Illinois hunter bags 51-point buck, possibly one of the ‘largest bucks ever shot in America’

An Illinois hunter’s 51-point kill may be one of the “largest bucks ever shot in America,” the state Department of Natural Resources announced this week. Keith Szablewski, of Johnston City, shot and killed the deer in November during the first weekend of the shotgun season in the state, WSIL-3 reported. WISCONSIN MAN BAGS 19-POINT BUCK AFTER … Continue reading “Illinois hunter bags 51-point buck, possibly one of the ‘largest bucks ever shot in America’”

An Illinois hunter’s 51-point kill may be one of the “largest bucks ever shot in America,” the state Department of Natural Resources announced this week.

Keith Szablewski, of Johnston City, shot and killed the deer in November during the first weekend of the shotgun season in the state, WSIL-3 reported.

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"I was just sitting there and I heard the deer behind me," Szablewski, who only began hunting deer four years ago, told the news station.

After making the kill, "I walked up to him, I looked at it and thought, 'What a blessing,'" he added.

"I walked up to him, I looked at it and thought, ‘What a blessing.’"

— Keith Szableswki

State conservation officials have since told the man that the buck, which weighed roughly 265 pounds, “could have as many as 51 scorable points," WSIL-3 reported. That’s four more points than a world-recording breaking 47-point buck, which was shot in 2016 by a hunter in Tennessee.

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Szablewski reportedly plans to take the buck’s antlers to the Illinois Deer and Turkey Expo in July. There, a panel of judges will again score the animal and officially determine if it broke the record.

“I pray before I go hunting,” the hunter told the RFD Radio Network. “And on that day, I did pray to God to bring me a buck, and He sure answers prayers.”

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

Chicago judge under fire over controversial acquittals in high-profile murder cases

CHICAGO – A Fox News investigation into alleged soft prosecutors and judges in Chicago highlights at least one judge who might not be helping the city’s notorious violent crime epidemic by seemingly placing a heavy burden on police and law enforcement and going easy on alleged criminals.

Cook County Judge Carol Howard is known among certain prosecutors as being so lenient on criminals that her courtroom, room 203, has earned the slogan of "set em’ free, room 203."

One case unfolded in 2011 on Chicago’s south side, where four suspects walked into a convenience store and opened fire. Four people, including one of the suspects, were killed in the bloodbath.

Some of the crime was caught on video and obtained by Fox News.

A Chicago law enforcement source told Fox News that in addition to the video, there was “more than enough physical, biological and firearms evidence to convict the suspects.” Yet, all three suspects were found not guilty.

In her ruling, Howard wrote that the tape did not definitely identify any of the suspects, and no DNA evidence linked the defendants to the crime scene. Law enforcement and legal sources have disputed her ruling.

Rod Drobinski, a former Chicago-area prosecutor, told Fox News: "There was gunshot residue… and other aspects of DNA evidence that were pulled off from the crime scene. When Judge Howard made her ruling, she did it in writing, and most of those aspects were either explained away in a rather unusual way or not mentioned at all."

Cook County Judge Carol Howard is known among certain prosecutors as being so lenient on criminals that her courtroom, room 203, has earned the slogan of "set em’ free, room 203." (cookcountyjudges.org)

In a statement to Fox News, Michael Clancy, the attorney who represented one of the suspects, Eric O’Neal, wrote that Howard is considered a fair judge and that any judge would have ruled how she did in the quadruple homicide.

"There was no physical evidence linking Eric to the scene. The store video showed masked offenders that did not even suggest Eric. There is no way Judge Howard or any Judge could find him guilty based on those facts,” Clancy wrote to Fox News.

However, Howard’s questionable ruling in the quadruple homicide may not be an outlier.

Multiple legal and law-enforcement sources told Fox News that Howard has been known for being soft on criminals and has become pressured by the so-called political machine of Chicago.

Police sources pointed Fox News to another case involving the 2014 shooting of Chicago police officer Thomas Derouin. According to police, James Garland confessed to firing a shot when Derouin reportedly knocked and then forcibly entered a house Garland was in to execute a search warrant.

Later, Garland admitted that the officer being shot was “his fault.” And, gunshot residue was found on Garland. However, Howard found Garland not guilty. In part, Howard explained that the state’s experts indicated four people inside the house tested positive for gunshot residue and could not agree with certainty who fired the gun.

