Jim Dey: In plain sight

Jim Dey: In plain sight

When Champaign County officials began exploring solutions to their jail problems, James Kilgore volunteered to participate. He won appointment to the county board's Justice Task Force, co-authored a commentary on the issue in The News-Gazette and publicly argued that citizen input is a must when it comes to the criminal justice system.

When one-time fugitive Angela Davis visited here last fall, Kilgore was prominent among those who welcomed the radical scholar to Champaign-Urbana. He escorted her to speaking engagements, including one at the University YMCA on "Abolishing the Prison-Industrial Complex."

And when Nelson Mandela died in early December, Kilgore helped organize the campus memorial to the South African leader, whose death, he said, was cause for mourning not only abroad but locally as well. "Please come and help us honor this wonderful leader and symbol of universal humanity and freedom," Kilgore wrote in his invitation.

So, just who is James Kilgore?

He is an author of both academic works and mystery novels; a faculty member and research scholar at the UI's Center for African Studies; a former Cal-Santa Barbara economics major who received his doctorate from a university in Australia.

He is Charles "John" Pape, the alias he assumed for more than 20 years while living in hiding from the FBI — as a University of Cape Town professor who loved cricket — until his arrest by South African police in 2002.

He is the 60-something-year-old man described as a "splendid fellow" by Champaign County Board member Astrid Berkson, who appointed him to the jail advisory committee.

He is a convicted murderer, bank robber, ex-convict and terrorist who was linked to a string of California bombings that targeted, among others, police officers.

He was the last member of the Symbionese Liberation Army to be arrested.

A rag-tag band of violent 1970s revolutionaries, the SLA was made up of a small group of middle- and upper-middle class whites led by Donald DeFreeze, a black career criminal who called himself "General Field Marshal Cinque."

The SLA was best known for the November 1973 assassination of Oakland, Calif., school superintendent Marcus Foster and the February 1974 kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, who subsequently converted to the cause and took the revolutionary name "Tanya."

After her arrest, Hearst claimed she had been brainwashed by the SLA. But she was convicted of a series of crimes, including bank robbery, and sentenced to 35 years in prison. President Carter later commuted her sentence, and President Clinton granted her a pardon.

The SLA carried out a months-long crime wave highlighted by a May 1974 televised shoot-out with police in Los Angeles. Rather than surrender, six members of the group went up in flames after the house they were in caught fire.

The shoot-out closed the first chapter of the SLA's violent history. But it opened the way to a second chapter that may not have happened if Kilgore and then-girlfriend Kathleen Soliah had not assisted the three surviving SLA members (Hearst and Bill and Emily Harris) and introduced new members into this criminal organization.

It's a long and complicated tale and the subject of considerable reporting. Google the name James W. Kilgore, and you'll find hundreds of links to old news stories about his criminal history — from reviews of Hearst's memoir to the FBI news release announcing Kilgore's arrest.

The record reflects that Kilgore was a middling, but still important, character in the SLA who helped Hearst and the Harrises rob banks, carry out bombings and, until September 1975, elude arrest. Released from a California prison in 2009, Kilgore's parole was transferred to Illinois, where his wife, Teresa Barnes, is on the UI faculty. The couple, who have two children, live in Champaign.

Kilgore declined to talk with The News-Gazette for this story.

It may surprise some that the UI hired a person of Kilgore's background for classroom and research duties. But universities have provided welcoming environments to other violent revolutionaries with criminal pasts — from the UI-Chicago, which employed Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers, to New York University, where convicted murderer Kathy Boudin is on the faculty.

UI officials were not interested in discussing the issue. Publicists for both UI President Robert Easter and Chancellor Phyllis Wise said neither had any comment about Kilgore.

But internal UI documents obtained by The News-Gazette through open records requests indicate that officials were aware of Kilgore's criminal history when he was hired. And even if they hadn't known, Kilgore's cleverly crafted resume includes references that might have raised concerns.

One footnote states: "All degrees at Deakin (University in Australia) granted under the name Charles Pape." (Kilgore obtained the alias from the death certificate of a child in the state of Washington).

His employment history includes a multi-year gap. From 1999-2002, his resume states, Kilgore was the "co-director" of a labor research group at the University of Cape Town. The next section reads: "Present: Self-employed writer."

From 2002-09, Kilgore was either in jail or prison. His resume contained no explanation about the missing years in the jump from 2002 to "present."

UI officials also took what limited steps they could to head off negative publicity in the aftermath of 2009 reports that Kilgore would be moving to Champaign to join his wife, Barnes.

"(Barnes') college has been alerted, and they're going to let her know that she might receive calls from the media. I've instructed them that I'm happy to handle those calls," UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said in an email to former UI Police Chief Barbara O'Connor. "... In light of the recent protest associated with Bill Ayers' visit, I thought you ought to be in the loop on this."

Kales also brought then-Chancellor Richard Herman and former Provost Linda Katehi into the loop, writing "u had better see this" in an email subject line.

In response to news stories about Kilgore, Barnes received email communications that expressed disdain for Kilgore's background and her choice of a husband, and her complaints were sent up the chain of command.

"This is the second email along these lines that I have received at work," Barnes said in an email to then-history department chairwoman Antoinette Burton. "I'm not asking for any particular action to be taken, but I would like there to be an official record of the incident. That said, I am anxious to avoid any/all publicity."

The reticence displayed by Kilgore's wife is understandable. After all, the SLA crime wave was one of the most bizarre stories of the 1970s. Kilgore came late to the party, but he threw himself into it with revolutionary zeal. It's a chilling tale of murder and mayhem.

After the Los Angeles fire in which their comrades died, Hearst and Bill and Emily Harris took refuge in the San Francisco area.

It was there that Kilgore's girlfriend, Kathleen Soliah, organized a memorial service for close friend Angela Atwood and the other dead SLA members, who were characterized as murder victims of police. Seeking assistance, the trio contacted Soliah, leading to a lengthy meeting in a car at a drive-in movie theater between the three fugitives and Kilgore and his girlfriend.

