WBEZ | Cook County State’s Attorney http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county-state%E2%80%99s-attorney Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Should ban on mandatory life without parole encompass old juvie cases? http://www.wbez.org/news/should-ban-mandatory-life-without-parole-encompass-old-juvie-cases-109516 <p><p>In the summer of 2012, in a case called <em>Miller v. Alabama</em>, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional.</p><p>The key word here is &ldquo;mandatory.&rdquo; In the 1980s and 90s there was a lot of talk about young &ldquo;super predators&rdquo; and almost every state enacted tougher punishment for juveniles who committed violent crimes. Illinois was no exception.</p><p>The Supreme Court said that mandatory sentences don&rsquo;t let a judge consider extenuating circumstances such as the person&rsquo;s age, home life, how involved he was in the crime,&nbsp; and the potential for rehabilitation.</p><p>But the decision didn&rsquo;t entirely rule out life without parole sentences for juveniles&mdash;though the Court said they should be used only sparingly.</p><h2><strong>Thorny legal question</strong></h2><p>In its wake, <em>Miller</em> has raised a thorny legal question: Should it also apply to people in prison who as juveniles received mandatory life without parole sentences but now their appeals are over, and their case is closed?</p><p>The question has come up because several such people have requested new sentencing&nbsp; hearings. And Illinois&rsquo;s Appellate Court, citing the Miller decision, granted at least five of them &ndash; unanimously.</p><p>One of those five people is Addolfo Davis. Davis was arrested two months past his 14th birthday and he&rsquo;s never seen the streets since.</p><p>Today he&rsquo;s 37 and has spent almost two-thirds of his life behind bars. It&rsquo;s Addolfo&rsquo;s case that will be presented in oral arguments today, January 15, before the Illinois Supreme Court.Patricia Soung, who will represent Davis, tells WBEZ that on the night of his crime he went with two older co-defendants, at their instruction, to rob an apartment.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Two people were shot and killed that night by the two older co-defendants,&ldquo; she tells us. &ldquo;Davis was convicted of double homicide as an accomplice,&rdquo; she says, and ultimately received a mandatory life without parole sentence.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MILLER%20NEW_1.png" style="height: 280px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="WBEZ/Patrick Smith" />Alan Spellberg, who&rsquo;s supervisor of the criminal appeals division of the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office, will represent the State of Illinois at the oral arguments. He has a different version of what happened that night.Davis, he says &ldquo;was an active participant in the planning, as well as in the shooting and killing.&rdquo;</div><p>The lawyers won&rsquo;t just be arguing the facts of the Davis case this day. They&rsquo;ll also debate whether <em>Miller v. Alabama</em> is so ground-breaking that it should apply to cases that are already settled.</p><p>Patricia Soung explains that &ldquo;the United States Supreme Court created two categories of rules that should be applied retroactively &ndash; &lsquo;substantive&rsquo; and &lsquo;watershed&rsquo; rules of criminal procedure.&rdquo;</p><p>In her opinion Miller is so sweeping that it falls into both categories.But not everyone agrees.</p><h2><strong>High bar</strong></h2><p>How exactly the court differentiates substantive from watershed is complex and open to interpretation.</p><p>I&rsquo;m not the only one who thinks these definitions can get murky.</p><p>Matt Jones, associate director of the Illinois Office of the State&rsquo;s Attorney, Appellate Prosecutor, thinks so too.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a sort of, I know it when I see it,&rdquo; he says, talking about whether a rule rises to a level worthy of being considered retroactive. &ldquo;Can we have a fair criminal justice system without this new procedural change?&rdquo; Matt Jones asks. &ldquo;If we can&rsquo;t -- then it&rsquo;s the kind of rule that has to be applied retroactively.&rdquo;</p><p>However. If we can have a fair system without the change, he says, it&rsquo;s something that should be implemented moving forward to improve the system &ldquo;but not something that we should necessarily go back and undo every case that has been done,&rdquo; he explains. &ldquo;Even if there are questions about whether each and every case was fair.&rdquo;</p><p>Jones says the U.S Supreme Court almost never considers a new rule earth-shaking enough to actually do this.</p><p>&ldquo;And I will tell you that the only instance that they&rsquo;ve ever cited as an example of that was <em>Gideon</em> &ndash; the right to counsel.