By Gus Bode

Ill. GOP rep. says Obama ‘lying’ on debt ceiling

SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois congressman accuses President Barack Obama in a video released Wednesday of “lying” about the impact of not raising the national debt ceiling in the next three weeks and goes on to ask, “Have you no shame, sir?”

Republican Rep. Joe Walsh says “President Obama, quit lying,” in the video posted online. He says there is “plenty of money” to pay debt and cover Social Security even if the limit isn’t raised.


Walsh claims Obama will not get congressional approval to increase the $14.3 trillion debt limit unless the Democratic president backs a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which Obama opposes. Obama says the country will default if Congress doesn’t raise the ceiling by Aug. 2.

Republicans, looking to reduce the federal deficit, are insisting on massive spending cuts as a condition for raising the debt limit. Democrats say any plan to cut the deficit should include tax increases for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans oppose any tax increases.

Talks are deadlocked.

It’s unusual for a member of Congress to bluntly accuse a president of lying. To back up his statement, the first-term lawmaker’s office released figures showing estimated revenue for this year far outpaces the $213 billion interest payment.

A spokeswoman said Walsh is not alone in believing the country won’t default. Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, says the Treasury Department can pay interest on the debt and then prioritize spending

“You know darn well that if Aug. 2nd comes and goes there is plenty of money to pay off our debt and cover all Social Security obligations,” Walsh says in the video, adding that Obama has media protection for “everything you say and do, but have you no shame, sir?”

White House spokesmen declined comment on Walsh’s accusation.


Leaders lack followers to resolve debt showdown

LAURIE KELLMAN,Associated Press

WASHINGTON — It was a startling admission from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: “Nothing can get through the House right now. Nothing.”

For President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, the debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling has provided a stark lesson on the limits of their power. Each of their proposals to lift the limit, cut the deficit and allow the government to pay its bills sank before their troops had a real chance to weigh in.

What’s left is an assortment of contingencies and increasingly sour squabbling between intraparty factions deeply split over what to do as an Aug. 2 deadline ticks closer. No proposal has the critical mass to raise the limit and avoid default. The lack of clarity about just who is leading — and to where — has taken its toll in goodwill and trust.

That has liberated all sides from any urge to follow their leaders, freeing them to propose and oppose whatever they want on an issue that could frame the nation’s economic fate and send ripples around the world for years.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, for example, felt free to issue Obama an ultimatum on government entitlements. Democrats, she said, will not vote for any cuts to Medicare or Social Security benefits, including raising the eligibility age for the former and reducing the size of annual cost of living increases for the latter. Obama was willing to consider those actions, but only if Republican leaders would agree to raising taxes. Rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties balked.

The leadership lag is even more visible in Republican ranks.

Some conservatives, in fact, are publicly dismissing their leaders’ warnings that a first-ever default on the U.S. debt could mean disaster, even plunge the country into another recession.

“That’s just not true,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican and GOP presidential candidate, told reporters Wednesday. The government, she added, is collecting plenty of tax revenue to pay the interest on the debt, which she said would prevent a default on U.S. Treasury bonds.

Her contribution to the debate: a bill to guarantee that even during a default, military personnel and interest on the debt would be paid, ahead of Social Security benefits or civilian federal workers’ salaries. Republican leaders, from House Speaker John Boehner down, did not pile behind it.

“I would say to the speaker: ‘Excuse me for trying to lead,'” said the Bachmann bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

It was a snarky reference to Boehner’s own words during testy meetings with Obama this week, as the two sides try to find some path forward under an increasingly urgent deadline. They’re finding that it’s hard to lead without a decisive following. None of the proposals, big or small, has produced one.

The $4 trillion “big deal” that Boehner and Obama explored for days, sometimes in secret, didn’t survive the weekend. Convinced that it wouldn’t pass the House, Boehner abandoned it Saturday night in an email some Republicans said they received when it was made public.

Discussion then centered on a smaller version. But during Monday’s White House meeting, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was galled by that plan’s apparent cuts of only $2 billion upfront and began speaking of the prospects for a deal in the past tense. He presented what he described as an option of last resort that would give Obama authority — and saddle him with the blame — for raising the debt ceiling unless Congress objected.

