WBEZ | Anita Alvarez http://www.wbez.org/tags/anita-alvarez Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Cook County prosecutors shave time off sentences for El Rukn hitmen http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-prosecutors-shave-time-sentences-el-rukn-hitmen-109230 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Nathson Fields.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In the 1980s Nathson Fields was an El Rukn gang member. He was convicted of a double murder, but it was thrown out when the judge in the case, Thomas Maloney, was convicted of taking bribes. In his retrial Fields was found not guilty.</p><p>Cook County Judge Paul Biebel granted Fields a certificate of innocence but the State&rsquo;s attorney&rsquo;s office under Anita Alvarez appealed that and won, leading to a second petition for a certificate of innocence.&nbsp; Prosecutors are fighting that petition in court.</p><p>During a weeks-long hearing that ended Friday afternoon, two El Rukn gang members testified that Fields did indeed commit the murders. But Earl Hawkins and Derrick Kees aren&rsquo;t the most credible witnesses. Each has participated in more than a dozen murders, according to attorneys and court transcripts.</p><p>Fields&rsquo; attorneys say they&rsquo;ve never heard of a case of prosecutors shaving the sentences of murderers in exchange for testimony in a civil matter. Fields is suing the City of Chicago and a certificate of innocence would help that. Judge Biebel says he&rsquo;ll have a decision on the request for a certificate of innocence by the end of February.</p></p> Fri, 22 Nov 2013 16:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-prosecutors-shave-time-sentences-el-rukn-hitmen-109230 In Cook County, you can be found not guilty, and still go back to jail http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-you-can-be-found-not-guilty-and-still-go-back-jail-108758 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cook County Jail.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F112453764" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5e307626-523e-fed3-04c3-447ac1fc4ec8">Brian Otero spent nearly two years in Cook County Jail waiting to go to trial for a burglary. The jury found him not guilty, but he didn&rsquo;t get to leave the courtroom like they do on TV. No, he was brought back into the Cook County Jail to be &ldquo;processed&rdquo; out. He was put in a small cell just off the front of the courtroom, to eventually be brought back into the jail.</p><p dir="ltr">Now remember, at this point, there are no charges against Otero, yet he&rsquo;s being detained against his will because that&rsquo;s just how we&rsquo;ve always done it in Cook County. Defendants who have been held in jail awaiting trial are brought back into the jail. They can be handcuffed, searched, and locked back up in their cell even though there are no charges against them.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Sheriff Tom Dart and county officials are doing little to change the seemingly unconstitutional practice and that could cost taxpayers millions</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>&quot;Free&quot; man</strong></p><p dir="ltr">On his way back into the jail after acquittal, Otero was put in a holding cell with a number of other inmates and three men attacked him.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They approached me and asked me, &lsquo;Did you win your case, are you going home today?&rsquo;&rdquo; Otero said in an interview in his attorney&#39;s Loop law office. &ldquo;Upon me saying &lsquo;yes&rsquo; one of them swung at me and when he swung at me the other two grabbed me and they started hitting me all over my body.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Otero says two of his friends were in the same bullpen, and they pulled his attackers off but he had a busted lip and a sprained hand.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;To this day I got a torn ligament in my hand, but I did not seek or ask for no medical attention. &nbsp;I just let it be because I was just trying to hurry up and get out as fast as I can,&rdquo; said Otero.</p><p dir="ltr">Otero was eventually brought back to his cell, to wait. Ten hours after he was acquitted he was finally released from the jail.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When I walked out the front gate from division 5 onto the streets, it was 4 o&rsquo;clock in the morning.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Presumed innocent</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Mr Otero, when he walks into that trial is assumed innocent, right? &nbsp;And then he is found innocent, so the system ought to be better prepared to do this,&rdquo; says Otero&rsquo;s attorney Mike Cherry.</p><p dir="ltr">Cherry is suing Cook County and Sheriff Tom Dart on behalf of Brian Otero and other detainees. He says he thinks the practice of jailing people when they&rsquo;ve been found not guilty would offend most Americans&rsquo; sense of justice. On top of that, he says, it doesn&rsquo;t happen to people with money. It happens mostly to poor people, people who were in jail before trial because they couldn&rsquo;t afford to post bond.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Basically the lawsuit challenges as unconstitutional this process that happened, because it denies him his freedom,&rdquo; says Cherry. He says when Otero was acquitted he should have been released.