One of my absolute favorite facets of this fascinating gig has been developing a solid base of truly astute readers. And those eminently intelligent and well-informed folks have certainly come through lately. Please allow me to explain:
The First Ward IS the “news media!”
In Wednesday’s column, we discussed how Kane County Chief Judge Clint Hull and I were teaming up to determine, once and for all, whether bloggers can legally attend a generally closed juvenile court hearing.
The applicable Illinois statute does exempt the “news media” from that courtroom ban, but it doesn’t begin to describe just who fits that journalistic bill.
So, Judge Hull and I continue to discuss the possibilities primarily as a result of long-time reader Jim, who duly discovered the Illinois Compiled Statutes actually do define that too-vague “new media” term.
The irony is, he found that definition in a rather surprising place – the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA code – a section I have more than a passing familiarity with! I never thought to look there because, regardless of their status, anyone can file a FOIA request.
But the law has to differentiate between public and commercial FOIA requests, so section 5 ILCS 140 proclaims the “news media” to be:
“News media” means a newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals whether in print or electronic format, a news service whether in print or electronic format, a radio station, a television station, a television network, a community antenna television service, or a person or corporation engaged in making news reels or other motion picture news for public showing.
Though I fervently believe the first sentence describes The First Ward’s thrice-weekly efforts to a tee, the “news media” question answer is ultimately up to the Chief Judge.
Some smart folks also inquired, should that decision go against bloggers, what’s the plan? If that’s the case, I’ll show up for the next hearing and ask Judge Kathryn Karrayannis to issue a “friendly contempt” ruling.
Why? In order to file a motion with the Second District Court of Appeals for an emergency hearing, I need to be able to submit a written court ruling specifically barring bloggers from that juvenile proceeding. In other words, you can’t appeal an order until it exists.
Again! I want to be perfectly clear there is nothing personal about this endeavor. It’s simply a matter of letting the process play out. And I most certainly want to thank Jim for his due diligence.
I gave the Geneva Police too much credit!
In Monday’s piece on the 18-year-old Geneva high school student recently charged with felony drug possession, I wrote the following:
Finally exhibiting some rare good sense, even though she’s an adult in the eyes of the law, the officers called the student’s parents before any further questioning or the arrest.
And Jim rode to the rescue one more time! He wrote:
Jeff, Illinois law changed last year after that Naperville kid committed suicide after being questioned by cops and administrators. Now, if they are accused of a crime, a student cannot be questioned by police or administrators unless their parents are notified. And either a parent or representative must be there for that interrogation. So, it was not out of kindness of their hearts that they notified the parents.
Of all the people on this populated planet, I really should’ve known better. Unless you’re the mayor, the Geneva Police don’t do anything out of the goodness of their collectively hearts.
Of course, Jim was referring the truly tragic 2017 suicide death of 16-year-old Naperville North High School student Corey Walgren. As an appellate court judge unequivocally put it, School administrators and Naperville Police officers “harshly and aggressively” questioned Walgren about purported illicit underage photos on his phone – without his parents or an attorney present.
Faced with the prospect of being labeled a sex offender, Walgen slipped out of school and plunged to his death from the top floor of a Naperville parking garage. Police later determined there were no such images on his phone, just an audio recording of a consensual sexual encounter which is not illegal.
The family, school district, and city finally settled for $250,000 in 2019. But if there is a Christian hell, I look forward to those administrators and police officers joining me there.
The bottom line is, once again, I want to thank Jim for keeping me honest, and despite my best effort to say they did, the Geneva Police did nothing right in that arrest.
I do appreciate your concern
Yet even more readers reached out to provide support for, as they put it, my being “raked over the coals” as a result of the same Monday column. As is often the case, instead of cogently disagreeing with something I’ve said, folks with absolutely nothing to say throw my heinous “criminal” history at me as if it will somehow cancel the column and dismiss my existence.
But not only do they consistently fail to do so, their latest effort drove that piece to well over 15,000 hits, which is more than double what any Chronicle or Daily Herald offering might expect to get.
Put more simply, whenever someone insists on making me the most important person on social media, it tends to happen. And though I’d prefer it to be my cogent prose, keen perception of the obvious, warped sense of humor, and boyish good looks that drive the conversation, controversy does expand my audience exponentially.
What I can tell you is, despite the State’s insistent delays, the appeal is moving forward, and when you possess a court transcript in which a civilian witness, and two separate Geneva police officers tell three wildly different stories – despite rehearsing their testimony with the prosecutor – we all know exactly how it’s going to turn out.
And that’s not nearly the only problem the State has in that appeal.
When I am exonerated, as has been the case every time the Geneva Police have tried to silence me, a newspaper, a specific reporter, an entire police department, and some of my best new social media friends will learn exactly what it means to be called the “defendant.”
Though I will say one of the benefits of the GPD efforts is being bestowed with the coveted title of “honorary Mexican.” Just like Juan Epstein was the only Puerto Rican Jew, I’m the only Jewish looking Mexican.
Meanwhile, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the readers who understand who I am and what I’m trying to do. I can’t think of a better way to repay your trust, faith, and support than to keep writing three days a week.
So, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do!