Monday, January 15, 2018

Hawaii's False Missile Alert

The media are now reporting how the false alert of an incoming missile was sent out on Saturday in Hawaii.

I have written to EMA Director Miyagi and Gov. Ige, as follows:

"By now, you must be asking yourself who the idiot was who designed the steps in the alert system. 

First, the "Are you sure you want to do this?" prompt is insufficient. The worker probably saw that at the end of every shift for the system test and didn't bother to re-check what he was saying "Yes" to.

The wording should have read, "Are you sure that you want to send out an EMERGENCY ALERT?" and on a different color screen with emphatic, contrasting lettering.

Perhaps a second employee's verification should be required.

Secondly, for a real alert there there should be a second prompt, "Are you REALLY sure that you want to send an EMERGENCY ALERT?

A copy of this message is being sent to Gov. Ige."

What would you have done, had you been in Hawaii on Saturday morning? Would you have been concerned? Worried? Fatalistic?

Would you have gone out on the balcony to watch the arrival of a missile? Headed for the basement, interior stairway or closet? Or maybe just fried up a couple of extra slices of bacon for a good, even if last, breakfast?

Do you have any constructive criticism for Hawaii or, for that fact, Illinois or the city or town in which you live? Email information can be found at Hawaii.gov

This could be a good time to review the legal state of your personal and business affairs. Is your Will up-to-date? Is the beneficiary designation of each of your life insurance policies just the way you want it? Are your bank accounts correctly titled?

Don't be like one prominent Woodstock family who assured me that their lawyer had "taken care of everything." They had Wills and a Trust of many pages. All well done. What was the problem? The attorney never informed them that the bank named as Trustee had closed its trust department 15 years before. And no successor Trustee was named.

Instead of a $5,000 legal bill to wind up everything, the attorney's final bill was about $60,000. It started with a trip to the courthouse to get a new bank trustee appointed. The employee at the small bank was not experienced. Every time one of the many adult children/heirs called him with a question, he referred them to the attorney. Ka-ching, ka-ching. And it ended with the attorney's being late in filing the Federal Estate Tax Return. Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

After you stop at a stop sign...

I was reminded today by this photograph of a conversation I had a number of years ago with a police official in Woodstock.

I had been stopped one day for turning left from East Todd Ave. into Highway 47. I made my left turn and stopped in the two-way, left-turn lane because of heavy northbound traffic. The first car stopped and let me pull over into the northbound lane. Then the overhead flashing lights came on, and I pulled over into a church parking lot.

I knew that I had properly used the lane, and I knew that Woodstock PD had been writing many tickets for violations over the years. And many would have been violations, because drivers too often use the center two-way, left-turn lane as a driving lane, and not just for turns. But I suspected some tickets were not correct.

The officer accepted my explanation, after I showed him the Illinois Rules of the Road, where it stated expressly that a turn could be made into the two-way, left-turn lane. I recall his honest comment that he had been an officer for many years and hadn't known that. He issued a Warning, instead of a citation.

I asked the City of Woodstock for a legal opinion, and the first letter back from the outside law firm had about five paragraphs. The first four paragraghs said my turn was legal, and the fifth, concluding paragraph said, "Therefore, the turn was illegal" (or words to that effect). So I asked the then-City Manager to get another opinion from the City's outside law firm. The second letter confirmed that my turn had not been unlawful.

I felt the training at the Woodstock PD was in error and met with a police official.

We were discussing two-way left-turn lanes, and he insisted that it was illegal to make a left turn from a driveway or side street into a two-way, left-turn lane, such as on Highway 47 (N. Seminary) north of McHenry Avenue. He said that the arrows painted on the roadway surface and the signs on the side of the road only indicated turns out of the lane, not into it. I explained that the roadway marking and signs on the shoulder were "traffic control devices" and that you had to read the statute to learn what the law said.

Then I asked him if he would come across a Stop sign on his way home that night. He said he would. "Do you have a cell phone?" Yes, he said. "After you stop, you'll have to call your wife and tell her you won't be home for dinner, because nowhere on that Stop sign does it say 'Go'."

Just in case you are thinking that I have a smart answer for everything, I don't. The officer had to issue me a Warning, because he had stopped me - even though I had, in fact, not violated the law. That's why I complained higher up. The officer was polite, respectful, professional and courteous. No complaints there. And he was just following orders, even though the orders were wrong.

I later received an email from WPD that officers would no longer be writing tickets to drivers who made a left turn into a two-way, left-turn lane. The driver, of course, has to stop or safely and quickly move over into the traffic lane.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Dangerous Decision by Sheriff Prim?

Has McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim made a dangerous decision regarding the safety of drivers and pedestrians in McHenry County, as well as that of deputies?