</p><p dir="ltr">Sheriff Tom Dart, who runs the jail, says he wishes that were case too.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to get people out of the jail as quickly as possible for a myriad of reasons, whether it&#39;s just general overcrowding issues, potential liability issues, everything,&rdquo; Dart said in an interview with WBEZ in May of this year.</p><p dir="ltr">The sheriff didn&rsquo;t have a solution for the problem then, but said,&rdquo;I do think that probably in the next few weeks some of these limited cases, the limited ones, we probably can come up with some things, so if you circle back, you know in the next couple weeks, we could have something on some of them.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">I circled back, and I circled back again. Weeks turned into months and so far the grand solution is riding on two personal computers in the basement of the courthouse in north suburban Skokie.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Skokie pilot program</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Cook County has one jail but a number of courthouses, so every morning buses leave the jail at 26th and California on the city&rsquo;s Southwest Side, filled with detainees who have hearings at courthouses around the county. In Skokie, a bus from the jail drives into a secure garage in the basement. The detainees are nearly silent as they file two by two, handcuffed together, off the bus and past an officer who checks them in.</p><p dir="ltr">The new computers here emit beeping sounds every time an officer scans a detainee&#39;s I.D. card. The two computers are the start of a plan to finally digitize some of the paperwork in the jail, and a spokeswoman for Dart say it&rsquo;s possible that the update could potentially, one day, possibly allow people to be immediately released from courtrooms when they&rsquo;re acquitted.</p><p dir="ltr">But I ask Kelly Jackson, the chief of the civil division for Sheriff Dart, how long that will take?</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t even answer that for you. I have no idea,&rdquo; Jackson said. &ldquo;Skokie&rsquo;s operating right now but it&rsquo;s the only one of the 17 court facilities that are doing that. There would be no way to estimate if we could, when we&rsquo;ll finish rolling it out everywhere, and where our legal department and the state&rsquo;s attorneys office will take us with that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">A spokeswoman for Dart says starting this week they&rsquo;re going to allow people found not guilty to leave from the Skokie courthouse. They still won&rsquo;t be walking right out of the courtroom, but at least they won&rsquo;t have to go back on the bus to the jail at 26th and California. It&rsquo;s a start.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>A court system stuck in past</strong></p><p dir="ltr">But even if the sheriff&rsquo;s office makes the technological leap to the 1990s in all 17 courthouses, the rest of the Cook County court system under Clerk of Courts Dorothy Brown is pretty solidly stuck in the 70s. The whole court system is paper and carbon copies. That presents a problem for Lt. Charles Luna when he&rsquo;s supposed to release someone from the jail.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still using carbon paper in the courts, so the clerks actually write on the mittimuses that are carbon paper, actually, the duplicates, so in order to transfer the records to the jail, it&rsquo;s actually in triplicate I believe, because one is kept in the court in the clerk&rsquo;s office and then two are sent to the jail for our purposes,&rdquo; says Luna. Whatever the case, it&rsquo;s a lot of paper and before Luna lets an inmate out of the jail he has to organize and verify the inmate&rsquo;s entire court file, which can be several inches thick with those carbon copies.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;At times it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack,&rdquo; Luna said.</p><p dir="ltr">But that doesn&rsquo;t do anything to sway attorney Mike Cherry, who is suing Cook County on behalf of Brian Otero, the guy at the beginning of the story who was found not guilty and then taken back into the jail where he was assaulted. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t have one ounce of pity when a system says I&rsquo;ve got to take advantage of someone because it&rsquo;s too complicated for me to protect the innocent. &nbsp;That&rsquo;s crazy,&rdquo; &nbsp;says Cherry. It&rsquo;s also potentially very costly.</p><p dir="ltr">Ten years ago Los Angeles County had to pay out $27 million to people who&#39;d been held in the jail after they were acquitted.</p><p dir="ltr">While it&rsquo;s Sheriff Dart who is detaining people, it&rsquo;s Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez who tells Dart what he needs to do to comply with the constitution. For two weeks Alvarez&rsquo;s office has failed to provide WBEZ with any explanation as to whether the current practices are constitutional, or what her office is doing to ensure Cook County doesn&rsquo;t have to pay out millions in settlements arising from this practice of detaining people after they&rsquo;ve been found not guilty.