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Cornelison glad his anthem work continues to be haled

By Kevin Beese

Staff Reporter

If not for an Indiana University professor, Chicago Blackhawks games wouldn’t be the same.

Jim Cornelison had every intention of a career behind a piano, until an IU music professor said maybe he should think about another career option.

“It drove me over to singing,” said Cornelison, the singer of the national anthem at Hawks game for the past 11 years.

He found success with choirs at Indiana and it led to an opportunity in 1995 with the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

Cornelison laughs when people say it must be nice to get paid for two minutes of work. Little do they know the amount of networking and marketing the singer does in order to get those anthem gigs. His connection with veterans through his work with the Hawks has led to him becoming an advocate for those who have served our country.

He loves being able to make a connection with military families because of his work singing the anthem. The singer said it is common for a military family member to stop him at an event or game and talk to him about their son or daughter.

“I was at a Cubs game and a woman stopped me on the way to my seat and thanked me for what I do,” the singer said. “Then she told me about her son who was shot in the face. I have developed a relationship with a lot of the families.”

Cornelison really likes being out on the ice with the service veterans, especially those who served in World War II.

“The Blackhawks just started doing that this year,” he said of WW II vets joining him on the ice. “I love it.”

Besides Hawks games, Cornelison has performed the anthem for the Chicagoland NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for nine years. He did Chicago Bears home openers for eight years, has performed on ESPN’s College Game Day and at the Arlington Million.

He has sung on “The Colbert Report,” at the Ryder Cup, the National Hockey League Winter Classic, for many Division I universities, and for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Cubs and Fire. He even performed the anthem for the start of a Smashing Pumpkins concert.

Cornelison said he still gets a thrill stepping out onto the United Center ice to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“It’s great,” he said of the opportunity he gets to sing before thousands of screaming fans,

He says the arena may never have been louder than Game 7 of the Western Conference Stanley Cup Semifinals against Detroit in 2013.

“The Hawks were down (3 games to 1) and they were able to fight back and get the series back to the United Center,” Cornelison said.

While few things top the rush of the crowd’s roar at the first organ note of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Cornelison has a few things on his bucket list.

“I’d like to sing the anthem at a Super Bowl,” he said. “That’s the standard for the anthem. Everybody is watching. I think that would be really cool.”

He would also like to do the anthem for the Indianapolis 500.

“You have a 300,000-person live audience, all sitting and listening to you,” Cornelison said.

The singer said he feels some anxiety before taking to ice to perform the anthem.


“I always try to be respectful,” Cornelison said. “I know the service members are going to be out there with me.”

As for periodic complaints that clapping and cheering during the anthem is disrespectful, Cornelison brushes those aside, saying he sees the cheers as patriotic.

“Those people don’t know what they’re talking about,” Cornelison said. “They must be Red Wings fans.”

Lightfooot gets 

Garcia's support

U.S. Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-4th) has endorsed Lori Lightfoot for mayor.

Garcia joins Our Revolution Chicago, LiUNA Chicago Laborers’ District Council, Plumbers Local 130 and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy in recent endorsements of Lightfoot.

“Chicago needs a fresh start,” Garcia said. “Chicago needs a new generation of leadership. It needs to break from the old vestiges of old machine politics, and is close to making that a reality. Chicago needs a government where big money doesn’t call the shots, doesn’t exert its influence and set the municipal agenda. Chicago needs a laser focus on public safety and creating good-paying jobs for people in all of our neighborhoods. It needs to create opportunities for neighborhood revitalization and prosperity.


“That’s why I’m endorsing Lori Lightfoot for mayor of the city of Chicago. I believe that she will become the change agent that Chicago needs so desperately at this critical juncture. I believe that she has the moral compass to guide our city and that she has the skill set required for making critical policy decisions. I believe that she has the heart and soul to usher in a new era of bold municipal policy that improves the lives of working people, everyone across our city, especially the people who have the least.”

“The movement that Congressman Garcia sparked, that Harold Washington sparked, and so many other trailblazing leaders built — that fundamental desire for change in communities and in City Hall — hasn’t gone away,” said Lightfoot. “It’s grown, deepened, and has included more people all over the city over the last four years. Our campaign is about taking that hunger for change and turning it into reality.


“Throughout his career, Congressman Garcia has stood up for the same principles that ground our campaign: independence, reform and doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s the politically expedient thing to do. He’s a leader in our communities and has been a steady advocate for the same kind of change that we must usher in on April 2. I could not be more proud to stand with him. I’m humbled and honored to receive this endorsement.”