Rooftop emergency lights have been replaced on some squad cars with inside, behind-the-windshield emergency lights. Taking them off the roof of the squad car lowers them and reduces their visibility. While a driver immediately in front of a squad car won't miss the lights in his rearview mirror, other drivers may not see them quickly enough, especially at intersections.

On Thursday, Dec. 7*, a female deputy was involved in a crash. The deputy and others were conveyed to Centegra Hospital-McHenry by ambulances. Was the squad car one of those with the "new" emergency-light configuration?

And just a few months ago two deputies were involved in crashes while responding to the same call. One was a supervisor. Did either squad car have the new, inside lights? As I recall, one of the crashes was at Hwy. 47 & McHenry Ave., and the other was at Hwy. 14 and Lake Ave. Were the deputy drivers at fault in one or both of those accidents? Were they cited? (OK, you can stop laughing now.)

What do deputies think about the new deal? Do they like it? Do the squad cars now look "cooler" with no emergency lights on the roof? Can deputies follow a driver without being immediately identified as being in a squad car? Most deputies don't work traffic, where hidden emergency lights might be a benefit.

Most deputies respond to calls and use emergency lights to pass slower traffic and pass legally through red lights and stop signs. State law allows that, but the burden is on the deputy to do so in a manner that avoids crashes.

There is a time and place for squad cars without rooftop lights. Drivers of those cars should receive special and advanced training regarding reduced visibility.

This past week I passed three marked squad cars on a two-lane road. The officers were parked at 1/4-mile intervals with their overheads on. The lights on those particular cars, belonging to Forest Acres (S.C.) PD, were so bright that it was almost impossible to see around them. This caused traffic in both directions to slow almost to a crawl. There was no doubt about safety (unless, of course, an officer had stepped into the path of a passing vehicle, not realizing that a passing driver would not see him in time).

I invite MCSO deputies to email me at gus@woodstockadvocate.com and let me know what you think of the new lights. Like them? Dislike them? Why? You can rest assured that your identity will not be revealed. Or post your comment below this article.

Readers may remember when former Sheriff Nygren tried to force me to reveal the names of all former and present (in 2010) employees of the Sheriff's Department who were feeding information to me, as part of Zane Seipler's lawsuit in Federal Court to get his job back. A subpoena was mailed to me, and I filed a Motion to Quash pro se. When I appeared in court, the judge asked me one or two questions and then turned on the sheriff's attorney, telling her that she was just on a "fishing expedition" (his words) and that the subpoena had nothing to do with Seipler's case. Sweeter words were never heard by me in a courtroom: "Mr. Philpott, you have won your Motion."

* The original article incorrectly reported that this crash happened on December 23. Clarification was added about the subpoena from Nygren's attorney, which I considered an attempt to bully me.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Beth Bentley - Missing 396 Weeks (7 yrs. 7 mos.)

There was a lot of activity in Judge Chmiel's courtroom on Thursday, December 21, in the case related to the probate of Beth Bentley's Estate. Did anyone (besides lawyers) go?

The probate case is No. 17PR000295. You can follow it at www.mchenrycircuitclerk.org

The entries in court records for December 21, 2017 are:

ORDER-IMPOUND
LETTERS OF OFFICE
ORDER-LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE APPOI
BOND-OATH
ORDER
ORDER-HEIRSHIP
ORDER
MEMORANDUM-OPINION AND ORDER
AFFIDAVIT
NOTICE
OATH
AFFIDAVIT-HEIRSHIP

These documents are all public record. Anyone can go to the McHenry County Courthouse, 3rd floor, and read them on the Court's computer system, without charge. If you want to buy printed copies, the cost will be $2.00/page.

On August 28, 2017, there was filed a PETITION-TESTAMENTARY.

Somewhere in the process Beth is going to have to be declared dead. She hasn't been seen or heard of for more than seven years. It seems to me that a Petition should have been filed for a Presumption of Death Order before the Estate was ever opened for probate, but the court must have accepted it among other papers.

If she had a Will, the Will can be read at the courthouse. I thought I had read a newspaper article that she did not have a Will. If not, then she will have died intestate. But since the August 28 filing reads TESTAMENTARY, I wonder whether there was a Will. If there was a Will, it can be read as filed.

The name of her husband at the time of her disappearance, Scott Bentley, appears in online court records as Independent Administrator of her Estate.

The lawyer for the estate is Guy Youman, of Rupp & Youman.

The Illinois Attorney General is listed as ATTORNEY - INTEREST OF. Is this normal in cases of Petitions for Presumption of Death? Or is the State interested for another reason?

The ORDER-IMPOUND may be related to any records from law enforcement agencies that police want withheld from the public view while they continue their investigation.

