Is that real, or mostly an excuse? I asked City Hall to provide some specific examples of justice gone wrong, and I've spent better than a week going from agency to agency to get the details. I discovered that while the mayor has a point, even these cases have their ambiguities, with differing details of who did what coming from police, prosecutors, jailers and others.
One case involves an 18-year-old man who, despite his age, already has quite a record. I'm not naming him because I've been unable to reach his attorney, an assistant public defender.
According to police records, in February he was arrested after pointing a gun at a man cleaning his car in front of his house, telling the owner to move away, and driving away with his vehicle. Despite that, he only was charged with a misdemeanor, criminal trespass to vehicle, and released on a $10,000 bond, of which he had to post only $1,000. The charge quickly was dismissed. State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office says it doesn't know why and notes that, as per office policy, all records of such misdemeanor charges are destroyed within 30 days.
In March, the same person was arrested again after, according to police, he pulled a gun on a woman stuck in traffic and demanded her purse—including the PIN for her bank card. He was charged with armed robbery, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated fleeing from police. He was released on a $5,000 bond but was required to wear an electronic monitor, something that Sheriff Tom Dart has been complaining is increasingly used on those accused of violent felonies. The judge who released him did not return my call.
Despite the monitor, the same man was arrested again in June after an incident involving an off-duty Chicago police officer. Charged with unlawful use of a weapon and being a habitual criminal with a firearm, he now is being held in Cook County Jail. He faces upcoming court hearings on the March and June matters.
Example No. 2 involves a 27-year-old man, also represented by the public defender's office. Records indicate he was first convicted of armed robbery, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated carjacking, and sentenced to 14 years in 2013. Records I got from different sources somewhat conflict, but it appears he was released from prison in 2018 after serving just a third of that sentence.
In April of this year, he was charged with unlawful use of a weapon after being a participant in a drug deal gone bad, according to police. He was released on a $10,000 bond with an electronic monitor. In June, he was arrested again, this time after shooting at someone on the West Side. Charged with unlawful use of a weapon and being an armed habitual criminal, he's being held in jail for violating terms of his bail in the April case.
I've been offered more examples by the city of alleged poor performance by the justice system and may take a look at them. But first, I'd like to find out more about these cases and why committing a violent crime does not appear to pose many limits on releasing someone after they allegedly commit another.
Clearly, though, something is not right. The system isn't working, and I suspect criminals know that. More later.