Couple admits to several suburban bank robberies

A husband and wife from Crystal Lake have pleaded guilty to multiple bank robberies in the Chicago area.

Daniel Plushkis, 27, pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of bank robbery, and admitted as part of a plea deal that he committed two other bank robberies. His wife, Jessica, pleaded guilty Feb. 11 to two counts of aiding and abetting a bank robbery.

The Cary, Huntley, Arlington Heights, Streamwood, Algonquin and Crystal Lake police departments assisted in the FBI investigation.

Daniel Plushkis admitted to robbing the Chase Bank at 300 Northwest Highway in Cary on Dec. 1, 2017. He entered the bank wearing a long fake beard, hooded black jacket, camouflage hat and sunglasses. He handed a teller an envelope with a note on it stating that he had a gun and he began counting down from 30. The teller put $5,870 from a bank cash drawer into the envelope and Plushkis fled from the bank with the cash.

Plushkis also admitted that he robbed the TCF banks at 13200 Village Green Drive in Huntley on Dec. 10, 2017 and at 1860 S. Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights on Dec. 13, 2017.

In those robberies, Plushkis again wore the long fake beard and sunglasses, handed a teller an envelope with a note taped to it and began a countdown. Plushkis stole $237 during the Huntley robbery and $2,676 during the Arlington Heights heist.

As part of his plea agreement, Plushkis also admitted that he robbed the TCF Bank at 217 E. Irving Park Road in Streamwood on Dec. 20, 2017. He wore the long fake beard, sunglasses and hooded black jacket. He handed the teller an envelope with a note taped to it and demanded that the teller give him the money that the individual was in the process of counting. The teller handed over $500 and Plushkis fled the bank.

As part of Jessica Plushkis’ plea agreement, she admitted to aiding and abetting her husband in the Arlington Heights robbery. She admitted that she purchased a fake beard, black-colored hair spray and black face paint for her husband a few hours before the robbery, knowing that he intended to use the items as part of his disguise.

As part of both offenders’ plea agreements, the couple also admitted that Daniel Plushkis robbed the TCF Bank at 103 S. Randall Road in Algonquin on Dec. 23, 2017 and that Jessica Plushkis aided and abetted him in committing that robbery. After Daniel Plushkis handed the teller a note stating that he had a gun in that robbery, a teller put $4,350 from a bank drawer into an envelope. Plushkis fled the premises with the envelope and cash heading toward the vehicle where his wife was waiting for him, but he was apprehended by a citizen in the parking lot.

Jessica Plushkis admitted that, after her husband was apprehended, she quickly drove out of the parking lot to avoid being apprehended, but was quickly pulled over by a police officer as she exited the parking lot.

Police at the scene recovered the money Daniel Plushkis stole from the bank.

Each of the counts to which Daniel and Jessica Plushkis pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release of up to three years following imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

Naperville man's arraignment in mom's death postponed

By Kevin Beese
Staff reporter

A Naperville man accused of killing his mother near Downers Grove has had his arraignment on charges delayed.

Kevin D. James, 23, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the Jan. 9 death of his mother in an unincorporated area near Downers Grove.

James, appearing in DuPage County Circuit Court on Friday in an orange County Jail jumpsuit and shackles, had been represented by a public defender. However, a court-appointed attorney said that James’ uncle has hired a private attorney to represent the defendant, but that the lawyer was unable to be at Friday’s court hearing.

Judge Liam Brennan opted to postpone James’ arraignment until March 2 rather than proceed with the formal announcement of charges against the Naperville man at last week’s hearing.

James has been held in DuPage County Jail in lieu of $3 million bond since his arrest the day of his mother’s murder. He would need to post $300,000 to be released.

DuPage County Sheriff’s deputies said they responded to a 911 call at 1:38 p.m. Jan. 9 from a woman later identified as James’ sister, saying that James had killed their mother, Patricia. The caller said that the murder took place in Patricia James’ home, 2150 63rd St., near Downers Grove.

Upon their arrival, deputies said, they found Kevin James in the doorway of the residence, covered in blood.

Deputies said they also found James’ mother on the floor of the front room of the home and that she was also covered in blood. Patricia James was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

It is alleged that while in his mother’s house, James stabbed her multiple times with a kitchen knife.

A suspect in state custody is believed to have robbed five banks in Cook and McHenry counties.

