Their accomplishments are legion. Their devotion to the law profession unsurpassed. And for their contributions, eight men, who are all graduates of the University of Illinois College of Law, have been selected as the first class of the Champaign County Bar Association's "Pillars of the Bar."
Six men still living and two who have died will be honored at a dinner June 26, which follows a golf outing to raise money for the Illinois Bar Foundation, Champaign County Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. All of the men chosen practiced more than 50 years in Champaign County. What follows are a few of the highlights of their careers:
URBANA – Mike Bily wanted to be a cop ever since he was in high school at Gibson City.
Now, he's the top cop in Urbana.
Bily, 45, said he grew up on a farm in the Gibson City area. He played football in high school and had a desire to become a police officer in the mid-1970s.
URBANA – It took Jeanine Wright a little longer than her teachers had hoped, but on Monday she will graduate from one of the toughest schools in the world – Champaign County's drug court.
Wright, 30, of Urbana is among seven – the largest class ever– to have completed the program designed to get people whose crimes are linked to their drug addiction back on the straight and narrow.
James Gentry, a graduate of the original class from the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, pinned an award on the uniform of the top student in this year's class, which marked 50 years of police training.
The historic graduation ceremony marked the culmination of a 12-week basic law enforcement training program for 63 police officers.
DANVILLE – On the evening of Charles Christopher Gaston's death at a city parking garage, he and two other juveniles had been loitering at the four-level structure, a Danville police official said Wednesday.
"They were throwing rocks from the top of the ramp," Deputy police Director Doug Miller said.
SPRINGFIELD – A state review board has recommended a one-year suspension for Monticello attorney Leonard Keith Hays Jr., who admitted to committing forgery and perjury in his own divorce proceedings.
"This is a sad episode in a long and respectable career, but it is elementary that an attorney cannot deceive the court," the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission review board stated in its report.
DANVILLE – The murder trial of a Newtown man accused of shooting his wife has been pushed back until later this month.
The Vermilion County state's attorney's office asked Monday to continue the trial of Kenneth Gray, 35, of Newtown. The case was rescheduled for June 26.
WESTVILLE – Four members of a local bomb squad are returning to a home in Westville to finish disposing of explosives and chemicals found in a garage.
The University of Illinois-Champaign Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was called Saturday afternoon by the Vermilion County Sheriff's Office after deputies responding to a domestic incident in Westville found chemicals and suspected explosive materials in the garage, according to UI police Lt. Skip Frost, leader of the bomb squad.
URBANA – An Urbana man with a history of mental health problems and violent crimes was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison for his latest.
Victor Smith, 37, whose last known address was in the 1500 block of East Washington Street, pleaded guilty in May to robbery, admitting that he took cash from a register at the McDonald's, 1705 Philo Road, U, on Nov. 21.
URBANA – A Champaign man who pleaded guilty Friday to two violent sexual assaults on women in their homes told a Champaign County judge through a translator that he "just wanted to sign the papers" and get on with his sentence.
Jesus Cervantes Martinez, 26, whose last known address was in the 1600 block of Kiler Drive, also asked Judge Tom Difanis, through the translator, if he would have to serve 85 percent of his sentence, which Difanis assured him he would.