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Recent news from Northwest Herald
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    The daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Fern Schumer Chapman has been telling her mother’s story for nearly 20 years.

    It’s more relevant now than ever, she said. An immigrant before the label even really existed, her mother was 12 when she fled Nazi Germany to come to America alone in 1938.

    “When I first starting doing this, I thought I was just presenting history,” Chapman said of her many speaking engagements at schools, libraries, churches and charity and civic events. 

    “Suddenly, it has come full circle in ways I couldn’t imagine.”

    An award-winning Chicago-based author and journalist, Chapman will present “Stumbling on History: An Art Project Compels a Small German Town to Face its Past” at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St., Woodstock.

    The event is part of a Creative Living Series hosted by the Woodstock Fine Arts Association, a nonprofit group that aims to bring inspiring programming to the Opera House stage. Tickets cost $25 at 815-338-5300 or

    Chapman will spotlight the work of Gunter Demnig, a German artist and activist, who began a Stumbling Stones project in 1992. He created small bronze plaques – each bearing the name of a Holocaust victim – and embedded them in sidewalks near the victim’s former homes.

    He has installed these “places of memory” in more than 1,000 communities in 22 European countries – more than 60,000 plaques to date.

    Chapman’s mother returned to her small German town when her plaque was installed. While she had survived the Holocaust, most of her family died in death camps.

    “For those killed or lost, there were no funerals, no places of remembrance,” Chapman said.

    Chapman’s five books, including her memoir, “Motherland,” chronicling her mother’s journey, reflect the child immigrant experience. At a time when immigration issues consume the news, she said, the books have taken on added meaning.

    “My mom’s life has been book-ended by anti-Semitism. Of course, that makes me sick,” she said. “I’m glad I have the opportunity to education young people, but I wish it didn’t have to be on this subject.”

    Chapman said she tries not to make her presentations political as she talks about how the Holocaust impacted her family.

    On Thursday, she said she’ll take the audience on the journey her mother took, as well as present the history behind Demnig’s memorial program.

    “I think what was fascinating about going to Germany in 2014 and attending this event where the stones were installed to remember the families was all the ways in which Germans in the town felt a sense of responsibility as to what happened,” Chapman said. 

    Many approached her mother to say they remembered her family and what had happened during the Holocaust. 

    “I’m not sure she’s able to process it all,” Chapman said of her mother. “It’s been such an incredible journey for her from fleeing this little town to being recognized. She always wanted to take responsibility and give her an apology.”

    She finally did get that apology in the form of a letter from the Lutheran Church, which is recounted in “Motherland,” Chapman said.

    Along with a story about how trauma transmits itself in a family, the presentation, in a sense, is about how countries have taken responsibility for their historical national crimes, she said. It’s about atonement and how to face history, she said.

    “I’m hoping that by presenting what the Germans are doing that it’ll make audience members think about America’s crimes how we atone for some of the things we’ve done,” she said.

    Two of Schumer Chapman’s books, “Is it Night or Day?” and “Like Finding My Twin,” are used in middle school classrooms, and her books were featured twice on Oprah Winfrey shows. She has taught magazine writing and other seminars at Northwestern and Lake Forest College.

    If You Go

    “Stumbling on History: An Art Project Compels a Small German Town to Face Its Past”

    WHEN: 10 a.m. Jan. 17

    WHERE: Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St., Woodstock

    COST & INFO: Award-winning author Fern Schumer Chapman will speak as part of a Creative Living Series hosted by the Woodstock Fine Arts Association. Schumer Chapman, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, will spotlight the work of Gunter Demnig, a German artist and activist. Demnig began his Stumbling Stones project in 1992, creating small bronze plaques – each bearing the name of a Holocaust victim – and embedding them in sidewalks near the victim’s former homes. Coffee and conversation will begin at 9 a.m. at Stage Left Café, with the program starting at 10 a.m. at the Opera House. Tickets are $25 each at 815-338-5300 or

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    Information in police reports is obtained from the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and municipal police departments. Individuals listed in police reports who have been charged with a crime have not been proven guilty in court.

    • Brian M. Solano Jr., 45, of the 11600 block of Douglas Avenue, Huntley, was charged Saturday, Dec. 29, with domestic battery.

    • Barry Harkins, 26, of the 1500 block of Jefferson Street, Lake in the Hills, was charged Tuesday, Jan. 1, with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.08 percent, leaving the scene of a property damage crash, failure to display valid registration and driving too fast for conditions.

    • Elias A. Ramos-Ortiz, 22, of the 9900 block of Chetwood Drive, Huntley, was charged Tuesday, Jan. 1, with possession of a controlled substance.

    • Kevin W. Voeks, 49, of the 1200 block of West Algonquin Road, Lake in the Hills, was charged Saturday, Dec. 5, with domestic battery.

    • Robert A. Pevril, 48, of the 200 block of Indian Trail, Lake in the Hills, was charged Thursday, Jan. 10, with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.08 percent, failure to give information after striking unattended vehicle or property, driving while license expired for more than one year and driving with expired license plates.

    • Justin J. Krupp, 29, of the 0 to 100 block of Polaris Drive, Lake in the Hills, was charged Sunday, Jan. 13, with domestic battery and interfering with the reporting of domestic violence.

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    Goal Line Sports Bar and Grill in Crystal Lake prides itself on being more than just sports bar food.

    But they've certainly got the things you expect from a sports bar on the menu, as well.

    You can go all in and get items such as angry calamari ($10.99), fried clam roll sandwich ($10.99), grilled salmon ($18.99) or prime rib ($21.99 for a 14-ounce cut) or you can stick with a burger, fries and wings.

    It's really up to you, but I advise checking out the daily specials menu, too, because you can try some new things at a lower cost there.

    We went in on a recent Wednesday around noon for lunch and, thus, the specials were on some of the appetizers ($5), craft pints ($4) and a deal in which 10 wings and a large one-topping pizza cost $20.

    There are burger deals on Thursdays, half-priced large pizzas on Mondays, $1.75 tacos on Tuesdays and a fish fry on Fridays.

    We started off with a couple of the appetizers in the buffalo bites with garlic parmesan sauce and a basket of fried cauliflower. Both were on the $5 list.

    The buffalo bites were awesome and a little different than what I expected. They aren't the circular boneless bites you get at a lot of places but instead are chunks of tempura fried chicken breast then covered in sauces, making them almost u-shaped chunks of the best part of the chicken meat.

    I could have filled up on just the buffalo bites, I'll admit.

    But I ordered the smoked BBQ beef brisket sandwich ($11.99), as well. It came out overflowing with brisket, covered in a healthy dose of barbecue sauce with a dollop of cole slaw on top.

    The pulled brisket was tender and the sandwich had enough on it that I had to make sure my napkin was right by my side to ensure I didn't go back to work in the afternoon with a sauce-covered shirt. It would have been worth it, for sure, but I didn't really want to advertise my lunch to everyone I worked with.

    Instead, I chose to save half of it rather than eating too much, which left me with a great lunch the next day, too.

    I ordered tots on the side, too, and they were excellent as always, but I only made that order because I knew my fellow diner had picked the sweet potato fries and I could try those, too.

    My fellow diner picked the Italian Burger ($11.99), which is topped with red pepper, mozzarella, pesto mayo and tomato. Their burger options range from spicy (Jovany Mexican Burger for $11.99)) to a pizza burger ($9.99), a 20-ounce double ($14.99), a PBB burger with peanut butter, bacon and cheddar ($11.99), a cheezy burger layered between two grilled cheese sandwiches ($12.99), a small six-ounce burger ($7.99), one topped with a fried egg and bacon ($11.99) or a taco burger ($13.99).

    I can only speak for the one burger we ordered, but it was done right and I expect the rest are pretty delectable, too.

    Not bad for a quick Wednesday afternoon lunch downtown.

    • The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.



    WHAT: Goal Line Sports Bar and Grill

    WHERE: 85 Brink St., Crystal Lake

    WHEN: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday

    INFORMATION: Call 815-893-0231 or visit

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    Traffic was reduced to one lane on Randall Road at Acorn Lane in Lake in the Hills due to a crash, according to a Nixle alert.

    The Lake in the Hills Police Department sent the alert at 12:34 p.m. Wednesday, warning drivers to expect delays and use caution. The road reopened shortly after, at about 12:51 p.m., according to a second alert.

    This is a developing story. Check back at for updates.

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    One of Algonquin's most popular restaurants will be highlighted on a Chicago television food program.

    Montarra Grill, 1491 South Randall Road, will be a subject of WTTW's "Check, Please!" program, airing at 8 p.m. on Friday.

    "Check, Please!" is hosted by Alpana Singh, who returns to the show after five years to lead the discussion on Chicago’s Emmy award-winning restaurant review show, according to a news release.

    Montarra Grill offers small plates, hand cut steaks and an extensive wine selection.

    Two Chicago restaurants – Kal'ish in Uptown and Quiote in Logan Square – will also be featured on the episode, according to the release.

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    As the rising tide of e-commerce threatens legacy retailers and big-box stores across the nation, local municipalities are working to lure new businesses and bolster existing establishments.

    McHenry Economic Development Director Doug Martin said the city weighs the costs and benefits of providing incentives to prospective retailers that may help offset the “extraordinary” costs of moving in.

    He said it has become more competitive between municipalities to attract retailers to their community.

    “Retail stores bring sales tax dollars to their communities, so it’s definitely become more competitive over the past 10 years,” he said. “Economic incentives were not as common 10 years ago as they are today. They’re more widely used in today’s environment to attract and lure retailers to the community.”

    Martin said McHenry has offered sales tax rebate agreements, implemented tax increment financing districts and reached property tax abatement agreements to help spur business.

    “Typically the sales tax rebate agreements are on a reimbursement basis, so there’s no upfront payment issued. It’s not money given upfront. ... It’s for improvements to properties or a business that has to move into a [deteriorating] building.”

    He highlighted Big R, 1860 N. Richmond Road, which moved into the space left vacant by Target, and Hobby Lobby, 2000 N. Richmond Road, which moved into the northern half of McHenry Commons left vacant by Dominick’s. Both businesses received incentive packages, he said.

    Martin said he believes “store closings are part of the business cycle,” but he said brick-and-mortar stores could make a comeback.

    “I think online retail is always going to be a factor ... but I think online retailers produce brick-and-mortar stores, which is one thing people don’t fully understand,” he said. “I think online retail will level off to some extent. At the end of the day, retailers will have to adapt and adjust to the market.”

    Still, McHenry County has lost a Sears, Toys R Us, Best Buy, Kmart and Gander Mountain in recent years. Many legacy stores can’t compete with the prices and convenience of eBay, Overstock and Amazon.

    In Crystal Lake, Economic Development Manager Heather Maieritsch said the city has made the development process smoother to encourage growth.

    “The city has a streamlined the development process and excellent customer service, which encourages development, shortens review times and ensures quick responses. We continually receive feedback from customer service surveys and use that to improve our processes,” Maieritsch said in a statement.

    In an effort to fill planned vacancies, she said, the city markets the community to prospective investors.

    “The city is continually working to market the community and fill vacancies. We have a combined approach that works on investment attraction, lead generation and business retention,” Maieritsch said. “The city has developed a reputation for being a developer- and business-friendly community, which goes a long way in keeping existing businesses within the community and attracting new businesses to Crystal Lake.”

    For example, during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, city officials said they were informed that Barnes & Noble would close in the summer and worked to ensure that the large building at 5380 Route 14 would not become vacant.

    Binny’s Beverage Depot will move into the space in the fall.

    “As we have seen with Barnes & Noble, retailers in America may be making strategic decisions to resize their establishments in response to the growth of e-commerce; however, that in and of itself has not impacted our ability to attract them; they still find Crystal Lake a desirable place to do business, whether they are large or small,” Mayor Aaron Shepley said in a statement Wednesday night.

    When asked whether the city provides incentives to new businesses, such as the new Mariano’s at 105 Route 14 that was built in the former Sears building, Maieritsch said the city did not offer financial assistance.

    “Crystal Lake has an attractive and competitive market, doing $1.15 billion in retail sales a year. Retailers know how strong our market is and seek out locations within Crystal Lake,” she said. “As for business retention, the city regularly meets with local businesses and works to connect businesses with resources and agencies that may be able to assist them.”

    The city provides a list of incentive programs on its website, including the Retailer Façade and Commercial Tenant Improvement Program and the New or Expanding Manufacturer Job Creation and Equipment Investment Program.

    “With regard to the nature of retail we can expect in the future (i.e., grocery vs. department stores, etc.), we do not have any way of forecasting how the retail market will be segmented, but that is what makes it fun and challenging,” Shepley said. “We will all learn the answer together. At the end of the day, what we say as a city is important some of the time, but what we do is important all of the time.”

    Holiday season struggles

    Nationally, online sellers relentlessly are growing their share of retail sales. In November, e-commerce and catalog sales jumped 10.8 percent from a year earlier, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data. Department store sales slipped 0.2 percent during the same period.

    When Macy’s and Kohl’s reported lackluster numbers from the holiday shopping season, investors were taken aback, sending retailers’ stocks into a tailspin and calling into question whether such chains can compete in a changing landscape where shoppers are shifting more of their spending online.

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    A Johnsburg woman remained at the McHenry County Jail on Wednesday evening on charges alleging that she helped steal 18 firearms and several hundreds of dollars in cash.

