Unfortunately, there was no lack of pain on display in Lake County Circuit Court last week as three men were sentenced in local murder cases. As Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes said during one of the sentencing hearings Wednesday, “There is no joy here.”
Each case, as usual, brought two sets of friends and relatives to the polished wooden benches of felony court. Often sitting on opposite sides of the benches, one group is mourning the loss of a family member a father, a son, a cousin, a spouse. A special friend. Nothing will bring that person back, but usually loved ones will bear numerous hearings and trial appearances before a sentence is determined. They may or may not hear an apology from the defendant.
The second group is there to see how long a friend or family member will be spending in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Calculating the months, years and sometimes decades that will pass before, if ever, their son, daughter, father, friend, will come home. Often, soft crying can be heard from members of both groups, sometimes the painful emotions can’t be contained and lead to outbursts, inevitably followed by someone leaving on their own or being escorted out of the courtroom. There is no joy here.
Charged with maintaining order among tragedy are the court security officers, who increase in numbers with the severity of the case. Before a murder sentencing Monday, a security officer addressed the audience with a plea for restraint. “We know this will be an emotional hearing,” he said, and asked those in attendance to remember that despite the tragic subject matter, order and quiet must be preserved in the courtroom. He asked in advance that those who may feel themselves losing control of emotions to leave the court at that point.
“We’re all human,” he said. “We all have emotions.”
One onlooker followed those instructions after the hearing started, leaving as her crying increased to sobs. Sgt. Erwin Drummond of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Court Security Division said security officers are trained to handle all aspects of possible problems in court. Whether confronted by sadness or anger, their job is to “preserve the process,” he said.
Drummond said goal number one is to ensure the safety of everyone in the court, from the judge, to attorneys, witnesses, defendants and observers. He said in some cases in which previous hearings have involved disruptions, or intelligence has been gained that there may be problems, staffing is increased. Officers are trained to respond with compassion when the situation calls for it, as well as enforcement duties when needed.
“We need to make sure everyone is safe and the judicial process doesn’t get disrupted,” Drummond said. In court, even following the most extreme disruptions, order will win out.
But during some busy weeks, one thing is also clear. Some observers may leave the courtroom with a measure of satisfaction or the feeling that justice has been done. But joy is nowhere to be found.
Nerheim hits top honors again
For the second time in four years, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim has been named State’s Attorney of the Year by the Illinois State Crime Commission. Nerheim received this year’s honor at a Crime Commission award ceremony Wednesday. He said Thursday he was surprised to claim the award a second time.
“I can’t believe it. It’s humbling,” Nerheim said. He first took the honor in 2014 for his efforts with initiatives to reduce heroin and opioid deaths and the supply and demand for illicit drugs, as well as the unlawful use of prescription drugs.
In announcing Nerheim as State’s Attorney of the Year for 2017, officials again cited his work on addressing the opioid epidemic as well as battling human trafficking, often involving minors.
“State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim has been a national leader in the battle against the opioid and heroin epidemic,” Illinois State Crime Commission Executive Director Jerry Elsner said in announcing the award. “In addition, he has been a leader in combating child sex trafficking, thereby saving families from the despicable horror of their children being exploited.”
Nerheim, who was first elected state’s attorney in 2012, cofounded the Lake County Opioid Initiative that same year. The group has partnered with other agencies and law enforcement to equip police, often the first responders to an overdose call, with Naloxone, a heroin and opioid antidote credited with saving 167 lives in Lake County since Christmas Day 2014. In addition, The Illinois Crime Commission credited Nerheim for collaborating with task forces that focus on the battle against child sex trafficking and exploitation, from Internet sex crimes to prostitution.
“I am extremely honored to receive this award by the Illinois State Crime Commission for the second time since taking office,” Nerheim said. “The award is a testament to the exceptional team of prosecutors, investigators, victim coordinators and staff members at the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office who go to work every day committed to seeking justice and serving our community.”
Nerheim also credited local law enforcement and community agencies and partners who help advance the local initiatives.
Each item had a story attached for the former Los Angeles Dodgers great. Wills pointed out the banjo he got during his playing days from the co-pilot of the Dodgers team plane. The Most Valuable Player trophy he won at one of the 1962 All-Star games, playing for the National League in his hometown. That brought back memories of when the security guard wouldn’t allow Wills into the stadium prior to the game in Washington, D.C. The guard didn’t think Wills was big enough to be a baseball player.