&rdquo;</p><p>Counsel, that is, for defendants in criminal cases who couldn&rsquo;t afford to pay for an attorney. That seems like a rather high bar. One that Miller doesn&rsquo;t reach, according to many prosecutors across Illinois. I asked Patricia Soung if she&rsquo;s worried that the Miller decision isn&rsquo;t significant enough to meet that standard.</p><p>Turns out, she&rsquo;s not.</p><p>&ldquo;<em>Gideon</em> provided due process where none existed before and<em> Miller</em> does the same thing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It gives you counsel where you essentially had no counsel at sentencing. The proceeding was made hollow because you were denied an opportunity to have your counsel present, mitigating factors in the same way as in<em> Gideon</em> a defendant without counsel had no opportunity to provide an adequate defense.&nbsp; So in both cases we&rsquo;re talking about providing due process where no due process existed at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Introducing the possibility of re-sentencing hearings for juvenile life without parole cases from long ago introduces a difficult problem. There could potentially be hundreds of victims and first-hand witnesses who&rsquo;ve been assured that the perpetrators are imprisoned for life.</p><p>&ldquo;Not only are the family members dragged back through this process,&rdquo; Matt Jones explains, &ldquo;but now key witnesses who depended upon this certainty that a conviction means a conviction, that life means life-- are now going to have be dragged back potentially through the process. Now with a re-sentencing you may not have to have those key witnesses come back, but their lives are similarly put on pins and needles awaiting the outcome of this person getting out. And life doesn&rsquo;t necessarily mean life for those witnesses.&rdquo;</p><p>These are gut-wrenching concerns, and so the Illinois Supreme Court will be venturing into complicated and emotional territory.</p><p>Court watchers expect a decision by the summer.</p><p><em>Clarification: While today&rsquo;s oral arguments were pending, Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Alan Spellberg declined WBEZ&rsquo;s request for an interview. &nbsp;With permission from the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office, WBEZ used tape of &nbsp;Spellberg from an interview conducted in March of 2012 whrn we were preparing a story about Addolfo Davis&rsquo; bid for clemency.&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 01:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/should-ban-mandatory-life-without-parole-encompass-old-juvie-cases-109516 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 Daley’s nephew charged with involuntary manslaughter http://www.wbez.org/news/daley%E2%80%99s-nephew-charged-involuntary-manslaughter-104168 <p><p>A grand jury indicted Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s nephew Monday for his alleged role in the 2004 death of David Koschman. The 21-year-old victim was injured in a fight outside a bar on Rush Street and died in the hospital 11 days later.</p><p>Richard J. Vanecko, who is the the son of former Mayor Daley&rsquo;s sister, was charged with involuntary manslaughter Monday after a 6-month investigation. He allegedly punched Koschman in the face and departed the scene in a cab. The investigation, conducted by Cook County special prosecutor Dan Webb, also includes an inquiry into how the case was initially&nbsp;handled and why no charges were filed.</p><p>Nanci Koschman, David Koschman&rsquo;s mother, said the police detective she spoke to in 2004 blamed the incident on her son.</p><p>&ldquo;When that detective came in and said it&rsquo;s all your son&rsquo;s fault, it&rsquo;s all his responsibility, that&rsquo;s like a knife through a mother&rsquo;s heart,&rdquo; she said, tearing up repeatedly in a press conference Monday. &ldquo;He told me I&rsquo;d be impressed by the names of the people that were involved with the case, and that if I tried to sue, they would keep me tied up in court for years.&rdquo;</p><p>Koschman said when she realized there would be no investigation, she threw up her hands.</p><p>&ldquo;My dad used to have a saying to my sister and me, you can&rsquo;t fight City Hall. I never really thought that I was gonna go anywhere,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But in April of this year, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael Toomin appointed Webb to the case.</p><p>&ldquo;Now at least I see that with a lot of good people behind you, good things can happen,&rdquo; said Koschman. She was accompanied by Locke Bowman, legal director of the Solange and Roderick Macarthur Justice Center at Northwestern Law School, and two attorneys from the People&rsquo;s Law Office.