FBI: Suspect in five bank heists has been nabbed

The FBI has confirmed that a suspect is in state custody in connection with a string of bank robberies in Cook and McHenry counties.

The suspect is believed to have robbed banks in Algonquin, Arlington Heights, Cary, Huntley and Streamwood.

Special Agent Garrett Croon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s media coordinator, said that federal charges may be filed against the suspect. The identity of the suspect and how and where he was apprehended was not being released by the FBI.

The suspect, who agents say wore a wig with long black hair in the robberies, is believed to have struck at:

  • 2:56 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Chase Bank, 300 Northwest Highway, Cary.

  • 3:45 p.m. Dec. 10 at the TCF Bank, 13200 Village Green Drive, Huntley.

  • 6:45 p.m. Dec. 13 at the TCF Bank, 1860 S. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights.

  • 6:03 p.m. Dec. 20 at the TCF Bank, 217 Irving Park Road, Streamwood.

  • 3:15 p.m. Dec. 23 at the TCF Bank, 103 S. Randall Road, Algonquin.

By Kevin Beese

For Chronicle Media 

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin greets Chicago Ald. Emma Mitts after his announcement to seek re-election. Boykin was seen by many as a potential challenger in the Democratic primary to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Boykin opting for re-election,  not County Board presidency

By Kevin Beese
Staff reporter

The Rev. Ira Acree didn’t mince words when talking about Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin’s decision to seek re-election instead of challenging County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in next spring’s Democratic primary.

“I’m very disappointed in his decision,” Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church on Chicago’s West Side, said Sept. 28 from inside Boykin’s campaign headquarters in Oak Park. “It’s not the announcement I was expecting today, but I am supportive of him.”

Boykin admitted that he wrestled with the decision to challenge Preckwinkle or seek to retain his First District commissioner’s seat right up until the night before his announcement.

“In recent months, I know that my commitment to speaking out caused some to speculate on whether I might run for the County Board presidency,” Boykin said. “This is a course of action I seriously considered. I have deep concerns about the policies of the current administration and I have a deep commitment to struggling communities throughout the county.”

Boykin said that the First District has dealt with more than its share of pain and suffering due to violence and a lack of economic opportunities. With so many issues plaguing the district, he felt he needed to continue working with community leaders, building bridges to improve struggling communities and the lives of his constituents.

“When I asked where I could most be of service, the answer was quite clear: The First District,” Boykin said.

He said the boundaries separating neighborhoods and communities are artificial. He said problems confronting Chicago’s Austin neighborhood are not that much different from the problems confronting Chicago’s Englewood, Auburn Gresham or North Lawndale neighborhoods.

“I make no apologies for my advocacy on behalf of these communities,” Boykin said. “I know some call it opportunism, I call it bridge-building. If we are going to prevail in the struggle for greater opportunity and security for those who need it the most and have lacked it for too long, we must all work together and we must all do our part.”

Boykin has been one of the most outspoken critics of the county’s Sweetened Beverage Tax. The commissioner has called for both the repeal of the tax and emergency consideration of key fiscal reforms that, he claims, would make such a tax unnecessary.

“When I stepped forward four years ago to run for public office, I did so because I felt called to serve,” said the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Danny Davis. “The First District of Cook County is my home, and the people of the First District deserved then — as they deserve now — leadership that puts people above politics.”

Boykin noted that he has championed efforts to stem gun violence throughout the county and increase investment in Cook County’s most challenged neighborhoods.

“We need to lift our communities up, by extending and increasing opportunity, not weigh our communities down with additional costs and barriers to advancement,” Boykin said. “As a public official, it is not my way to be silent when I encounter policies that are unwise and unjust.”

Boykin said his increasing differences with Preckwinkle were never about him seeking higher office.

“To achieve our goals, we must keep our eyes on the prize: safe neighborhoods, jobs, thriving and secure communities,” the commissioner said. “If we are to succeed, we will have to succeed together.”

Boykin said he has no idea if he will face a challenger in his reelection bid, but will prepare for a primary nonetheless.

“There is a saying, ‘If you want peace, prepare for war,’” Boykin stated, noting he will be ready for any challengers.

On hand to support Boykin’s announcement were mayors Tony Calderone of Forest Park and Andre Harvey of Bellwood; former Oak Park mayor David Pope, Chicago aldermen Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward) and Emma Mitts (37th Ward); Chicago’s 20th Ward Committeeman Kevin Bailey; Revs. Marshall Hatch and Ira Acree;

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