Afternoon Edition: Feb. 23, 2022

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Illinois state Sen. Thomas E. Cullerton.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be partly sunny with a high near 25 degrees. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a chance of snow showers and a low around 21. Tomorrow will also be mostly cloudy with a 50% chance of snow and a high near 29.

Top story

State Sen. Thomas Cullerton to plead guilty in federal embezzlement case

State Sen. Thomas Cullerton, a member of an entrenched Illinois political dynasty who held onto his office while facing criminal charges since 2019, intends to plead guilty in federal court, his attorney revealed today.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman scheduled a March 8 hearing for Cullerton’s plea at the request of Cullerton’s defense attorney. A Cullerton spokeswoman later told us she would have no comment until Cullerton’s case is fully resolved.

Cullerton also resigned today from the Senate. His resignation was first reported by the politics blog Capitol Fax.

The news comes a little less than two months before the Villa Park Democrat was finally due to stand trial on 39 counts of embezzlement and other charges filed soon after the feds made known their latest campaign against public corruption.

That campaign has targeted several public officials in the years since. Other state lawmakers to face federal charges — and lose office — since Cullerton’s August 2019 indictment include Luis Arroyo, Terry Link and the late Martin Sandoval.

The charges against Cullerton came just days after former Chicago Teamsters boss John T. Coli pleaded guilty in an extortion case revolving around $325,000 in cash payments he received from Cinespace Chicago Film Studios between 2014 and 2017. Coli also agreed at the time to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Coli has not been sentenced.

The indictment that followed against Cullerton revolved around Cullerton’s role as an organizer for Teamsters Joint Council 25. He landed that job after his former employer, Hostess Brands, shut down in 2012. Coli told prosecutors he arranged for Cullerton’s hiring as an organizer “but did not believe the employment was legitimate,” according to court filings.

Cullerton is accused of collecting $188,320 in salary, bonuses and cellphone and vehicle allowances from the Teamsters between March 2013 and February 2016, as well as $64,068 in health and pension contributions, while doing little or no work for the labor union. He also allegedly collected $21,678 in reimbursed medical claims.

Jon Seidel has more on Cullerton’s case here.

More news you need

  1. Chicago Public Schools officials reached a $1 million settlement this month with the family of a former special education student who reported being sexually assaulted by a classmate in a Rogers Park elementary school’s bathroom in 2014. The lawsuit was into the second week of its trial before a Cook County jury when the school district negotiated a settlement, the family’s attorney said.
  2. A 21-year-old man has been charged with reckless homicide for a hit-and-run crash that killed a 70-year-old woman on Lower Wacker Drive in 2020. The man was arrested yesterday after he was identified as the driver who struck Christine Campbell’s car and continued without stopping, police said.
  3. It looks like Chicago voters will have the final word in the once-a-decade political power struggle to redraw ward boundaries to match the U.S. census. One week after forging an alliance with the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund, Latino Caucus Chairman Gilbert Villegas said “negotiations have stopped” and he is “1,000% certain” the issue is headed for a referendum on June 28.
  4. The city and state mask and proof of vaccination mandates for entry to nearly all venues, restaurants and stores may be history come Monday, but that doesn’t mean all of Chicago’s live theater houses will be dropping them. Our Miriam Di Nunzio has more on where Chicago’s theaters stand on the mandates here.
  5. Stephen Colbert, who has been joking a lot lately about the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, revealed yesterday on his “Late Show” that he got a thorough education on the subject almost 30 years ago. The former Chicagoan opened up about living in Ukrainian Village in the early 90s and how an experience in a barber’s chair there impacted him.
  6. Roughly 50 years after its first run, “The Godfather” will be back in theaters tomorrow to mark the occasion. In celebration, our Richard Roeper crafted a list of “50 ways to love” what he calls the “greatest movie of all time.”

A bright one

Local couple works to increase access to books featuring Black characters

In 2018, Krenice Ramsey was shopping for books for her niece but quickly became frustrated.

“I really wanted the books to feature little Black girls because she was a little Black girl,” said Ramsey, 37. “I went into one of the big chain bookstores trying to find children’s books with a little Black girl, and it was not easy to find.”

Ramsey began searching online for books featuring Black girls. She found 50, and donated them to local organizations. Her then-boyfriend, now-husband Derrick Ramsey said she should next donate books featuring Black boys.

Six weeks later, they were filing for tax-exempt status for Young, Black & Lit.


Co-founders of Young, Black & Lit, Derrick and Krenice Ramsey had a simple goal for creating their non-profit in 2018: increase access to books featuring Black characters.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

What started as a monthly donation of 50 books grew to 1,000 books per month. Since May 2018, Young Black & Lit has donated 32,861 books to schools, churches and hospitals.

Any organization can apply for donations through the Young, Black & Lit website, Derrick Ramsey said, so long as they’re in the U.S. and serve low-income youth.

Now they’re looking forward to summer, when they hope to take them into communities around the city. They also want to find books featuring Black LGBTQ children, and Black characters who live with disabilities.

Cheyanne M. Daniels has more on the Ramseys and other Black Chicagoans carrying the city’s legacy of change forward.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What is the best part about wintertime in Chicago?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: How do you feel about Chicago’s plans to lift its mask and vaccine mandates?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Absolutely great. I’m tired of wearing the mask.” — Roberta Pedi

“Totally disagree with it. It’s too soon.” — Gina Evans

“To each their own. I choose to wear a mask. That’s my decision for now. Maybe when I feel it’s really safe I’ll change my mind.” — Lillian Montemayor

“I think it’s too soon and I think we’re in for a major setback.” — Tom Terhaar

“Lift mask mandates, yes. Remove vaccine mandates, no. How will we ever minimize or possibly eradicate Covid if people refuse to get vaccinated without a firm medical reason?” — Bill Schilling

“To each their own, but I will still wear a mask in certain/most situations. I don’t know if I’m healthy enough to beat it if I caught it.” — Grace Roberson Farkaschek

“It needs to be lifted everywhere.” — Nick Golz

“I am going on 75-years-young in April. I’m suffering with COVID Longhaulers and it’s terrible. So the little I go out, I will continue to wear a mask. If you do not want to mask up, that’s fine just stay away from me. Please.” — Richard P. Berger

“ I will still wear mine. I’ve got too many health issues to believe I will beat it if I get it.” — Yvonne Curbis

“I hope we’re not overly confident and we end up right back where we started.” — Nancy Marszewski

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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