    Police arrested 33-year-old Vanessa McGehee-Stapleton on Tuesday on a warrant that was issued in July. It was not clear why police arrested the woman six months after the June 19 incident.

    McGehee-Stapleton is accused of stealing 18 firearms and $800 in cash from another resident at her home in the 1800 block of Grandview Drive, according to a criminal complaint filed in McHenry County court.

    Her attorney, Jeffrey Altman, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

    Officers previously arrested 32-year-old Mitchell Kirksey in connection with the theft. Kirksey, who has been in the county jail since July 20, also reportedly lived at the Grandview Avenue home, court records show.

    Both he and McGehee-Stapleton face charges of theft and possession of stolen firearms. The latter charge is a Class X felony typically punishable by as many as 30 years in prison.

    The stolen weapons included several .38-caliber and 9 mm semi-automatic pistols as well as revolvers, according to a criminal complaint filed in connection with Kirksey’s arrest.

    Kirksey faces additional charges based on a previous conviction that bars him from having firearms, public records show. Both he and McGehee-Stapleton are scheduled for court appearances Thursday.

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    The Cary Village Board is considering hiring an architect to conduct an analysis to find out what improvements are needed at the police department and Village Hall.

    The analysis could cost about $40,000, Village Administrator Jacob Rife said at the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night.

    “The village of Cary’s been talking about this for probably over 20 years of what to do with this building,” Rife said. “It’s time to get some information so the Village Board can make a thoughtful, informed decision about what we do.”

    Capital improvement projects generally are considered to be projects that cost more than $20,000 and are in the categories of infrastructure, facilities, commuter parking and water and sanitation.

    Since about 1978, the police department and Village Hall have been in the nearly 100-year-old building at 654 and 655 Village Hall Drive, Rife said.

    In 2017, village officials said in the next five years it could cost upward of $1 million to maintain the building. Village trustees at the time agreed it would be best to look at options for a new building or buildings for the police department and Village Hall.

    On Tuesday, Cary Public Works Director Erik Morimoto described some of the ongoing problems in the building.

    “There are some major repairs that are going to be on the horizon with just keeping the status quo, not enhancing the operation – just fixing a roof, eliminating the major leaks, addressing some structural issues that we see in one of our more historic sections of the building,” he said.

    Morimoto pitched a two-phase process that would include an architect doing a study of the building and making a presentation to the board about needed improvements. That analysis would offer estimates about the size, scope and cost of the capital improvements.

    “We’ve got money earmarked for this to start the process,” Cary Mayor Mark Kownick said.

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    A woman whose infant child survived an overdose after ingesting heroin from a teething ring remained at the McHenry County Jail on Wednesday on new drug charges.

    Ashley M. Hendle, of the 5400 block of Cobblestone Trail, McHenry, made a brief court appearance Wednesday morning on charges including possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and obstructing a peace officer.

    The 31-year-old is accused of possessing an undisclosed amount of cocaine and heroin Wednesday, according to a criminal complaint. She would need to post $3,800 to be released from jail.

    Hendle is charged in four separate ongoing McHenry County cases with child endangerment, retail theft, possession of a controlled substance and criminal trespass to a residence. She made bond on each case but failed to sign up for random drug testing and adhere to a court-ordered curfew, prosecutors said.

    McHenry police previously arrested Hendle in April after her 8-month old child suffered an overdose, court records show. The infant was revived using Narcan, a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

    Authorities later found heroin residue on the infant’s teething ring, according to a motion prosecutors filed last month.

    At the time of her April arrest, Hendle was wanted by police for allegedly supervising at least two children while she was under the influence of heroin, cocaine and marijuana, according to a separate complaint.

    Hendle is due in court Thursday.

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    The Huntley Police Department and Huntley Fire Protection District responded to a three-vehicle crash about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at Algonquin and Haligus roads.

    An investigation revealed that a 2010 Jeep Patriot was traveling west on Algonquin Road and tried to make a left turn onto Haligus Road when it struck an eastbound 2016 Volkswagen Passat, Deputy Police Chief Michael Klunk said.

    He said a collision of the two vehicles caused the Volkswagen to collide with a 2011 Toyota Sienna that was traveling south on Haligus Road.

    No injuries were reported, and all parties refused to be taken to a hospital, Klunk said.

    The Jeep and Toyota were towed from the scene because of damage, Klunk said, and the driver of the Jeep was issued a citation for failure to yield when turning left. The roads were cleared about 6:20 p.m. Tuesday.

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    Traffic was temporarily halted on Route 14 in Crystal Lake after a crash about 7 p.m. that involved at least two vehicles near Exchange Drive.

    Traffic began moving again about 7:30 p.m.

    A van and sedan were involved in the incident near the busy intersection. There were no immediate reports of people being taken to area hospitals, according to police scanner traffic.

    The Crystal Lake Police Department was not available for information Wednesday night.

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    Pioneer Center leaders are trying to drum up public support for a planned expansion project, but they faced some concerns during a public meeting on the matter Wednesday.

    The social service center wants to open a 24/7 homeless shelter in McHenry. The shelter would be at 1809 S. Route 31, near Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital and Pioneer Center’s main offices. The Chapel owns the building but has offered about 10,000 square feet for shelter use.

    Pioneer Center currently operates the McHenry County PADS program, which aims to assist people who are experiencing homelessness.

    The nonprofit runs a day center and 34-bed emergency shelter at its Kishwaukee Valley Road site in Woodstock. In the winter, local churches traditionally have offered temporary night shelters that serve 40 to 60 people.

    The McHenry location will replace those programs and will have room for about 70 people a night. Startup costs are projected to be between $500,000 and $750,000. Annual operating costs will be about $1 million.

    It currently costs about $800,000 to run the center’s homeless services, and Pioneer Center has been operating on a deficit of about $200,000 annually, which means a $400,000-a-year funding gap is expected, Pioneer Center co-CEO Frank Samuel said.

    During Wednesday’s meeting, some people expressed concerns that the emergency shelter only plans to allow clients to stay at the center for 30 to 60 days, with extended stays allowed under special circumstances.

    “I love the fact that they are doing this, but it’s too short-term,” said Judi Szilak, a community member and licensed clinical social worker.

    Some audience members suggested that the center continue to work with its church sites after the shelter opens.

    “I love the solution of a backup plan,” said Shelli Hedgcock, a volunteer at Crystal Lake’s Christian Fellowship Church, which works with PADS to offer night shelters.

    Hedgcock said she has seen clients firsthand who take a year or longer to get back on their feet because of various problems, such as the time it takes to get approved for disability payments or affordable housing programs.

    Pioneer Center co-CEO Sam Tenuto said the decision to focus on a shorter-term emergency care model was strategic and born from community-needs assessments.

    “It’s not the solution for everything,” he said. “But it’s just about being here for those in need of shelter.”

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    Barnes & Noble, 5380 Route 14, will close in August, according to a statement from a company spokesperson.

    “The lease at our Crystal Lake location expires this August, and the store will close then,” Jim Lampassi, the company’s vice president of real estate development, said in a statement Wednesday. “We had discussions with the property owner in hopes of negotiating an extension of the lease, but unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement.”

    IRC Retail Centers owns the Bohl Farm Shopping Center, where the Barnes & Noble is located.

    Lampassi said the bookseller is “actively looking” to find another location in the Crystal Lake area “as soon as possible.”

    “In the meantime, we look forward to continuing to serve our valued customers at other nearby Barnes & Noble stores,” Lampassi said.

    The next closest Barnes & Noble is in West Dundee at Spring Hill Mall, 1468 Spring Hill Mall Blvd.

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    State Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, filed legislation Wednesday that would ensure concealed carry permit holders are not being shortchanged on the length of time their cards are valid.

    House Bill 364 amends the Firearm Concealed Carry Act to align concealed carry renewals with the dates of expiration of previous cards, rather than five years from the date the renewal application is processed.

    “This issue was brought to my attention by a few constituents who were essentially being penalized by submitting all required renewal documentation early within the 120-day time frame recommended by the Illinois State Police,” Reick said. “These folks were receiving new cards that expired five years from the date their new information was processed rather than five years from the date their former card was issued. Gun owners who wish to carry are paying for a five-year permit, not a 4¾-year permit.”

    The bill should be assigned to a substantive committee in the coming days or weeks, and Reick expects bipartisan support of the measure.

    “This is an issue of fairness,” Reick said. “These are individuals who are taking proactive steps to ensure they remain compliant with the Illinois concealed carry law, but they’re also not interested in paying for periods of double coverage.”

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    In the wake of the 2018 midterm elections that propelled an unprecedented wave of women to Congress, Women’s March-McHenry County has planned a Women’s March on the Woodstock Square in coordination with sister marches in cities and communities across the globe.

    The march in Woodstock is one of hundreds happening nationwide Saturday, and it will commemorate the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.

    “People from around the country will unite in Washington, D.C., to make their voices heard,” said Cathy Johnson, a spokeswoman for Women’s March-McHenry County. “We’ve been organizing locally to advocate for the policies that matter to us and impact women’s lives, and we’re flooding the streets in solidarity with our sisters in D.C. to remind the country that McHenry County and northern Illinois resists.”

    Two years after the historic 2017 Women’s March, women and allies will march in towns, cities and communities from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to Woodstock as part of a nationwide #WomensWave.

    “The 2017 Women’s March galvanized this country and birthed a new wave of the women’s rights movement,” Johnson said. “That wave is coming to [the] Woodstock Square as we share our vision of what a truly inclusive, just society looks like. We’re coming with an agenda, and that agenda is national and local.

    “Speakers are planned, and we will be demonstrating our commitment to local action by asking marchers to bring monetary or sellable donations, or needed supplies for Home of the Sparrow, which supports local homeless women and children.”

    “Healing, Community, Resistance” is the theme of the local march. The women’s movement is committed to interconnected healing through building and supporting vulnerable communities and resisting injustice and oppression. Events will include music, speakers and a brief march around the Square ending at Sparrow’s Nest, a Home of the Sparrow resale shop.

    Sellable items and monetary and supply donations to Home of the Sparrow/Sparrow’s Nest will be accepted.


    WHAT: Women’s March-McHenry County

    WHEN: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday

    WHERE: Woodstock Square, 121 W. Van Buren St.


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    Harvard Chevrolet donated a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu to Harvard School District 50 on Monday.

    Harvard High School will use the vehicle for driver’s education classes.

    Thanks to general manager Martin Figueroa and his staff at the Harvard Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership, students will have the opportunity to learn with a modern vehicle.

    In the fall, District 50 Superintendent Corey Tafoya and chief financial officer Mike Prombo began seeking options to acquire a newer car for driver’s education classes.

    In October, Prombo met with Figueroa at Harvard Chevrolet to discuss the possibility of the dealership donating a car.

    Figueroa was eager to help.

    “We believe in our schools and community,” Figueroa said. “We donated the car to support our kids and their future.”

    The car’s value is more than $16,000.​

    “This donation is the first time a car has been given to our program,” driver’s education teacher Kyle Kruse said. “The car will benefit students by providing them with a newer and safer vehicle. It also allows our students to learn behind the wheel of different vehicles.”

    Harvard High School offers driver’s education classes throughout the year with two cars available for student practice.

    “Harvard Chevy has been a great supporter of the children of our community,” Tafoya said. “No matter if it is the school district or a youth program, they always invest in the future of our community. Having this car will not only help our kids learn driving skills, but the savings will allow us to support other programs for students that enrich their educational experience in District 50.”

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    WASHINGTON – A suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State killed at least 16 people, including two U.S. service members and two American civilians, in northern Syria on Wednesday, just a month after President Donald Trump declared that IS had been defeated and he was pulling out U.S. forces.

    The attack in the strategic northeastern town of Manbij highlighted the threat posed by the Islamic State group despite Trump’s claims. It could also complicate what had already become a messy withdrawal plan, with the president’s senior advisers disagreeing with the decision and then offering an evolving timetable for the removal of the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops.

    The attack, which also wounded three U.S. troops, was the deadliest assault on U.S. troops in Syria since American forces went into the country in 2015.

    The dead included a number of fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who have fought alongside the Americans against the Islamic State, said officials and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    A U.S. official said one of the U.S. civilians killed was an intelligence specialist working for the Defense Intelligence Agency. The other was an interpreter, who was a contractor.

    The attack prompted new complaints about the withdrawal and underscored Pentagon assertions that IS still is a threat and capable of deadly attacks.

    In a Dec. 19 tweet announcing the withdrawal, Trump said, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” He said the troops would begin coming home “now.” That plan triggered immediate pushback from military leaders, including the resignation of the defense secretary.

    Over the past month, however, Trump and others have appeared to adjust the timeline, and U.S. officials have suggested it will likely take several months to safely withdraw American forces from Syria.

    Not long after the attack Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence repeated claims of the Islamic State’s defeat. Speaking at the State Department, Pence said the “caliphate has crumbled” and the militant network “has been defeated.” Later in the day he released a statement condemning the attack but affirming the withdrawal plan.

    “As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to re-establish their evil and murderous caliphate – not now, not ever,” he said.

    Others, however, immediately pointed to the attack as a reason to reverse or adjust the withdrawal plan.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump backer and prominent voice on foreign affairs on Capitol Hill, said during a committee hearing Wednesday he is concerned that Trump’s withdrawal announcement had emboldened the Islamic State and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.

