CHICAGO, IL- As public officials continue to express their outrage about alleged murderers being on electronic monitoring (EM), a state legislator from the North Side has reportedly introduced a proposal that she claims will prevent those defendants from being released on EM before trial.
Rep. Margaret Croke wants attempted first-degree murder, reckless homicide, aggravated vehicular hijacking with a firearm or dangerous weapon, armed habitual criminal, and any offense that would require the defendant to register as a sex offender to be excluded from EM eligibility.
Sen. Sara Feigenholtz stated that she would introduce a similar legislation in the state senate. According to current Illinois law, there are already several crimes that are “excluded” from EM eligibility, including first-degree murder and criminal sexual assault.
However, Croke’s proposed legislation would add more crimes to that list.
A moratorium is a good step by the City. @RepAnnWilliams, @SenatorSara6, and I are having conversations on whether there needs to be immediate statewide policy and legislative changes to keep our communities safe, including the electronic monitoring program. https://t.co/R3iimBOGtB
— Margaret Croke (@Croke4Illinois) December 20, 2021
As it stands, people in the state of Illinois can be placed on EM for reasons other than to await trial as the existing law specifically allows for people accused of “excluded” crimes to be placed on EM while on bond awaiting trial.
According to the state legislature’s website, Croke’s proposed law would not change that.
CWB Chicago reported:
“Even if Croke’s legislation succeeds in keeping defendants accused of serious crimes from being released on EM, her law would not prevent the same defendants from being released without electronic monitoring.”
CWB Chicago also asked Croke, Feignholtz, and House Asst. Majority Leader Jaime Andrade, a co-sponsor of the bill, how releasing defendants without EM is better for public safety than releasing them with EM, however, none of them responded.
Back on January 4th, The Chicago-Sun Times reported that Cook County’s top judge shot down Mayor Lightfoot’s request for moratorium on EM for most violent offenders.
The uptick in violent crime is unsettling and IL safety is my top priority. I’m supportive of legislation to restrict those charged with egregious violent crimes from being released on electronic monitoring. It’s a commonsense step in the right direction to help curb violence.
— Margaret Croke (@Croke4Illinois) January 12, 2022
Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans said that it would violate the law if judges were to honor Lightfoot’s recent plea to jail most “violent, dangerous offenders” instead of placing them on EM while they await trial. Lightfoot wrote a formal request to Judge Evans on December 29, 2021:
“I must continue to sound the alarm about the growing number of pre-trial offenders released back to the communities in Chicago on electronic monitoring. The ballooning number of violent and dangerous people on EM is one of those drivers as they impact the communities to which the return in multiple, harmful ways.”
In a statement on January 4th, Evans said that under the U.S. and state constitutions, Lightfoot’s request to end EM for some defendants treated them as if they were “considered guilty until proven innocent.” He wrote:
“A judge cannot hold someone in pretrial without a finding that the defendant poses a real and present threat to the physical safety of any person. This must be found by clear and convincing evidence and the burden of proof is on the prosecution.”
— Ms. Carmen Pearson (@MsCarmen_PVPR) January 14, 2022
In December 2021, Lightfoot said she wanted an immediate moratorium on EM for offenders where the lead charge is “murder, attempted murder, aggravated gun possession, felons in possession, sex crimes, illegal gun possession, vehicular carjacking, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping, and other crimes of violence.”
Her letter noted that of the 3,400 people currently on EM, 2,300 face charges for a “crime of violence,” including 90 murder suspects. Lightfoot said that Chicago police records show that 130 people were arrested while they were on EM for a “violent offense.”
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Chicago Mayor and Police Superintendent call out violent criminals being released on electronic monitoring
January 6th, 2022
CHICAGO, IL – Democrat Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Police Superintendent have publicly spoken out about releasing violent offenders on electronic monitoring.
They believe that some of those offenders go on to commit other violent crimes while on the device.