On December 1 Judge Chmiel issued a HIPAA QUALIFIED PROTECTIVE ORDER. There were rumors in 2010 of a health condition of Beth that, if true, would have interested police investigators. Could this Order impede a police investigation that could proceed after a Presumption of Death Petition is granted?

The Illinois State Police have assigned FOIA Response No. 17-2930 to my FOIA request, filed December 18, for the location at which suspected human remains were found in Jefferson County by the Illinois State Police. Several people from southern Illinois have told me where police activity was on December 4, but I'm waiting for official response.

The address of the property visited by Jenn Wyatt and Beth Bentley on that May 21-23, 2010 week-end is 17974 N. Miller Lake Road. It's a Mt. Vernon (Ill.) mailing address, but the house is in Jefferson County, outside the city limits of Mt. Vernon. According to Zillow.com the house was on and off the market. The listing and sales activity from Zillow.com shows
December 2010
6/13/10 Listed by Century 21 $126,000
7/31/10 Listing removed
8/5/14 Listed by owner $156,900
5/28/15 Listed by Century 21 $156,900
6/26/15 Pending sale $156,900
8/7/15 Back on market $156.900
9/9/15 Price change (-5.4%)
1/19/16 Pending sale $148,500
3/4/16 Sold $142,500

The Zillow information may or may not be complete.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Court Should Delay Issuing Death Certificate

A Petition for Presumption of Death in the disappearance of Benedetta (Beth) Bentley has apparently been filed in the McHenry County Circuit Court. It seems to be part of the probate filing on August 28 in Case No. 17PR000295.

Burned human remains were found on December 4th in Jefferson County, Ill. by the Illinois State Police, and the Woodstock (Ill.) Police Department has referred to the Beth Bentley in a press release about the ISP finding. In my opinion, it is unusual for police to refer to any particular missing-person case after remains are found, in the absence of positive identification.

The location at which the burned human remains were found may have something to do with the decision at the Woodstock Police Department to report a possible connection to Beth Bentley, who reportedly failed to return to Woodstock on May 24, 2010 from a week-end jaunt to the Mt. Vernon, Ill. area.

It may be possible to determine whose remains have been found through DNA testing.

The next court date for the probate filing is this Thursday, December 21, 9:30AM, in Judge Chmiel's courtroom, Room 202, 2200 N. Seminary, Woodstock. The hearing should be open to the public. Hopefully, reporters will be there.

If Judge Chmiel has not already granted the Petition, he should delay it until the remains have been identified. If they turn out to be those of Beth Bentley, then an investigation into the cause and manner of her death must be intensified.

Finding these remains seven-and-one-half years after her disappearance cannot be the result of coincidence. The State Police didn't just "happen" upon them. Once the location is disclosed, one big question may be "Why wasn't that location searched then?"

If the remains were found on December 4 as a result of new information or a tip, the source of the information should be protected. It has been my opinion for more than seven years that a number of people know exactly what happened to Beth. If one of them is talking now, the others won't be happy about it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Is your OneDrive out?

Do you use OneDrive.com?

How's it working for you today? I haven't been to access it since early this morning. At first, I thought it might be computer, so I re-started it and then turned off and back on. Still nothing. Tried a second computer. Same problem.

Then I found www.downdetector.com and found that there seems to be a very wide outage for OneDrive in different parts of the world.

You can see a world outage map here and then click on the button at the upper right to view an outage chart.

Have the hackers been at work? China? North Korea? Oh, I know. The Russians.

Remains - where found?

The press release that appeared on the Facebook page of the Illinois State Police (ISP) District 13/DuQuoin about the burned human remains found in Jefferson County, Ill. and published later the same day in the Northwest Herald doesn't reveal where the remains were found. It says only "rural Jefferson County (Ill.)".

It seems to me that the location could be disclosed without harming any investigation. And so today I emailed a Freedom of Information Act Request to the Illinois State Police headquarters in Springfield. Why there?

Back in about 2013, when I tried to get information from the DuQuoin district office, I was informed that all FOIA requests must go to Springfield headquarters.

Filing the request starts the clock ticking. ISP will have a certain number of days to reply. And reply it must, even if only to deny the request. Then a Request for Review can be submitted to the Illinois Secretary of State's Public Access Counselor. All this takes time; perhaps in the meantime the Woodstock Police or the ISP will disclose the location.

As I wrote recently, it is very unusual for police to associate the finding of human remains with any missing person case, until a positive identification has been made. There must be solid grounds for doing so in this case.

Were the remains found on the property outside of Mt. Vernon owned by a Woodstock resident and in the possession of his sons? At this property?

Or were the remains found nearby, in the vicinity of Miller Lake?

And what happened to the $5,000 Reward that was offered in June 2010?

Was any of it ever paid out? Where is the $5,000 today?