    “I know people are frustrated, but we’re never going to be safe here unless we are willing to help people over there who will stand up against this radical ideology,” he said.

    Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said the attack demonstrates the lethal capability of IS and “the fact that it happened in Manbij, probably the single most complicated area of Syria, demonstrates that the president clearly doesn’t understand the complexity of the problem.”

    Manbij is the main town on the westernmost edge of Syrian territory held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds, running along the border with Turkey. Mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian forces liberated Manbij from IS in 2016 with help from the U.S.-led coalition.

    But Kurdish control of the town infuriated Turkey, which views the main U.S. Kurdish ally, the YPG militia, as “terrorists” linked to Kurdish insurgents on its own soil.

    The town has been at the center of tensions in northern Syria, with the militaries of two NATO members, the U.S. and Turkey, on opposing sides. The two sides began joint patrols around Manbij in November as part of an agreement aimed at easing tensions.

    Slotkin, a former senior Pentagon adviser on Syria and other international issues, said it’s time for Trump to amend or change his withdrawal order to “something more consistent with the threat” in Syria.

    Others suggested the attack could trigger change.

    “Certainly the Islamic State follows the news closely, and observing the recent controversy over a potential withdrawal would incentivize them to try for a spectacular attack to sway both public and presidential opinion,” said Jim Stravidis, a retired Navy admiral who served as top NATO commander.

    Trump, meanwhile, reinforced his withdrawal decision during a meeting with about a half-dozen GOP senators late Wednesday at the White House.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who was at the meeting, told reporters on a conference call that the president remained “steadfast” in his decision not to stay in Syria – or Afghanistan – “forever.” But the senator did not disclose the latest thinking on withdrawal timeline.

    Paul, who has been one of the few voices in the GOP encouraging the president’s noninterventionist streak, said Trump told the group, “We’re not going to continue the way we’ve done it.”

    Video of Wednesday’s attack released by local activists and news agencies showed a restaurant that suffered extensive damage and a street covered with debris and blood. Several cars were also damaged. Another video showed a helicopter flying over the area.

    A security camera showed a busy street, and then a ball of fire engulfing people and others running for cover as the blast went off.

    The names of the American victims are being withheld until their families can be notified.

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    CHICAGO – Three Chicago police officers will learn this week whether a judge thinks they lied about the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald to protect another white officer who shot the black teenager 16 times. That officer, meanwhile, will learn how long he may spend in prison.

    Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted by a jury in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery – one for each bullet he shot McDonald with. He’s due to be sentenced Friday by Judge Vincent Gaughan.

    Judge Domenica Stephenson is set to deliver her verdict Thursday to the three officers accused of lying about the shooting, which sparked large protests and accusations of a cover-up after dashcam video of the confrontation emerged 13 months after it happened.

    The video, which city officials refused to release until ordered by a judge, showed Van Dyke firing round after round into the 17-year-old, and it conflicted with the officers’ accounts, which stated that McDonald aggressively swung a knife at police and kept trying to get up even after he was shot.

    Van Dyke is believed to be the first Chicago officer convicted in a fatal on-duty shooting of an African-American. The other three – officers Thomas Gaffney and Joseph Walsh and detective David March – are thought to the first to be charged with trying to cover up an on-duty shooting. Although their case has not garnered as much attention as Van Dyke’s, many view it as more significant because it challenges the code of silence that critics have long accused the police department of using to cover up its messes.

    “This is a criminal prosecution for officers participating in a code of silence, doing what they’ve always done, what’s expected of them,” said Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor who helped secure the release of the video. “But here the message is if you lie, if you cover up, you can go to jail.”

    Christy Lopez, a former Justice Department attorney who helped lead an investigation of the police department after the McDonald shooting, said it’s noteworthy that the trial was held in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously acknowledged the department’s code of silence after the release of the video.

    The prosecution of the three officers “gives me optimism that other cities and police departments will come to the same realization that Chicago has and think of police abuse as a systems issue,” Lopez said.

    Attorneys for the officers accused of lying about the shooting ridiculed the decision to charge them, telling the court during the trial that the officers merely wrote what they observed or, in March’s case, what the other officers told him they saw. They said there was no evidence that the officers conspired to get their stories straight.

    “The state wants you to criminalize police reports,” McKay bellowed at one point.

    Robert Weisskopff, a retired Chicago police officer who once headed the lieutenants’ union, expressed worry that the case will cause other officers to be less forthcoming.

    “What cops on the street are going to start writing is, ‘We came, we saw, he’s dead,’” he said. “Why would you do any more investigation if you thought you could lose everything if what you believed was true turns out not to be?”

    Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said officers already shaken by the prosecution of six Baltimore police officers in the 2015 arrest and death of Freddie Gray – all were acquitted – echoed that sentiment.

    “What’s the incentive to disclose everything you know if you fear it will be used against you?” he said.

    The city isn’t planning the same show of force for Van Dyke’s sentencing that it deployed on the day of the verdict in his trial, when metal barriers lined the street outside the courthouse and dozens of uniformed officers stood every few feet. There are no plans to cancel high school sporting events or nervous parents talking about keeping their kids home from school, like there were on that day.

    Although police were not expecting a large turnout of protesters for Van Dyke’s hearing, black community leaders said they would pay close attention to the sentence. The Rev. Marshall Hatch, a prominent black minister on the city’s West Side, said the hopefulness that the black community felt after Van Dyke was convicted will evaporate if he receives a light prison sentence or even walks free.

    “It will be like he got away with murder, absolutely,” he said.

    Estimates of the sentence Van Dyke might get have varied wildly: The murder charge carries a prison term of four to 20 years, but Gaughan also could just give Van Dyke probation for that count. The aggravated battery charge carries a sentence of six to 30 years behind bars and does not allow for probation alone.

    Walsh, March and Gaffney, who is the only one of the three still with the police department, each face charges of official misconduct, conspiracy and obstructing justice. The misconduct charge carries a maximum prison terms of five years. The obstruction charge carries a maximum three-year term. The maximum sentence for conspiracy cannot exceed the sentence for the underlying offenses.

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    LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Wednesday to remain in office – but saw more of her power ebb away as she battled to keep Brexit on track after lawmakers demolished her European Union divorce deal.

    May won a narrow victory, 325-306, on an opposition motion seeking to topple her government and trigger a general election.

    Now it’s back to Brexit, where May is caught between the rock of her own negotiating red lines and the hard place of a Parliament that wants to force a radical change of course.

    After defeating the no-confidence motion, May said she would hold talks “in a constructive spirit” with leaders of opposition parties and other lawmakers in a bid to find a way forward for Britain’s EU exit.

    She appeared outside her 10 Downing St. residence after meeting the leaders of several smaller parties. The prime minister named the parties in a statement in which she called on opposition politicians in Parliament to “put self-interest aside” and find a consensus on Britain’s path out of the EU.

    Legislators ripped up May’s Brexit blueprint Tuesday by rejecting the divorce agreement she has negotiated with the EU over the past two years. That it would lose was widely expected, but the scale of the rout – 432-202, the biggest defeat government defeat in British parliamentary history – was devastating for May’s leadership and her Brexit deal.

    Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn responded with the no-confidence motion, and urged the government to “do the right thing and resign.”

    May, who leads a fractious government, a divided Parliament and a gridlocked Brexit process, said she was staying put.

    May said an election “would deepen division when we need unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty, and it would bring delay when we need to move forward.”

    The government survived Wednesday’s vote with support from May’s Conservative Party and its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party. Many pro-Brexit Conservatives who voted against May’s deal, backed her in the no-confidence vote to avoid an election that could bring a left-wing Labour government to power.

    Had the government lost, Britain would have faced a snap election within weeks, just before the country is due to leave the European Union on March 29.

    Political analyst Anand Menon, from the research group U.K. in a Changing Europe, said May had a remarkable ability to soldier on.

    “The thing about Theresa May is that nothing seems to faze her,” he said. “She just keeps on going.”

    May’s determination – or, as her foes see it, her inflexibility – might not be an asset in a situation calling for a change of course. The prime minister has until Monday to come up with a new Brexit plan.

    Despite May’s pledge to seek a broad consensus, there was no sign of an immediate breakthrough. Opposition leaders brought her a laundry list of sometimes conflicting demands.

    Labour’s Corbyn said he would not meet with May until she ruled out a no-deal Brexit. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said she needed to keep the option of a second Brexit referendum on the table.

    More meetings were planned for Thursday. May said she was disappointed Corbyn had not met her yet but added “our door remains open.”

    May insisted that any new Brexit plan must “deliver on the referendum result,” which she has long interpreted to mean ending the free movement of workers to Britain from the EU and leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.

    Many lawmakers think a softer departure that retained single market or customs union membership is the only plan capable of winning a majority in Parliament. They fear the alternative is an abrupt “no-deal” withdrawal from the bloc, which businesses and economists fear would cause turmoil.

    Labour lawmaker Ben Bradshaw accused May of being “in a total state of denial” about how radically her Brexit plan needed to change.

    Faced with the deadlock, lawmakers from all parties are trying to wrest control of the Brexit process so that Parliament can direct planning for Britain’s departure.

    But with no clear majority in Parliament for any single alternative, there’s a growing chance that Britain may seek to postpone its departure date while politicians work on a new plan – or even hand the decision back to voters in a new referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

    European leaders are now preparing for the worst, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there still was time for further talks. She told reporters in Berlin that “we are now waiting to see what the British prime minister proposes.”

    But her measured remarks contrasted with the blunt message from French President Emmanuel Macron, who told Britons to “figure it out yourselves.” He said Britain needed to get realistic about what was possible.

    “Good luck to the representatives of the nation who have to implement something that doesn’t exist,” Macron said.

    EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was stepping up preparations for a disorderly “no-deal” Brexit after Parliament’s actions left Europe “fearing more than ever that there is a risk” of a cliff-edge departure.

    Economists warn that an abrupt break with the EU could batter the British economy and bring chaos at borders, ports and airports. Business groups have expressed alarm at the prospect of a no-deal exit.

    France’s parliament on Wednesday adopted a law allowing for emergency measures, including extra customs officers, to deal with a “no-deal” Brexit.

    Investors appeared to shrug off both the rejection of May’s deal and welcomed the survival of her government. The pound was up against the dollar early Wednesday and rose further after the no-confidence vote to $1.2880.

    May’s deal was doomed by deep opposition from both sides of the divide over the U.K.’s place in Europe. Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal will leave Britain bound indefinitely to EU rules, while pro-EU politicians favor an even closer economic relationship with the bloc.

    The most contentious section was an insurance policy known as the “backstop” designed to prevent the reintroduction of border controls between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Assurances from EU leaders that the backstop is intended as a temporary measure of last resort failed to win over many British lawmakers.

    Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said it was now up to opponents of the backstop “to come up with an alternative solution to honor their commitment to avoiding a hard border.”

    Varadkar said if May’s government was willing to shift some of its “red lines” in negotiations – such as leaving the customs union and EU single market – then the position of EU negotiators would also change.

    “The onus is on Westminster” to come up with solutions, Varadkar said.

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    LOS ANGELES – The head of the Los Angeles teachers union hinted at contract talks resuming Wednesday as striking educators in the nation’s second-largest school district protested outside hundreds of schools for a third day.

    United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said the union had engaged Mayor Eric Garcetti to help in the dispute over pay, class sizes and support-staff levels that led to the first strike in 30 years and prompted the school district to staff classrooms with substitute teachers.

    Caputo-Pearl provided no further details. The mayor lacks authority over Los Angeles Unified School District, but he has been involved in seeking a resolution.

    “We’ll have more information for you later in the day about the bargaining table and when we’re getting back to that bargaining table,” Caputo-Pearl told teachers rallying in the rain outside a high school. No details were announced by sundown.

    Parents and children – one holding a sign saying, “This wouldn’t happen at Hogwarts” – joined the picket lines. Rocker and actor Steven Van Zandt, an advocate for arts education, also marched, saying teachers are on the front lines “fighting the war against ignorance.”

    District officials are urging the union to resume negotiating, but they have said its demands could bankrupt the school system with 640,000 students.

    “I remain available 24/7, anywhere, any time. Whatever it takes we’ll do it,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said on Twitter.

    All 1,240 K-12 schools in the district are open – a departure from successful strikes in other states that emboldened the LA union to act. Administrators have hired hundreds of substitutes to replace tens of thousands of teachers, which the union calls irresponsible.

    The first day of the walkout Monday saw attendance plunge to about 144,000 students. That number grew to 159,000 on Tuesday, then fell to 132,000 on Wednesday.

    Because state funding is dependent on attendance, the student absences cost the district about $69 million over three days, the district said. At the same time, it doesn’t have to spend millions on teacher pay.

    Students who miss classes during the strike will be marked absent, but each school’s principal will decide whether they face consequences, the district said.

    Some parents who sent their kids to school wondered how much teaching was happening as students were gathered into large groups.

    David Biener said his son and daughter completed worksheets in math and history while sitting on the gym floor at their middle school.

    “It’s not an ideal situation, obviously, but there was some learning going on,” he said Tuesday. “It wasn’t a free-for-all.”

    The union rejected the district’s latest offer to hire nearly 1,200 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians and reduce class sizes by two students.

    It also included a previously proposed 6 percent raise over the first two years of a three-year contract.

    The union wants a 6.5 percent increase at the start of a two-year contract.

