Cook County Judge Called Prostitute ‘Health Risk,’ Told Her To Leave State | WBEZ
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Cook County Judge Called Prostitute ‘Health Risk,’ Told Her To Leave State

A Cook County judge who’s seeking reappointment this week once tried to order a woman charged with prostitution to get “out of Illinois,” telling the defendant she was “a definite health risk to anyone you come in contact with,” according to transcripts obtained by WBEZ.

Judge Richard Schwind was disciplined last year after WBEZ reported that he told an African American defendant, “You were never a slave.”

Now, Schwind – who’s been an associate judge for more than seven years – is asking his fellow county judges to vote to retain him on the bench in the election that ends on Friday.

The county’s circuit court judges are allowed to decide who among the 138 associate judges in the court system are allowed to remain for another four years, in positions that pay nearly $190,000 annually.

But the Chicago Bar Association has recommended that the other judges not reappoint Schwind due to his “serious issues with integrity, judicial demeanor and temperament.”

And the transcripts from the 2017 hearing on a prostitution charge show Schwind made a series of bizarre remarks to the defendant in that case.

Before saying he would accept a guilty plea, Schwind noted the defendant had a prior, similar conviction against her in Tennessee.

“Seems like you’re traveling around the country selling your body for money, which is illegal in most states that I know of,” Schwind told her at the Aug. 29, 2017 hearing in Rolling Meadows. “You’re a health risk, you understand that?”

“Yes,” replied the defendant, who was 25 years old at the time.

Schwind then told the woman to leave the state: “I want you out of Illinois. I don’t want you here in Illinois, you’re a health risk. You go to California, do it in California, do it in Tennessee, do it anywhere but Illinois. If you want to continue selling your body for money, that’s up to you, that’s your decision, but stay out of Illinois. You are a definite health risk to anyone you come in contact with.”

Earlier in the hearing, Schwind had asked the defendant a series of questions, including: “You have an awesome set of fingernails on your hand. Who pays for your manicures?”

She replied that her mother paid for her manicure.

Her sentence: two days already served in county jail and fees and court costs of $399.

The county public defender’s office represented the defendant, who had been arrested in Schaumburg in a sting conducted by the county sheriff’s police. Court records show the woman agreed to have sex for $200 with an undercover officer.

Schwind did not return calls seeking comment this week.

Advocate "livid" at judge’s comments

An activist for prostitutes reviewed the transcript from the hearing in Rolling Meadows and said the judge’s comments to the defendant were a textbook example of how not to handle such cases.

Megan Rosenfeld, policy director for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, said the defendant “deserves a full apology.”

“The judge should not be shaming defendants and making veiled threats about needing to leave the state,” Rosenfeld said. “I’m appalled. I’m livid.”

In issuing its recommendations for the retention election, the city’s bar association did not specify which actions caused it to oppose Schwind’s bid to stay on the bench.

But the group said of Schwind, “His statements to minority litigants appearing before him are insensitive [and] improper and evidence bias.”

Schwind, who is white, got in trouble last year after his comment to an African American defendant accused of punching a man who called him the N-word.

Speaking from the bench in July, Schwind said the racial slur was an “ignorant term” but he then told the defendant, “You were never a slave, but you take offense to it. And I understand that. But the bigger man walks away.”

In October, days after WBEZ reported those comments, Schwind was removed from the bench, placed on administrative duty and sent for sensitivity training for what Chief Judge Timothy Evans called “an inappropriate remark.”

At the time, Evans said he had referred the matter to the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, the agency that investigates complaints regarding judges. And Evans said the reassignment was “effective until further notice.”

On March 5, though, Schwind was permitted to return to his previous assignment on the bench. A spokesman for Evans said Schwind “is currently hearing traffic and misdemeanor matters” in the Rolling Meadows courthouse.

Disciplined — but still recommended

Another associate judge who had been assigned to Rolling Meadows and is up for retention in this week’s judicial election also got disciplined recently, records show.

That judge, James Karahalios, was disciplined in March after unspecified allegations lodged by the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Neither Foxx nor Evans would detail those allegations against Karahalios, who is now working in marriage court at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago.

Asked about the allegations, Foxx’s spokeswoman would only say, “Our concerns regarding Judge Karahalios were addressed by the presiding judge in the [Rolling Meadows courthouse] and the chief judge of Cook County.”

And Evans’ spokesman said, “Generally speaking...because allegations against judges potentially involve review by the Judicial Inquiry Board, a judge may not comment on pending or impending matters because proceedings before the JIB are confidential.”

Transcripts obtained by WBEZ show Karahalios made strange comments during a hearing in the sexual-abuse case of a Muslim leader who was tried in Rolling Meadows in 2016.

The Muslim defendant’s lawyer asked for the trial date to be moved so that it would not be immediately after the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Karahalios granted the request but quickly added: “In doing so, I’m certainly not agreeing with the premise that the Sept. 11 occurrence would prejudice your client. I have repeatedly heard throughout the news that it isn’t an issue of being Muslim, it’s an issue of being, I think the term on the news is radicalized. Although President Obama doesn’t seem to recognize that term either, so according to the president there should be no problem.”

Karahalios did not return WBEZ’s messages seeking comment.

Unlike Schwind, Karahalios is among scores of associate judges that the bar association has recommended for reappointment by their fellow judges.

Chicago Bar Association spokeswoman Sally Daly said the group would not provide any information about the specific actions that the judges took that prompted the bar association’s decisions to recommend or not recommend them for another term.

Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @dmihalopoulos.

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