PEORIA, IL – Illinois’ Democrat governor came under heavy criticism this week for his handling of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board and the commutations of violent criminals’ sentences.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin held a press conference Tuesday to discuss prisoner commutations, particularly for those who have been convicted of injuring or killing police officers. He was joined by Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara and former Chicago Police Department Officer Robert Mizera.
Durkin (R-Western Springs) called Hawkins’ early release “an attack on police officers.”
Mizera was a rookie in 1980 when he was shot with a sawed-off shotgun by Kensley Hawkins, one of the felons whose sentence was commuted by Pritzker and the Prisoner Review Board.
Mizera sustained shotgun blasts to his neck, arms, shoulder and chest and still has all the pellets in him, he said at the press conference.
He said Hawkins also shot at and missed his partner and shot and wounded a man whose house he had broken into while trying to flee from the police. An investigation after the shooting found that the shotgun was owned by a man whom Hawkins had murdered one week before.
Hawkins was convicted of the murder of the 65-year-old man who owned the shotgun as well as Mizera’s shooting and was sentenced to 95 years in prison.
Hawkins was released from prison last year and is now featured in a documentary by a social activism nonprofit called SoapBox Productions and Organizing.
Pritzker’s apparent favoring of violent criminals over their victims doesn’t sit well with conservatives and Durkin didn’t have to search hard for a victim willing to tell his story.
Hawkins’ case was taken up by Illinois Prison Project, which works on the premise that the U.S. justice system is rooted in racism. His case was handled by the legal firm Jenner & Block on a pro bono basis. The firm secured his release from prison in 2021 on the grounds that he was vulnerable to COVID-19. Hawkins, who was 70 years old at the time of his release, had served nearly 40 years of his sentence.
Jenner & Block released a statement in April 2021 praising his attorney’s work. It said:
“Mr. Hawkins was zealously represented by Department Counsel Lisa Schoedel at Jenner & Block, as part of [Illinois Prison Project’s] pro bono program.
Mizera said he learned of his attacker’s release via an email and has had no further discussion with Pritzker or his administration about the decision. Mizera said at Tuesday’s news conference:
“On April 22nd, 2021, I was informed by email that Mr. Hawkins had been released from prison with no reason given.
“The governor did not call me, he did not ask me what I thought and he probably did not care, so that’s my dealing with Governor Pritzker and his release of people who obviously should still be in prison.”
Catanzara asked the residents of Illinois to think about what would happen to them in this situation. He noted:
“If an officer cannot get justice, and their families cannot get justice, what does the average person think is going to happen to the monsters that murder their loved ones?”
Durkin, of Western Springs, called the clemency a sign of disrespect to law enforcement. He explained:
“Today I am here to talk about Governor Pritzker’s continuing lack of respect and continuing attack on our police officers, those currently on the force and those who have already served, and the victims of crime in this state.”
Illinois governor appoints man convicted of double homicide to board that grants parole, clemency
June 23, 2021
SPRINGFIELD, IL – You seriously cannot make this stuff up.
Breitbart News tells us that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who hasn’t bypassed too many meals in the past few years, has however been bypassing the legislative process for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (PRB).
We’ve learned he has been filling it with his personally preferred hacks, including some with questionable backgrounds, a process that has been going on for around two years.
One of those selections, and his newest one has people wondering what this guy is thinking after he appointed a man who has been convicted of a double homicide to the board. Yes, you read that correctly…a double homicide.
Now, after the PRB has released several prisoners, many under suspicious circumstances, and who are now being considered fugitives for violating terms of their release, Republican lawmakers are demanding answers and accountability, Breitbart says.
Pritzker, another in a long conga line of incompetent Democrat hack governors, has apparently been playing fast and loose with the nomination process.
The way the process is supposed to work is that the governor nominates someone to fill a PRB position, which then starts a 60-day confirmation window.
However Pritzker, in a clear attempt to game the system withdraws nominations prior to the state legislature voting on them. Pritzker then re-nominates the same people. Clearly Pritzker is acting in an unethical (and maybe illegal) manner, which now has Illinois Senate Republicans calling for an investigation.