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The defense also claimed Garland did not receive his Miranda rights, although the police reports indicated Garland was read them.

In 2017, Howard also acquitted a man she earlier found guilty of murder and arson charges, after the suspect's attorney filed a motion for reconsideration after a bench trial arguing the state's case was based on circumstantial evidence.

The Cook County State’s Attorney's Office responded in part: "We are disturbed by the court’s decision."

"It is pretty apparent that Judge Howard has a pro-defense slant,” Drobinski said. “The fact that we have defendants being found not guilty where there's a volume of evidence against them is concerning."

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For more than six months Fox News submitted multiple requests for an interview with Howard – even specifically mentioning the cases of the quadruple homicide and the wounded officer. Howard never responded.

It is widely known that judges typically don’t speak publicly about their cases. Sources say there are similar judges and district attorneys across Chicago and the nation that are allegedly soft on crime.

The newly-elected district attorney for Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Rachael Rollins, was lauded this past September by former President Obama for her criminal philosophy – which includes a list of crimes she plans not to prosecute, including drug possession with intent to distribute.

Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC

Body cam video captures moment police officer stops teen from jumping in front of train

An Illinois police officer was able to tackle a suicidal teenage girl just moments before she would have been hit by an approaching train, stunning body camera footage showed.

Waukegan police released footage Monday showing the moments leading up to the dramatic rescue.

In the video, no one appears to be in the area as the officers, searching for a suicidal teen, approach the train tracks — but as soon as the crossing gates are activated by the approaching train, a young woman comes out from behind the railroad mechanical shed.

After the girl disobeyed officers' commands to stop, one of the cops jumps into action, tackling the 17-year-old girl before she could step in front of the train.

“I am extremely proud of these officers who, through their heroic actions, saved the life of a young woman,” Chief Wayne Walles said in a statement.

Officials said they received a call Friday at about 1:40 a.m. from a woman who said her teenage sister was going to take her own life by standing in front of an oncoming train. Dispatchers were able to locate the girl by “pinging” her cellphone.

“I am just so proud of our dispatch who utilized their resources to locate the area where this young woman was and directed the responding officers to find her,” Walles said.

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Police said the girl was taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

Joe Florip, a spokesman for the Waukegan Police Department, told the Chicago Tribune they released the photo because they recognize mental health is a huge issue.

“We thought this might be a huge catalyst for people who need help to get some help,” he said. "That’s why we included the suicide hotline number in the press release.”

He added: “We are also very proud of our police and dispatchers for the work they do on a daily basis. Sometimes the public doesn’t realize these are the type of things they are asked to do.”

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Legalize pot, open casino to pay down city’s $28B pension debt

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday proposed a solution to clamp down on the city’s $28 billion in public-pension debt: legalize marijuana and open a city-owned casino.

Emanuel called Chicago's pension crisis a "flashing yellow light of uncertainty" and instability for the city. The lame-duck mayor outlined steps the city has taken in recent years to stabilize the funds, including raising taxes.

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“For the last seven-and-a-half years, we have worked together to stabilize, strengthen and secure Chicago’s pension funds, from our city’s pension funds, to our schools, to all of our sister agencies,” Emanuel said during a speech at City Hall. “Together, we have been addressing this challenge honestly and forthrightly.”

But Wednesday's proposal comes as Emanuel prepares to leave in May, and with the city's required annual pension payments set to balloon over the next five years, the Chicago Tribune reported.

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Emanuel called for issuing up to $10 billion in pension obligation bonds and changing the state constitution to allow a reduction in public worker's public workers' pension benefits — an idea ripped by his successors, according to the Tribune.

Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker has said he supports legalizing marijuana and is open to expanding gambling but opposes Emanuel's state amendment.

"My commitment is to pay the pensions that are owed to people," Pritzker said. "I really believe strongly that when you’re promised something, you’ve saved properly in order to pair it up with what whatever you’ve been promised in a pension, that you ought to get that pension and not have it cut."

Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, dismissed Emanuel's "legal weed and casino" idea, as unreliable sources, but acknowledged his efforts to address the problem.

