Danger zone: Felonies being dropped, violent offenders released with ‘electronic monitoring’ in crime-plagued Chicago

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COOK COUNTY, IL — One densely populated county in Illinois is seeing an alleged increase of felonies being dropped by its State Attorney’s office and violent offenders being placed in an electronic monitoring program instead of going to jail.

In Cook County, where Chicago is the county seat, State Attorney Kim Foxx, a Democrat, is responsible for her office’s overseeing of criminal justice matters.

On her website, Foxx indicates she ran for the Cook County State Attorney’s position to “fight for a system that works for everyone.”

However, it is clear criminals benefit the most under her “leadership” in a county where law-abiding residents struggle to stay alive in an area filled with constant violence.

The Cook County State Attorney’s office dropped all charges against nearly 30 percent of felony defendants during the first three years of Foxx’s tenure, which was much higher than the nearly 20 percent dropped during Anita Alvarez’s last three years in office, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis of about 287,000 defendants’ criminal cases.

In addition, Chicago Tribune reported that under Foxx “charges also were dismissed at a higher rate for serious crime categories including homicide, narcotics and sex offenses” and further noted:

“Foxx said she has tried to create an office culture where assistant state’s attorneys can openly discuss dropping felony charges if a case has legal problems, pointing to wrongful convictions that have occurred over the years and the dark history of Chicago police detectives torturing people of color to gain false confessions.”

Foxx defended dropping felony charges, telling Chicago Tribune in an interview:

“Recognizing the history that we’ve had around wrongful convictions, recognizing our ethical obligations as prosecutors … requires us to reinforce that people can, if they believe a case is flawed, bring it to our attention, and we will dismiss it if it’s appropriate.”

Foxx also stressed during the interview with Chicago Tribune that she brings a reform-minded philosophy about what constitutes justice and how the resources of her office should be applied. She also claimed to be more selective about prosecuting the strongest, winnable cases.

However, Foxx’s actions with the case involving now-disgraced actor Jussie Smollett hardly seem appropriate or justified.

In 2019, Foxx’s office dropped all 16 felony charges against Smollett, who was accused of setting up a staged attack on himself in downtown Chicago. Smollett had initially claimed his alleged attackers were racist and homophobic.

Smollett, who is black and gay, told police at the time that two masked men attacked him as he was walking home in the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019.

Smollett claimed they made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing, according to a FOX report.

Smollett also claimed that at least one of his attackers was a white man who told him he was in “MAGA country,” a reference to former President Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

Yet, two black brothers, Abel and Ola Osundario, told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to jump him on a Chicago street in an effort to raise his profile because he was unhappy with his role on the Fox drama “Empire.”

FOX News reported that while the charges over the January 2019 incident were initially dropped by the Cook County State Attorney’s office, they were renewed after a Cook County grand jury returned a six-count indictment this past February that accused Smollett of lying.

Chicago Tribune reported that in the summer of 2019, a Cook County judge had appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb as a special prosecutor to investigate whether there was any misconduct in the way Foxx’s office handled the allegations against Smollett:

“In February a grand jury indicted Smollett on new charges, making allegations nearly identical to the charges dropped by Foxx’s office.

“Webb has said he will issue a final report to the court and to the Cook County Board of Commissioners, although no date has been specified.

“Foxx had opposed the appointment of a special prosecutor, saying it would duplicate the work of the county’s inspector general, who was already looking into the Smollett case.”

Smollett pleaded not guilty to the charges in the new indictment, and the next hearing in the case is scheduled for this week, according to FOX News.

Foxx indicated that her office’s higher rate of dropped felony cases gives an incomplete picture of her commitment to keeping the public safe.

According to an MSN report, Foxx said her office has dismissed cases against low-level, nonviolent offenders so prosecutors can concentrate on crimes of violence, saying: 

“It is always eye-opening to be able to look at our own data and compare it to my predecessor’s past. I can’t reconcile what her decision-making was, and how they chose to (dismiss) cases in the past.

“But I will say that this administration has been clear that our focus would be on violent crime and making sure that our resources and attention would go to addressing violent crime.”

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According to MSN’s report on Chicago Tribune’s data analysis, Foxx’s higher rates of dropped cases included people accused of murder, shooting another person, sex crimes and attacks on police officers — as well as serious drug offenses that for decades have driven much of Chicago’s street violence:

“For the three-year period analyzed, Foxx’s office dropped 8.1% of homicide cases, compared with 5.3% under Alvarez, the Tribune found. Under Foxx, the office dropped 9.5% of felony sex crime cases; the rate was 6.5% for Alvarez.

“Foxx’s office also increased the rate of dropped cases for aggravated battery and for aggravated battery with a firearm. And under Foxx, the percentage of cases dropped for defendants accused of aggravated battery of a police officer more than doubled, from 3.9% to 8.1%.”

Along with dropping felony cases, Foxx supports using electronic monitoring of violent people accused of crimes such as murder and sexual assault.

Detainees wear a GPS bracelet that is capable of reporting a person’s geographic position at all times.

NBC Chicago reported that Chicago Police Supt. David Brown recently asked:

“How many people think it’s OK to have over 90 people on electronic monitoring that we’ve charged with murder released back into our communities?

“It creates this idea of lawlessness for people in the community who know someone murdered someone, and yet they see them again the following days as if nothing happened.”

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is in charge of the electronic monitoring program and seemed to indicate he disagreed with Foxx’s utilization of it for violent offenders:

“We were handed this thing—we didn’t ask for it. This is not what it was designed for. The program was never designed for violent people.”

According to the NBC report:

“Numbers provided by the sheriff’s office show that on a recent day this month, 100 murder suspects were free on electronic monitoring.

“Another 106 suspects were out in the community charged with criminal sexual assault, 547 charged as felons in possession of a weapon, and 263 as armed habitual criminals.”

Dart told NBC:

“When you get into the categories of violent people, that’s not the best way to be running any of these programs. I’ve made it abundantly clear to everybody involved in the system that I do not believe violent people should be put onto these programs.”

Despite safeguards, some violent offenders on electronic monitoring in Cook County have eluded surveillance, including Christopher Solis-Govea.

According to prosecutors, Solis-Govea escaped a few days after agreeing to electronic monitoring and allegedly shot a man in the face while enrolled in the program.

In another situation, five-time felon Marvin Flanagan was charged with fatally shooting another man during a home invasion while also on electronic monitoring.

While Dart has worked hard to make the electronic monitoring program the best it can be, he warned NBC:

“We’re proud of the fact that we were given something we didn’t ask for, and we’ve made that the best protocol in the country.

“But it’s never going to give people complete security, because the type of people we’ve been given are people we’ve said, those are not the people that are meant for this program.”

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