    Caputo-Pearl, the union president, said members are “prepared to go as long as it takes” to get a fair contract. The last strike in 1989 lasted nine days.

    Beutner, the superintendent, urged the teachers to join him in pushing for more funding from the state, which provides 90 percent of the district’s money.

    Los Angeles Unified says teachers’ demands run up against an expected half-billion-dollar deficit this budget year and billions obligated for pension payments and health coverage for retired teachers.

    “The painful truth is we just don’t have enough money,” Beutner said.

    The union argues that the district is hoarding reserves of $1.8 billion. It represents more than 30,000 teachers who earn between $44,000 and $86,000 a year, depending on education and experience.

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    NAIROBI, Kenya – All the gunmen who staged a deadly attack on a luxury hotel and shopping complex in Nairobi were killed, Kenya’s president said Wednesday, declaring an end to the brazen overnight siege that underscored the ability of al-Shabab extremists to strike despite military setbacks.

    Fourteen “innocent lives” were lost in the attack that began on Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address to the nation.

    “We will seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of this heinous act,” Kenyatta vowed in announcing that the all-night operation by security forces to retake the DusitD2 complex was over.

    Security footage showed at least four heavily armed men in military-style garb took part in the attack, an assault marked by explosions and heavy gunfire. Kenyatta did not say how many attackers were involved, but “all the terrorists have been eliminated.”

    Al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and allied with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility. The Islamic extremist group also carried out the 2013 attack at Nairobi’s nearby Westgate Mall that killed 67 people, and an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that claimed 147 lives, mostly students.

    While U.S. airstrikes and African Union forces have degraded the group’s ability to operate, it is still capable of carrying out spectacular acts of violence in retaliation for the Kenyan military’s campaign against it in Somalia.

    The attacks in Kenya’s capital appear designed to inflict maximum damage to the country’s image of stability and its tourism industry, an important source of revenue. The government said Tuesday night that buildings were secure. However, gunfire continued into Wednesday morning, and dozens of trapped people were rescued overnight. Several loud booms were heard Wednesday as teams sought to clear the complex of booby traps and other explosives.

    Kenyatta’s announcement that the security operation was complete came about 20 hours after the first reports of the attack.

    The Kenyan Red Cross said about 50 people were unaccounted for. But many of those were believed not to have been in the complex during the attack.

    Ken Njoroge, CEO of a company in the DustiD2 complex that offers mobile banking services, said he was unable to locate several employees. “It’s very difficult for the families because the passage of time only makes the problem bigger,” he said.

    Most of the victims were believed to be Kenyan, though an American and a Briton were among the dead. San Francisco-based I-DEV International confirmed that the American was Jason Spindler, the company’s co-founder and managing director. Jason Spindler’s father, Joseph, said his son worked with international companies to form business partnerships in Kenya that would boost local economies.

    The Houston-raised Spindler had a brush with tragedy on 9/11: He was employed by a financial firm at the World Trade Center at the time of the 2001 terrorist attack but was running late that morning and was emerging from the subway when the first tower fell, according to his mother.

    He became covered in dust and debris as he tried to help others, Sarah Spindler told KTRK-TV in Houston.

    In the Nairobi attack, a man who gave only his first name, Davis, described how he had escaped with colleagues by fleeing down a fire escape.

    “It’s a traumatic experience. It shakes you,” he said. Still, Davis said he was impressed by the “inner strength” and compassion of people who helped each other in the midst of danger.

    His own thoughts, he said, were: “Get people out and get out yourself. That’s it.”

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    WASHINGTON – A grand Washington ritual became a potential casualty of the partial government shutdown Wednesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Donald Trump to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union speech. She cited concerns about whether the hobbled government can provide adequate security, but Republicans cast her move as a ploy to deny Trump the stage.

    In a letter to Trump, Pelosi said that with both the Secret Service and the Homeland Security Department entangled in the shutdown, the president should speak to Congress another time or he should deliver the address in writing. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen denied anyone's safety is compromised, saying both agencies "are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union."

    Trump did not immediately respond to the request and the White House, thrown off guard by the move, had yet to offer any official response hours later. But GOP allies accused Pelosi of playing politics, with Republican Rep. Steve Scalise tweeting that Democrats are "only interested in obstructing @realDonaldTrump, not governing."

    Pelosi, who issued the customary invitation to Trump weeks ago, hit the president in a vulnerable place, as he delights in taking his message to the public and has been preparing for the address for weeks.

    The uncertainty surrounding the speech also underscored the unraveling of ceremonial norms and niceties in Trump's Washington, with the shutdown in its fourth week, the White House and Democrats in a stalemate and the impasse draining the finances of hundreds of thousands of federal employees.

    Pelosi left unclear what would happen if Trump insisted on coming despite the welcome mat being pulled away. It takes a joint resolution of the House and Congress to extend the official invitation and set the stage.

    "We'll have to have a security evaluation, but that would mean diverting resources," she told reporters when asked how she would respond if Trump still intended to come. "I don't know how that could happen."

    Pressure on Trump intensified on the 26th day of the shutdown, as lawmakers from both parties scrambled for solutions. At the White House, Trump met a bipartisan group of lawmakers, as well as a group of Republican senators, but progress appeared elusive.

    While his own advisers said the shutdown was proving a greater drag on the economy than expected, Trump showed no signs of backing off a fight that he views as vital for his core supporters.

    On Wednesday, Trump signed legislation into law affirming that the roughly 800,000 federal workers who have been going without pay will ultimately be compensated for their lost wages. That was the practice in the past.

    As he weighs a response to Pelosi, Trump could not go forward with a State of the Union address in Congress without her blessing. Donald Ritchie, former historian of the Senate, said that anytime a president comes to speak, it must be at the request of Congress. Trump could opt to deliver a speech somewhere else, like the Oval Office, but it would not have the same ritualistic heft.

    Democratic leaders did not ask the Secret Service if the agency would be able to secure the State of the Union event before sending the letter, according to a senior Homeland Security official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. Pelosi's office said Congress is already familiar with the percentage of Secret Service and Homeland Security employees who have been furloughed and working without pay.

    The Secret Service starts preparing for events like these months in advance.

    Lawmakers struggled to find a way out of the shutdown Wednesday. Trump is demanding $5.7 billion to build a wall along the Mexican border that he says is needed on humanitarian and security grounds. But Pelosi is refusing money for the wall she views as ineffective and immoral and Democrats say they will discuss border security once the government has reopened.

    Some expressed little optimism.

    Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has been working on bipartisan strategies, declared glumly: "I am running out of ideas."

    Trump met a bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday that included seven Democrats. Two people who attended the White House meeting agreed it was "productive," but could not say to what extent Trump was listening or moved by the conversation.

    The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the event candidly, said it seemed at some points as if people were talking past each other. Lawmakers talked about the shutdown's effect on their constituents and advocated for "border security." Trump and others on-and-off used the term "wall." It was not clear if progress had been made, by those accounts.

    Meanwhile a group of Republican senators headed to the White House later Wednesday.

    Many Republicans were unwilling to sign on to a letter led by Graham and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., to re-open the government for three weeks while talks continue.

    "Does that help the president or does that hurt the president?" asked Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., among those going to the White House. He has not signed the letter. "If the president saw it as a way to be conciliatory, if he thought it would help, then perhaps it's a good idea," he said. "If it's just seen as a weakening of his position, then he probably wouldn't do it."

    While Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she has signed, others said GOP support was lacking. "They're a little short on the R side," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., another leader of the effort.

    The House and Senate announced they are canceling next week's planned recess if shutdown continues, which seemed likely. Some Republicans expressed concerns over the impact of the shutdown and who was getting blamed.

    Said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.: "Right now, are you seeing any pressure on Democrats? I think Republicans are getting the lion's share of the pressure."

    He added: "The president accepted the blame so people are happy to give it to him."

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    An Illinois judge acquitted a man of murder Wednesday, more than two decades after jurors convicted him by relying on ballistics that proved to be wrong.

    Supporters of 53-year-old Patrick Pursley clapped in a Winnebago County courtroom when Judge Joseph McGraw issued his ruling, saying prosecutors had scant evidence to prove Pursley's guilt in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Andy Ascher during a robbery in Rockford, Illinois in 1993.

    The ruling caps a decades-long journey Pursley undertook to prove his innocence after spending 23 years in prison. He represented himself from prison for years and lobbied Illinois lawmakers to pass a law allowing the ballistics in his case to be retested using technology not available when he was convicted. The Integrated Ballistic Identification System, or IBIS, uses much higher-resolution and multi-dimensional images for ballistics analysis and ultimately matches shell casings to guns.

    "Basically the whole experience was numbing," Pursley said after the verdict. "I was confident. All the signs were there that the judge would see the evidence for what it was. I'm just grateful that he did."

    So far, IBIS has been primarily used by law enforcement nationwide to catch and convict criminals, not to prove their innocence. That's because Illinois remains the only state in the country that allows defendants in post-conviction appeals to use the system to retest ballistics.

    Without the technology, matching bullets to firearms requires an expert to manually compare shell casings from a crime scene to shell casings test-fired from a gun using microscopes that, at the time of Pursley's first trial, weren't as strong as those available now. The processes for ballistics analysis used then were thought to be infallible but have since come under greater scientific scrutiny.

    When the evidence in Pursley's case was retested with IBIS, it showed that the scratches and dents on bullets and shell casings from the crime scene didn't match the gun that prosecutors presented at trial as the murder weapon. In March 2017, McGraw ordered Pursley retried on a first-degree murder charge and allowed him to go free on bail.

    Pursley opted to have McGraw decide his fate at his new trial instead of a jury.

    "In this case, the court found that the evidence presented by the State at the retrial did not rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Winnebago County State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said in a statement. "We respect the court's decision."

    Prosecutors had maintained that Pursley killed Ascher while he sat in a car with his girlfriend. But the gun and shell casings were the only physical evidence prosecutors used to convict Pursley. Pursley's girlfriend at the time of the killing implicated him in the crime but later recanted, saying her testimony had been coerced by police. Prosecutors also relied on testimony from a man who received a Crime Stoppers reward for telling police that Pursley had confessed to the crime.

    "I really don't have anything say," said Ascher's mother, Lois Ascher, in a phone call. "But thank you anyway."

    The centerpiece of the prosecution's case was the conclusion from their ballistics expert who testified with absolute certainty during the 1994 trial that the bullets that killed Ascher could only have come from the gun authorities connected to Pursley. Although his confidence in the language he used then has waned, he still insisted during the latest trial that his initial findings were correct.

    But defense attorneys had two experts who independently concluded that the gun taken from Pursley's home and presented as evidence was not the firearm used to kill Ascher.

    "To get to this place it took a tremendous amount of time, work, and commitment that started with Patrick," said Andrew Vail, one of the attorneys from Chicago-based Jenner and Block, which represented Pursley for free, along with Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions.

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    NEW ORLEANS – A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television has been arrested by the FBI during a visit to the U.S., the broadcaster reported Wednesday, and her son said she was being held in a prison, apparently as a material witness.

    Marzieh Hashemi, who worked for the network's English-language service, was detained in St. Louis, where she had filmed a Black Lives Matter documentary after visiting relatives in the New Orleans area. She was then taken to Washington, according to her elder son, Hossein Hashemi.

    The FBI said in an email that it had no comment on the arrest of the woman who was born Melanie Franklin in New Orleans and has worked for Iran's state television network for 25 years.

    Hossein Hashemi said his mother lives in Tehran and comes back to this country about once a year to see her family, usually scheduling documentary work somewhere in the U.S. as well.

    "We still have no idea what's going on," said Hashemi, a research fellow at the University of Colorado who was interviewed by phone from Washington. He also said he and his siblings had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

    The incident comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual citizens and other people with Western ties. Those cases have previously been used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers.

    Federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be arrested and detained if the government can prove their testimony has extraordinary value for a criminal case and that they would be a flight risk and unlikely to respond to a subpoena. The statute generally requires those witnesses to be promptly released once they are deposed.

    Marzieh Hashemi, an American citizen, had not been contacted by the FBI before she was detained and would "absolutely" have been willing to cooperate with the agency, her son said.

    Asked whether his mother had been involved in any criminal activity or knew anyone who might be implicated in a crime, Hashemi said, "We don't have any information along those lines."

    Hashemi said his mother was arrested as she was about to board a flight from St. Louis to Denver. A spokesman for St. Louis Lambert International Airport declined to comment and referred questions to the FBI.

    The constitutionality of the material witness law has "never been meaningfully tested," said Ricardo J. Bascuas, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law. "The government only relies on it when they need a reason to arrest somebody but they don't have one."

    No matter the reason for Marzieh Hashemi's detention, she should have been granted a court appearance by now, Bascuas said.

    She apparently was unable to call her daughter until Tuesday night. The family is trying to hire an attorney, but it has been difficult because she has not been charged with a crime, her son said.

    Iran's state broadcaster held a news conference and launched a hashtag campaign for Hashemi, using the same techniques families with loved ones held in the Islamic Republic use to highlight their cases.

    "We will not spare any legal action" to help her, said Paiman Jebeli, deputy chief of Iran's state IRIB broadcaster. Iran's Press TV aired footage of her anchoring news programs and discussing the war in Syria, set to dramatic music.

    There were no references to any case against Hashemi in U.S. federal courts, nor in Missouri.