“Knowing that it’s been here at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo, I always felt that I had a treasure somewhere stashed away,” Wills said. That treasure will be getting moved closer to home. The Maury Wills Museum, which opened in 2001, is closing down after this season. Wills was honored at Friday’s American Association game between the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and Gary SouthShore RailCats, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. Gary earned a 6-2 victory before an announced crowd of 3,792 fans.
“I’ll will always feel connected with Fargo, North Dakota,” said Wills, who lives in Sedona, Ariz.
The 84-year-old Wills has been associated with the RedHawks since before the 1997 season, serving as a coach and radio commentator for the team.
“Fargo reached out with open arms and just loved Maury,” said Carla Wills, Maury’s wife. This series with Gary is officially Maury’s last three games with the RedHawks as a broadcaster. Wills said it’s bittersweet to see his museum close in Fargo because “this is like home for me.”
“We’ll make a nice home for it somewhere closer to the Los Angeles Dodgers,” Carla said of the items from the museum. In recent years, Maury was a part-time commentator on radio broadcasts. In 1998, he started in the radio booth with Jack Michaels in closer to a full-time role. He is also known for his Maury Wills Knothole Gang youth baseball camps.
“He’s really taken this as a second home,” said Brad Thom, president and chief executive officer for the RedHawks. “He’s grown a connection.”
Maury thanked the Thoms, including team chairman Bruce Thom, the RedHawks and the Fargo area and region for making him feel welcomed for two decades.
“The relationships that I’ve had with all those factions have been wonderful,” Maury said. Wills was recently honored in the 2017 “Hall of Game” class for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum along with Lee Smith, Al Oliver and Tony Perez. Carla said Maury is in good health with lots of energy and still enjoys golfing. However, she added travel puts some wear on him. That is part of the reason for relocating the items from his museum at Newman.
Maury said he’s been sober for 27 years and his two-decade association with Fargo and the RedHawks has helped him stay clean.
“That’s very meaningful to me,” he said. “I came here years ago when I thought I was at the end of my blessings. … I was able to turn my life around and it’s wonderful today. It has been for a long time.”
Maury was a seven-time Major League Baseball All-Star and a three-time World Series champion. He was the National League MVP in 1962, stealing a then-record 104 bases. He played 14 seasons in the Major Leagues primarily with the Dodgers.
“He’s amazing,” Carla said.
Cyber security software vendor Symantec today emerged as the only known western technology company to publicly refuse Russian government access to source code for its security products. IBM, Cisco, Germany’s SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and McAfee are among the firms that allowed Russia to conduct source code reviews of products, including firewalls, anti-virus applications and other encrypted software, according to a new investigative report from Reuters. The reviews intended to protect Russia against cyber espionage are conducted by the country s Federal Service for Technical and Export Control (FSTEC), and the Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the KGB and the agency blamed for attacking the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
Such code reviews are aimed at protecting the country from cyber espionage.
But those inspections also provide the Russians an opportunity to find vulnerabilities in the products source code, Reuters reported, citing current and former U.S. officials and security experts. As IT services providers sell and employ increasingly sophisticated solutions to combat an expanding array of cyber security threats, this report suggests those efforts could be at-least somewhat undermined by software vendors desire to cash in on substantial revenue opportunities in Russia. The Russian IT market is projected to be worth $18.4 billion in 2017.
In a stark rebellion, Symantec officials said that company has refused to submit to the reviews and acknowledged they re prepared to absorb the impact to their top line.
In the case of Russia, we decided the protection of our customer base through the deployment of uncompromised security products was more important than pursuing an increase in market share in Russia, spokeswoman Kirsten Batch is quoted as saying. Code inspections are performed by independent software firms, some with ties to Russian military intelligence or defense agencies, the investigation found. One such company, Echelon, is used by IBM.
But Symantec officials decided the lab “didn’t meet our bar” for independence. The company refused to allow the review, thus disqualifying it from selling business products in Russia.
It poses a risk to the integrity of our products that we are not willing to accept, Batch, the Symantec spokeswoman, told Reuters. There s discrepancy about where the source code reviews are conducted, with the tech companies saying they conduct the reviews in safe rooms at their own facilities, where nothing can be copied or exfiltrated.
But in at least one case that of IBM, the FSTEC posted documents claiming the testing was done at a firm located 20 miles outside of Moscow.
The article noted there is no evidence that the software code reviews have resulted in an actual hack and that other nations including China and the U.S. also conduct source code inspections for some products.
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