outside of Planned Parenthood to express support for the agency and for the right of women to reproductive health care choice.

Passing cars honked support.

At noon, the crowd numbered about 350 people.

The Rev. Lynnda White supports Planned Parenthood and said, “People have a right to be responsible for their own lives.”

Jonathan Weichmann said, “I’m here for my daughter. She’s 3. Planned Parenthood has to be around for many generations.”

The Rev. Lauren Padgett said, “Pro-choice is pro-life. It’s an individual decision women sometimes have to make and it’s between the woman, her creator and her physician.”

She expressed frustration that people who want abortion outlawed claim they are pro-life but they are often also pro-war, hatred and xenophobia.

Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, said he supports Planned Parenthood and the right to comprehensive women’s health care.

Laura Satterfield of Eureka said she was at the rally “to protect health care for women. It is so important. So many women and men have periods in their lives when they are without insurance. I was one of them, and Planned Parenthood was there for me.”

One of the event organizers, Rosalie Howell, said “Over the next four years, we are going to have to fight for our rights. Yes, we are pro-choice, but Planned Parenthood does so much more.”

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to criminalize women who have abortions and said he would defund Planned Parenthood.

In 2015, a series of heavily edited videos from a group called Center for Medical Progress purported to show officials from Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal body parts. More than a dozen states launched investigations and found no evidence of illegal tissue harvesting and sales.

Sixty percent of the clients served by Planned Parent are poor women on Medicaid who receive HIV and STD testing, pregnancy tests, cancer screenings and birth control from the organization.

Howell said, these women don’t have any other place to go for reproductive medical care.

Ken Hofbauer held up a poster with wire coat hangers and splatters of red paint and the words “Never Again.”

He said it has been 44 years since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, and “44 years of failed prayers should give people a hint” that Americans want to keep abortion legal and keep women safe.

The Rev. Dr. Phillip Ladd, one of the faith leaders at the rally, was contacted by Community Word later in the day and sent this statement in response to several questions:

First of all Planned Parenthood is not the abortion mill that the political and religious right would have us believe. They provide a wide range of services that are very important. They provide important medical care and other services to many including the underprivileged population. For some reason, conservative Christians have made opposition to abortion a crucial concern even though there is nothing in Scripture to support their concern. About the only passage that deals with abortion is from Exodus 21: 22-23 where if a man hurts a woman so that she miscarriages, then a fine could be suggested to the courts by the husband. This was written at a time that “a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life” was the law of the land. This would be a force abortion which would still be illegal today. However, Scripture did not treat abortion as a murder. Many people agree that abortions can be performed in cases of rape and incest. Well, when you begin to make exceptions, who gets to make that choice? Who gets to decide what the exceptions are. I believe the woman should be the one to make that choice. For me, that is a moral and ethical issue. One of my signs said, “Pray for Women’s Reproductive Rights”. Pro-lifers say they are supporting life. However, it seems to me that they only “support life” when it comes to controlling women. If they really believed this, they would support life after birth also and support laws to help poor and disenfranchised families. As far as church history, until the mid-1800’s the church did not believe that human life began at conception. Scripture and church history do not consider abortion equal to murder. Jesus always stood up for the rights of others including women. As a person of faith, I try to follow that example. Therefore, I am pro-choice and I support Planned Parenthood.

There was a small counter rally calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

 

 

Tensions turn Heidelberg hearing “Kafkaesque”

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file photo

BY CLARE HOWARD

Heated exchanges, anger and finger pointing erupted during a 2 ½-hour hearing Thursday in an ongoing case reexamining the 1970 murder conviction of Cleve Heidelberg for the shooting death of Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Espinoza.

On the stand during the entire proceeding was former prosecutor in the case Ron Hamm, 75.

Heidelberg, 74, entered the courtroom in handcuffs accompanied by two corrections officers. His handcuffs were removed and he sat at the defense table with his attorneys. He and Hamm never seemed to make eye contact.

Andy Hale, attorney representing Heidelberg, attempted to show documents were either withheld from Hamm during the trial or false police reports were provided to the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office where Hamm worked as an assistant Peoria County State’s Attorney.

In reexamining documents from the original trial, Hale told Judge Albert Purham the “entire investigation was corrupt.”

Matt Jones, representing the state, countered saying this “reads like a crime novel. This is a fishing expedition.”

Hale told the judge “the entire case is not reliable and not credible” and he was establishing the foundation for that allegation. He said after arresting Cleve Heidelberg hours after the shooting, police were faced with having holes in their case against him.