</p><p dir="ltr">Attorney Mike Cherry says he hopes his lawsuit is expensive enough that it finally forces the county to do something.</p></p> Wed, 25 Sep 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-you-can-be-found-not-guilty-and-still-go-back-jail-108758 After a dark period, survivor of acid attack finds strength to go on http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-dark-period-survivor-acid-attack-finds-strength-go-108706 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/esperanza and anita.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In 2008, Hope Peralta was the victim of a brutal acid attack in Chicago&rsquo;s Logan Square neighborhood.</p><p>Her attackers poured sulfuric acid on her and beat her with a baseball bat. Peralta underwent more than 20 skin-graft surgeries to repair the damage, and was left with disfiguring burns.</p><p>The attack was orchestrated by Ofelia Garcia and her former daughter-in-law, Maria Olvera-Garcia, who recruited some teens to attack Peralta. Both of the women had been previously involved with Peralta&rsquo;s boyfriend.</p><p>In 2010, a jury convicted the women, who are serving lengthy prison sentences.&nbsp;</p><p>Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez, whose office prosecuted the case, joined Hope in the Chicago StoryCorps booth to talk about the attack and her difficult road to recovery. Hope spent four months in the hospital after the attack.</p><p><strong>Anita:</strong> You were actually put into a coma.</p><p><strong>Hope:</strong> Induced coma, because the doctor says that the pain, it&rsquo;s very, very painful ... no human can take it.</p><p><strong>Anita</strong>: What were your initial feelings once you came to?</p><p><strong>Hope:</strong> When I came out of the coma, I just remembered what happened, but I didn&rsquo;t know the damage that was done. My family covered every single mirror, even in the bathroom in the hospital, so I didn&rsquo;t know exactly how (horrifying) I&rsquo;d look, until I got home and saw the mirror in the bathroom.&nbsp;</p><p>Hope Peralta said she fell into a deep depression and attempted suicide twice. Click on the audio above to hear how she found the strength to keep going.</p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: At the time of the attack, Peralta was known as Esperanza Medina. She&#39;s now using her maiden name, and has changed her first name to its English equivalent: Hope.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival.&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 20 Sep 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-dark-period-survivor-acid-attack-finds-strength-go-108706 Lawmakers: Federal involvement needed to curb illegal gun trafficking http://www.wbez.org/news/lawmakers-federal-involvement-needed-curb-illegal-gun-trafficking-108456 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Gun Checks_130819_AYC.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lawmakers said Illinois&rsquo;s new gun law needs federal involvement to truly stop or even curb illegal gun trafficking.</p><p>Illinois Governor Pat Quinn this weekend signed a new law that requires gun owners to report within 72 hours any lost or stolen gun .</p><p>The law also requires background checks for all gun purchases, including private sales.</p><p>But State Senator Kwame Raoul said there&rsquo;s more to be done.</p><p>&ldquo;We can continue to do (more) at the state level, but the reality is a lot of the gun trafficking occurs across the state lines,&rdquo; Raoul said. &ldquo;Enacting law is only one measure that we can do to combat gun violence, but we also need the help from the federal level.&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the new requirement gives police more control in keeping track of illegal firearms.</p><p>&ldquo;This lost or stolen requirement will help police identify suspicious patterns of behavior by persons who fail to file reports yet continually claim their guns were lost or stolen after they are recovered at a crime scene,&rdquo; she said in a press release.</p><p>Illinois is the 9th state to require the reporting of lost or stolen guns. Michigan and Ohio are the only two nearby states with the same requirement.</p><p>The reporting requirement takes effect immediately, and the new background check system will start in the beginning of next year.</p><p><em>Aimee Chen is a WBEZ business reporting intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/AimeeYuyiChen">@AimeeYuyiChen</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 19 Aug 2013 16:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawmakers-federal-involvement-needed-curb-illegal-gun-trafficking-108456 Attorneys for Burge police torture victims don't trust Alvarez to be fair http://www.wbez.org/news/attorneys-burge-police-torture-victims-dont-trust-alvarez-be-fair-103846 <p><p>Attorneys for Burge torture victims say Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez has a conflict of interest when it comes to reviewing Burge cases. &nbsp;</p><p>The attorneys filed a class action lawsuit seeking hearings for Burge victims to see if their claims of torture are credible in light of what we now know about the tactics of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. &nbsp;<br /><br />Attorney Flint Taylor said Alvarez is too close to the scandal to be objective even though most of the police torture took place decades ago.