    Hashemi describes herself online as having studied journalism at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She converted to Islam in 1982 at age 22 after meeting Iranian activist students in Denver.

    She married a man she met while in journalism school. They had two sons and a daughter. Her husband is dead, said Hashemi's brother, Milton Leroy Franklin of the New Orleans suburb of Metairie.

    Last week, Iran confirmed it is holding U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump's administration.

    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state TV that Hashemi's arrest indicates the "apartheid and racist policy" of the Trump administration.

    "We hope that the innocent person will be released without any condition," Ghasemi said.

    At least four other American citizens are being held in Iran, including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father, Baquer, both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 year in prison.

    Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a permanent U.S. resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.

    Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him. His family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.

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    WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump's legal spokesman, Rudy Giuliani, on Wednesday night appeared to grant the possibility that members of Trump's campaign did, in fact, collude with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

    And in the process, he contradicted dozens of previous denials that both the Trump team (and Trump himself) have offered. "I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign," Giuliani told CNN's Chris Cuomo before getting cut off. "Yes, you have," Cuomo said. Giuliani shot back: "I have not. I said 'the president of the United States.'" But while Giuliani himself might not have assured that nobody on the campaign colluded, others including Trump sure have. In fact, the Trump team has moved the goal posts on this question no fewer than 10 times after initially denying any contact at all with "foreign entities." Trump has said dozens of times that there was "no collusion," full stop. This appears to be the first time anyone has acknowledged the possibility that someone colluded without Trump's knowledge. The most likely explanation for that is the unfolding case against Paul Manafort. We learned recently that he shared polling data with an associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who special counsel Robert Mueller's team has said had ties to Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign. They also discussed a pro-Russia Ukraine peace plan, which is conspicuous because the Republican National Committee's platform was amended on that issue. Giuliani suggested that it was possible Manafort did something wrong but that he was on the campaign for too short a time for anyone to know what he was up to. "He was only there for six months or four months," Giuliani said. Let's walk through the de-evolution of the Trump team's collusion denials. 1. November 2016: No communications, period Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks: "It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign." 2. February 2017: There were no communications "to the best of our knowledge" White House press secretary Sarah Sanders: "This is a non-story because, to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place." 3. March 2017: There were communications but no planned meetings with Russians Donald Trump Jr.: "Did I meet with people that were Russian? I'm sure, I'm sure I did. . . . But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form." 4. July 8, 2017: There was a planned meeting at Trump Tower, but it was "primarily" about adoption and not the campaign Trump Jr.: "We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow-up." 5. July 9, 2017: The meeting was planned to discuss the campaign, but the information exchanged wasn't "meaningful" Trump Jr.: "No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information." 6. December 2017: Collusion isn't even a crime President Trump: "There is no collusion, and even if there was, it's not a crime." Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow: "For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated. There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion." Technically speaking, the criminal code doesn't use the word "collusion," but it's generally understood as a broad term that could encompass more specific, codified crimes. And even special counsel Robert Mueller's team has used it in court filings. 7. May 16, 2018: Even if meaningful information were obtained, it wasn't used Giuliani: "And even if it comes from a Russian, or a German, or an American, it doesn't matter. And they never used it, is the main thing. They never used it. They rejected it. If there was collusion with the Russians, they would have used it." The Trump campaign did use the information. 8. May 19, 2018: There was a *second* planned meeting about foreign help in the election, but nothing came of it either The New York Times reported Sunday on yet another meeting about getting foreign help with the 2016 election. This one came three months before the election and featured Donald Trump Jr. and an emissary, George Nader, who said the princes who lead Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates wanted to assist Trump. Alan Futerfas, Trump Jr.'s attorney: "They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested, and that was the end of it." 9. July 16, 2018: Trump couldn't collude, because Trump didn't even know Putin Trump: "There was no collusion. I didn't know the president. There was nobody to collude with." 10. July 30, 2018: Collusion isn't a crime, and Trump wasn't physically at the Trump Tower meeting With Michael Cohen alleging that Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting in real time - despite many previous denials - Giuliani told both CNN and Fox News that Trump wasn't physically at the meeting. "I'm happy to tell Mueller that Trump wasn't at the Trump Tower meeting," Giuliani told CNN, adding that "Don Jr. says he wasn't there." He added on Fox: "He did not participate in any meeting about the Russia transaction. . . . And the other people at the meeting that he claims he had without the president about it say he was never there." Giuliani also argued that collusion isn't even a crime. "I don't even know if that's a crime - colluding with Russians," Giuliani said on CNN. "Hacking is the crime. The president didn't hack. He didn't pay for the hacking." And on Fox: "I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime." 11. January 16, 2019: Trump didn't collude, but no guarantees on others in the campaign The exchange with Cuomo: GIULIANI: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign -- CUOMO: Yes, you have. GIULIANI: I have no idea -- I have not. I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here -- conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC. CUOMO: First of all, crime is not the bar of accountability for a president. It's about what you knew -- GIULIANI: Well, he didn't collude with Russia either! CUOMO: -- what was right, and what was wrong, and what did you deceive about? Those are going to be major considerations. GIULIANI: The president did not collude with the Russians. (CROSSTALK) CUOMO: He said nobody had any contact, tons of people had contact. Nobody colluded, the guy running his campaign -- GIULIANI: He didn't say nobody -- CUOMO: -- was working on an issue at the same time as the convention. GIULIANI: He said he didn't. He didn't say nobody. How would you know that nobody in your campaign -- CUOMO: He actually did say that, Rudy. He said, nobody, and then he said, as far as I know. (CROSSTALK) GIULIANI: Well, as far as he knows, it's true.

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    WASHINGTON - Sen. Elizabeth Warren, once one of President Donald Trump's biggest antagonists on Twitter, isn't engaging the president these days - even after he went after the Massachusetts Democrat, her husband, and her beer. Trump didn't come up in the Golden Globe Awards this year, a departure from the past two years where he was maligned repeatedly from the stage. A satirical cable show about him has been canceled. A group of rank-and-file House Democrats turned down Trump's invitation to have lunch at the White House on Tuesday.

    Trump, who recently pined about being lonely in the White House, is lately finding himself in a position he's rarely been in over the past few years: Ignored. His political cachet has been driven by an unerring ability to goad other people into fights that benefit him. The metric he cares about is owning the television ratings and national attention, more than polling or anything else. So what happens when, instead, he is met with something of a shrug? The new silent treatment limits Trump's ability to dictate national coverage and frame the day's debate. And it's providing an early template for how Democratic presidential candidates may attempt to deal with him in 2020, essentially forcing him out of a conversation they want to have with voters. Former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who announced his 2020 campaign over the weekend, mentioned Trump only in passing. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, during a book tour that served as a warmup for a likely presidential campaign, rarely brought up Trump unless asked. "My focus, if I were going to run," Harris said recently on MSNBC, "it would not be Donald Trump." Trump has spent much of his presidency as an inescapable presence. On TV. On front pages. He is tucked inside commentary about football games and Grammy Award winners, and a presence during bus stop conversations and church potluck dinners. "Donald Trump's main activity, from the time when he joined his father's company as a young man until he became president, was attention-seeking," said Michael D'Antonio, a Trump biographer and author of the book "The Truth About Trump." "It was as if he didn't exist if he wasn't being noticed. Irrelevance is, I think, more painful to him than failure." He has bedeviled his opponents with cutting nicknames, and long prompted knee-jerk reactions among Democrats who have struggled with how to balance their outrage over him with their attempts to offer an alternative. "In 2016 the theory was that . . . it was OK to be fixated on Trump because what he was saying was so inherently disqualifying that there was a path to victory in just reminding people how offensive he was," said Brian Fallon, a Democratic consultant who was the spokesman for the Hillary Clinton campaign. "Obviously, that didn't work out." As president, Trump will never be fully irrelevant. Yet rather than directly confront him, Democratic candidates in 2018 began trying something new: They stopped talking about Trump so much. They found that the more they spoke about him, the more it turned off disengaged voters. They could more easily win over moderate Republicans in swing districts if they avoided focusing on him, and Democrats didn't really need to be reminded why they were angry at him. Only 11 percent of the Democratic ads during the final month of the November elections mentioned Trump, according to data collected by the nonpartisan Kantar Media/CMAG and cited by USA Today. "Simply being anti-Trump isn't enough to win the Democratic nomination and won't be enough to win" in 2020, said Guy Cecil, chairman of Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action."Democrats need to tell their own story and share a forward-looking vision for where they want to take the country." The most aggressively anti-Trump candidates - lawyer Michael Avenatti and activist Tom Steyer, who is spending millions to advocate for Trump's impeachment - have decided against running for the Democratic nomination. Other candidates or would-be candidates have mentioned Trump only briefly before moving on to other topics. "I am not afraid of him and I'm not afraid of his nasty language and his name-calling," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a video accompanying the Tuesday announcement of her presidential candidacy. "What this president is doing is inhumane and immoral." She then went on to highlight her record in the Senate and her efforts to promote women's rights and protect 9/11 first responders. Warren embodies one of the most radical shifts in focus. She once sought to engage Trump frequently, squabbling with him on Twitter and emphasizing her willingness to scrap with him as one of her core strengths. As she has launched her campaign this month - and tried to retell her life story - she has eliminated Trump from her lexicon almost entirely. She recorded a video of herself in her kitchen, drinking a beer and offering one to her husband (who declined). Trump criticized her, but she mentioned him only once during her later multiday trip to Iowa. "I think we need to talk about our affirmative vision," she told reporters in New Hampshire last weekend, when asked why she wasn't bringing up her onetime chief nemesis. "I'm willing to fight - everyone knows that. . . . I talked serious policy here in New Hampshire and that's what I'm going to keep on doing." Those challenges will get harder, particularly as Democrats move toward the general election. "Democrats should not overlearn the lessons of 2018," said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, who argued that some level of combat with Trump will be necessary. "The midterms were about defeating Republican candidates for Congress, and 2020 will be about defeating Trump himself." One challenge for Democrats is to demonstrate they can capture the public's imagination without invoking Trump. "I do think a factor people will look at is, who . . . can cultivate a media ecosystem separate from Trump?" Fallon said. "Who has the ability to command media attention other than just lobbing attacks against Trump? Who is inherently interesting and compelling? Can Trump lob attacks at them without them getting caught in quicksand because of it? Because that is a good indicator for who can withstand the [chaos] that will be the 2020 general election." Linda Sarsour, a co-founder of the Women's March, said that this weekend's event would unveil a policy-heavy "Women's Agenda" to emphasize what the Democratic House could focus on in 2019, and what presidential candidates could be discussing in 2020. While Trump was a huge focus in earlier marches, she said, the president's daily outrage became a smaller and smaller part of the discussion. "I don't even pay attention to the president anymore; I focus on what needs to be done," Sarsour said. "I don't go down the rabbit hole of distraction; I don't care whether he ordered hamburgers for people in the White House. I do follow the executive orders, because I want to know what we'll be suing him over." Anthony Atamanuik, a comedian who became known primarily for his impersonation of Trump, saw his Comedy Central show canceled after the last of its 23 episodes aired in October. The decision stemmed, he said, from a combination of the network's skittishness over overtly political programming and Trump fatigue among viewers. Comedians have also struggled to strike the right balance with Trump, both in how to satirize events that are close to satirical on their own and how to find something new to say. "I think there is a general fear that making fun of him gives him oxygen," he said. "He says the same things; I could say verbatim what he's said for two or three years. At a certain point we run out of commentary."

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    WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he has "never said there was no collusion" between Russia and members of Trump's 2016 White House campaign.

    Giuliani's comments Wednesday night on CNN directly contradict the position of his own client, who has repeatedly insisted there was no collusion during his successful White House run. Giuliani himself has described the idea of Russian collusion as "total fake news."

    It was not clear whether Giuliani was reflecting a new position or talking point from the Trump legal team or was making a strategic attempt to get ahead of potentially damaging findings from special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller has been investigating potential coordination between Russia and the president's campaign.

    Giuliani said that even if some on the campaign did something wrong, the president was not part of any collusion.

    "There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC," Giuliani said, referring to the Democratic National Committee.

    The comments on collusion came after Giuliani was reminded of prosecutors' allegations that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had lied about sharing campaign polling data with an associate U.S. authorities have tied to Russian intelligence.

    So far, Mueller has charged 33 people, including five Trump associates and 32 Russians accused of interfering in the election either through hacking or through a hidden social media campaign aimed at swaying American public opinion.

    Giuliani also said the Trump legal team had told Mueller that the president would not answer any additional questions from prosecutors. Trump has so far answered only a limited number of questions in writing. Trump's lawyers have balked at the idea of a face-to-face interview with Mueller's office or having Trump questioned about potential obstruction of justice or other actions he took as president.

    William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general, told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that he wouldn't interfere with a Mueller request to subpoena the president to compel his testimony "if there was a factual basis for doing it."

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    Algonquin police are seeking information on a residential burglary that occurred Wednesday, according to a news release.

    Officers responded about 1:40 p.m. to a home in the area of Huntington and Dover Court in Algonquin, according the release. The burglary reportedly occurred between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the release said.

    The incident is being investigated by the Algonquin Police Department, and appears to be isolated with no similar burglaries having been reported as of Thursday morning. Police said they could not provide any additional information while the investigation is ongoing.

    Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Detective Sgt. Dennis Walker at 847-658-4531.

