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Wednesday, March 5, 2008 08:08 pm

Cap city

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Untitled Document IFIWEREACARPENTER . . . Used to be, anytime Paul Carpenter’s name was in the newspaper you could bet that the story was about his law-enforcement expertise. As a detective with Springfield Police Department’s major-case squad, Carpenter and his partner, Jim Graham, worked tirelessly to solve the city’s most serious crimes. In May 2005, for example, they received the department’s prestigious William Herndon award, thanks to Carpenter’s keen sartorial sense (watching the surveillance tape of a bank heist, he recognized the robber’s snazzy sweater as one he had seen at a local store). But even then there were questions about the crime-fighting duo’s tactics, and the pair eventually became the subjects of an Illinois State Police investigation. In October 2005, Carpenter was put on administrative leave; a year later, both Carpenter and Graham were fired and Carpenter was charged with two felonies — wire fraud and official misconduct — for sending a phony document to a probation officer in Texas. Last month, Carpenter’s attorney filed motions asking that Carpenter’s trial be moved away from Sangamon County, citing “extensive media coverage” including Page 1 newspaper stories and discussion on talk radio. In another motion, he asked that the wire-fraud charge be dismissed.
. . . ANDYOUWEREANOBAMALADY No American politician in history has influenced as many folks to pick up their pens, pads, and guitar picks as Barack Obama. Last summer there was Amber Lee Ettinger, better known as Obama Girl. This year gave us Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.I.Am, leading a celebrity ensemble in a musical rendering of, and tribute to, several of the Illinois junior senator’s speeches. Now there’s Springfield resident and former Illinois Times columnist Grace Hughes, née Smith, who is offering up her own online tribute to the Democratic candidate. Part tap number, part vaudeville routine, and part rap (“Barack Obama for president/I know the man is heaven-sent”), Grace’s song-and-dance video endorsement is available at her Web site, www.graceuncensored.com. We called Obama press headquarters on Tuesday to ask whether the candidate was prepared to both denounce and reject Grace’s endorsement, but, amazingly, nobody called us back. (Wonder what they were doing that was more important?) Obama probably has nothing to worry about. Last time we checked, the Springfield resident’s Obama video had logged 1,300 views and just 12 comments, one of which suggested that Grace seek professional help.
FLUFFANDSTUFF In March 2004, we introduced an obscure state senator with an unusual name to Springfield readers. Barack Obama was running for the U.S. Senate, and Todd Spivak, who covered Obama for community weeklies in Chicago, wrote a profile for Illinois Times. Last week, in a widely circulated cover story in the Houston Press headlined “Barack Obama and Me,” Spivak described the cover story he wrote for us four years ago as “fluff” — something “Obama’s own public-relations flack could have produced.” He was charmed by Obama’s charisma then, he explains — like much of the national media is now. Just two weeks after the profile ran, Spivak encountered what he considers a different side of Obama. A follow-up story, examining Obama’s somewhat strained relations with other black lawmakers, infuriated Obama. The state senator called Spivak soon after the second story went online and read him the riot act. Obama, who didn’t return messages left with a spokesman, was angry that he wasn’t quoted in the piece. The short conversation was the last time the two spoke. Published just before the pivotal Texas primary, Spivak’s story is available at www.houstonpress.com.
SUREFIRESHERFFIUS Cartoonist John Sherffius, whose work appears in Illinois Times, won the 2008 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning, the Herb Block Foundation announced late last month. The award, along with $10,000, honors Sherffius for a package of cartoons dinging President George W. Bush and his administration. Sherffius was the editorial cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch until he resigned in December 2003 after a disagreement with the editor. His self-syndicated cartoons began running in Illinois Times and a few other papers; Copley News Service began carrying Sherffius after he became editorial cartoonist for the Boulder, Colo., Daily Camera. 
Copley — whose parent company owned the State Journal-Register at the time — wouldn’t let Illinois Times publish Sherffius; however, the SJ-R changed hands last year, and Sherffius is now back where he belongs.
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