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the reasons Mr. Bowman and myself got involved in this case was because of the, to put it kindly, the irregularities in this investigation over an eight-year period,&rdquo; said Flint Taylor, partner at the People&rsquo;s Law Office.</p><p>&ldquo;The failures to properly investigate and to indict eight years ago speak volumes about the inadequacies of that investigation.&rdquo;</p><p>Mr. Vanecko&rsquo;s arraignment is set for December 10.</p></p> Mon, 03 Dec 2012 17:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/daley%E2%80%99s-nephew-charged-involuntary-manslaughter-104168 Steep bond for NATO protesters held on bomb charges http://www.wbez.org/news/steep-bond-nato-protesters-held-bomb-charges-99354 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gelsomino1cropscale.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 177px; height: 230px;" title="Defense attorney Sarah Gelsomino on Sunday afternoon calls the amounts ‘punitive.’ (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>A Cook County judge set steep bonds Sunday afternoon for two more activists accused of planning violence during the NATO summit.</p><p>Criminal Court Judge Israel Desierto set a $750,000 bond for Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, a Chicago resident charged with falsely making a terrorist threat. Desierto set a $500,000 bond for Mark Neiweem, 28, a Chicago resident charged with solicitation for explosives or incendiary devices.</p><p>&ldquo;These bonds are extremely high and punitively so, as a result of the sensationalized and politicized allegations that the state&rsquo;s attorneys raised today,&rdquo; said Sarah Gelsomino, an attorney representing the defendants.</p><p>Jack Blakey, head of special prosecutions for the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s Office, declined to comment about the bond hearing after reading a prepared statement about the charges.</p><p>Blakey said Senakiewicz identified himself as an anarchist and part of the Black Bloc movement and claimed several times he had bombs. At one point, Senakiewicz said he had &ldquo;two homemade explosives that could blow up half of an overpass for a train and that he was holding off on using them until NATO,&rdquo; Blakey said. Prosecutors said a search of Senakiewicz&rsquo;s home did not turn up any explosives.</p><p>Blakey said Neiweem told an associate about a store where materials to make a pipe bomb could be purchased, then &ldquo;pressed a piece of paper into the palm of the associate&rsquo;s hand and stated that, if the associate obtained the items and brought them to his house, then they could create a bomb.&rdquo;</p><p>On Saturday, Cook County Judge Edward S. Harmening set $1.5 million bonds for three other activists, all charged with terrorism conspiracy, possession of explosives or incendiary devices and providing material support for terrorism. Authorities accused the trio of possessing Molotov cocktails and planning or proposing attacks on President Barack Obama&rsquo;s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s home, four police stations and financial institutions downtown.</p><p>Prosecutors called those three defendants &ldquo;self-proclaimed anarchists&rdquo; and listed them as Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire; Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Brent Betterly, 24, of Massachusetts.</p><p>Chase, Church and Betterly were among nine people arrested during a Wednesday night police raid in the Bridgeport neighborhood. The raid targeted the apartment of some leaders of Occupy Chicago, a group leading protests against the summit. Senakiewicz and Neiweem were arrested Thursday at other locations.</p><p>Prosecutors said all five cases stem from the same investigation.</p><p>Defense attorneys said authorities built all the cases using an informant duo &mdash; a man who went by the name &ldquo;Mo&rdquo; and a woman who went by &ldquo;Gloves.&rdquo; The attorneys said that the duo tried to manufacture crimes.</p><p>Defense attorneys also claim that authorities targeted the activists for their political beliefs.</p><p>Court filings by prosecutors state that most of the defendants self-identify as anarchists. State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez, questioned Saturday about the relevance to the criminal case, answered that &ldquo;some of the techniques that they were exhibiting all go in line with their beliefs.&rdquo;</p><p>Another possible issue is the length of time authorities held the defendants before allowing them to go before a judge. The bond hearing for Senakiewicz and Neiweem did not occur until almost three full days after their arrests. Their attorneys say neither defendant had an earlier opportunity to see a judge.</p><p>Leonard Cavise, a DePaul University law professor, points to a 1991 judicial ruling. &ldquo;The United States Supreme Court has said that the police have an obligation to get the defendant in front of a judge as soon as practically possible but not longer than 48 hours,&rdquo; Cavise says. &ldquo;The reason we have this 48-hour rule is because we want to get the person away from the police as soon as possible before they coerce a confession out of them.