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    A 46-year-old woman faces cocaine and child endangerment charges after a nameless caller tipped off police to a "suspicious person" in the McHenry Walgreens parking lot, authorities said.

    A McHenry woman is due in court Thursday morning on charges accusing her of possessing between one and 15 grams of cocaine with a child in her car.

    Magnolia Vasquez-Morales, of the 3200 block of Meadow Lane, is charged with manufacturing or delivering cocaine, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and child endangerment.

    Police received an anonymous report Monday of a suspicious person at Walgreens, 3925 W. Elm St., McHenry police public affairs officer Patrick Polidori said.

    Vasquez-Morales' vehicle matched the caller's description, and police stopped her in a nearby area, Polidori said.

    A police search yielded less than a gram of cocaine and paraphernalia, according to a complaint filed in McHenry County court. A person younger than 18 also was in the car at the time. Polidori declined to comment on the child's age.

    Vasquez-Morales remained at the McHenry County Jail on Wednesday evening on a $200,000 bond. A conviction of manufacturing or delivering cocaine is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

    Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect to correct amount of cocaine police allegedly seized.

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    WASHINGTON – It seems likely that thousands more migrant children were split from their families than the Trump administration previously reported, in part because officials were stepping up family separations long before the border policy that prompted international outrage last spring, a government watchdog said Thursday.

    It's unclear just how many family separations occurred at the U.S.-Mexico border; immigration officials are allowed under longstanding policy to separate families under certain circumstances. Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with caring for migrant children, did not adequately track them until after a judge ruled that children must be reunited with their families, according to the report by the agency's inspector general.

    Ann Maxwell, assistant inspector general for evaluations, said the number of children removed from their parents was certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents. Those documents chronicled separations that took place as parents were criminally prosecuted for illegally entering the country under President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy.

    "It's certainly more," Maxwell said. "But precisely how much more is unknown."

    Maxwell said investigators didn't have specific numbers, but that Health and Human Services staff had estimated the tally to be in the thousands.

    Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who sued on behalf of a mother separated from her son, said the separation policy "was a cruel disaster from the start. This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents."

    Most of the tens of thousands of children who come into government custody cross the border alone. But the report found that in late 2016, 0.3 percent of children turned over to Health and Human Services had crossed with a parent and were separated. By the summer of 2017, that percentage had grown to 3.6 percent, officials said. The watchdog did not have exact numbers, but the total number of migrant children who passed through the agency's care during the 2017 budget year was 40,810. The separated children had already been released to sponsors, who are generally parents or other close relatives.

    The inspector general did not say why the children had been separated before the zero-tolerance policy. Immigration officials are allowed to take a child from a parent in certain cases — serious criminal charges against a parent, concerns over the health and welfare of a child or medical concerns. That policy has long been in place.

    Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security, said the report reinforced what officials have long said. "For more than a decade it was and continues to be standard for apprehended minors to be separated when the adult is not the parent or legal guardian, the child's safety is at risk" or there's a record of a "serious criminal activity by the adult," she said.

    In some cases, however, Homeland Security officials said a parent had a criminal history but did not offer details on the crimes, the watchdog reported.

    The Administration for Children and Families, the division under Health and Human Services that manages the care of unaccompanied minors, said it generally agreed with the findings and noted the report did not find that the agency lost track of children under its care. It also noted new policies were in place to help track newly separated children. And the court never instructed officials to determine the number of children separated before the June 26 ruling.

    Last spring, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said anyone caught crossing the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted. Families were brought into custody by U.S. Border patrol officials, then their parents taken to criminal court. If the parents were gone longer than 72 hours — the length of time Border Patrol is allowed to hold children — the children were transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services.

    The practice prompted an outcry, with church groups and lawmakers calling the separations inhumane. Trump ordered an end to the separations on June 20. At the time, a federal judge who was already hearing the case of a mother separated from her son ruled that children must be reunited with their parents.

    Despite "considerable" effort by Health and Human Services to locate all the children placed in its care, the report said officials were still finding new cases as long as five months after the judge's order requiring reunifications.

    "There is even less visibility for separated children who fall outside the court case," investigators concluded.

    They said it's not clear the system put in place to track separated children is good enough. And the lack of detail from immigration authorities continues to be an issue.

    The border remains a crucible for the Trump administration, with a partial government shutdown that has dragged on nearly a month over the president's demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall that congressional Democrats are unwilling to provide.

    The inspector general's office was also looking into other aspects of the separations, including the health and mental well-being of the children who had been separated. It expects to have other reports on the topic.

    Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he would hold the government accountable in the matter. "The Trump administration, with its unique blend of incompetence, cruelty, and disregard for basic decency, misled the American public on one of its most heinous policies to date," he said in a statement.

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    An 18-year-old Crystal Lake woman was issued a citation after a three-vehicle crash Wednesday at Route 14 and Exchange Drive in Crystal Lake.

    Sarah Caspari was driving a Honda Odyssey eastbound on Route 14 when she attempted to turn left onto Exchange Drive and struck a Ford Focus westbound on Route 14, Crystal Lake Police Sgt. Ryan Coutre said. The Ford Focus crashed into a Toyota Rav4 after being hit, Coutre said.

    No one was injured in the crash, he said.

    Two of the vehicles were towed, and the crash shut down the westbound lane of Route 14 from about 7 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

    Caspari was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash, Coutre said.

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    A man on Thursday accepted an eight-year prison sentence in connection with 18 firearms that were reportedly stolen from a Johnsburg home in June.

    Mitchell Kirksey, 32, accepted an offer from the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office Thursday and pleaded guilty to a Class X felony charge of possession of stolen firearms.

    Kirksey, of Johnsburg, must serve at least 50 percent of the sentence, McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather said. He will receive credit for time he already has spent in the county jail.

    In exchange for Kirksey's guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss additional charges, including several counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

    Kirksey and another woman, 33-year-old Vanessa McGehee-Stapleton, were accused of stealing 18 firearms and cash on June 19 from another resident at their home in the 1800 block of Grandview Drive, according to a criminal complaint filed in McHenry County court.

    Until her arrest Tuesday, McGehee-Stapleton was wanted on a warrant issued in July, records show.

    The stolen weapons included several .38-caliber and 9 mm semi-automatic pistols as well as revolvers, according to a criminal complaint filed in connection with Kirksey’s arrest.

    Kirksey originally faced additional charges based on a previous conviction that prohibited him from having firearms, public records show.

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    The next Harvard Balloon Fest will not be until 2020 after the city’s events committee decided to make the annual event biennial, according to a news release from Mayor Michael Kelly.

    Harvard’s events committee – a group of nine citizens appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Harvard City Council – seeks to plan and execute various recreational events for the betterment of the community. One such event has been Balloon Fest, which not only features a number of balloon launches, but also live music, crafts, inflatables, games and activities, carnival rides, helicopter rides, zip-lining and movies in the park.

    With the additional time, the events committee hopes to enlist additional sponsorship to offset expenses, plan a more organized event, allow for greater continuity when committee members change and free up other resources to bring more events into the city, according to the release.

    The festival has experienced some hardships since starting in 2016.

    During Harvard’s second annual Balloon Fest in 2017, rain and windy conditions forced organizers to cancel a nighttime hot-air balloon launch, which was expected to draw tens of thousands of people. Tethered hot-air balloon rides over that weekend also were canceled because of the weather.

    To become involved in the Harvard events committee, email the committee’s secretary, Lori Moller, at or call 815-943-6468, option 2, ext. 105.

    The committee meets at 5:30 p.m. every third Tuesday of the month, unless otherwise posted, at Harvard City Hall, 201 W. Diggins St.

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    SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker authorized state regulation of firearms dealers Thursday in a reversal of his predecessor’s policy and prompting a gun owners group to threaten legal action against Illinois.

    Pritzker, sworn in Monday, chose an elementary school in Chicago to sign legislation meant to cut down on illegal purchases of firearms through video monitoring, tighter inventory control and gun-shop employee training.

    “We can prevent someone from buying a gun for someone else who is not legally allowed to own a gun,” said Pritzker, standing next to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, whose force confiscated 10,000 illegal guns last year. “Many of the incidents of gun violence that occur in our city and all across our state occur with illegal guns.”

    The law affects about 2,400 firearms dealers and its provisions take effect in six months. Each must show it is licensed with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and buy a five-year state permit – $1,500 for retail shops and $300 for independent dealers.

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    WASHINGTON – Thousands more migrant children may have been split from their families than the Trump administration previously reported, in part because officials were stepping up family separations long before the border policy that prompted international outrage last spring, a government watchdog said Thursday.

    It’s unclear just how many family separations occurred at the U.S.-Mexico border; immigration officials are allowed under longstanding policy to separate families under certain circumstances. Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with caring for migrant children, did not adequately track them until after a judge ruled that children must be reunited with their families, according to the report by the agency’s inspector general.

    Ann Maxwell, assistant inspector general for evaluations, said the number of children removed from their parents was certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents. Those documents chronicled separations that took place as parents were criminally prosecuted for illegally entering the country under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.

    “It’s certainly more,” Maxwell said. “But precisely how much more is unknown.”

    Maxwell said investigators didn’t have specific numbers, but that Health and Human Services staff had estimated the tally to be in the thousands.

    Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who sued on behalf of a mother separated from her son, said the separation policy “was a cruel disaster from the start. This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents.”

    Most of the tens of thousands of children who come into government custody cross the border alone. But the report found that in late 2016, 0.3 percent of children turned over to Health and Human Services had crossed with a parent and were separated. By summer 2017, that percentage had grown to 3.6 percent, officials said. The watchdog did not give exact numbers, but the total number of migrant children who passed through the agency’s care during the 2017 budget year was 40,810. The separated children already had been released to sponsors, who generally are parents or other close relatives.

    The inspector general did not say why the children had been separated before the zero-tolerance policy. Immigration officials are allowed to take a child from a parent in certain cases – serious criminal charges against a parent, concerns over the health and welfare of a child or medical concerns. That policy has long been in place.

    Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security, said the report reinforced what officials have long said. “For more than a decade it was and continues to be standard for apprehended minors to be separated when the adult is not the parent or legal guardian, the child’s safety is at risk” or there’s a record of a “serious criminal activity by the adult,” she said.

    In some cases, however, Homeland Security officials said a parent had a criminal history, but did not offer details on the crimes, the watchdog reported.

    The number of families coming across the border has grown even as overall illegal border crossings have decreased dramatically compared with historic trends. Over the past three months, families made up the majority of Border Patrol arrests.

    The Administration for Children and Families, the division under Health and Human Services that manages the care of unaccompanied minors, said it generally agreed with the findings and noted the report did not find that the agency lost track of children under its care. It also noted new policies were in place to help track newly separated children. And the court never instructed officials to determine the number of children separated before the June 26 ruling.

    Last spring, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said anyone caught crossing the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted. Families were brought into custody by U.S. Border patrol officials, then their parents taken to criminal court. If the parents were gone longer than 72 hours – the length of time Border Patrol is allowed to hold children – the children were transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services.

    The practice prompted an outcry, with church groups and lawmakers calling the separations inhumane. Trump ordered an end to the separations on June 20. At the time, a federal judge who was already hearing the case of a mother separated from her son ruled that children must be reunited with their parents. Since the court order, 118 children have been separated.

    Despite “considerable” effort by Health and Human Services to locate all the children placed in its care, the report said officials were still finding new cases as long as five months after the judge’s order requiring reunifications.

    “There is even less visibility for separated children who fall outside the court case,” investigators concluded.

    They said it’s not clear the system put in place to track separated children is good enough. And the lack of detail from immigration authorities continues to be an issue.

    The border remains a crucible for the Trump administration, with a partial government shutdown that has dragged on nearly a month over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall that congressional Democrats are unwilling to provide.

    The inspector general’s office was also looking into other aspects of the separations, including the health and mental well-being of the children who had been separated. It expects to have other reports on the topic.

    Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he would hold the government accountable in the matter. “The Trump administration, with its unique blend of incompetence, cruelty, and disregard for basic decency, misled the American public on one of its most heinous policies to date,” he said in a statement.

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    WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Thursday walked back comments from the night before in which he maintained that he had “never said there was no collusion” between Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 White House campaign.

    Giuliani issued a statement aimed at clarifying a Wednesday night CNN interview that appeared to leave open the possibility of improper contacts during the campaign, in light of court filings in the past year that have detailed ties between Trump aides and Russia.

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    American Community Bank and Trust has turned over $55,000 in Algonquin Township Highway Department money to the lawyer of a downstate watchdog group that sued the road district last year in a public records lawsuit.

    McHenry County Circuit Judge Thomas Meyer on Tuesday ordered the bank to turn over the money to Crystal Lake attorney Denise Ambroziak to satisfy the terms of a settlement she negotiated with the attorney of Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser to get the road district out of the lawsuit.

    Supervisor Charles Lutzow, who also serves as the highway department treasurer, on Thursday said the money had been debited from the road district bank account.

    Although the road district has settled out of the public records lawsuit with the Edgar County Watchdogs, the township still is fighting allegations that Clerk Karen Lukasik willfully did not comply with Freedom of Information Act requests on multiple occasions. The next court date is set at 10 a.m. Feb. 28.