“Democrat legislators could force these people to come to the committee,” said State Sen. Jason Plummer, a Republican who refers to the process as the “Springfield shuffle.”
“They could force a vote on the floor,” he said of Democrats. “They refuse to do that because they’re more concerned about offending J.B. Pritzker than they are about the safety of their community,” he told Breitbart.
According to the Illinois State Constitution, “Any nomination not acted upon by the state Senate within 60 session days after the receipt thereof shall be deemed to have received the advice and consent of the Senate.”
Yet another Senate Republican, Steve McClure told Breitbart that the state Senate is “not going to be willing to vote for these people,” suspecting that Democrats thinking, “if you want to reappoint them, fine. But if it gets to the 60-day mark, we’re going to vote on them and they’re going to get rejected.”
Pritzker, like most Democrat governors, has turned the criminal justice system in Illinois into a revolving door, with clemency grants skyrocketing compared to former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), where an average of 6.5 people were paroled each year through the PRB. Since Pritzker took office, that rate has more than doubled to 15.4.
Illinoi has also seen an increase in general releases since Pritzker bought his way into office, both in the lead up and during the Wuhan China coronavirus.
In 2019, for example, 22,006 people were admitted into the corrections system, with 23,662 released. Remember, this is Illinois, where the killing fields of Chicago are located.
Last year, only 11,635 inmates were admitted into the system, while a staggering 20,614 were released. This number includes both PRB releases, as well as general parole releases.
Currently, there are 14 members on the PRB, with half of them being Pritzker’s appointees.
Out of the seven people appointed by Pritzker, four of then have served, unconfirmed since spring 2019. Those four area Arthur Mae Perkins, Joseph Ruggiero, Oreal James, and Eleanor Wilson.
One of those nominated by Pritzker, Max Cerda had his name put up this past March. Cerda was only convicted of a double homicide and attempted murder in 1979, albeit as a teenager, sixteen years of age. His excuse was that he was attempting to avenge a friend’s death—you know, an eye for an eye. He was paroled in 1998 and founded an organization called BUILD, which was formed to “engage at-risk youth in schools and on the streets to help them realize their potential and contribute to our communities.”
Conversely, a crime victim was also appointed to the PRB by Rauner; Lisa Daniels’ son Darren, 25, was killed in a drug deal gone bad.
Daniels started a nonprofit, the “Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices to redefine Darren’s legacy and the legacies of so many young men who live and die like him every day.” Daniels said the center focuses on “restorative justice,” while noting that, “like each and every one of us, Darren was a flawed human being, created in God’s perfect image.”
In order to receive clemency, an inmate must make an application for it. Once the petition is complete, the Board hears the petitioner at their next quarterly meeting, at which time the Board then makes recommendations to the governor.
“The prisoner review board needs to review each and every case individually on its own merits. My problem is…they’re intentionally manipulating the system by putting extremists on the prisoner review board, including a double murderer, and then hiding those people and their decisions from not just the people of Illinois, but from the state Senate of Illinois,” Plummer said.
“My job is to make sure that we have a legitimate process in place so that those hearings can be held.”
Plummer continued, “We do not have a legitimate process in place. We have an illegitimate process, of being manipulated, and endangering our communities, our families, and our law enforcement personnel. You’re talking about a guy who doesn’t follow good public policy. His politics are far left.”
As Law Enforcement Today previously reported, two cop killers were paroled by Pritzker in February after being recommended by the PRB—Johnny Veal, 68, and Joseph Hurst, 77.
In the case of Hurst, he shot two Chicago police officers during a traffic stop in 1967, killing one, Herman Stallworth. Hurst claims he regrets his actions and converted to Islam while he was locked up.
Veal, in a pre-meditated attack, killed two Chicago police officers in 1972. The two officers, Sgt. James Severin and Off. Anthony Rizzato had gone to a housing project for a “walk and talk” community outreach program. Veal, a cold-blooded killer sat in a nearby high-rise project and used a rifle to assassinate the two officers as they crossed a baseball field. Veal claimed he was innocent despite significant evidence proving otherwise.