&rdquo;</p><p>Violating that rule, Cavise adds, could lead a judge to throw out any confession from trial.</p><p>Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the state&rsquo;s attorney, insisted that Senakiewicz and Neiweem were held according to the law.</p></p> Sun, 20 May 2012 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/steep-bond-nato-protesters-held-bomb-charges-99354 ICE offer on ‘detainer’ costs draws mixed reaction http://www.wbez.org/story/ice-offer-%E2%80%98detainer%E2%80%99-costs-draws-mixed-reaction-96861 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-29/By Bill Healy - July 27 2011 - 001-CROPPED.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Commissioner Jesús García (D-Chicago)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-29/By Bill Healy - July 27 2011 - 001-CROPPED.jpg" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 321px; height: 205px;" title="Commissioner Jesús García (D-Chicago) says accepting the offer would have a chilling effect on local policing. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)">Cook County officials are voicing mixed reactions to an extraordinary U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offer to cover the costs of holding some inmates beyond what their criminal cases require.</p><p>County Board Commissioner Jesús García (D-Chicago) said keeping people locked up after they’ve posted bond, served their sentence or had their charges dismissed would violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Accepting ICE’s offer, he added, would have “a significant chilling effect” on local policing.</p><p>“The county would be seen as an extension of ICE, operating within local government,” García said. “The immigrant community and all of the different groups that are affected by this would just shut down and cease to cooperate with law enforcement and with government in general.”</p><p>The reimbursement offer came in a Feb. 13 letter from ICE Director John Morton to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The letter also proposed that the county restore ICE’s ability to interview detainees inside the jail, provide ICE access to “any county records necessary” to identify deportable inmates, schedule inmate releases for business hours and provide 24 hours’ notice to ICE.</p><p>In September, an ordinance backed by Preckwinkle effectively ended the county’s compliance with ICE requests known as “detainers.” Those requests kept specified inmates in jail up to two business days longer than required by their criminal case’s judge. The ordinance barred the sheriff from honoring ICE detainers unless the feds agreed to pay for the extended confinement. County officials say that confinement costs about $142 a day per inmate.</p><p>Morton blasted the ordinance in a January letter, claiming it undermines public safety and hinders ICE’s ability to enforce immigration laws.</p><p>His offer to Cook County signals a possible change in ICE policy. The agency last year said it did not reimburse local jails for the cost of honoring its detainers.</p><p>Asked whether the offer could set a precedent for other jails, the agency sent a written statement that said Cook County reimbursements would be “unlikely” if ICE were “once again permitted to work inside” the jail and if the county provided the 24-hour notice. “ICE officers would immediately take custody of detainees on the same day of their scheduled release,” the statement said.</p><p>County Board Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park), who voted against the ordinance, said Morton’s offer focuses the debate on public safety and constitutional questions. “If the argument against complying with ICE detainers was that it’s a financial burden on the county, that argument has been resolved,” Silvestri said.</p><p>Preckwinkle’s office said Wednesday she was studying Morton’s proposals and couldn’t respond to them yet.</p><p>Preckwinkle has defended the ordinance and pointed out that citizens, not just suspected immigration violators, can cause trouble after getting out of jail. In January, she ordered a six-month study aimed at improving the bond system so inmates who threaten public safety remain in jail.</p><p>Another county official predicted that complying with the detainers again would give inmates reason to sue for false imprisonment. “When they get compensated by a jury, are the feds going to come across and pay that bill too?” asked Patrick Reardon, first assistant Cook County public defender.</p><p>The county paid $72,000 to settle two 2008 lawsuits over detainers involving five inmates, according to Patrick Driscoll Jr., a deputy Cook County state’s attorney.