A Chicago-area judge rejected a request from Mayor Lori Lightfoot to halt electronic monitoring for accused violent offenders, allowing those charged with dangerous crimes to return to the streets. https://t.co/8pzExzTh4U
— FOX 32 News (@fox32news) January 5, 2022
Lighfoot and Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown attacked Cook County officials for continuing with the practice of releasing alleged violent offenders back onto the street with a GPS monitor.
Lightfoot noted that 2,300 “violent, dangerous people” had been released after initial court appearances without having to pay bail and placed on electronic monitoring.
Lightfoot noted that these alleged violent offenders are a threat to the community if nothing else because of the crimes they allegedly committed.
Lightfoot said that these people have all been accused of various violent crimes, such as attempted murder, murder, kidnapping, carjacking, and sexual assault.
Lightfoot then noted the number of people who were on electronic monitoring that went on to allegedly reoffend while waiting for their cases to play out in court.
She noted that 133 people, most of whom were wearing GPS anklets, allegedly committed other violent crime.
Because of this, Lightfoot claims the alleged criminals do not believe there are any consequences for their actions which emboldens them to continue criminal activity. She said:
“We are sending a message to them [criminals] they are free to go about their business…and [commit violent crimes] again and again and again.”
Lightfoot then noted an even more alarming fact, that 90 people are currently out on the streets, in the community wearing GPS monitoring that have been accused of murder.
How anyone who is accused of murder be out on the streets free to commit another murder pending their court appearance is baffling.
Lightfoot said, despite her stance on this issue, typically endorses criminal justice reform, especially in the jail system. She said that jails should not be full of people who simply cannot afford bail while awaiting trial, but she does not believe that should apply to those accused of violent crimes.
“It is mind-blowing when you think about what has happened under the moniker of criminal justice reform. That is not criminal justice reform. What that is, is making our streets more dangerous.”
This mindset supports the fear that citizens and tourists seemingly have when they are in the city. Lightfoot says the fear has made the people in the city believe that their leadership has lost control. She said:
“We cannot live in a world where residents of neighborhoods feel like the gangs and the violent, dangerous people have control; where they fear – those residents fear the gangs, and that they think we have lost control. And unfortunately, that is sadly true in too many neighborhoods.”
”This idea that people on electronic monitoring are responsible for the violence in the city is just untrue, The vast majority of people on electronic monitoring in Cook County are successful," @SharoneMitchJr https://t.co/HKBof4AdWp
— The Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender (@CookCoDefender) January 5, 2022
In addition to demanding that Cook County judges end the practice of releasing violent offenders with electronic monitoring, Lightfoot and Brown are pushing to disrupt the gang cycle in the city. She said:
“In too many neighborhoods, gangs are targeting young boys – young boys with promise, young boys with a whole history an opportunity in front of them. But they’re targeting them with false promises of wealth, an easy life, and a sense of purpose and belonging.”
Lightfoot is pushing for the City Council to work on and pass a proposal named the Victims’ Justice Ordinance to help in their fight of disrupting the gang cycle. The ordinance would provide more opportunities for police to seize cash and other assets from gang members.
In addition to the above ordinance, Lightfoot has pledged to increase the number of officers who are designated to attack the gangs in the city.
He has racked up a total of 6 felony gun-related convictions since 2008.
And somehow, he was on the street to be charged with a potential 7th.
The prosecutor responsible for that fact? Risa Lanier. The same Risa Lanier that was the lead prosecutor in the original Jussie Smollett case.
Her botched handling of that case led to an investigation into her boss, Kim Foxx.
As noted by CWB Chicago, “unlike most people who bring embarrassment on their boss and fumble an assignment that launches deep scrutiny of one’s employer, Lanier was subsequently promoted to oversee all of the county’s prosecutions.”
When he was appearing for his 6th conviction, Lanier directed the prosecutor on Stewart’s case to make an “appropriate offer” based on evidence, the law and conversations with the victims.