    In April, Kirk Allen and John Kraft – founders of the 501(c)(4) organization – filed a public records lawsuit naming both Algonquin Township and the Algonquin Township Highway Department alleging that the governments on multiple occasions did not comply with public records law.

    In June, Lukasik resigned as a FOIA officer.

    “I do not want any liability moving forward with the massive amounts of records that I need to concentrate on,” Lukasik wrote in a resignation email.

    In October, road district attorney Robert Hanlon negotiated a deal to cut a $40,000 settlement payment to the Edgar County Watchdogs to get the name of the road district taken off the lawsuit, a move that stirred the concerns of township officials.

    A paragraph in the settlement agreement gave the township board 10 days after its October meeting to approve the payment – or else the settlement would increase at a rate of $5,000 a month until paid in full.

    Although township officials audited the request for the $40,000 settlement, they denied the payment because the road district did not have enough money left in its legal budget, but Meyer later ordered that the payment must be made to the Edgar County Watchdogs.

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    A McHenry woman has pleaded guilty to cocaine possession with intent to deliver after police caught her with more than 10 grams of cocaine at a local Walgreens.

    McHenry police responded Sept. 10 to an anonymous report of a suspicious person at Walgreens, 3925 W. Elm St., McHenry police have said.

    Magnolia Vasquez-Morales’ vehicle matched the caller’s description, and police stopped her in a nearby area.

    Vasquez-Morales, 46, of the 3200 block of Meadow Lane, was found with about 10.1 grams of cocaine and a large amount of cash, according to a news release from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office.

    Vasquez-Morales was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the release.

    She originally was charged with manufacturing or delivering cocaine, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and child endangerment.

    A person younger than 18 also was in the car at the time of the incident, police said.

    A conviction of manufacturing or delivering cocaine would have been punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

    Her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Eric Vogel, could not be reached for comment.

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    CHICAGO – A judge on Thursday acquitted three Chicago police officers of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, dismissing as just one perspective the shocking dashcam video of the black teenager’s death that led to protests, a federal investigation of the police department and the rare murder conviction of an officer.

    In casting off the prosecution’s entire case, Judge Domenica Stephenson seemed to accept many of the same defense arguments that were rejected in October by jurors who convicted officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

    The judge said the video showed only one viewpoint of the confrontation and that there was no indication the officers tried to hide evidence.

    “The evidence shows just the opposite,” she said. She singled out how they preserved the graphic video at the heart of the case.

    McDonald’s family questioned how the two cases could produce such different decisions. His great-uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, told reporters that the verdict means “that if you are a police officer you can lie, cheat and steal.”

    “To say that these men are not guilty is to say that Jason Van Dyke is not guilty.” He added: “It is a sad day for America.”

    Prosecutor Ron Safer tried to put a positive spin on the verdict.

    “This case was a case where the code of silence was on trial,” he said, referring to the long tradition that officers don’t report wrongdoing by their colleagues. “The next officer is going to think twice about filing a false police report. Do they want to go through this?”

    Special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said she hoped the verdict would not make officers reluctant to come forward when they see misconduct. Her key witness, officer Dora Fontaine, described how she had become a pariah in the department and was called a “rat” by fellow officers.

    The shooting has provoked periodic street protests since 2015, when the video came to light, and the acquittals could renew that movement.

    “We will be down here tomorrow by the hundreds, and we will cry out for justice for Laquan,” activist Eric Russell said.

    The trial was watched closely by law enforcement and critics of the department, which has long had a reputation for condoning police brutality.

    Officer Joseph Walsh, officer Thomas Gaffney and detective David March were accused of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice. All but Gaffney have since left the department. They asked the judge, rather than a jury, to hear the evidence.

    After the verdict, Walsh would say only that the ordeal of being charged and tried was “heart-breaking for my family, a year and a half.”

    In her ruling, the judge rejected prosecution arguments that the video demonstrated officers were lying when they described McDonald as moving and posing a threat even after he was shot.

    “An officer could have reasonably believed an attack was imminent,” she said. “It was borne out in the video that McDonald continued to move after he fell to the ground” and refused to relinquish a knife.

    The video appeared to show the teen collapsing in a heap after the first few shots and moving in large part because bullets kept striking his body for 10 more seconds.

    The judge said it’s not unusual for two witnesses to describe events in starkly different ways. “It does not necessarily mean that one is lying,” she said.

    The judge also noted several times that the vantage points of various officers who witnessed the shooting were “completely different.” That could explain why their accounts did not sync with what millions of people saw in the video.

    Both Van Dyke’s trial and that of the three other officers hinged on the video, which showed Van Dyke opening fire within seconds of getting out of his police SUV and continuing to shoot the 17-year-old while he was lying on the street. Police were responding to a report of a male who was breaking into trucks and stealing radios on the city’s South Side.

    Prosecutors alleged that Gaffney, March and Walsh, who was Van Dyke’s partner, submitted false reports about what happened to try to prevent or shape any criminal investigation of the shooting. Among other things, they said the officers falsely claimed that Van Dyke shot McDonald after McDonald aggressively swung the knife at the officers and that he kept shooting the teen because McDonald was trying to get up still armed with the knife.

    McDonald had used the knife to puncture a tire on Gaffney’s police vehicle, but the video shows that he did not swing it at the officers before Van Dyke shot him and that he appeared to be incapacitated after falling to the ground.

    Attorneys for Gaffney, Walsh and March used the same strategy that the defense used at Van Dyke’s trial by placing all the blame on McDonald.

    It was McDonald’s refusal to drop his knife and other threatening actions that “caused these officers to see what they saw,” March’s attorney, James McKay, told the court. “This is a case about law and order (and) about Laquan McDonald not following any laws that night.”

    The lawyers ridiculed the decision to charge the three officers, saying they merely wrote what they observed or, in March’s case, what the other officers told him they saw. And they said there was no evidence that the officers conspired to get their stories straight.

    “The state wants you to criminalize police reports,” McKay bellowed at one point.

    City Hall released the video to the public in November 2015 – 13 months after the shooting – and acted only because a judge ordered it to do so. The charges against Van Dyke were not announced until the day of the video’s release.

    The case cost the police superintendent his job and was widely seen as the reason the county’s top prosecutor was voted out of office a few months later. It was also thought to be a major factor in Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s decision not to seek a third term.

    The accusations triggered a federal investigation, resulting in a blistering report that found Chicago officers routinely used excessive force and violated the rights of residents, particularly minorities. The city implemented a new policy that requires video of fatal police shootings to be released within 60 days, accelerated a program to equip all officers with body cameras and adopted other reforms to change the way police shootings are investigated.

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    Marengo City Administrator Joshua Blakemore said municipal governments don’t have the luxury of taking steps to reduce their property taxes, partly because of overbearing pension costs.

    Marengo’s general fund budget is about $4 million, $450,000 of which had to go to police pension contributions this fiscal year, Blakemore said. These obligations were partly responsible for the city’s request for a levy increase.

    “That type of system is not sustainable, and the only source of revenue that we have to routinely pay for that is property taxes,” he said.

    Although tough financial times persist, Blakemore said during a State of the Community breakfast Thursday that positive steps are being taken to improve the city’s infrastructure in 2019, particularly the Interstate 90 and Route 23 interchange project, which is expected to break ground some time in the spring.

    The Illinois Tollway board of directors in October approved an intergovernmental agreement with Marengo, McHenry County and the Illinois Department of Transportation authorizing the financing and construction of the interchange.

    The project, which is expected to bolster industrial development within the city, had been estimated at about $24.7 million, but Blakemore said the low bid came in at about $20 million. He added that Illinois Tollway officials believe construction can be completed by October.

    The interchange will be the first direct interstate connection to I-90 in McHenry County.

    McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said during the event that he is excited about the project.

    In 2018, Blakemore said the city worked with a lobbyist in anticipation of a potential capital bill to improve infrastructure across the state. Some of the other projects the city would be looking to receive funding for include added infrastructure in the city’s tollway area and wastewater treatment plant upgrades.

    Blakemore also highlighted a development agreement for a solar farm approved Monday that would see Atlanta-based SolAmerica make a $200,000 contribution to the city. Blakemore said he expects the money to go toward infrastructure.

    Economic development highlights over the past year included ground breaking on a new Dunkin’ Donuts location, two approved solar farms and a new shooting range.

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    The Woodstock City Council on Tuesday approved three new liquor licenses for businesses that are planning to open in the city.

    Those include Holzlager Brewing Company, Sofie’s Whiskey & Wine and EmpowHer Boutique.

    Council member Jim Prindiville voted against liquor licenses for Sofie’s and Holzlager because both businesses plan to offer video gaming, which he opposes.

    Both the whiskey and wine bar and the brewery will go into the former Bohn’s Ace Hardware building at 150 S. Eastwood Drive.

    New property owner Henry Patel is in the process of dividing up and renovating the building for retail and restaurant use. The council has given tentative approval for tax-increment financing funding to go toward the plan.

    Sofie’s Whiskey & Wine is proposed to be a specialty restaurant with a small bar.

    Charles Moran, Travis Slepcevich and Mario Cortez want to open Holzlager Brewing Company by May. The trio plan to brew and offer bar service on-site but also plan to sell the Holzlager product in stores.

    EmpowHer Boutique requested a BYOB license for a new venture at 129 Van Buren St. in the historic Woodstock Square next to Starbucks.

    Owners Amy Henning and Ashley Klemm plan to offer an “oasis for women” in the space. A soft opening is planned for Tuesday with a grand-opening ceremony planned for Feb. 1, Henning said.

    The store will sell clothes and jewelry and offer spa, beauty and photography services that will include boudoir photo shoots. The duo plan to host “BYOB” classes and workshops on a weekly basis. Topics will include Photography 101 and Social Media Marketing. Events will include “Paint and Sip” classes and “Speed Friending,” according to the boutique’s website.

    “[Klemm] and I started a women’s Facebook group a year and a half ago called EmpowHer Nation. We’ve watched it grow into a beautiful space for women so we thought ‘Why not give it a physical space?’ ” Henning said.

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    WASHINGTON – The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said "we will do what's necessary to find out if it's true." He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress "in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date."

    The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

    "The @HouseJudiciary Committee's job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work," Nadler tweeted.

    The report by BuzzFeed News, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, says that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and that Cohen regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow project — even as Trump said he had no business dealings with Russia.

    The Associated Press has not independently confirmed the BuzzFeed report.

    An adviser to Cohen, Lanny Davis, declined to comment on the substance of the article, saying that he and Cohen wouldn't answer questions out of respect for special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Mueller is investigating Russia meddling in the election and contacts with the Trump campaign.

    The BuzzFeed story says that Cohen told Mueller that Trump personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the project in order to obscure Trump's involvement.

    Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, scoffed at the report, saying in a statement, "If you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge."

    Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress in 2017 to cover up that he was negotiating the real estate deal in Moscow on Trump's behalf during the heat of his presidential campaign. The charge was brought by Mueller and was the result of his cooperation with that probe.

    Cohen was recently sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to tax crimes, bank fraud and campaign violations. He is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee Feb. 7. 

    The report comes as House Democrats have promised a thorough look into Trump's ties to Russia. Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has discouraged any talk of impeachment in the early days of her new majority, some senior Democrats said that if the BuzzFeed report is true, Trump's actions could rise to that level.

    "If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached," tweeted Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, a member of the House intelligence panel.

    Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that if Trump directed Cohen to lie, "that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop."

    William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general, said at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that a president or anyone else who directs a witness to lie is illegally obstructing an investigation. That statement attracted attention given Barr's expansive views of presidential powers and his belief that presidents can't be scrutinized by prosecutors for acts the Constitution allows them to take.

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    A winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service for north central and northeastern Illinois will remain in effect until noon on Saturday.

    During this time, total snow accumulations of 5 to 9 inches are expected with winds gusting 30 to 35 mph.

    The strong winds and drifting snow could significantly reduce visibility, making travel very difficult, particularly during Friday’s evening commute.

    For those who have to travel, the National Weather Service recommends keeping an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

    The Illinois Tollway advised that it will be deploying its full fleet of 196 snowplows in response to the projected snowfall. Drivers whose vehicles became disabled should activate hazard lights and dial *999 for assistance.

    For the latest road conditions, visit

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    Winter finally has caught up to McHenry County and other neighboring Chicago suburbs.

    Despite a relatively mild season so far, residents can expect to receive 4 to 8 inches of snow this weekend, with little relief from the cold in the days to follow.

    The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch Thursday afternoon for McHenry, Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Lee, Ogle and Winnebago counties.

    The watch will be in effect from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. The expected storm could deliver up to 8 inches of snow.

    In McHenry County, snowfall is expected to pick up about 4 p.m. Friday with chances of snow showers through Saturday. High temperatures throughout the weekend are projected to be between 24 and 18 degrees, according to the NWS.

    After a brief respite Sunday, snow likely will start again Monday and could continue through Tuesday, NWS meteorologist Charles Mott said.

    “Once the snow stops, the cold air is going to be right there,” Mott said.

    McHenry County’s snowfall is expected to arrive around the onset of a severe and punishing winter weather pattern of extreme cold and heightened storms throughout the eastern half of the U.S.

    The polar vortex broke apart into three parts at the beginning of the year.

    Before and during the vortex disruption, locations east of the Rocky Mountains basked in unusually mild weather for weeks. Washington, D.C., witnessed 28 days of unusually warm weather, and the first half of January ranked among the top 10 warmest on record in Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

    However, the polar vortex split, which forecasters predicted in December, likely has triggered a transition toward a much more wintry pattern.