</p><p>García and Reardon said allowing ICE officials to interview jail inmates would violate a 2007 County Board resolution aimed at removing the county from immigration enforcement.</p><p>Morton’s proposals include creating a “joint working group,” consisting of county and ICE employees, to resolve detainer issues and schedule implementation of his plan. Morton pointed out his plan would require amending or repealing the September ordinance.</p><p>“Morton has [offered] the olive branch and said that he would like to have a working group established so that they can discuss any remaining issues beyond the cost,” Commissioner Tim Schneider (R-Bartlett) said. “We need to find out what these last issues are in order for ICE to be able to do its job and function effectively in Cook County.”</p><p>Silvestri and Schneider have each proposed an amendment to scale back the ordinance so it allows detainer compliance for inmates deemed most dangerous. The amendments were the subject of a heated County Board hearing Feb. 9.</p><p>At the hearing, Sheriff Tom Dart said the jail had released 346 inmates named on ICE detainers since the ordinance passed. He said 11 of those individuals ended up arrested again. The charges varied.</p><p>Dart also voiced support for Schneider’s proposal, which would require compliance with detainers for inmates who appeared on a federal terrorist list or who faced any of several serious felony charges.</p><p>Dart’s office Wednesday did not answer whether it supported Morton’s proposals but said it favors “anything that helps bring sanity to the current situation.”</p></p> Thu, 01 Mar 2012 11:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/ice-offer-%E2%80%98detainer%E2%80%99-costs-draws-mixed-reaction-96861 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 County commissioner pulls bill to free inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/county-commissioner-pulls-bill-free-inmates-wanted-ice-89730 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-27/Garcia.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Legislation that would have required Cook County to free some jail inmates wanted by immigration authorities is dead for now.<br> <br> Commissioner Jesús García, D-Chicago, withdrew his bill at Wednesday’s County Board meeting. “We want to rethink it,” he said afterwards.<br> <br> The measure would have made the county the nation’s largest jurisdiction to end blanket compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers. Those are requests by the federal agency for local jails to keep some inmates 48 hours beyond what their criminal cases require.<br> <br> García’s bill would have ended the county’s compliance unless the inmate had been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors and unless the county got reimbursed.<br> <br> Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she would back releasing some inmates wanted by ICE but wants to hear from State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. “We hope to have a written opinion from the state’s attorney that will allow us to proceed,” she said after the board meeting.<br> <br> A letter from Alvarez to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office back in 2009 said the jail “must comply with any ICE detainers.”<br> <br> But ICE officials in recent months have said there is no legal requirement for jails to comply. Dart told WBEZ this month he planned to ask Alvarez for an updated opinion.<br> <br> Alvarez’s office hasn’t answered WBEZ’s questions about whether she will revisit that opinion.</p></p> Wed, 27 Jul 2011 21:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/county-commissioner-pulls-bill-free-inmates-wanted-ice-89730 Bill would free Cook County inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/bill-would-free-cook-county-inmates-wanted-ice-89634 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-26/cook-County-Jail-2_Flickr_Zol87.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Cook County commissioner is quietly proposing an ordinance that would require the county’s massive jail to release some inmates wanted by immigration authorities.</p><p>Sponsored by Jesús García, D-Chicago, the measure would prohibit the jail from holding inmates based on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request unless they have been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors, and unless the county gets reimbursed.</p><p>The legislation’s preamble says complying with the ICE requests, known as detainers, “places a great strain on our communities by eroding the public trust that local law enforcement depends on to secure the accurate reporting of criminal activity and to prevent and solve crimes.”</p><p>The jail now holds detainees requested by ICE for up to 48 hours after their criminal cases would allow them to walk free. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office says the jail turns over about a half dozen inmates to the federal agency each business day.