While presiding in a courtroom in Rolling Meadows in July, a white Cook County Circuit Court judge told an African-American criminal defendant, “You were never a slave,” according to court transcripts obtained by WBEZ.
The racially charged comment came from Judge Richard D. Schwind as he sentenced 31-year-old Deon Lindsey in a misdemeanor battery case.
Lindsey admitted hitting his ex-girlfriend’s white brother at her apartment in Hoffman Estates in May. But Lindsey told police he was provoked by being called the N-word, records show.
Speaking from the bench on July 18, the judge said the slur was an “ignorant term” for the recipient of the punch to have used with Lindsey.
But the transcript shows Schwind then told Lindsey, “You take offense to a word that — you, you were never a slave, but you take offense to it. And I understand that. But the bigger man walks away. You don’t resort to violence. That’s why society is the way it is now.”
According to a Hoffman Estates police report, Lindsey came to the station on May 25 and told officers that his ex-girlfriend’s brother “called him a ‘n-----.’”
After hearing cases Wednesday in Courtroom 101 in the Rolling Meadows branch, Schwind declined to comment.
But on Thursday, the spokesman for Chief Judge Timothy Evans told WBEZ that the court system’s executive committee will review the matter at its Oct. 3 meeting.
The spokesman, Pat Milhizer, added that judges must abide by an Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct rule stating, “A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice.”
“It was totally unnecessary for the judge to make this commentary on the record at all relating to slavery,” Pitts said.
Schwind, 66, became an associate judge in April 2012 and has been assigned to the 3rd Municipal District courthouse in Rolling Meadows since 2013. Associate judges are chosen by a vote of circuit court judges elected by voters.
He is currently serving a four-year term that expires on June 30, 2019.
A graduate of John Marshall Law School, Schwind worked for seven years for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and then more than 27 years for the Illinois Attorney General’s office, rising to chief of the criminal enforcement division.
Records show he’s collecting pensions of more than $57,000 this year from the state and about $21,000 from the county in addition to his judicial salary of about $192,000 in 2018.
In Lindsey’s case, the judge accepted a guilty plea and sentenced him to a year of probation and 80 hours in the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program.
At the sentencing hearing, Schwind said, “Mr. Lindsey, it’s my understanding … the victim in this case used a term that is insulting to you. And I understand that.”
Lindsey told the judge that the slur was used “in front of my daughter.”
“That doesn’t give you a right to hit him,” Schwind replied.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter for WBEZ. Follow him at @dmihalopoulos.