“So, I was not telling anyone to, you know, to give away the candy store or make any sweetheart deals, we want to ensure that the work that we’re doing that we’re continuing to do it with integrity, despite the circumstances that we’re under, but we do empower our [assistants] to look at their cases and to use their discretion,” Lanier said.
Here are the charges Stewart was facing:
Class X armed habitual criminal, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon with previous convictions, ten counts of aggravated battery of police, aggravated assault of a peace officer by using a firearm, and DUI.
The charge of aggravated assault with a firearm carries a mandatory sentence of 6-30 years when ruled a class X felony. Stewart was looking at a serious stint in prison, potentially the rest of his life.
Keep in mind, he was a 5-time convict for similar crimes. His other sentences included two years each for his first two convictions, three for his third, six for his fourth and five for his fifth.
His first five convictions netted him 18 years behind bars.
It is apparent that he didn’t serve the majority of that time, given that his convictions occurred in 2008 (2), 2009 (1), 2010 (1), and 2015 (1).
His 6th conviction occurred in 2019, 4 years after his conviction that landed him in prison for 5 years.
With all of that background included for context, we now proceed ahead in this story.
The prosecutor on his case offered him a deal. Cook County agreed to drop ALL of the charges against him except one, if he would agree to plead guilty to that one charge. That charge was felon in possession of a firearm with a previous conviction.
But wait, Lanier said she wasn’t authorizing sweetheart deals.
Buckle up, it gets better.
The prosecutor reduced that remaining charge to a class 4 aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. Class 4 is the lowest level felony in the state of Illinois. What was potentially going to be a long-term prison sentence was reduced down to 3 years.
Let’s not forget that 11 of the 15 charges were for aggravated battery and aggravated assault with a firearm of peace officer.
Wait, we aren’t finished adding the ridiculousness that is this case.
On May 6, 2019, Judge James Linn presided over the case and sentenced Stewart to three years. Then he announced that those three years were offset by the time he spent on an electronic monitor and in jail prior to pleading guilty.
On May 7th, Stewart was assigned and transported to the Stateville Correctional Center. According to records from the Illinois Department of Corrections and obtained by CWB, he was also released that same day.
It should come as no shock that Stewart was in court again on New Year’s Eve 2021. This time, the charges stemmed from gun-related issues. We will wait while you pretend to be surprised.
On December 31st, he was charged with Class X armed habitual criminal, possessing an extended ammunition magazine, leaving the scene, failure to report as a gun offender, and filing a false police report.
Here is what led to those charges.
On or about the 29th of December, Stewart, who was still on parole for the 2019 conviction, was contacted as part of a traffic stop.
Police say that as they approached the vehicle, they witnessed Stewart making movements toward the back seat. He was alone in the vehicle. He provided the officer his driver’s license.
When the officers on the scene saw a semi-automatic handgun with an extended round magazine, they asked him to step out of the vehicle. Stewart refused, and when an officer attempted to open the door, he sped away.
He did, however, leave his license behind. Stewart crashed his car three blocks away. When police arrived, the vehicle was unoccupied, and the gun was gone. Police recovered his wallet and his cell phone.
A few hours later, Stewart walked into the 5th Police District station to report his vehicle stolen.
Police say that he entered wearing the same clothes he had on during the traffic stop. He claimed that the vehicle was stolen along with his wallet, cell phone and ID.
Officers went outside to speak with a woman whom Stewart identified as his wife.
According to Assistance State’s Attorney John Gnilka, said that the woman told police that she had a gun in the car, but she held a concealed carry permit.
Officers searched the vehicle and found a gun with an extended capacity magazine that matched the description of the one spotted during the earlier traffic stop.
While Judge Mary Marubio set Stewart’s bond at $250,000, he cannot be released even if he posts the 10% required. At least not until the state can review his parole status and determine next steps in regard to these new charges.
And people wonder why gun-related offenses are the way they are in Chicago. Primarily, progressive politicians and activist prosecutors who do everything they can to limit the amount of time violent criminals spend in a jail cell.
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