<br /><br />&ldquo;Well, you have to remember that there was a continuing cover-up and refusal to prosecute from the state&rsquo;s attorney&rsquo;s office during the entire tenure of Richard Devine, and during that entire tenure Anita Alvarez was an important figure in that office,&rdquo; said Taylor.<br /><br />Taylor said the court should do what they&rsquo;ve done in previous Burge matters, appoint a special prosecutor to represent the state.<br /><br />Paul Castiglione with the state&rsquo;s attorney&rsquo;s office said they&rsquo;ll look at the allegations that the office has a conflict of interest and file a response with the court by mid-December.</p></p> Wed, 14 Nov 2012 14:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/attorneys-burge-police-torture-victims-dont-trust-alvarez-be-fair-103846 Cook County’s disregard of ICE detainers catches on http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county%E2%80%99s-disregard-ice-detainers-catches-100818 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SecureCommunitiesRallyNYCscale.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 375px; width: 250px; " title="Diana Mejia of Madison, N.J., prays during a 2011 rally in New York City to condemn Secure Communities, a U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement program that relies on jail compliance with agency requests known as detainers. (AP file/Mary Altaffer)" />A Cook County policy of disregarding immigration detainers is catching on. Lawmakers in other parts of the country, most recently the District of Columbia on Tuesday, have approved bills modeled after the policy.</p><p>Some Republicans are pressing President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration to take reprisals against those jurisdictions. In a hearing Tuesday, the chairwoman of a U.S. House homeland security panel urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton to punish Cook County for its stand.</p><p>The detainers &mdash; ICE requests that local jails hold specified individuals up to two business days beyond what their criminal cases require &mdash; help put the inmates into deportation proceedings. Jail compliance with detainers is a key part of Secure Communities, a program that has helped the Obama administration shift immigration enforcement toward criminals.</p><p>Cook County officials say detainers also erode community trust in local police. Last September, the County Board approved an ordinance that halted detainer compliance by the county&rsquo;s massive jail. ICE abruptly lost convenient access to hundreds of immigration violators each year.</p><p>&ldquo;The Cook County legislation was very critical and a part of the development for the legislation in the District of Columbia,&rdquo; said Ron Hampton, a retired Metropolitan Police officer in the nation&rsquo;s capital who has pushed the D.C. bill.</p><p>Hampton pointed to a legal opinion that supporters of the Cook County measure obtained from State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office last year. That opinion, citing a federal court ruling in Indiana, called detainer compliance voluntary and helped convince the Cook County Board to approve the ordinance. Hampton said the opinion added weight to what he called &ldquo;a model piece of legislation.&rdquo;</p><p>Since the Cook County ordinance passed, New York City, the state of Connecticut and the California county of Santa Clara have also curtailed their compliance with immigration detainers.</p><p>On July 5, the California Senate approved similar legislation that would affect the entire state. That bill is expected to pass the state Assembly. Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated whether he would sign it into law.</p><p>At the U.S. House hearing, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Michigan) said Secure Communities had &ldquo;excellent buy-in&rdquo; from jurisdictions across the nation. Miller, chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, called Cook County &ldquo;the big holdout&rdquo; and asked Morton about it.</p><p>Morton repeated an administration claim that Cook County&rsquo;s disregard of ICE detainers compromised public safety. That claim was the subject of a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-detainers-public-safety-issue-99190">WBEZ investigation</a> completed in May. Inmates freed as a result of the ordinance, the investigation found, have not reoffended or jumped bail more than other former inmates have.</p><p>Morton also told the subcommittee about letters he had written to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to spell out his concerns. &ldquo;We have been working with the county to see if there isn&rsquo;t some solution,&rdquo; Morton said. &ldquo;I won&rsquo;t sugarcoat it. I don&rsquo;t think that that approach is going to work in full. We&rsquo;re going to need the help of others. We have been exploring our options under federal law with the Department of Justice.&rdquo;</p><p>Morton said he would also push for a cutoff of some federal funds for the county&rsquo;s jail.</p><p>That vow won praise from Miller. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t tell you how delighted I am,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re not going to assist us in removing not only criminal aliens but those that might go on to commit a terrorist attack or what-have-you, because they want to have their city become a sanctuary, the federal government cannot stand by idly and allow that to happen.