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updated: 1/17/2010 7:54 PM

Candidate files for injunction against Thomson prisoner transfer

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Republican state comptroller candidate William Kelly Monday filed an injunction in Cook County Circuit Court to halt the sale of Illinois' Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government and the transfer of Guantanamo Bay prisoners there.

"This plan presents an unacceptable risk for Illinois," Kelly said. "We've been fighting a war to keep al-Qaida off our soil. Let's keep it that way."

Kelly's attorneys, Alison and Robert Motta, filed a Writ of Mandamus and Injunctive Relief with Judge Martin Agran arguing that the state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability must halt any vote on the Thomson closing and transfer until it has held a public hearing in compliance with the Illinois State Facilities Closure Act. Kelly argued a hearing held in Sterling on Dec. 22 was insufficient because it was not within 25 miles of the prison, as specified in the law.

Kelly said in the filing that the driving distance between the two communities is between 33 and 37 miles.

"Obviously, I'm opposed," Kelly said. "You don't have to be a security analyst to know Chicago is already a target" for terrorists, and many of the Gitmo prisoners are accused terrorists. Yet he added both sides deserve to be heard in the debate.

State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, who co-chairs the commission with State Rep. Richard Myers, said they "have every expectation that this publicity stunt will be dismissed by the courts." Schoenberg and Myers were named in the filing.

"There is no legal basis behind it," Schoenberg said, "but for a candidate gasping for attention I suppose it serves a purpose."

Kelly pooh-poohed any criticism suggesting it's a political publicity stunt.

"There are some people who are going to say that," Kelly said, but "I know that what I'm doing is definitely sincere."

The case is scheduled to be argued in a hearing before Judge Agran at noon Tuesday at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago.

Kelly's filing comes just days before a scheduled legislative committee vote on whether to recommend closing state operations at the Thomson prison and pursue the federal sale. The hearing of the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is Wednesday in Chicago. The commission's opinion, however, is only advisory. Ultimately, the final say is with Gov. Pat Quinn.

At an appearance Monday, Quinn reiterated his support for selling the state prison to the federal government for housing Gitmo detainees.

• Daily Herald staff writer Chase Castle contributed to this report.