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Penny Pritzker for Commerce? Done deal; the real Jonylah Watkins story

Updated: May 2, 2013 8:19AM



The Pritzker file . . .

It’s a go. Sneed hears President Barack Obama is thisclose to announcing his appointment of Hyatt Hotel heiress Penny Pritzker, an investment guru, as his new U.S. Commerce secretary.

“It’s a done deal. There are no hiccups involving Penny Pritzker’s appointment,” said a top Sneed White House source. “My guess is the president announces it next week.”

“The White House has been in the process of floating names for Cabinet posts to assess any blowback in the press — and there has been none on Pritzker,” the source said.

Pritzker just resigned her spot on the Chicago Board of Education in the form of a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday.

“The president, who has at least four Cabinet posts to fill, was hoping to make back-to-back announcements of his Labor and Commerce spots . . . as well as World Trade representative,” the source said. Stay tuned.

The baby murder . . .

Setting the record straight:

The story of the murder of Jonylah Watkins, a 6-month-old baby caught in the crosshairs of an unspeakable crime while her father, Jonathan Watkins, 29, was changing her diapers in a minivan, is changing.

Sneed is told that Watkins, a street gang member who has been arrested 39 times — and was the intended victim of the shooting — is “unwilling to cooperate” with the police despite news reports, according to a top police source.

“Watkins is giving the police just enough to seem to be cooperating,” the source said.

◆ Translation: “Watkins was unwilling to give police pass codes for two cellphones found at the scene of the shooting,” the source said. The pass codes might have led police to see who called Watkins before the shooting.

◆ The shocker: As a result, police had to send the cellphones to the FBI in Quantico, Va., to open them up — and have been unable to reach a Watkins family member who had earlier told reporters that Watkins “knew who shot him.”

“This person has been ducking the police for three days,” said the source.

In addition, contrary to earlier news reports — which garnered national headlines — the baby was not shot while Watkins changed her diaper, the source added.

“The baby was sitting in Watkins’ lap in the driver’s seat when she was hit by one bullet — not five — which wound up in her diaper,” the source said. “Tragically, one bullet caused a lot of damage and claimed the gift of her life.”

Watson was released Thursday evening from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for injuries from the shooting.

A short time later — in response to reports that he was not cooperating with police — Watkins made a very public show of walking into the Area South police department late Thursday under the glare of television lights to talk to detectives investigating the case.

Watkins stood silently as the Rev. Corey Brooks, acting as the Watkins family spokesman, talked to reporters.

“Whatever the police need to know that he may know, we want to make sure that he fully committed himself to letting them know that,” Brooks said.

The papal story . . .

Pope Francis is off to a rocking start.

◆ To wit: The new pontiff nixed a limo and took a minibus with the cardinals after his election by stating: “I’ll take the bus, since that’s the way I came here.” He declined to stand on a platform while greeting cardinals after his elevation; personally paid his bill, retrieved his bags and cleaned up his room at the clerical hostel where he had been staying, as a lesson for bishops and archbishops; apparently irritated the Vatican garment makers for not dressing up liturgically, and arrived at an ancient basilica to visit his favorite Madonna icon without any warning Thursday morning.

There ya go.

The royal wee . . .

Blimey! The recently pregnant Kate Middleton and her royal hubby, England’s Prince William, are calling their baby “our little grape.” The uber-thin duchess is also craving doughnuts. Isn’t this all so very special?

The dead Pac . . .

Hamster horrors! Now comes the tragic news that burbler Justin Bieber’s beloved hamster, “Pac,” has died from what seems to be chronic renal failure or the low-protein diet fed to it by the fan he gave it to last December. A garden burial was reported.

Sneedlings . . .

Friday’s birthdays: Will.i.am, 38; Eva Longoria, 38, and Bret Michaels, 50.



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