&rdquo;</p><p>As other jurisdictions adopt the Cook County approach, some enforcement advocates are calling for a tougher federal response.</p><p>Ira Mehlman, spokesman of the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform, points out that the Obama administration has sued states such as Arizona and Alabama for taking immigration enforcement into their own hands</p><p>&ldquo;Yet, when it comes to jurisdictions that have openly defied federal enforcement, then the Justice Department seems to have enormous patience and is extremely lenient,&rdquo; Mehlman said.</p></p> Wed, 11 Jul 2012 16:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county%E2%80%99s-disregard-ice-detainers-catches-100818 Indictments slap NATO protesters with 11 counts http://www.wbez.org/news/indictments-slap-nato-protesters-11-counts-100275 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AlvarezAndMcCarthy3croppedscaled.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 209px; " title="State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, flanked by Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy, last month said the men came to Chicago to harm cops and intimidate residents. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></p><div>Cook County grand jury indictments have slapped three out-of-town protesters with 11 felony counts and a Chicago protester with 4 felony counts for allegedly plotting or threatening terrorist attacks during last month&rsquo;s NATO summit.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The counts against Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Brent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla., and Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, N.H., include material support for terrorism, terrorism conspiracy, arson conspiracy, arson solicitation and attempted arson. The three men also face two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and four counts of possession of an incendiary device.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Chicago resident, Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, faces four counts of falsely making a terrorist threat.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Prosecutors in the highly publicized cases did not share the indictments with the defendants or news reporters but quietly filed them June 13 with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, where defense attorneys discovered them this week. The indictments provide no information about evidence.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re playing hide the ball,&rdquo; said Michael Deutsch, one of Church&rsquo;s lawyers. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s part of their strategy to keep the information as long as possible away from the defense to prevent the defense from beginning to prepare.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office did not return messages about the cases Wednesday. In a news conference last month, she called Church, Betterly and Chase &ldquo;domestic terrorists who came to Chicago with an anarchist agenda to harm our police officers, intimidate our citizens and to attack their politically motivated targets.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The prosecutions mark the county&rsquo;s first use of an Illinois terrorism statute enacted shortly after the al Qaeda attacks of September 11.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Defense attorneys call the cases sensationalized efforts to justify security spending for the NATO summit, a two-day Chicago gathering that ended May 21. They say the investigations relied on a pair of infiltrators who manufactured the alleged crimes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Judges ordered Church, Betterly and Chase held on $1.5 million bonds and Senakiewicz on a $750,000 bond.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Attorneys for all four men said Wednesday they intend to enter not-guilty pleas.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A fifth protester, Mark Neiweem, 28, of Chicago, was charged with solicitation for explosives or incendiary devices and ordered held on a $500,000 bond.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Arraignments of the five are expected July 2.</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 20 Jun 2012 14:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/indictments-slap-nato-protesters-11-counts-100275 Commissioners take aim at immigration ordinance http://www.wbez.org/story/commissioners-take-aim-county-immigration-law-95607 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-18/Schneider.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-18/Schneider.JPG" style="margin: 9px 18px 5px 1px; float: left; width: 264px; height: 276px;" title="Timothy Schneider, R-Bartlett, authored one of the proposals. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)">A debate about a Cook County ordinance that frees some inmates wanted by immigration authorities could get hotter. At its meeting Wednesday, the County Board agreed to consider two proposed amendments that would scale back the ordinance. Commissioners with opposing views of the measure also vowed to press the county’s top law-enforcement officials to testify about it at an unscheduled hearing.