Kilgore is thick and bald now. But in her memoir "Every Secret Thing," Hearst described him as "the typical intellectual, unkempt Berkeley student, with wire-rim spectacles, six-feet tall with medium-brown long hair." She recalled that Soliah "wanted us to know that she and Jim were ready now to do anything" to help.

"They had been part of the radical movement in Berkeley for three years and they knew lots of people who they thought would want to help also," Hearst wrote.

Historical accounts indicate Kilgore was a graduate school dropout who had moved to the Bay Area with Soliah. He and her brother, Steve Soliah, earned money as house painters.

During that meeting, Kilgore said he could arrange through an intermediary for the three to escape the heavily policed Bay Area to safer quarters.

Afterward, Bill Harris, the SLA's new field marshal, was "positively euphoric" about the group's future, Hearst wrote. "The SLA was back in business."

Kilgore's intermediary was Jack Scott, a well-known leftist academic and sports enthusiast. Scott was delighted to help, arranging through clandestine means for the new SLA members to be moved to a Pennsylvania farmhouse. They spent a quiet summer there as California authorities and the FBI continued their intensive search on the West Coast. The FBI didn't catch up to the Pennsylvania hideout until months after it was vacated. They might never have found it if Scott's brother hadn't gone to the police.

Hearst recalled that Kilgore and Soliah said they would look out for the SLA until they got back. That included "holding our weapons in safekeeping," and trying "to save money from their house painting to finance future military actions."

When Hearst and the Harrises returned to California, they decided the Sacramento area would be a safer place from which to wage revolution.

It was just 90 minutes from San Francisco, Hearst wrote, and "its great advantage was that neither we nor our new recruits" were well-known there.

But SLA revolutionaries were no longer interested in having their names and notorious logo — a seven-headed cobra — linked to their criminal activities. Shortly after the group re-formed in Sacramento, a string of bombings occurred in the San Francisco and LA areas, the credit for which was claimed by a heretofore unknown organization calling itself the New World Liberation Front.

Hearst told the FBI after her arrest that the SLA "used the NWLF signature for the dozens of bombings in 1974 and 1975," according to Vin McLellan's 1977 book about the SLA, "The Voices of Guns." No one was ever charged or convicted in the bombing campaign, although Hearst identified SLA members, including Kilgore, as participants in individual efforts to bomb squad cars and kill police officers.

The group spent much of its time in Sacramento engaging in petty crime to support themselves while planning bank robberies to obtain the money needed to support the revolution.

"Jim (Kilgore) and Kathy (Soliah) did not go out shopping as much as they went out shoplifting. They were masters at it. They came back with steaks and chops and fancy desserts," Hearst wrote.

She also said that Kilgore and Soliah visited health spas and city parks where they could "filch wallets, money and credit cards" from unattended pocketbooks in locker rooms, tennis bags and people's jackets.

"The money involved was not much," Hearst wrote, but stealing credit cards and checkbooks "allowed at least one major buying spree," where they bought, clothing, food, "even ammunition."

Hearst's and McLellan's books both state that the group began meticulous planning for a Feb. 25, 1975, robbery of the Guild Savings & Loan, which was selected because it was located outside the Sacramento city limits. That meant there would be a slower police response.

Although Kilgore was never prosecuted in connection with the Guild heist, reports indicate that two men — one of whom Hearst identified as Kilgore — entered the S&L, announced a robbery and made off with $3,700. Hearst said that Kilgore, who was armed with a sawed-off shotgun, kept a watch on the people in the bank while his partner cleaned out the drawers. Afterward, they jumped into a getaway car Hearst said was driven by Steven Soliah.

It took many months before authorities connected the Guild robbery to the SLA.

The Guild robbery whetted the group's appetite. Next, the SLA targeted the Crocker National Bank, located in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael.

But this time, all eight SLA members pitched in, either as robbers, getaway drivers or drivers of switch-cars used after abandoning the getaway vehicles. They used four vehicles — two rented and two stolen.

In a fit of feminist consciousness-raising, Emily Harris argued that it was sexist for the male SLA members to exclude the women from entering the bank.

So, joining Kilgore and ex-convict Michael Bortin on April 21, 1975 were two women, Kathy Soliah and Emily Harris. All were heavily armed, but in an effort to throw off investigators, the women were disguised as men.

They conducted what's called a "takeover" style robbery — rushing into the bank with guns waving, shouting threats, ordering customers to the floor and telling employees to turn over cash.

"This was not a robbery," Hearst told CNN's "Larry King Live" in 2002. "It was an expropriation. It was a combat operation."

Emily Harris fired a fatal shotgun blast into 42-year-old Myrna Lee Opsahl, a mother of four who was in the bank to deposit funds from her church. A doctor's wife, Opsahl was transported for treatment to the hospital where her husband worked. By the time Dr. Opsahl got to his wife's side, she was dead.

The gunmen made off with $15,000 in their multiple escape cars, one of which was driven by Hearst. She recalled that after the shooting "no one was bragging about the success of the venture." Hearst said she saw Kilgore about an hour later and remembers him being enraged that Harris had fired her weapon.

Calling Harris "nervous and incompetent," Kilgore complained bitterly that he was standing directly behind the shooting victim when she fired and that, "if he had been a bit out of alignment with (Opsahl), he would have caught some of the buckshot."

Although Opsahl's death was initially a source of angst among the group, it wasn't long before SLA members were laughing about her death and justifying it, Hearst wrote.

"The woman who was killed was a bourgeois pig — her husband was a doctor," Emily Harris is reported to have said, though she claimed the shotgun went off by accident.

Kilgore and his crew were charged in connection with only one death stemming from the robbery, but they actually snuffed out two lives that day. Court documents allege that during the robbery, Kilgore's girlfriend, Soliah, kicked a pregnant, non-resisting bank teller in the stomach, causing her to lose her unborn child through a miscarriage.

Authorities did not initially link the sensational crime to the SLA. They did, however, recover the getaway cars and process unidentified fingerprints of two suspects from the stolen license plates.

Months later, those prints would be linked to Kilgore and Steve Soliah. Steve Soliah was later tried in connection with the robbery. He was found not guilty.