Many conservatives didn’t like that either, saying Republicans would be passing up a golden opportunity to use the necessity to avoid a default to force spending cuts totaling trillions of dollars over the next decade and reduce the government’s size.

“This is our chance,” said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. “We finally have the leverage to get the changes we need.”

Prosecutors face daunting task in 1957 murder case

DON BABWIN,Associated Press

MICHAEL TARM,Associated Press

SYCAMORE — Over the years, evidence goes missing or passes through so many hands it’s rendered useless. Murder weapons disappear, and witnesses’ memories dim or are carried to the grave.

Those are obstacles that have persistently stymied prosecutors trying to crack decades-old cold cases — and that now await authorities building a case against a former Washington state police officer in the 1957 slaying of a 7-year-old girl in this northern Illinois farming community.

Can the little girl’s friend, now in her 60s, remember with certainty what the suspect looked like? Will an unused train ticket, discovered half a century later, undermine Jack Daniel McCullough’s alibi that he was in Chicago having a military medical exam the day that Maria Ridulph disappeared?

“Proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in court— that’ll be very hard,” Patrick Solar, a Sycamore police detective who spent years investigating the killing before he retired in 2002, said Wednesday. “I don’t envy them having to do it.”

Ridulph’s abduction in the winter of 1957 captured the nation’s attention, and President Dwight Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover asked to be kept up-to-date about the massive search. Her body wasn’t found until spring, by which time it was so badly decomposed a cause of death couldn’t be determined.

Clay Campbell, the chief prosecutor in Illinois’ DeKalb County, won’t discuss what evidence led authorities to arrest McCullough this month in the Ridulph case, one of the oldest cold-case investigations to become active again. He is seeking the suspect’s extradition from Seattle to stand trial for the little girl’s slaying.

“I am well aware of the precarious nature of prosecuting a case you cannot prove,” Campbell said at a news conference Tuesday. “But we are confident that Mr. McCullough killed Maria Ridulph.”

Authorities in the ’50s seemed befuddled from the start, said Solar, who went through Ridulph’s file off and on starting in the 1980s. The initial investigators listed more than 100 suspects — a sign they were never hot on anyone’s trial.

Among the many theories they floated then discarded was that an organized crime group may have kidnapped the girl for ransom money, Solar said, citing the files.

The friend of Maria’s, Kathy Sigman, told authorities a young man who called himself “Johnny” approached them while they were playing and offered to give them piggyback rides. She left to get mittens, and when she returned, her friend and the man were gone.

McCullough, whose name at the time was John Tessier, lived nearby and was on an early list of suspects. But he had an alibi. He told authorities he was in Chicago that day getting a medical examination before enlisting in the Air Force. He later moved out of the area, served in the armed forces and ultimately worked as a police officer in Washington and then a security guard at a retirement home — where he was arrested July 1.

Physical evidence is unlikely to play any role at a trial, Solar said. As part of his investigation, he sought out clothes found on Ridulph’s dead body, samples of her hair and a doll that files indicated were recovered from the crime scene. But he was told they couldn’t be located.

A verdict, instead, is likely to hinge on memories.

Investigators reopened the case three years ago, after McCullough’s girlfriend from 1957 told them she found his unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago from Dec. 3, 1957, the day Maria vanished. Sigman, who is now Kathy Chapman, identified McCullough recently through a photograph of Tessier from the 1950s, which she said she was never asked to do half a century earlier.

McCullough told The Associated Press in a recent jailhouse interview that he didn’t use the train ticket because his stepfather gave him a ride to Chicago. And he said his “iron-clad alibi” would be supported by military records of the medical exam — except that officials at the St. Louis records repository confirmed Tuesday to the AP that his file had been destroyed in a 1973 fire.

With more than 200,000 unsolved killings since 1960, according to the FBI, cold cases have become a bigger part of prosecutors’ jobs nationwide.

In many cases, DNA evidence has opened the door to renewed prosecutions. With missing physical evidence, Solar says there’s little chance DNA factors into the Ridulph case.