</p><p>The ordinance effectively bars compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, which are requests that the county’s jail hold specified inmates up to two business days after they post bond or complete their criminal cases.</p><p>One of the proposed amendments, introduced Wednesday by Timothy Schneider (R-Bartlett), seems to require compliance with the detainers for inmates listed on the federal Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment and for inmates charged with — though not necessarily convicted of — various felonies. Those felonies include certain drug offenses, crimes resulting in great bodily harm, and “forcible felonies,” which Illinois defines as involving the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual.</p><p>“I know that my amendment will not pass,” Schneider told commissioners during their meeting. “But maybe with some input from some of the stakeholders, something will come out of this and we will pass a common-sense measure that creates greater justice for victims of crimes and also to improve public safety for the residents of Cook County.”</p><p>The other proposed amendment, filed by Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) and John Daley (D-Chicago), would give the sheriff leeway to honor the detainers.</p><p>“The sheriff should have greater discretion on holding people that pose a threat to society,” Silvestri said before the meeting. “The sheriff, as the chief law enforcement officer of the county, should develop a procedure for determining which individuals to keep and which to release.”</p><p>That idea is not going over well with the ordinance’s author, Jesús García (D-Chicago). “It would bring back a flawed program that has not succeeded in apprehending dangerous criminals, and has instead resulted in the detention and sometimes deportation of people with minor infractions, victims of crime, and even U.S. citizens,” a statement from García’s office said. “It would give the sheriff unbridled discretion to comply with ICE detainers.”</p><p>Commissioners voted Wednesday afternoon to send both proposals to the board’s Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, chaired by Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), who supports the ordinance.</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart’s office did not return a call about the proposals, but he has quietly urged commissioners to require compliance with ICE detainers for inmates who meet any of several criteria. Dart listed some of the criteria in a December letter to Silvestri: “[It] is my hope that you agree that those charged with a ‘forcible felony,’ those who have a history of convictions and those on a Homeland Security Terrorist Watch List should be held on an ICE detainer rather than released immediately.”</p><p>State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office did not return a call about the proposals.</p><p>The ordinance, approved in a 10-5 vote last September, has received increasing public attention in recent weeks as news outlets have focused on a convicted felon who was charged and jailed in a fatal Logan Square hit-and-run incident last year and named on an ICE detainer. After the ordinance passed, officials say, the inmate posted bond, walked free and went missing.</p><p>A letter this month from ICE Director John Morton to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cites that case. “This ordinance undermines public safety in Cook County and hinders ICE’s ability to enforce the nation’s immigration laws,” the letter says.</p><p>Last week Preckwinkle said the hit-and-run suspect’s release “outraged” her, but she has stuck behind the ordinance. Instead of reconsidering it, she proposed a study of the county’s bail bond system for all criminal cases — no matter whether the inmate’s name appears on an ICE detainer. On Wednesday, the board approved the proposal, under which the county’s Judicial Advisory Council will undertake the study. That five-member panel, chaired by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, would recommend ways to improve pretrial services so judges can make better-informed decisions on bond amounts, according to the proposal.</p><p>ICE took custody of 1,665 Cook County inmates in 2010 and 721 in 2011, according to Dart’s office. Morton’s letter says ICE has lodged detainers against another 268 county inmates since the ordinance’s approval but the sheriff’s office has disregarded them.</p><p>The ordinance prohibits the jail from honoring the detainers unless the federal government agrees in advance to pay for the extended confinement — something ICE says it doesn’t do. García and others who back the ordinance say the detainers violated inmates’ due-process rights and eroded community trust in local police. A federal court ruling in Indiana last summer called compliance with the detainers “voluntary.”</p><p>The ordinance has reverberated beyond Cook County. In October, California’s Santa Clara County adopted a similar measure.</p></p> Wed, 18 Jan 2012 13:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/commissioners-take-aim-county-immigration-law-95607 Easy path to re-election for Cook County state's attorney http://www.wbez.org/story/easy-path-re-election-cook-county-states-attorney-95130 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-03/anita alvarez - Getty file.