Despite their shared revolutionary zeal and lust for violence, Hearst said the SLA members were not a happy group.

Hearst wrote that she, Kilgore and Soliah "were the first to leave Sacramento, relieved to get away from there and the Harrises." The "romance of being a revolutionary lost its glitter" for the so-called Berkeley group, she wrote, "at least for the time being." Eventually, they all moved back to the Bay Area, living in different safe houses.

Because Hearst and the Harrises were known fugitives, they had to lay low. But Kilgore and the others hadn't come to police attention. So they resumed normal activities, Kilgore and Steve Soliah returning to their painting business.

Before long, however, the old revolutionary spirit returned, Hearst wrote. Kilgore and Kathy Soliah began to press for some action — "bombings."

Years later, when Kilgore pleaded guilty to federal explosives charges, court documents alleged that he helped plan multiple bombings in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and helped prepare a communique warning police "the next bomb may be under the seat of your car."

"Death to the Fascist Insect that Preys Upon the Life of the People," it concluded, reprising the SLA's famous slogan.

In addition to carrying out bombings at police stations, Hearst wrote, Bill Harris and Kilgore decided to bomb a San Francisco convention of the Veterans of Foreign War. "They walked into the convention meeting carrying a bomb in an attache case." But after becoming concerned that a security guard was watching them, they "decided to leave and try it again later," Hearst said.

The whole terror campaign was drawing to a close because the FBI had come up with the names of Kilgore and the Soliahs. They'd learned from Soliah's father that his son was involved in a painting business, and began running down contractors. They ultimately located an apartment complex where Kilgore and the Soliahs worked. They set up surveillance and followed them to separate apartments, where the Harrises and Hearst were staying.

Authorities arrested the Harrises when they returned from jogging. They arrested Hearst at her apartment on September 18, 1975.

"Incredibly, on the day of the arrest, the FBI had not thought to cover the apartment complex in Pacifica where they had first sighted the Soliahs on their painting jobs. So when our arrests were announced on radio and television, (Kilgore, Kathy Soliah and two others) took off and went underground," Hearst wrote.

Kilgore's days in the SLA were over. His 27-year life as a fugitive had just begun.

By the time Kilgore was arrested in 2002, he'd spent more than half his life on the run from the FBI.

Never completely free of fear that he'd be caught, Kilgore lived under an assumed name, lived in multiple countries overseas, obtained advanced degrees, held a series of academic jobs and, for the most part, hid in plain sight.

For most of that time, the FBI had no idea where he was. Its trail went cold in Seattle, where Kilgore picked up his alias.

According to a 2003 story by the British newspaper The Observer, Kilgore's first stop was Australia, where he launched his academic career — as John Pape, African history major at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Kilgore's resume includes a huge gap for that period.

In 1980, he left Melbourne — "suddenly" — for Zimbabwe, according to the Observer. It was the same African nation where Kathleen Soliah and her physician husband had lived, and reports suggest Kilgore may have picked it because of Soliah.

In Zimbabwe, Kilgore — as Pape — adopted an open, law-abiding lifestyle. He was active in radical campus politics but careful to avoid attracting police attention.

According to his resume, Kilgore remained in Zimbabwe until 1991, when he took a job as an economics lecturer in Khanya College in Johannesburg, South Africa. If his resume is to be believed, his responsibilities at Khanya quickly expanded to include "overall management and planning" of the college.

Ironically, it was at Khanya that Kilgore learned what it was like to be receiving end of acts of violence. According to The Observer, one of his teachers was assassinated in 1993, prompting Kilgore to do what he could to assist the man's friends and family.

His stay ended in 1998, when he accepted a new position at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Kilgore was the co-director of the International Labour Research and Information Group for four years. But just a year into his tenure, his secret life as a fugitive began to slowly unravel.

On June 16, 1999, in an upscale neighborhood in St. Paul, Minn., a doctor's wife who called herself Sara Jane Olson hopped into her car to run errands and quickly found herself pulled over by police.

"I couldn't think of anything I had done," Olson later told the media.

But of course she could. Olson's real name was Kathy Soliah. Kilgore's one-time girlfriend began her life as a fugitive 24 years earlier.

She'd moved to Minnesota, taken on the alias, married a doctor, had three children, become active in the local theater and political scenes, and closely guarded her secret life.

Publicly, she kept up the act, expressing indignation over her arrest and describing herself "just an average American woman" as family and upper-crust friends put up a large sum of money to secure her release on bond.

Behind the scenes, however, Soliah's lawyer started negotiating two separate-but-interelated plea agreements for his client.

Soliah had the obvious incentive to deal. She faced decades in prison for the bombing spree, bank robbery and murder.

Prosecutors were also motivated to work out a plea, knowing that the passage of time had cost them witnesses and weakened their cases.

Because Soliah had hidden in Zimbabwe, authorities shifted their search for Kilgore to Africa.

It took months, then years to find him. But on Nov. 8, 2002, after more than a quarter-century on the run, Kilgore was taken into custody as he pulled up to his residence.

"Are you and James Kilgore the same person?" a South African police officer asked.

"Yes, that's me," Kilgore reportedly replied.

Kilgore's friends and neighbors were shocked to discover the truth. Friends and neighbors said "Pape," his wife and children were just a normal family. They showed up at his initial court appearance, cheering when he entered the room.

Kilgore smiled and gave the group a thumbs-up, according to news accounts.

The day before his arrest, four defendants, including Soliah, pleaded guilty in California state court to second-degree murder charges stemming from the bank robbery and death of Myrna Opsahl.

SLA members were concerned that they might face a "gas chamber prosecution." In the end, however, they were recipients of minimal prison sentences, considering their crimes. The plea agreement, however, also included a required public apology.

Emily Harris told the court, "I just hope by telling the truth that it brings some relief to the family, them knowing that I'm taking responsibility."

She was sentenced to eight years in prison. Bill Harris, her former husband, was sentenced to seven. Olson and Michael Bortin received six years each.