So radical is the PRB that even far-left, neo-Marxist Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was angered by their decision to parole Veal. She told the Chicago Sun-Times that Veal’s killings were a “cold-blooded execution” that he later bragged about.
As a result of that decision, Foxx told the Sun-Times that she’ll “no longer make recommendations to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board on parole.”
McClure, a former prosecutor before being elected to the state Senate found himself strangely on the same side as Foxx, who was backed by left-wing nut George Soros in her election bid. He said he also opposed Veal’s release.
“I disagree with [Kim Foxx] basically on just about everything…so anytime Kim Foxx and myself are on the same page about something, something is definitely wrong.”
Foxx also gained a modicum of notoriety in 2019 for the whole Jussie Smollett hoax, being widely criticized for her handling of the case.
“I think it speaks volumes, “Plummer said incredulously, “when Kim Foxx, who is one of the worst prosecutors in the country, who is a far-left ideologue, even says that the Prisoner Review Board in Illinois is such a mess, that she is not going to afford recommendations to them. I mean, they are more extreme than Kim Foxx.”
The cop-killers are not the only controversial releases by the PRB. In November 2019, Chester Weger was paroled by the PRB. He had been convicted of murdering one of three women who were found brutally killed during a camping trip at Starved Rock State Park in 1961.
In another case, Salik Abdullah, formerly known as Theodore Parsons (he apparently found Allah in prison as well), murdered two teenagers in Champaign County in 1977 with the point being to steal their car to commit a robbery. After doing that, he shot and paralyzed a gas station employee. He was sentenced to 500 to 1000 years in prison and served less than a tenth of that term, after being paroled this past March.
“Pritzker ran as a moderate business-minded Democrat,” said McClure. Instead, “he’s one of the most progressive governors, if not the most progressive.”
Plummer and McClure told Breitbart that because of his radicalism, Pritzker has earned the title of “the most dangerous governor in America.”
The Prison Review Board doesn’t exactly have a stellar record of accomplishment in making correct decisions. On May 13, 2021, the PRB paroled a man named Ray Larson, who murdered a child in 1972, and also had previous convictions of rape and burglary.
Just days later, he was listed by the Illinois DOC website as an “absconder” after he failed to check in with his parole officer. He was rearrested on May 28, and Larson, now 76, will be eligible for parole in 89 years. Our bet is it will be much sooner.
The Illinois DOC has a long and not-so-stellar record of completely screwing up the parole process. Some examples:
- Alfred Miles, charged with murder in 1986, then aggravated battery while locked up; he is currently listed as an absconder.
- In 2018, Shannon Smith was on parole for robbery when he allegedly shot four people, including his sister, who he killed.
- In 2007, Fernando Palimino was paroled after he had been incarcerated for shooting at police officers. Not even one year later, he took off when he was suspected in three homicides on New Year’s Day 2008.
One might assume (incorrectly) that just because a parolee is older, they are not likely to reoffend. McClure disagrees.
“We have recent examples of people that get released that are older, that commit crimes,” McClure said.
Breitbart noted a report they filed this past April:
“A murderer who was paroled following decades behind bars has reportedly been accused of killing another individual in Los Angeles after his release.”
“Did any of these people have compassion for these victims?” McClure asked.
McClure noted that those on the PRB don’t come from the stand of point the victim’s perspective, only being a criminal, therefore they don’t have the point of view of victims.
“They cannot put themselves in the victim’s shoes, and they’re only concerned about what it’s like to be the prisoner, who’s a murderer, who’s a rapist It’s absolutely backwards and insane.”
Plummer laid the blame directly and squarely on Pritzker and Illinois Democrats.
“When it comes to J.B. Pritzker and the Democrat legislature in Illinois, victims of crimes are the very last in line,” he said.
“Instead of looking out for their communities, instead of looking out for their constituents, they are acting as sock puppets for J.B. Pritzker, because his checkbook is more important to them than the safety of their constituents.”
Breitbart said they reached out to the PRB for comment, however they did not respond.
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.