People who were at a bar in Peoria with Heidelberg at the time of the shooting were not called to testify. Two eyewitnesses who were at the Bellevue Drive-In movie theater at the time of the shooting were unable to identify Heidelberg in a lineup, but the police report provided to the court indicated both witnesses identified Heidelberg as the shooter.

Police officers claimed they could identify Heidelberg driving the escape car even though they trailed way behind as the car sped through narrow Southside Peoria streets at night going 70 m.p.h.

In one police report, Heidelberg was quoted saying “I know I done it. I’m guilty. I want to talk with my attorney and make a statement.”

Hamm looked at that report and said he was sure he had never seen it before or he would have introduced it as evidence. Heidelberg has consistently maintained he was innocent and never confessed.

Hale referred to FBI reports indicating no fingerprints were found linking Heidelberg to the crime, but those reports were never presented to the court during the original trial in which Heidelberg was convicted and sentenced to 99 to 175 years in prison.

Hamm said, “There were no FBI fingerprint reports.”

Hale said, “We now have the FBI reports” and contended this showed a pattern of selectively including or excluding evidence from the trial.

In a two-hour videotaped deposition played in court the previous day, Matt Clark testified that his brother James Clark confessed to shooting Espinoza.

Hamm testified Thursday the name James Clark never came up in court during the original trial. Hale asked about people who said that Heidelberg had loaned his car to Lester Mason and James Clark later borrowed the car from Mason.

Hamm said he was unaware Heidelberg’s car had been loaned to James Clark.

Hamm said he had no recollection that FBI agents were sent to Rock Island to interview James Clark who had moved there from Peoria. Hamm had no recollection of an article running in the Peoria Journal Star based on an interview with James Clark confessing to the shooting.

The original trial was December 1970. Sentencing was in January 1971. The Journal Star article ran in February 1971.

Hamm said he was unaware of the newspaper article.

Matt Jones objected to numerous questions asked by Hale and said the law does not allow for the retrial of the case.

“We’ve already seen lots of problems with this case, but he can’t relitigate this case,” Jones objected, adding that it was questionable if all this new information would have changed the outcome of the original trial.

In one objection Jones alluded to alleged manufactured evidence, suppressed FBI reports, coerced witnesses and false reports as “Kafkaesque” contentions.

Hale’s co-counsel Amy Hijjawi countered that it shows prejudice.

During a hearing Wednesday, Hale vehemently objected to Judge Purham that despite numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act, he had learned just days earlier of the existence of four boxes of documents from the original trial that were not turned over to him.

He was given access to those boxes following the hearing Wednesday.

On Thursday he told Purham that there were six boxes of documents that were being copied, and in reading just some of the documents he saw a notation of the serial number of the gun used in the shooting and the name and address of the gun owner. It was not Cleve Heidelberg.

“That was never brought up at trial,” Hale said. “I just saw the document yesterday.”

The case continues on Feb. 28.

 

Pro Bono Group Hosts Free Legal Clinic

Volunteer attorneys and paralegals will assist clients at Prairie State Legal Services this Saturday Feb. 11. 
Attorney and paralegal volunteers will staff a free Legal Advice Clinic  9 
a.m. to 12 p.m. Feb. 11 at Prairie State Legal Services, 331 Fulton Street, Suite 600 in Peoria.

Clients applied for 
services through Prairie State Legal Services ahead of time to receive help with family law issues, housing 
issues, debt issues, expungement and other civil legal matters. 
For poor and underrepresented people, families and communities, financial difficulties often go hand-in-
hand with legal issues. When basic fundamentals like health care, housing, food, safety and employment 
may be out of reach, instances of workplace discrimination, denial of benefits, disability, evictions or 
domestic violence might push an already struggling family over the edge. 
While there is a constitutional right to legal representation in criminal matters, no such protection exists 
for civil legal matters. Receiving legal assistance allows people to rise out of poverty and live more healthy, 
prosperous and fulfilling lives. Addressing legal issues is also a critical preventative measure, keeping 
families and communities housed, fed, healthy and safe. Expanding and promoting the availability of civil 
legal aid for people who are underrepresented or living in poverty is one of the most effective ways to 
improve their lives and the overall well-being of a community. 
Almost 33 percent of Illinois’ residents are low-income, with 14.3 percent of the total population living in poverty and 
6.8 percent living in extreme poverty. Peoria County has an even higher poverty rate of 16.7 percent.