"Gambling is not a reliable source, marijuana is not a reliable source, but it really makes the point that all available revenue is going to be needed to fix the pensions if you don’t take real action on it," Msall said.

Emanuel's proposals would ultimately need approval from state lawmakers in Springfield before being implemented.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

Chicago candidate, 19, says Democratic Party machine falsified signatures to kick him off ballot

Allegations of election fraud are flying in Chicago's 13th Ward, where a 19-year-old student running for alderman accuses the city's Democratic Party machine of using dirty tricks in a bid to remove his name from the ballot.

David Krupa, a DePaul University freshman who’s making his first foray into politics, claims that 13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn and his supporters are trying to stop his candidacy.

Quinn is backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, one of the top Democrats in the state.

"We certainly need to show the machine that they can’t just bully people around anymore … I certainly believe there’s election fraud committed, yes."

— David Krupa

Krupa says Quinn’s supporters committed election fraud after he gathered 1,703 petition signatures, surpassing the 473 signatures required to run for alderman.

But even before he submitted the signatures, the current alderman’s supporters submitted affidavits from 2,796 people who said they wanted to revoke their signatures for Krupa – a difference of more than 1,000 signatures, Chicago’s WLS-TV reported.

“We certainly need to show the machine that they can't just bully people around anymore,” Krupa told the outlet. “I certainly believe there's election fraud committed, yes.”

13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn and his supporters were accused of trying to derail David Krupa’s candidacy with false signatures. (Facebook)

Michael Dorf, Krupa’s attorney, said the allegations of falsified affidavits and oaths cross a line.

“There are a lot of ways to be a tough campaigner, there are a lot of ways to fight hard within the rules, but when you start filing false oaths, false affidavits, that crossed the line,” he said.

Krupa and his attorney also said that only 187 of the people who signed a revocation affidavit also signed his petition to run for alderman.

This means more than 2,600 signatures were allegedly fraudulent.

Illinois Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is backing 13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn. (Associated Press)

“They had to have been told that it was for something it wasn't for, or coerced into doing it somehow, and we actually had a lot of people who messaged me and said that was the case they only signed because it was brought to them three times a day for a week,” Krupa told the outlet.

He added that in the event of him being kicked off the ballot, he will take legal action. “If we get knocked off the ballot because of the election fraud that's happened here, we are 100 percent filing a federal lawsuit against Michael Madigan, Marty Quinn and every one of their precinct captains.”

But despite the alleged election fraud and receiving death threats, the political newcomer said he won’t be deterred.

“It’s not gonna stop me one bit from trying to expose the machine for what they are, and to expose them for what they’re capable of,” Krupa told WGN-TV.

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

Chicago campaign volunteer shot on Facebook Live while handing out pamphlets

Maxwell Little was canvassing a Chicago neighborhood in support of an alderman candidate who's spoken out about the city's gun violence epidemic — when suddenly Little found himself a victim of that violence.

Little was streaming on Facebook Live on Sunday telling his viewers about Joseph Williams, a candidate in the 15th Ward, when multiple gunshots suddenly rang out. The 32-year-old campaign volunteer looked over his shoulder and fled, stopping the camera.

Little was shot once in the leg by a masked man, he said in a Facebook post later. The shooting occurred just before 2 p.m. Sunday in the West Englewood neighborhood and an arrest has not yet been made, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Little said he is “blessed and thankful to be in the land of the living,” but he contends the shooting was not random.

“Someone wanted me dead,” he said on Facebook. On social media, Little goes by the name Maxwell Omowale Justice, according to WLS-TV.

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Williams told WLS he’s been in contact with Little and is praying for his recovery.

“It should have never happened. He is an innocent bystander who is coming out to do something good,” Williams said.

Ald. Raymond Lopez, who currently represents the area, said gun violence in the city needs to be “confronted and addressed directly and without excuses.”

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“Campaign or not, it is completely unacceptable and unfortunate that someone would feel compelled to shoot at someone simply because they didn’t recognize them from the community,” Lopez said. “This is the same type of mindless gun violence we have seen in other neighborhoods.”

Little has already been released from the hospital, Williams told WLS.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

Illinois county gains $10M for detaining undocumented immigrants

An Illinois county has raked in $10 million in federal funds for its decades-old deal with the government to detain immigrants living in the country illegally, according to a report.