After being assured he would receive the same lenient sentence as his cohorts, Kilgore waived extradition and returned to California, where he pleaded guilty to explosives and passport charges in federal court and to second-degree murder charges in state court.

"I apologize with all my heart to the Opsahl family," Kilgore said at a May 2003 court hearing.

He said it was "never my intention" to see anyone harmed in the robbery carried out by him and his heavily armed companions. He was ordered to pay restitution to the Opsahl family and served about seven years for the state and federal violations.

When Kilgore was paroled in May 2009, news reports quoted California prison officials describing him as a model inmate who tutored others. He also wrote a novel in prison. Entitled "We Are All Zimbabweans Now," the political thriller was Kilgore's first publication released under his real name.

He has since published two other novels. "Prudence Couldn't Swim" is the story of an ex-convict who discovers his wife drowned in a swimming pool and suspects murder. "Freedom Never Rests" is a novel about the "complexities of post-1994 politics in South Africa."

Teresa Barnes, Kilgore's wife, joined the UI faculty in July 2008, holding dual appointments in the History and Gender and Women's Studies departments. Following his release from prison, Kilgore soon gained employment at the UI.

A spokeswoman said he started working at the UI in January 2010. Since then, he has held a variety of posts, including lecturer, and academic hourly positions in Urban and Regional Planning, International Studies and the Center for African Studies.

Kilgore currently teaches Global Studies 296, which concerns issues of "wealth and poverty in a globalized world."

In his private life, Kilgore joined Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Freedom, a leftist organization devoted to social justice. Another group he joined, Citizens with Conviction, aims to bolster the rights of formerly incarcerated people.

In his application to the county board's Justice Task Force, he contended that his criminal history would provide a useful perspective.

"... I have an insider's view of criminal justice by virtue of having served six and a half years in federal and state prisons, one year on parole with home confinement and two years on federal supervised release," Kilgore wrote on his Feb. 29, 2012, application.

Berkson, the county board member, said she has no regrets about appointing him to the jail advisory committee. She said she was aware of his criminal history and urged people to read Kilgore's novels, because "he's a good writer."

Berkson also expressed resentment about being asked about Kilgore's past.

"He has made the transition, and I think it's time we start letting felons make that transition," she said. "He's a scholar, a writer and a very bright fellow. He's helping people make the transition from prison to civic life."

Alan Kalmanoff, the county's jail consultant from the Berkeley, Calif.-based Institute for Law and Policy Planning, said that he, too, was impressed by Kilgore, calling him a "very intelligent guy."

"He's not a typical ex-con," said Kalmanoff, noting that Kilgore's criminal activities were motivated by his desire to overthrow the federal government.

Kalmanoff felt a personal link to the SLA crime wave. He was a student at Cal-Berkeley when gunmen broke into Hearst's apartment, beat her boyfriend into submission and carried her off.

"She was kidnapped five blocks from my house," Kalmanoff recalled.

Kilgore turned down The News-Gazette's request to discuss his personal history.

"I respectfully decline your invitation to discuss my past for a story," he said in an email.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or at 351-5369.

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bkp wrote on February 09, 2014 at 9:02 am

Would UI Facilities and Services hire any felon to even be a landscaper? The answer, we all know, is no.

This man's story is, in many ways, sickening. Compared to his crimes, he received a slap on the wrist. Now he enjoys an easy life as faculty at a top university. Much like that other fruitcake, Ayers.

Most formerly incarcerated persons don't even have a chance for a normal life, let alone a good job.

bkp wrote on February 09, 2014 at 10:02 am

A smart lawyer would find everyone denied employment to the UofI for a failed background check and start a class action discrimination suit.

This man is a felon and he was hired, why not anyone else?

asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 9:02 pm

This "man" was hired because he is a leftistr radical of old. Leftist radicals of old are admired because of their correct orientations. Nevermind that they are MURDERERS. This does not matter in the mind of leftist because they MURDERED with a good cause.  God Bless Them.

hambone wrote on February 09, 2014 at 9:02 am
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What could this person possibly teach the kids anything of value?  How to rob a bank?  Make a bomb to kill innocent people?  Kidnapping a young girl?  Shooting cops?   How could you trust anything he has to say?  I think the adminstration should be looked at closely to see why they have this terrorist on their staff.  Shame on the U of I.

so Not a liberal wrote on February 09, 2014 at 9:02 am

Complicit in the murder of an innocent woman.  A common thief who stole from uncounted others over and over again to support his fantasy.   A liar - again and again and again.  This terrorist is getting paid by our Illinois tax dollars.  And the U of I "leadership" (and I use the term loosely) doesn't want to talk about it.  He is nothing more than a criminal and a terrorist.  Not a shining moment for higher education.

td5775 wrote on February 09, 2014 at 10:02 am

"He's not a typical ex-con," said Kalmanoff, noting that Kilgore's criminal activities were motivated by his desire to overthrow the federal government.

What kind of justification is that? Treason is a quality we want in a faculty member and jail bird advocacy group?  Wiise up and get rid of this guy ASAP.

The Man wrote on February 09, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I agree and thought the same thing.

It's as though "over throwing the governemnt" made his actions legitimate.

What a crock of crap.


cretis16 wrote on February 09, 2014 at 10:02 am

Ah, your tax dollars at work. Raise the battle flag..." WE NEED MORE MONEY FOR EDUCTATION". What a disgusting read.....even worse is this fact .....nothing will be done to remove this felon, and he will enjoy your tax dollars on the way to his hefty pension.

champaigndouglass wrote on February 09, 2014 at 11:02 am

If "he started working at the UI in January 2010", why his salary does no show up on any of the public salary records?




basset wrote on February 09, 2014 at 3:02 pm

The answer is -which Jim Dey conveniently doesn't mention- is that he is not a regular faculty member or even close to one.  He does ad hoc work during the year, which means he is not a regular employee with a regular position at the time the the salary guide is published.  For example, Global Studies courses are typically one credit and pay $3500.  He is eligible for the faculty partner program in which he could have a regular faculty position, but UI has not hired him under such a policy.  Why doesn't Dey note that instead of spending the whole article recalling the guy's history.  

so Not a liberal wrote on February 10, 2014 at 9:02 am

Perhaps he's using yet another alias.  Kilgore is an ugly man with an ugly heart and and ugly mind and an ugly past.  He has no place in higher education, or any education, or any civic participation.  And it's past time that those who fund this mess start demanding higher standards from those who purport to teach. 

trysomethingnew wrote on February 09, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I am highly surprised by the U of I.  Does these mean that they accept students with a felony background then?  It just opened up so many questions I never had before.  I mean its defintely good for people who are ex-cons or ex-felons that do want to be good citizens and work hard.  Im just shocked.  But I like that the News-Gazette wrote this story.  I am glad to see more investigative journalism.  

rbouse786 wrote on February 09, 2014 at 2:02 pm

This story is almost as upsetting as the story that broke at Milliken University last year about the professor who had murdered his entire family when he was a teenager!