At this free Legal 
Advice Clinic, volunteer attorneys and paralegals will provide critical legal assistance to Peoria residents 
that are part of this vulnerable population. 
This clinic is sponsored by PILI’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, Prairie State Legal Services, 
the Immigration project and the Peoria County Bar Association. 
PILI’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee is a group comprised of lawyers and judges that strives 
to enhance equal access to justice by encouraging and promoting pro bono work in the Tenth Judicial 
Circuit, including Marshall, Peoria, Putnam, Stark and Tazewell counties. 
Learn more at 
www.pili.org/10thcircuit. 
About Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI): PILI is a nonprofit organizations with a mission is to cultivate a 
lifelong commitment to public interest law and pro bono service within the Illinois legal community to 
expand the availability of legal services for people, families and communities in need. Founded in 1977, 
PILI envisions a legal community with a deeply rooted culture of service, where law students, lawyers and 
legal professionals at all stages of their careers engage in public interest law or pro bono work, and remain 
committed to addressing the unmet legal needs of the poor and underrepresented. 
To learn more about this clinic, PILI or the Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, visit www.pili.org, 
or contact PILI Program Director Beth Jensen at bjensen@pili.org or 309-999-9890. 
### 


 

New financial risks faced over apartments proposed at Riverfront Park

STATEMENT of FRIENDS of RIVERFRONT PARK

 

The news that Caterpillar, Inc. is cancelling its downtown Peoria expansion raises new concerns about the proposed River Trail Apartments in Riverfront Park.

 

Friends of Riverfront Park believe that local taxpayers are facing new financial risks if those apartments are built.

 

Friends of Riverfront Park again calls on the Peoria City Council to withdraw the application to the National Park Service to swap this lovely parkland for other land.

 

Meanwhile the group is holding a fund-raiser Sunday, February 12th from 3 to 5 p.m. at the GAR Hall, 116 Hamilton, at the corner of Hamilton and Madison Streets in Peoria. The event will raise money for a possible lawsuit if needed to stop this project. If not, the funds will go to protect and preserve the park.

 

Noted history re-enactor Brian Fox Ellis will become Captain Henry Detweiller to tell of his adventures guiding riverboats for the Union soldiers during the Civil War.

 

Barry Cloyd, popular singer and composer, will add river songs and music. Refreshments and a silent auction with art, antiques, collectibles and other items will take place. Donations will be accepted to save Riverfront Park. More information is on Facebook at Friends of Riverfront Park.

 

The park is in jeopardy. Plans call for over $4 million in City bonds to be sold for building new infrastructure for the proposed luxury apartments, including a dead-end street to the apartments cutting through the existing park from the RiverPlex parking lot. The City is also paying for the parking lot and landscaping for the apartments because they are all considered part of the “site remediation” for the land.

 

The City and local taxpayers are also responsible for paying extra costs the developer would encounter with the building pilings and other aspects of construction due to previous contamination of the land and unknown underground conditions at the site from when it was a railroad maintenance area. It is considered a hazardous waste site that must be remediated.

 

These costs could well exceed the City bonded amount and the amount the apartments can pay back for the bond via a TIF district. The City is liable for paying any shortages on the TIF funding, just as in the Knoxville Avenue grocery store complex that failed and now will cost the City and taxpayers more than $1 million.

 

The project was sold to city officials when Caterpillar Inc. was expected to employ millennial generation workers with incomes enabling them to afford the apartments. But now the city would do well to focus on the Warehouse District where the investment in infrastructure is already in place.

 

The National Park Service has not approved the City’s application for replacing the public open space at Riverfront Park. The park land proposed for sale was purchased in the 1980’s with federal public dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Dorothy Sinclair, a City Council member at the time, led the effort to obtain this riverfront land for a park. She and others intended the area to remain a public park.

 

The land is on a shelf above the river and does not flood, and it is near important archaeological sites, including the first French Fort at Peoria and known Native American encampments.

 

The area the City is proposing for replacement of the current park floods, and also contains hazardous waste that must be remediated.

 

Construction of the apartments are to be done in the park area off of Morton Street at the riverfront, ruining the park now used by families and neighbor residents for soccer games and other recreation. The existing park includes a historic railroad turntable, a last reminder of the train service yards that covered the location for over 100 years. It also contains a prairie, trees, and is a habitat for Monarch butterflies and many birds, mammals and insects. All will be displaced if the apartments are built.