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County's top prosecutor is likely to breeze into a second term.&nbsp;Anita Alvarez has no opponent in the March Democratic primary.</p><p>Four years ago, it wasn't like this.&nbsp;</p><p>Anita Alvarez was one of six Democrats running to replace Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine.&nbsp;In a 2008 primary election night surprise, she eked out a win by a margin of less than 0.7 percent, before cruising to victory in November to become Cook County's first woman - and first Hispanic - state's attorney.</p><p>Alvarez's quest for a second term looks to be much less dramatic.&nbsp;No Republicans and no other Democrats filed paperwork to get on the ballot.</p><p>That's not to say everyone in her party is wholeheartedly backing her.&nbsp;Some African American Democratic leaders questioned some of Alvarez's prosecutorial decisions, and complained she was not visible enough at party events.</p><p>Still, no challengers developed.</p><p>The path is also clear for another Democrat seeking countywide office.&nbsp;State Rep. Karen Yarbrough of Maywood is the only candidate running for Recorder of Deeds. The office&nbsp;handles property documents like mortgage filings and tax liens.</p><p>"This office is a small office. It's pretty obscure," Yarbrough said. "For the most part people don't really understand what it does. And so I'm not really sure that there's a whole lot of interest."</p><p>At least two other Democrats were interested in the recorder's office, but dropped out around the same time Yarbrough sewed up party support.</p><p>Yarbrough said she wants to increase the office's responsibilities. The job could be a springboard for her: past recorders include Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and ex-U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.</p><p>The incumbent recorder since 1999, Eugene "Gene" Moore, has opted not to seek another term.</p><p>Since no Republicans filed for either state's attorney or recorder, Alvarez and Yarbrough would be on the November ballot alone if the Cook County GOP does not appoint a nominee over the summer. Independents or third-party candidates could also file paperwork then, but they would have to collect many more signatures than are required of major party candidates.</p></p> Fri, 30 Dec 2011 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/easy-path-re-election-cook-county-states-attorney-95130 State's Attorney files criminal charges for 2010 South-Side blaze http://www.wbez.org/story/states-attorney-files-criminal-charges-2010-south-side-blaze-95095 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-22/firefighters killed memorial AP MSG.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County prosecutors are seeking criminal contempt charges against the owner of a Chicago building where two firefighters died last year after the roof collapsed in a fire.</p><p>Chuck Dai, 62, of South Holland, Ill. is charged with decidedly failing to comply with a 2009 agreed-to court order to repair and secure his vacant south side building, previously used as laundromat.</p><p>“Given the tragic series of events and the grave circumstances of the loss of these two dedicated first responding firefighters, as well as the injury of so many other of their colleagues, I feel very strongly that a criminal sanction is required and appropriate in this case,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a press conference on Wednesday.</p><p>According to a 2007 complaint filed by the City of Chicago, an investigator cited Dai and his brother, Richard, with 14 building code violations, noting problems with the then-vacated building’s roof and support structures. The complaint alleges the roof and roof trusses of the building were “rotted, had holes and were leaking.”</p><p>After failed court appearances and a $14,000 fine, Dai negotiated an agreement in 2009 with the court requiring that he bring his building into compliance with the city’s municipal code by November 2010 in exchange for reducing the fine.</p><p>On Dec. 22, 2010 – almost two months after Dai was ordered to have the building up to city standards - the roof collapsed as firefighters were attempting to contain a blaze, killing Edward Stringer, 47, and Corey Ankum, 34, and injuring 14 others.</p><p>“There was a court order that was entered. He [Dai] was present when the court order was entered. He signed it, he agreed to it, to repair the necessary violations, and it was never abided by,” said Alvarez.</p><p>Alvarez estimated there are 18,000 vacant residences in Chicago, as well 1,500 open and unsecured commercial buildings. She said criminal charges against those who don’t maintain their property are not filed routinely, but that it is an option the city can take.</p><p>Dai’s attorney, Gene Murphy, said the State's Attorney's office has no proof that Dia willfully ignored the court order to fix his property.</p><p>"There are just horrible accidents that kind of defy definition and defy logic, and they're just that," Murphy said. "They're horrible accidents, and that's what we believe this is."</p><p>Dai is scheduled to appear in court next week. The State's Attorney's office wants Dai to serve jail time.</p></p> Wed, 21 Dec 2011 22:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/states-attorney-files-criminal-charges-2010-south-side-blaze-95095