 Have we become so sophisticated that we are stupid?!  This man participated in numerous crimes that included kidnappings and robberies where other human beings were murdered in cold blood and they laughed about it!

Come on, UofI leadership, our students and taxpayers deserve better than this!  I don't care if he won the Pulitzer Prize, lecturing our young people and having anything to do with their lives is wrong!

Enough is enough!  Use some good common sense!

joyce_tolliver wrote on February 09, 2014 at 3:02 pm

 It's not clear what the purpose of this long article is, beyond appealing to an appetite for lurid sensation. James Kilgore was convicted of a crime committed long ago. He served his time, was released from prison, and has since made it clear that he does not defend what he did in his youth. Dr. Kilgore and his spouse have spent the last few years contributing to our campus and local community, and they should be allowed to get on with their lives.

serf wrote on February 09, 2014 at 5:02 pm

What, exactly, is his contribution?  If he wants to 'get on with his life,' maybe he should quietly exit stage left and spend the rest of his years hanging out at the local library reading.

Instead, he plopped down in our little community and wasted no time getting appointed to some ridiculous county board 'jail advisory committee.'  So what's the ex-con's advice?  Close down the jail.  Imagine that.  

He's a terrorist.  And I bet if you get him drunk, he'd waste no time reverting to his old ways.  Just the kind of 'advisor' we need.  

thinks wrote on February 09, 2014 at 5:02 pm

There are some actions that people take that have lifelong consequences, regardless of their remorse or attempt to make reparation.

Violent felons who have served their time do need help being returned to society, and they should be allowed to live peacefully and productively, but they also cannot be expected to be embraced in positions of respect or authority. Certainly that is the case with this individual who did not voluntarily take responsibility for a crime, but evaded justice (and caused the victim's family added suffering in doing so) for nearly three decades. I do not wish him ill for my own part; I pity him. Whatever his desire to do good and to make right, he must bear this tragic consequence of a fateful decision for life, as all who loved Myrna Opsahl must bear her loss for life.

The crime you dismiss as being committed long ago was, unfortunately, of such a grievious nature that it cannot be expunged or forgotten. Mr. Kilgore is welcome to serve the community and to work on behalf of the social good. But I doubt many of us welcome him as a member of the faculty at our flagship university.

And this, again, is why: Myrna Opsahl http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20136560,00.html. If Mr. Kilgore was an idealist, if he was an advocate for social justice, then he ought to have been a non-violent one. Those are the women and men that we should esteem: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr.

serf wrote on February 09, 2014 at 5:02 pm

very well said

asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 7:02 pm


asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 7:02 pm

There are at least three lives that would have liked to have "gotten on" if not for the actions of this man.

How dare you demand that this "man" be permitted to "get on" with his life.

He murdered! He killed in cold blood!

Shame on you!

He should not be afforded praise or prominence in the public sphere. He definitely should not be teaching as an instructor in a university setting.

What is wrong with YOU??


asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Unfortunately, hypocrisy is not a shameful thing if you are left leaning ideologically.  Whether you are participating in hate speech against conservatives or hiring well intentioned murderers and terrorists.  Because you are on the left and you are always right in your intentions, you can never do wrong.


kham wrote on February 09, 2014 at 4:02 pm

As I've come to expect from this writer, the article on Kilgore reads as an ill-tempered rant that works as neither journalism nor editorial. If it's a journalistic story, then why are so many facts filtered through sarcastic "color" commentary -  guesses about motivations of the figures involved, sarcastic comments about physical appearance, etc? If it's an editorial, then where is the presentation of an actual question, an argued point of view?

The end result here is the majority of our paper's front section dedicated to a piece that reads more as a vendetta than anything else. What an embarrassment. Your readers deserve better. I suggest that next time you see a chance to tell an "under-reported" story, send an investigative reporter from your staff (such as Wade or De Garennes). Tell a story, report the facts, present some points of view.

serf wrote on February 09, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Oh, the old 'attack the messenger' scheme.  




so Not a liberal wrote on February 10, 2014 at 9:02 am

It was not "ill tempered" and it was not a "rant".  It was not a "vendetta" either.  It was informing the readers that a rat was brought into their midst by a group of people claiming to be acting in the best interests of the University and the community. 

Allowing this person, with his history of violence, theft, repeated absconding and repeated falsehoods to have a voice with our youth and any influence in the community needs to be shown to all.  Most reasonable people recognize a threat when they see one and take action to minimize or remove the threat.  Now we know.  Now the community can demand his removal.  Kilgore has forsaken his country and deserves no special treatment.  If you think he's deserving, take him into your home; allow him to teach your children. 

serf wrote on February 09, 2014 at 5:02 pm

See folks, 'white privelege' is alive and well.  It's just not coming from the usual suspects this time.  If Kilgore had been a black man from the north end who killed a gas station clerk during a robbery attempt, he would have been chewed up and spit out, never to see the light of day again (and rightly so).

But since he was a young idealist whitey, he spends less than a decade in prison for a whole slew of terrorist acts.  We routinely send multiple DUI offenders to prison for longer than that.

And academia welcomes him back with open arms.  That same black man wouldn't be able to find a job in a cafeteria kitchen once he would have gotten paroled at age 72 (provided he would have ever gotten paroled at all).  