</p><p>Dart this month <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233">told WBEZ his staff was exploring legal options</a> for releasing some of these inmates. The sheriff said his review began after he noticed that San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessey had ordered his department to quit honoring certain ICE detainers beginning June 1.</p><p>If Dart’s office follows Hennessey’s path or if García’s legislation wins approval, Cook County could become the nation’s largest local jurisdiction to halt blanket compliance with ICE holds.</p><p>“Cook County would be a counter pole to Arizona’s Maricopa County,” says Chris Newman, general counsel of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a Los Angeles-based group that opposes involving local authorities in immigration enforcement.</p><p>García’s office didn’t return WBEZ calls or messages about his legislation. The offices of Sheriff Dart and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said they had seen the bill but declined to say whether they supported it.</p><p>A spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said late Tuesday her office had not been consulted about García’s proposal. A 2009 letter from Alvarez to Dart’s office said federal law required the sheriff to comply with “any ICE detainers.”</p><p>In recent months, however, immigration authorities have acknowledged that local jails do not have to comply with the detainers.</p><p>ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa, asked for comment about García’s legislation, sent a statement calling the detainers “critical” for deporting “criminal aliens and others who have no legal right to remain in the United States.”</p><p>“Individuals arrested for misdemeanors may ultimately be identified as recidivist offenders with multiple prior arrests, in addition to being in violation of U.S. immigration law,” the ICE statement said. “These individuals may have been deported before or have outstanding orders of removal.” Jurisdictions that ignore immigration detainers would be responsible for “possible public safety risks,” the statement added.</p><p>García’s proposal is on the county board’s agenda for Wednesday morning. Possible steps by commissioners include referring the measure to committee or approving it immediately.</p></p> Tue, 26 Jul 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/bill-would-free-cook-county-inmates-wanted-ice-89634 Sheriff mulls freeing inmates wanted on immigration charges http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20090908_tarnold_9361_Sher_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>On any given day, the Cook County Jail holds hundreds of inmates picked up on criminal charges who also happen to be wanted for an immigration violation. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office keeps them up to 48 hours beyond when the criminal cases would allow them out. That’s to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency known as ICE, to take them into deportation proceedings. Now Dart tells WBEZ he’s reconsidering that policy because it could be compromising public safety. We report from our West Side bureau.</p><p><br> SOUND: Keys open a jail door.<br> <br> Beneath the Cook County criminal courthouse, one jailer pulls out keys and unlocks a door. Another, Officer Carmelo Santiago, leads the way.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: We’re going through this tunnel that connects us from the courthouse to the jail. This way is where the detainee is going to be coming.<br> <br> We step around crusts of sandwiches that the day’s new arrivals got for lunch.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: And this is the receiving process.<br> <br> SOUND: Entering the receiving area.<br> <br> The smell of unwashed feet wafts from chain-link pens full of inmates who’re waiting to be processed. Santiago shows me the paperwork of a Mexican national busted last night in Chicago.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: This individual was arrested for driving on a revoked or suspended license on a DUI.<br> <br> A lot of immigrants who drink and drive end up in this jail. That’s because Illinois considers DUI a felony when the motorist lacks a valid driver’s license. And the state doesn’t allow any undocumented immigrant to get one.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: He was issued a bond from the court for $15,000.<br> <br> Santiago points out that the defendant could walk free for just $1,500. Except, his file shows something else.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: This specific individual has a detainer that was placed on him through immigration.<br> <br> MITCHELL: This man can post bond or not [and] he’s going to end up in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement?<br> <br> SANTIAGO: That is correct.