Ex-Illinois lawmaker pleads guilty to federal tax evasion

CHICAGO — Former longtime Illinois state Sen. Terry Link pleaded guilty Wednesday to tax evasion in federal court.

The Democrat, who resigned last week, had been in office since 1997. He’s the latest state legislator to be charged in the federal government’s ongoing criminal investigations into public corruption in Illinois.

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Link, 73, appeared in federal court before U.S. District Judge Robert Dow via video during a roughly 45-minute hearing.

According to Wednesday’s 18-page plea agreement, Link listed his 2016 tax return income as $264,450 when it was at least $358,000. He also admitted to spending more than $73,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, among other things.

When Dow asked Link’s plea on the tax charge, Link said, “Guilty, your honor,” according to The Chicago Tribune.

Link would face up to 16 months in prison, but federal prosecutors said Wednesday that they intend to recommend probation if Link fully cooperates with the government.

A status hearing has been set for March 30.

His plea comes after several other state lawmakers were charged.

Among them was former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat, who pleaded not guilty in February to bribery allegations. He’s accused of paying a bribe to an unnamed state senator in exchange for support of a gambling bill that would have benefited a lobbying client.

He resigned in November, a week after his arrest. In announcing the bribery charge, federal prosecutors revealed that the unnamed state senator had been cooperating with them since 2016.

Link has previously denied to reporters that he was the unnamed state senator. The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, citing anonymous sources, have identified Link as the unnamed senator.

A phone message left Wednesday for Link wasn’t returned.

MADISON, Wis. — The coronavirus pandemic has forced an iconic Wisconsin Dells-area water ski show to shut down forever.

Tom Diehl, president and co-owner of the Tommy Bartlett Show in Lake Delton, said Wednesday that the show can’t recover from the loss of revenue this summer. The show was preparing for its 70th season when the pandemic happened, forcing Diehl to cancel the season. He said investing in a 2021 season would have been too risky given the uncertainty surrounding the virus and its dampening effect on travel.

The decision means the loss of 115 seasonal jobs and a major option for live entertainment among the Dells’ rows of resorts and water parks. The show put on more than 18,700 performances for more than 30 million people, according to a news release the show issued.

The decision to close also signals the end of the Diehl family’s life’s work. Tommy Bartlett created the show in 1952 as a traveling water-ski exposition that performed at world’s fairs, U.S.O. tours and other cultural exchange programs. Bartlett found a permanent home for the show on the shores of Lake Delton in 1953. The show grew into a mix of water-skiing and high-speed boating complete with stage acts performed in a 5,000-seat amphitheater on the water’s edge.

Diehl and his wife, Margaret, became co-owners with Bartlett in 1975 and full owners in 1998 following Bartlett’s death. The Diehls’ daughter, Jill, grew up working at the show.

Lake Delton drained away into the Wisconsin River in 2008 after storms and flooding breached a section of earthen bank that contained it. The show survived that catastrophe with stage shows until the lake was restored. But it couldn’t beat the virus.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the Tommy Bartlett Show will not be able to make a comeback in 2021 as we had hoped,” Diehl said in a statement. “While we are grateful that we have had almost seven decades of entertaining visitors in Wisconsin Dells, we have no choice but to close the Show.”

The company’s year-round attraction, the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, will remain open.

Western Illinois student arrested after shooting of roommate

MACOMB, Ill. — A Western Illinois University student suspected of shooting and wounding his roommate in their dorm room, prompting the school to cancel classes, turned himself into police on Wednesday afternoon, school officials said.

The shooting occurred in a room at Thompson Hall on the Macomb campus at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, stemming from what officials said was a dispute between the two roommates.

In a news release, the university said that 18-year-old Kavion Poplous turned himself in at a Chicago Police Department station and was then taken into custody by the FBI. Hours earlier, the school announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Poplous on charges of first-degree attempted murder, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm.

At the time, the school said that Poplous was considered “armed and dangerous,” but officials did not say whether a firearm was recovered when Poplous turned himself in.

In additional to canceling classes at the university’s main campus in Macomb as well as the nearby campus in Moline, the school had locked down all buildings.

With the arrest of Poplous, the school said that classes will resume today. The name of the wounded student was not released and school officials did not comment on his condition.

Election officials won’t let voting deputies into nursing homes

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin election officials decided Wednesday to stay with their decision not to allow special voting deputies into nursing homes to help residents cast absentee ballots in November’s election out of concerns of spreading the coronavirus.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission banned deputies from entering facilities in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Republican Commissioner Robert Spindell asked commission staff during a Sept. 1 meeting to reconsider the ban. Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe recommended in a memo to the commission that it should not reinstate the program. She wrote that staff consulted with state health officials as well as advocates for the elderly and disabled and they felt allowing deputies into the facilities is still too risky.

The commission was set to discuss the idea during a Sept. 10 meeting. But that meeting was postponed after the state Supreme Court ordered the commission to turn over the names and addresses of everyone who had requested an absentee ballot so far as it pondered whether to place Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the ballot.

The court on Monday decided to not to add Hawkins to the ballot, saying there isn’t enough time for clerks to reprint ballots and get them out to more than 1 million voters who have already requested them.

Long delays for burials at Wisconsin veterans cemetery

UNION GROVE, Wis. — The coronavirus pandemic and staffing shortages have caused long delays for burials at the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Union Grove, according to state officials.

Families are waiting at least six weeks to bury their loved ones. Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs cemetery director Gary Dierks says burials are booking into the second week of November.

Many families who chose to delay services for their veterans during the first few months of the pandemic are now choosing to hold them. And, officials say on top of that, half of the cemetery staff left this summer, WTMJ-TV reported.

Veterans Affairs says the number of services each day have been increased, but they are still trying to catch up.

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, who represents the area, says they are requesting help from the federal government to try to refill the vacant positions.

The Associated Press