White privelege is alive and well at the U.  Some leftists conveniently overlook it when it benefits their ilk.  

asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I agree with you. Liberal whites are subtely racist.  But even if he were black, it would still be wrong. Do you agree with me?


serf wrote on February 09, 2014 at 9:02 pm

I don't agree that liberal whites are subtly racist (that's kind of a broad brush).  I do agree that some of them are willing to overlook obvious past transgressions in order to cling to idealistic notions of the way things ought to be.  Most of them would say that white privelege is real, but apparently they look the other way in some situations (such as this one).

Regardless of skin color, robbing banks and murdering people is wrong.  I think we can agree on that point.  My point is, if he were black, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.  If he were black, he'd still be in prison and no one would even think twice about him.  He would have died in prison, with only his family caring.  


basset wrote on February 09, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Stop repeating misinformation.  He teaches a single class for peanuts ($3500 for the class). He is not a regular faculty member or even close to one.  Jim Dey - report the whole truth, don't leave false impressions for the ideologues among your readership

serf wrote on February 09, 2014 at 5:02 pm

How would you feel if Jon Burge taught a single class at PTI once he got out of prison?

basset wrote on February 10, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Burge has not finishied his sentence, has no remorse, and doesn't have a PhD.  I am appalled by Kilgore, but stop making analogies that have no basis in logic.

The News_Gazette is a sewer for ideologues who can't think critically, don't add to it.


locavore wrote on February 09, 2014 at 6:02 pm

A ridiculous piece that barely reaches the pitch of attack journalism. If it were removed from its context, I would guess that an eighth grader wrote it after a weekend of web surfing.

Those who are cheering on the attack ought to be reminded of something: When the N-G publishes stuff like this, it isn't to inform the public. It functions much more as a test to see who's easily cowed by hate journalism and morally bankrupt reasoning.

If you think your user names are giving you anonymity, you really haven't been paying much attention. Welcome to the heard.

locavore wrote on February 09, 2014 at 6:02 pm

A ridiculous piece that barely reaches the pitch of attack journalism. If it were removed from its context, I would guess that an eighth grader wrote it after a weekend of web surfing.

Those who are cheering on the attack ought to be reminded of something: When the N-G publishes stuff like this, it isn't to inform the public. It functions much more as a test to see who's easily cowed by hate journalism and morally bankrupt reasoning.

If you think your user names are giving you anonymity, you really haven't been paying much attention. Welcome to the heard.

asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I prefer the term "sheeple" to "heard" or if I "hear" you correctly, "herd."

I apologize for the childish correction. I really dislike the grammar/spelling corp.

The only thing ridiculous here is that the left, so in love with its own ideology, can't understand that evil trumps intention.

Oh, I wish I could take a course in "The History of Societal Insurrection" from Timothy McVeigh.  He only wanted to inform us of the evils of our federal government. His passions were misplaced, but his intentions were pure.

Get the picture?

asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I prefer the term "sheeple" to "heard" or if I "hear" you correctly, "herd."

I apologize for the childish correction. I really dislike the grammar/spelling corp.

The only thing ridiculous here is that the left, so in love with its own ideology, can't understand that evil trumps intention.

Oh, I wish I could take a course in "The History of Societal Insurrection" from Timothy McVeigh.  He only wanted to inform us of the evils of our federal government. His passions were misplaced, but his intentions were pure.

Get the picture?

asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 8:02 pm

To Phyllis Wise:

I thought we were an instituion that was against hate. Yet, you allow a perfect example of a hate mongerer join the teaching ranks of this proud university. How do you defend this???


Gregory Koger wrote on February 09, 2014 at 8:02 pm

James Kilgore has dedicated his life to the struggle for a far-more liberated world for humanity. Every single person in this country who has sat in silent complicity with the crimes of this system has committed far more violent harm upon the world than he. James has lived, struggled with and touched the lives of people across the face of this globe and on both sides of the concrete and razor wire that entombs the futures and strangles the dreams of far too many this society counts as nothing. Breathless juvenile screeds such as the above drivel only contrast more sharply the grace, humility and seriousness of purpose that James has shown in his life. None of us are without fault - but future history will honor those like James who stood on the side of those with nothing to lose but their chains.

asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 8:02 pm

I weep for your screed.

"James has lived, struggled with and touched the lives of people across the face of this globe and on both sides of the concrete and razor wire that entombs the futures and strangles the dreams of far too many this society counts as nothing. Breathless juvenile screeds such as the above drivel only contrast more sharply the grace, humility and seriousness of purpose that James has shown in his life."

Please seek professional help for your condition.

Honestly. Get help.


serf wrote on February 09, 2014 at 9:02 pm

What a pile of manure.  James Kilgore and the rest are no different than the bloods and the crips.  The only exception is the bloods and crips don't put on any petty illusions as to what their goals are.  

James has touched lives, but not in a positive way.

None of us are without faults, I can agree with you there.  Very, very few of us kill and rob from others.  Those who do deserve to be ostracized.

so Not a liberal wrote on February 10, 2014 at 9:02 am

Yes, indeed, he touched the lives of the people in the bank the day that Myrna Opsahl was shot.  Yes, indeed, he touched the life of Myrna Opsahl; of course, he was grateful that the shotgun blast missed him.  Yes, indeed, he touched the lives of all the people he stole from while trying to fund his treasonous acts.  Yes, he touched the lives of everyone he LIED to while running from the consequences for his actions.  He is amoral.  He is a liar.  He is a thief.  He is a traitor. "Grace, humility and seriousness of purpose?"  History has not yet found words of praise for those who seek to meet their "purpose" by taking from others, killing others, and forcing their ideas upon those who disagree with them by using violence.  

That you would support this person is disturbing.

asparagus wrote on February 09, 2014 at 8:02 pm

James Kilgore is a "Hate Murderer". This is a hate crime! He hated burgeoise women (he murdered them) so he is a "Hate Murderer", a commiter of a "hate crime." He is one of the original haters of women. Yes? He even killed an unborn baby by having the child kicked in the stomach (not directly but by his accomplices).