McHenry County signed a bed-rental contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the early 2000s, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The federal government agreed to pay the northwest Illinois county about $7 million for the bed-rental program.

The contract was to expire after 10 years in 2015, but county officials renewed the contract in 2014. According to the contract, ICE pays the county $95 per inmate per day.

By the end of 2018, the program will reportedly bring in more than $10 million, which is up from $8.3 million last year.

McHenry detained an average of 233 inmates daily in fiscal year 2017, up from 167 in 2015, according to data provided by Detention Watch Network, an immigration detention advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

The detention center’s daily average population through Oct. 1 was 270, ICE figures show.

"We still have all kinds of available capacity in our jail, so we're utilizing that capacity in a manner that makes revenue sense for us," McHenry County administrator Peter Austin said.

The county also makes additional revenue for transporting detainees, according to Lt. Mike Lukas of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office. Last year, McHenry was paid $450,000.

Critics argue that such a money-making partnership highlights the potential weaponization and monetization of ICE detention.

County board member Carlos Acosta, who was elected in November, questioned whether McHenry county should continue to be involved in such a partnership.

"It's been a divisive issue because it raises the question, is there a profit motive when the county sheriff is making traffic stops?" Acosta said.

While he acknowledges the money the program generates for the county, Acosta said he’ll push for greater oversight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gerren Keith Gaynor is Homepage Editor at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @MrGerrenalist.

Lee Smith, Harold Baines elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame

Longtime closer Lee Smith and smooth-swinging Harold Baines have been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame.

Former outfielder and manager Lou Piniella fell one vote short.

The results by the 16-member Today's Game Era Committee were announced Sunday at the winter meetings.

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Smith and Baines both debuted in Chicago during the 1980 season — Smith began with the Cubs and went on to post a then-record 478 saves while Baines started out with the White Sox and had 2,866 career hits.

George Steinbrenner, Orel Hershiser, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Davey Johnson and Charlie Manuel also were on the ballot.

Satanic Temple statue joins holiday display in Illinois Capitol

'Tis the season…for Satan?

Just in time for the Christmas season, a local chapter of the Satanic Temple has been granted permission to place a statue in the Illinois Capitol — alongside holiday displays of a Nativity scene and a menorah.

The statue is called “Knowledge is the Greatest Gift” and it depicts the forearm of a woman. There is a snake wrapped around her arm and she's holding an apple, the State Journal-Register reported Monday. The sculpture is about 4 1/2 feet tall including the base.

The Satanic Temple-Chicago applied to display the sculpture. The local chapter calls itself a nontheistic organization that aims to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.” The group also says it rejects tyrannical authority and advocates for common sense and justice, according to the application.

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The chapter has about 150 members, the State Journal-Register reported.

Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker said the group has the same rights as other religious organizations to have a display in the rotunda.

"Under the Constitution, the First Amendment, people have a right to express their feelings, their thoughts," Druker said. "This recognizes that."

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Besides the sculpture, a sign from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has been hung in the rotunda of the Illinois Capitol that states, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kathleen Joyce is a breaking/trending news producer for FoxNews.com. You can follow her at @Kathleen_Joyce8 on Twitter.

Wrong-way truck hits bus carrying girls basketball team; 1 dead, 1 critical, authorities say

At least one person died Wednesday evening when a truck traveling the wrong way on Interstate 74 in Illinois slammed head-on into a bus carrying a girls junior varsity basketball team, officials said.

Charlie Crabtree, 72, a volunteer for the Normal West High School squad, was killed, according to McLean County Unit 5 officials.

Three other adults, including two from the bus, were airlifted to Peoria, with their conditions still unknown, officials said. OSF HealthCare St. Francis Medical Center told Peoria's WEEK-TV that one adult was in critical condition.

Authorities said the bus was hit head-on by a semi truck going the wrong way in McClean County, according to WEEK-TV. The front end of the bus was severely damaged, the report said.

The Normal West team was on its way back from a road game in Champaign, the school's athletic director told WEEK.

A total of 11 people were on the bus. All the students were rushed to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, McLean County Unit 5 officials said.

McLean County is about a two-hour drive southwest of Chicago.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.