    A storm last weekend, which dumped 10 inches of snow in both St. Louis and Washington, might have been one of the first indicators of the shift to harsher winter conditions.

    Similarly, McHenry County residents should expect to bundle up for at least another week because another storm could hit Monday with cold temperatures and blustery winds to follow, Mott said.

    “Storms are bound to happen during the winter season,” Mott said. “We’ve been quiet for a while, so basically: Welcome to winter in Chicago.”

    Local municipalities already have begun preparing for the expected snowfall.

    Huntley’s snowplows were loaded with salt Thursday, and street workers’ schedules were adjusted so they could stay on the roads later in the evening, village engineer Tim Farrell said.

    “After the snow stops on Saturday it’s going to turn very cold, so the key is to get the roads as clean as possible on Saturday before anything can freeze,” Farrell said.

    Crystal Lake public works employees will have snowplows on the roads at the storm’s onset, director of Public Works Mike Magnuson said.

    “We’re prepared to go around the clock through the storm, and we’re prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at us,” Magnuson said. “... People just need to take their time and use caution.”

    • The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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    A McHenry County judge on Friday agreed to dismiss a drug charge against the former Hebron village president accused of possessing crack cocaine and a shotgun when police were called to his home for an overdose in March 2016.

    Judge Sharon Prather said Friday that police didn't have grounds to charge John Jacobson with cocaine possession. The former village president is protected under a state law that grants some immunity against prosecution of drug possession charges if police are called in the event of an overdose.

    Jacobson's attorneys argued at a November hearing that police discovered the suspected crack cocaine March 17, 2016 through an unlawful search.

    Officers had been called to the man’s Hebron home to give medical attention for a suspected overdose, according to a motion filed June 4 in McHenry County court. Police found Jacobson taking shallow breaths while lying on the master bathroom floor in only his underwear, according to police reports.

    While inside the home, an officer reported seeing a used crack pipe and an unmarked orange pill bottle containing suspected crack rocks, according to reports.

    Friday's decision stemmed from defense attorneys' request to quash the warrant sheriff's deputies used to search Jacobson’s home, and suppress any evidence investigators collected as a result.

    Jacobson said after court Friday that he's happy with the judge's ruling, but declined to comment further.

    Although the judge agreed to dismiss the possession of a controlled substance charge and the corresponding evidence, Jacobson still faces prison time for allegedly possessing a shotgun while his Firearm Owner's Identification card was revoked.

    While searching Jacobson's home, police allegedly found the firearm and ammunition, which, unlike the suspected crack cocaine, isn't protected under Illinois' Good Samaritan law.

    If Jacobson were convicted of possession of a firearm without a FOID card, he could be sentenced between two and five years in prison.

    He originally was charged with possession of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance, possession of ammunition without a FOID card and possession of drug paraphernalia. Now if the case goes to trial, he'll be prosecuted on all but the drug possession charge. A new trial date could be set Feb. 15.

    The March 2016 situation wasn't Jacobson's first brush with the law.

    After being elected as Hebron village president in 2013, Jacobson pleaded guilty to separate drug charges that arose after police say they found crack cocaine in his vehicle during a traffic stop.

    He later faced charges for driving under the influence in Wisconsin in October 2013. His drug-related probation period ended in July 2014 without action from prosecutors.

    In April 2017, Jacobson lost his village president seat to Kimberly Martinez.

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    Elisa Boyso said business is bustling at her new Mexican restaurant.

    Boyso opened La Mega Premium La Michoacana late last month at 19 E. Berkshire Drive, Crystal Lake.

    The family restaurant offers more than its 4-year-old sister site, La Michoacana, 135 N. Main St., which sells snacks and ice cream treats.

    La Mega Premium La Michoacana offers homemade frozen confections along with homemade tacos and burritos.

    “Business has been great. We’ve had a great response,” said Boyso, who co-owns the restaurant with husband Art Salinas. “Everything is homemade. We make homemade salsas, the green, spicy and non spicy.”

    Boyso said she’s a stickler for cleanliness and organization. The new restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

    “It takes a lot prep work,” she said. “We’re here early in the morning planning everything. We cook small batches so everything is fresh. Quality and freshness is everything to us.”

    Boyso said their restaurants are named after Michoacán, the Mexican state that Boyso said started the tradition of blending fruit pieces, pure sugar and cream together.

    “It’s where this type of ice cream was born,” she said.

    Among her more than 30 ice cream and sorbet flavors are caramel, birthday cake, watermelon and raspberry, which Boyso said is quickly becoming a customer favorite.

    Still, their most popular offering remains the mangonada, a bright orange and red frozen treat made of mango sorbet and topped with lime juice, chamoy sauce and chili powder if requested. A tamarind-dipped straw can be added for tartness.

    “Everybody comes looking for it,” Boyso said.

    Future plans

    Boyso said she hopes to start catering for parties, and experiment with more exotic ingredients such a tripe. This week Boyso began serving tongue tacos.

    “We’re going to expand our menu,” she said. “People have been asking for tripe tacos.”

    Boyso said they’re also in the process of getting a liquor license so they can sell liquor-infused frozen bars.

    “We’ve had a great demand for wine, margarita and tequila sunrise bars,” she said. “Some people having a party want a red wine bar or a tequila sunrise bar or a margarita bar. We’re different.”

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    Nonprofit organization Let It Be Us has postponed a foster care and adoption recruitment event due to a forecasted winter storm.

    The event was planned for Saturday but has been rescheduled to 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Church of Holy Apostles, 5211 Bull Valley Road, McHenry.

    The event will feature two local foster parents – Woodstock mom Jennifer Marsh and Michelle Prickett – who will speak about their experiences.

    Social service agencies Camelot Care Centers, Lutheran Child and Family Services and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will be on-site during the event.

    Visit to register. Those who already registered do not need to make any changes.

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    A judge has dismissed a felony charge against a convicted sex offender accused of entering Woodstock High School in October.

    Neither the man's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Richard Behof nor Assistant State's Attorney Rita Gara would say why the case was dismissed more than three months after the felony charge was filed.

    Woodstock police arrested James Cornelius in October after faculty members at Woodstock High School reported seeing a known-registered sex offender in the building. Surveillance videos confirmed the 23-year-old had entered the school for about 10 minutes while students were present, according to a news release at the time.

    District 200 officials released a statement at the time claiming Cornelius, a former student, might have been trying to speak with a staff member.

    Cornelius, who couldn't be reached for comment Friday, was arrested and charged with being a child sex offender in a school zone. If the case had gone to trial, he would have faced as many as three years in prison.

    Cornelius was one of four teens arrested in 2014 in connection with an alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl. He and two others were accused of sexually assaulting the girl while another juvenile videotaped the act, which was believed to have been posted on Facebook and used to intimidate the girl into further sex acts.

    Cornelius accepted a deal in 2014 and pleaded guilty to criminal sexual abuse.

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    SYCAMORE – Video of the struggle outside the DeKalb Walmart store Sept. 23 shows Ashley Lunardon clinging to her baby's car seat, the child inside crying, as an off-duty Northern Illinois University police officer tries to pin her arms behind her back.

    To read the full story, click here.

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    Video of the struggle outside the DeKalb Walmart on Sept. 23 shows Ashley Lunardon clinging to her baby's car seat, the child inside crying, as an off-duty Northern Illinois University police officer tries to pin her arms behind her back.

    "Let go of the [expletive] car seat!" Lunardon shouts at an unidentified woman trying to take the baby from her. Meanwhile, the officer, Junelle Bennett, stands behind Lunardon, trying to pull her arms behind her back. A crowd, including Walmart employees, watches. One of them captured about a minute of the incident on video obtained by the Daily Chronicle.

    "Could you let go?" the unidentified woman says to Lunardon on the video. "She told me I could grab it."

    "Ma'am, it's a police officer, would you calm down?" a man says off-camera.

    Lunardon screams again as Bennett manages to pry her left hand off the car seat. Seconds later, as Lunardon's right hand starts losing its grip, she shouts, "Let go of my hair, you [expletive)] psycho [expletive]!"

    Eventually, the unidentified woman takes the screaming 10-month-old away from the struggling mother, who grapples with Bennett before they fall to the concrete in front of a flower stand. Bennett wrestles her way on top of Lunardon. Bennett said in her statement that Lunardon pulled her to the ground by her hair.

    On the ground, Bennett knees Lunardon in the side and back four times. The first three times, she can be heard saying, "Stop resisting" as she knees her – the first times Bennett is clearly audibly ordering Lunardon to do so. Lunardon tries to keep Bennett off her by kicking her legs, and pulls at Bennett's hair as Bennett pins her down.

    Before the knee strikes begin, a man is heard in the background saying, "Where are they?", referring to DeKalb police. He then asks, "Will you call them and tell them to step it up?"

    DeKalb police were in the middle of a shift change, according to police reports. Officers eventually arrived and arrested Lunardon, 25, of the 1700 block of Sterling Drive in Sycamore. She was charged with three felonies: aggravated battery of a police officer, aggravated battery in a public place and aggravated resisting. The most serious charge, aggravated battery of a police officer, carries a sentence of three to seven years in prison.

    "It was the worst thing that's ever happened to me," Lunardon said during a recent interview at her home, adding she’d never been in a physical fight before. "I didn't understand how they'd like me to respond. I was begging and pleading. My daughter was screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs. She was just a baby."

    Lunardon's grandmother, Kim L. Wiemer, 61, who lives in Missouri, also was charged with aggravated battery of a police officer for trying to stop Bennett as she worked to subdue Lunardon.

    Officer responded to call for help

    DeKalb Deputy Police Chief John Petragallo and NIU spokesman Joe King said their departments would not comment on the ongoing investigation, but reports about the incident were obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

    A report filed by DeKalb police officer Jordan Poulos, who arrested Lunardon and her grandmother, makes only passing mention that there was an infant the middle of the struggle on the pavement, saying only "the store manager grabbed the baby in the car seat." But it says Lunardon was the one endangering her child, and that she "tried to tip over the shopping cart with the baby in it."

    Poulos notes that he saw "Lunardon pulling Bennett's hair while they were on the ground," and that "Lunardon had a clump of Bennett's hair gripped in her hand after I handcuffed her."

    Bennett, who's still on the NIU police force and had been with NIU Public Safety six years in September, was off-duty at Walmart, 2300 Sycamore Road, about 5 p.m. when she responded to a fight near the self-checkout register between Lunardon and another woman. According to police reports, Lunardon had hit the other woman in the head, telling her "that's what you get ... for following me around the store."

    Lunardon said the woman is a longtime antagonist who for years has sent her vitriolic messages and repeatedly called one of her biracial children a slur. She said the woman called 911 when Lunardon confronted her.

    Bennett said in her statement that she was at Walmart, heard a woman scream "Help!" inside the store and saw a woman lying on the ground, screaming for help with pieces of hair lying near her. Bennett said Lunardon and her grandmother were yelling at the woman. That's when Bennett said she stepped in.

    Lunardon said she didn't believe Bennett was really a police officer. She thought she was Walmart security. Bennett said Lunardon told her she wasn't "the real police."

    "Hey, I've showed you my badge," Bennett said she told Lunardon. "Let's just wait until some uniformed police officers get here."

    According to state law, any Illinois police officer may make an arrest outside their jurisdiction, but only while on duty. Citizens in general have broad power to detain someone, however, Sycamore lawyer Riley Oncken said.

    "For instance, private security from Walmart has the authority to detain somebody if they believe they're shoplifting," Oncken said. "If somebody witnesses a crime occurring, they can detain somebody until the police arrive. If somebody breaks into my house and I hold them at gunpoint at my house until police arrive, I'm within my rights."

    In addition to the hair-pulling, Bennett said in her statement she'd suffered injuries to her left middle finger, left thumb, left knee, left ankle and left toes. Photos of her injuries were taken by DeKalb police, including a scraped elbow and one of chipped nail polish on her big toe.

    The police report has inconsistencies and at times appears to contradict what's seen on video. Surveillance footage shows Bennett escorting Lunardon out of the store. Bennett said a man fetched her police badge, but video shows a woman delivering it. Bennett said in her statement that interaction happened before they exited the store.

    DCFS reviewed incident

    Although prosecutors decided to file multiple felony charges against Lunardon, a child welfare caseworker did not recommend taking her children. All three of Lunardon's children – ages 1, 3 and 6 – live with her.

    The Department of Child and Family Services was contacted four days after the incident, and Lunardon's mother, Amber Quitno, received the full report Tuesday. It states that the video was evidence of “a woman trying to protect her child.”

    "I can’t watch the video anymore," Quitno said. “Hearing my grandbaby scream while she was being attacked, it won’t let me sleep."

    Quitno said there was no reason for Bennett to behave the way she did outside the store.

    "The way she reacted – she escalated a previously de-escalated situation, to this level, when she had no lawful police authority there at all," Quitno said.

    Lunardon, who is represented by Rochelle-based attorney Russell Crull, and who pleaded not guilty Dec. 12, is due back in court at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Wiemer, who is represented by Clay Campbell and who pleaded not guilty Nov. 16, is due back at 9 a.m. March 6.

    Lunardon maintains she was the victim.

    "I didn't do anything to merit that kind of treatment," she said.