I beg anyone to defend this?

Local Yocal wrote on February 09, 2014 at 9:02 pm
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Let no good deed go unpunished, as they say. At some point, The News-Gazette will have to reveal what's in it for them if a new jail gets built. Make your case News-Gazette, what company, what contractor, what financial gain do you stand to get if $20 million dollars worth of jail gets built at the Satellite? Or is this a grand favor at the behest of Her Majesty the State's Attorney or Judge Difanis?

Jim Dey, you better keep your halo clean and your wings polished, cause what goes around comes around,....your stone-throwing may come back to haunt you. Unlike the drunks at Countess Cathedral, who think themselves above repentence, (and therefore their sins remain), Kilgore has repented, carries a moral load most could not bear, and still has decided to serve others as best he can with as kind a spirit as possible.

This is just another cheap shot from the crybabies who didn't get to build more jail last year.

serf wrote on February 09, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Nah, a cheap shot would be something along the lines of 'he has unpaid parking tickets.'  It's pretty relevant to note that a member of this prestigious board that has the ability to speak for the rest of us (or at least have their voices actually heard above the rest of us) is a murderer and violent felon who spent decades running from the law.  

Just like all felons, he repented once he got caught.  

He should carry a moral load.  He killed a mother.  

Local Yocal wrote on February 10, 2014 at 5:02 am
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Using Skepticity's logic then, the writer of half the New Testament surrendered all credibility and right to public discourse after the mass murder he engaged in.

serf wrote on February 10, 2014 at 9:02 am

Ummm, okay.  

I'm interested in what you think about white privelege?  Is it real, and if so, how is this not a perfect example of it?

Local Yocal wrote on February 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm
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It's an ironic twist to note, James Kilgore has beat the drum the loudest for a racial disparity board to be formed to monitor the arresting, prosecuting, and sentencing of African Americans in our local criminal justice system. It has been this unflinching call for equality in this local criminal justice system that has probably led to the Attack Dogs at Countess Cathedral unleashing their clever version of smear investigative "journalism" at the behest of Walsh, Holland, Difanis, Kimme, and Rietz.

Kilgore knows better than us both the role race plays in criminal justice outcomes, having seen it first hand from the inside. Was he a prime beneficiary from racial preferences from within the criminal justice system? Maybe. Your analysis seems correct, especially compared to cases in Champaign County. If you read the story more closely however, you'll see it's the prosecutor who made the decisions to be lenient, not Kilgore. Lazy prosecutors seeking quick guilty pleas cause most of the lenient sentences you disagree with. If you can read the mind of the prosecutor in this case, or can ask him why the lenient sentence, there be your answer.

To Kilgore's credit, whatever priviledges or mercies he received for whatever the reason, he now extends to others and advocates others be given the same or better. Like it or not, those who have been IN THE SYSTEM, happen to also be the best critics of it, and Kilgore brings enormous expertise to the understanding of an effective, cost efficient criminal justice system. Which is why he was selected to be on the task force, why his research and opinions were valued by the county board. Were you to talk with Mr. Kilgore and get to know him, you would agree with Astrid Berkson's assessment.

Guys like Dey, and this commentary board claim to be the experts in morality, but none of you have been in prison, (and thus, think you're so "good"- when every one of the negative comments here would get the minimum sentence of a million years plus infinity in a place much tougher than the Champaign County Correctional Center) and therefore, have no appreciation for the possibility that people can change. Like it or not, God did not stop the heartbeat of this man, and he has turned it around and does make positive contributions. He is not a "threat," "a liar," or whatever else you imagine someone convicted of his crimes to be. He has wrestled his demons, repented of his youth which he neither denies or hides, and makes the best of the situation. He has earned the qualifications that allow him to be entrusted with the few duties he does have.

This is not a television cop show, folks. This is reality.

This commentary board is an excellent example of what the criminal justice system is meant to do to people for a lifetime, and why the welfare rolls grow and grow, why few are able to step out of the boat and do what Jesus commands, forgive 70 times 7. Nope. Can't be done in this punitive, holier than thou society. And so,....the black market recidivism continues,....

All this does not minimize the murder of a life. If you were to talk to people who've unjustly, or even justly, taken a life, it is no small matter, and it's amazing more don't go crazy with the eternal consequences. We do see the problems our Afghan and Iraq soldiers are going through, (30 suicides a month; 25,000 rapes a year) and Kilgore and others do their best to carry the ghost they've created.

If Kilgore's presence on campus, teaching the children has you so concerned, why not ask some former students if Kilgore is the menace you imagine?

While the jail builders at Kimme Associates fume that James Kilgore cost them their precious millions of dollars in jail-building contracts, (and sick The News-Gazette on him- we'll see if Jim Dey comes clean tomorrow morning on WDWS to reveal who put him on the story of James Kilgore) Kilgore is doing his best to contribute a workable solution to REDUCE THE INCIDENTS OF CRIME- not make a financial profit or a job off of more crime, like Kimme and the law enforcement community do.

If ever you wanted a wrongdoer to pay back society for his misdeeds, you have no better example than James Kilgore. He works tirelessly toward the benefit for your children/your freedoms from an ever-encroaching police state. That's not leftist or rightest ideology, that's plain fact many of you have observed over time.

And if you care so damn much about recidivism, crime, and threats to public safety, we'll see you at the county board meetings to discuss the designs to end same. Mr. Kilgore was there two years ago, (unlike you) and will be there still to shake your hand and get you up to speed.

The rest can go back to sleep and let the law enforcement community waste your increasing taxes on revolving doors and more crimes of poverty, while the police and prosecutor publicity departments, along with their attack dogs Mary Schenk/Dey/Foreman/Kacich and Howie stoke the fires of racial paranoia.

serf wrote on February 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Exactly what I expected.  You're a smart enough person, but you are also so completetly blinded by such a stringent ideology.  You are the tea party of the left.

locavore wrote on February 10, 2014 at 11:02 pm

The "exactly what I expected" line is hilarious. You should write poetry.

Local Yocal, you have the floor!