Rochester, New York-based district attorney Sandra Doorley knows the challenges better than most, with several cold-case convictions to her name, as well as a recent defeat.

She looked on as jurors this year acquitted Willie James Kimble, 78, of sexually assaulting and bludgeoning to death a blind homemaker, Annie Mae Cray, in 1972. Among the vital evidence that had gone missing was the alleged murder weapon, a bloodied log.

In rare cases, the passage of time can help prosecutors.

In a 1955 case of three slain Chicago boys, witnesses refused to tell authorities for decades how Kenneth Hansen told them he’d raped young boys and warned if they said anything they’d “end up” like the boys.

“After time and distance, they came forward because they knew he could not hurt them anymore,” said Jennifer Coleman, a Cook County prosecutor who won a conviction in the 2002 murder retrial of Hansen.

Well-organized interview notes and crime scene reports can also be crucial in convincing jurors evidence is sound. The span of five decades in the Ridulph case makes that a challenge.

By the ’80s, the Ridulph files were in disarray, some kept by the FBI and some by Illinois State Police, Solar said. Determined to put them in order in one location, he got the agencies to send him what they had, then organized it all in two boxes and stored them in Sycamore.

Despite the hurdles to successfully prosecuting such an old cold-case, Solar said a conviction was possible.

“It has been done,” he said. “It can be done.”

Judge sets bond for 3 in Galesburg shooting death

GALESBURG — A Knox County judge has ordered bond amounts to stand for three suspects arrested in connection with the shooting death of a man in a crowded park in the western Illinois community of Galesburg.

The three face charges in the June 30 death of 21-year-old Jemell Ware, who died not long after the shooting near a playground in Kiwanis Park.

Bond for 46-year-old Overton Fisher is set at $3 million. Bond for 18-year old Michael Fisher and 21-year old Kareem Dixon is set at $1 million each.

The three made initial court appearances Wednesday.

An unnamed 16-year-old and 18-year-old Michael Garrett also face charges in the case.

Study: Racial differences in Ill. traffic stops

CHRISTOPHER WILLS,Associated Press Writer

SPRINGFIELD — Black and Latino drivers pulled over in Illinois traffic stops last year were more likely to end up with a ticket and have their vehicle searched than their white counterparts, according to a new Transportation Department study.

Minority drivers also were involved in traffic stops at a higher rate than their share of the state population would suggest, even though illegal contraband was more likely to be found in vehicles being driven by whites.

The average length of a traffic stop was the same for all races: 10 minutes.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that the study supports its request for a federal civil rights investigation of the way Illinois State Police handles driver searches. It also called on state leaders to address the issue in all police departments.

“It is time for the political leadership in Illinois to act and end this practice on our highways and roads across the state,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois.

State police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the agency will study the new statistics as part of an internal review that was launched after the ACLU filed a federal complaint last month. She said it would be weeks before the review is finished. The state police have previously denied any bias.

The new study is the latest annual review of traffic stops by virtually all police departments in Illinois. The 2.4 million stops were analyzed by the Center for Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Minority drivers accounted for 12 percent more traffic stops than would be expected based just on their share of Illinois’ population.

The study found that 55 percent of white drivers got tickets after being pulled over, compared to 65 percent of Hispanic drivers and 62 percent of black drivers.

When police asked permission to search a driver’s car without probable cause — something that is rare for all racial categories — it was more likely to be a minority driver. Police used “consent searches” for 0.6 percent of white drivers, compared to 1.4 percent of black drivers and 1.3 percent of Hispanics.

Police were more likely to find contraband material, such as drugs or weapons, in the cars of white drivers, according to the study. The chances were 25 percent for white drivers who agreed to a search, 19 percent for blacks and 13 percent for Hispanics.

Statistics for the state police differed slightly.

Minority drivers were stopped for a median time of 15 minutes and 60 percent received a ticket, the study showed. That’s compared to 12-minute stops for whites, 56 percent of whom were issued a ticket by a trooper.

Although state police rarely use consent searches, minorities were more likely to be searched. Troopers conducted consent searches on 36 out of every 1,000 minority drivers they stopped, but only 12 out of every 1,000 white drivers.