<br> <br> Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he doesn’t like holding on to inmates like this one for ICE to take away. He says these holds make it harder for local police to fight crime. Residents see cops and start thinking about the threat of deportation — the threat to the criminals, maybe even to themselves.<br> <br> DART: It does not lend itself to a sense of community where people will gladly come to you with information about crimes, get involved as a witness, even come forward as a victim, frankly.<br> <br> Over the years Dart has taken steps to reduce the jail’s role in immigration enforcement. The sheriff’s office says it no longer calls ICE with information about inmates. The sheriff no longer allows ICE agents in holding cells near bond courtrooms. The jail has put up big signs — in English, Spanish and Polish — that tell new inmates they have no obligation to answer questions about immigration status. But Dart says something has him in a bind. Every day ICE requests that the jail hold certain inmates two extra days so the agency can put the detainees into deportation proceedings. The jail ends up turning over about a half-dozen inmates to ICE each day. Two years ago, Dart quietly sought some legal advice from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office.<br> <br> DART: The opinion was really unambiguous. It said I had to comply with the detainer. So, when the detainer was placed on somebody, I had to give the ICE officers 48 hours to come and pick somebody up and that it was not in my discretion.<br> <br> MITCHELL: Could you ignore the state’s attorney’s opinion?<br> <br> DART: Then I open myself up personally to civil liability.<br> <br> Dart says that could include damages for someone hurt by a released inmate or the legal defense if an anti-immigrant group filed suit . . .<br> <br> DART: . . . which is not something that myself or my five children signed up to do. And I open our office up to unbelievable amounts of liability.<br> <br> But some immigrant advocates are pressing Dart about the ICE detainers. They confronted a few of his top aides at a meeting a few weeks ago. Reverend Walter Coleman got to question a sheriff’s attorney, Patricia Horne.<br> <br> HORNE: It’s a legal document just like an arrest warrant, which we, under law, have to recognize.<br> <br> COLEMAN: Under what law?<br> <br> HORNE: Well, in this case, under federal law.<br> <br> COLEMAN: There is no federal law. You cannot cite me the statute or the chapter or the section. You know that that’s the truth and we will not sit here and be lied to like this.<br> <br> It turns out ICE isn’t citing a statute either. Lately federal officials have acknowledged that local jails don’t have to comply with immigration detainer requests. Last month the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department quit honoring the requests for certain inmates. Here in Cook County, Sheriff Dart says that’s got him wondering again whether he has to comply with the 48-hour holds. He tells me he’s planning to ask the State’s Attorney’s Office for an updated opinion. He could do that quietly again and most people wouldn’t even know. But Dart doesn’t always operate quietly. You might remember that, twice over the last three years, the sheriff has ordered his deputies to suspend enforcement of foreclosure evictions.<br> <br> MITCHELL: You run one of the country’s biggest jails. Would you really be willing to become a national lightening rod on the issue of immigration enforcement?<br> <br> DART: Well, there is this notion of justice that we’ve always felt very strongly about in this office. And whether it’s dealing with people who we felt were being dispossessed of their houses in the mortgage crisis. So we stopped. It’s the same issue here, where we are attempting to do what is right and just.<br> <br> But Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Greg Palmore has a warning for any sheriff who lets inmates walk free despite an immigration hold.<br> <br> PALMORE: Though ICE has not sought to compel compliance through legal proceedings, jurisdictions who ignore detainers bear the risk of allowing that individual back into the public domain before they were thoroughly vetted to insure that this individual doesn’t have anything outstanding that warrants us to move further in that particular case.<br> <br> Sheriff Dart acknowledges there could be a downside to ignoring immigration detainer requests. Let’s say ICE knows the inmate arrived in the country under an alias or is violent — and the information didn’t appear in the jail’s background check. But Dart says letting some immigrants out of jail even though ICE wants them could be worth the risk. It might help remove the deportation issue from everyday policing. The sheriff says that could make streets in Cook County safer.</p></p> Fri, 15 Jul 2011 23:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233