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 10, 2014 at 11:02 am

A white terrorist along with other white terrorists, and Afro-American terrorists commit a murder, and bank robbery years ago.  Now, he is the prime example of "white privilege" because he teaches a rinky dink class at a university?  His actions years ago; proves that liberals, the left, and white felons are evil, and privileged?  Maybe, Dey did not have anything to write about in chilly February that would get the commentors stirred up?  As a result, Tim McVeigh's name is mentioned in the same manner as a leftie?  At least; it shows the ideological mindset, and historical knowledge of the readership.  Why doesn't Dey do an article on Mike Madigan, Bruce Rauner, or some contemporary villan?  What is next, outrage regarding Richard Milhouse Nixon?  

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm

The question of why the U of I hired Kilgore should have been more thoroughly investigated.  His wife is a full time professor in the History Dept.  The U of I has a history of finding employment for professors' spouses on campus.  It is a common practice when hiring a full time professor.  Was this why Kilgore was hired to teach one class on campus?  People can rant, and rave about Kilgore teaching at the U of I; but why was he hired?  The U of I does hire felons by the way just as other employers hire felons.  Rather than just create a howl by reminding people of Kilgore's past, the News Gazette should have investigated why he was hired in the first place.  All of this political rant about Lefties, and religion is meaningless.  Who hired Kilgore, and why he was hired should be the issue.  Of course, the article did cause a stir again in chilly February.  It even made it to the company radio station.  

Moses the Dog wrote on February 12, 2014 at 3:02 pm
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Apparently everyone's had their say and it's mostly negative toward Kilgore. At the risk of not being read, I do want to post in defense of his hiring which I don't doubt was quite justified in terms of his credentials, attitude, knowledge and professionalism.

Does anyone really believe he was hired for his radical past? That's nonsense.

The man is not engaging in criminal activity of any kind now, so if you're NOT prepared to accept people after they've changed their tune, why not just execute our prisoners and save us a lot of money?

WS wrote on April 29, 2014 at 11:04 pm

This whole situation reminds me of another person who early in his career supported a cause - was put in jail because he want to change a system he though was incorrect and was labelled a terrorist - because at the beginning he was involved in violence - he then went down the route of a peaceful approach to change - then they released him.  His name was Nelson Mandela - and with the logic we have here in U-C he should never been president and Dey needs to write the Nobel Prize committee to get that damn prize revoked.  You need to get on that Dey!!!!  Now I am not defending what Kilgore did early in his life  - violence is totally wrong - nor am I comparing him to Nelson Mandela - even though Kilgore did spend much of his life working against apartheid - but we should learn from the wise people that have walked this earth - people change and they can contribute to society in a very positive way.  Kilgore was contributing big time and for a pretty shitty paycheck...and Dey you are going to make him famous over a new cause..."how are we going to deal with felons who are now productive members of society?"  Remember Dey...the world changes over flashpoint events...you opened a can of worms...and gave a VERY smart man an opportunity to be the focal point of a major issue in our society.

...and Moses the Dog...I totally agree with your comments.

stannjudy wrote on February 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I have read this article and nearly all the responses. As a 65 yr old "child of the 60's" I have very vivid recollections of these times. Heck, I joined the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) in my brief time in college - until I learned their true purpose was not democracy, but rather the overthrow of the government through violent means. My father was a Sgt in the Army, my mother a stay-at-home-mom and there were 5 of us to house and feed. Definately not the upper-middle class like the SLA members. But I was an idealist who hitched to CA to join the hippies and the whole movement. But, you know what??? I DIDN'T ENHANCE MY CAUSE BY TRAMPLING ON OTHERS! I didn't murder nor rob nor conspire to blow up cops. I was more in line with the ones who stuck flowers in the rifle barrels of the National Guard. 

Now, I hate to condemn others, but honestly, is 9 yrs in jail justice to society (for all you 'social justice' advocates out there) for murder, forgery, falsifying records, robbery of innocents (all the people who had money in the bank were not facists!), etc., etc? I think not!  I have been denied jobs because of my sex (over 30 interviews for a secretary position as a male at UI), been descriminated against because of my race and heritage (a white male living in South Korea in off-post housing), and denied some benefits due to a 3-month stint in a county jail. But one thing remains constant and that is that "choices have consequences" - positive and negative. When I chose to drink and drive it cost a bundle and I lost some priviledges for a while, when I chose to go back to a community college, I was able to go from secretary to computer specialist work, when I chose to vote liberally we all got zonked by our elected leaders...I have lived and learned and one thing I learned is that we should not sit by and say nothing. I have lived on three continents and loved on as many, but choose to stay in this great country even though my tax dollars support those with whom I would not associate real life. But, I can and will speak my mind and say that our higher education facilities should NEVER have a convicted murder nor thief nor hate-monger teaching our young folks anything. Shame Shame Shame on the UI and all supposed leaders who allow this.

WS wrote on April 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Okay - with pension reform causing potentially many faculty to leave...and who will teach the classes in the fall?...we are focused on this.  Wake up folks - in the fall there may not be enough people at the university to teach the classes that need to be taught.   That is going to impact alot of students!!!!  Kilgore is being paid a petty $3500 to teach the class and he seems to be a good teacher.  Then I see complaints about a spousal hire.  UIUC is pretty bad about how they treat spousal hires which is one reason this university has trouble recruiting faculty to come here and many people are leaving.  So - we are loosing people because of the pension - shitty treatment for couples that come here - and people just trying to get off the sinking ship called UIUC.  There are some pretty notorious cases on campus where top people have been brought here only to find out the unversity was not honest about the promises made to the spouse in order to get them and their familes to move.  Wake up folks...this university is in the middle of a corn field...it is hard to get top academics to come here in the best of times...and it is in big trouble with the pension issue and other reputation problems.  Instead of figuring out how we can save this institution we are focued on this?  It is good we are focused on one person making $3500 instead of the fact that the ship called UIUC has just hit an iceberg and it is sinking fast!!!!!!  With all the people leaving...maybe Kilgore might be one of the few people still here that can teach classes.  Hey N-G - give us some real news instead of bread and circuses baby!!!!