 

The National Park Service has asked the public to once again comment on the environmental assessment the city filed on this project. The document can be found on the city’s website at http://www.peoriagov.org/riverfrontpark/.                                     The deadline for comments is Feb. 20.

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

Drama and emotion in 4-hour hearing in Cleve Heidelberg murder case

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Cleve Heidelberg listened in court as his attorneys asked Peoria County Circuit Judge Albert Purham for Heidelberg’s immediate release after 47 years in prison. Later in the hearing, Heidelberg sat intently watching a two-hour videotaped deposition by Matt Clark testifying that his brother James Clark had confessed to the shooting murder of Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Espinoza. Heidelberg has always maintained his innocence.

 

BY CLARE HOWARD

In a videotaped deposition played in Peoria County Circuit Court on Wednesday, a dying 76-year-old man testified his brother James Clark had confessed to the shooting murder of Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Espinoza in May 1970.

Cleve Heidelberg had been tried and convicted of that murder and has spent the last 47 years in prison. He has always maintained his innocent.

Heidelberg was in court Wednesday and listened intently to the videotaped deposition that had been taken in December 2016 in Las Vegas because Matt Clark is unable to travel and is currently undergoing chemotherapy for bone cancer. Matt Clark said he was speaking out now because his brother James is dead. Matt Clark said he had not wanted his testimony used to sentence his brother to life in prison or the death penalty.

In questioning by attorney Andy Hale, Clark said he took the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify at the trial in 1970. Clark also said he had been arrested by Peoria police on a drug charge and was told the charge could be dropped if he would supply information about Heidelberg’s guilt. He declined.

Hale asked him what he would say to people skeptical of the veracity of his testimony now so many decades after the murder.

“What do I have to gain? Just personal knowledge before I leave this Earth that I can set something right,” Clark said, noting his brother James died two years ago and he now felt free to speak about his knowledge of the crime.

Asked about the decades Heidelberg has been in prison, Clark said, “Very bad. Nothing to be done but there is now an opportunity for him to be free before he dies. But the damage is already done.”

Clark said a younger brother, Mark Clark, had been killed in a police raid on the Black Panther headquarters in Chicago in 1969. He said his brother James told him he shot the Peoria County officer in retaliation for Mark’s killing.

“Mark’s death had affected him, and he looked for an opportunity for payback. He seemed proud he did it,” Matt Clark said referring to the shooting of Deputy Espinoza.

Earlier in the hearing, attorneys Andy Hale and Amy Hijjawi expressed outrage that dozens of documents, possibly four boxes of documents, were not released to them despite numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Peoria County State’s Attorney Larry Evans disputed that charge, saying all documents the office was able to find were sent to Hale. He cited several incidents when documents had been damaged and destroyed by water.

Hale complained to Judge Albert Purham that after months of ongoing foia requests for records, just days before this final third-stage hearing, he learned of the existence of four additional boxes of documents.

“Every day is precious for this man,” Hale said gesturing toward Heidelberg, now 74 and in poor health after 47 years in prison. Hale suggested these four additional boxes of documents are part of a continuing pattern of delay and a failure to seek the truth in this case.

“Obstacle after obstacle after obstacle,” Hale said.

“What is the appropriate remedy? We can ask for a continuance, but there should be more of a remedy. We have shown a pattern of bad faith and there needs to be consequences,” Hale said.

“This man should be set free today to go home today.”

Hale’s co-counsel Amy Hijjawi told Judge Purham, “This is your clarion call for justice. Why these games to prevent truth and justice?”

There is no way to measure the value of a day for Heidelberg at this point, she said, asking Purham to release him.

Matt Jones, representing the state, characterized much of what Hale and Hijjawi said as emotional and irrelevant to the motion under consideration as well as being highly offensive.

Besides the broken pipes and water damage to court documents, many records from the original case had been shipped to Chicago and were destroyed, he said.

“Their appeal to emotion and to put Cleve Heidelberg’s life in your hands is improper,” Jones said, adding he follows the law and has done nothing to obstruct the proceedings in this case.

The state’s attorney’s office indicated all documents in the newly discovered boxes would be available for Heidelberg’s attorneys Wednesday afternoon.

The judge set a hearing for 3:30 p.m. Thursday for testimony from Ron Hamm, an original prosecutor in the case in 1970. He granted a continuance in the case and set 10 a.m. Feb. 28 for the next hearing.

Heidelberg is returning to Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg.