Guard admits aiding break Officer says escape an attempt to sully Dart's campaign
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
by Frank Main, Stefano Esposito and Natasha Korecki
A Cook County Jail guard has admitted to investigators that he helped six inmates escape over the weekend to give a political advantage to a former jail supervisor running for sheriff, a law enforcement source said Monday.
The 36-year-old guard confessed that he allowed a convicted killer, two accused robbers and two others charged with aggravated kidnapping and battery to bust out of the jail to cast a shadow on Sheriff Michael Sheahan's management of the complex at 26th and California.
The guard knew the negative publicity would hurt Sheahan's chief of staff, Tom Dart, who is running for sheriff, the source said.
And the guard admitted he helped engineer the escape to give a political boost to Richard Remus, a candidate in the Democratic primary election and the former leader of the jail's Special Operations Response Team, the source said. The guard is a member of the SORT unit.
Remus vehemently denied any involvement in the plot, and a law enforcement source said there was no evidence connecting him to it.
"They're trying to insinuate this was done politically," Remus said. "This is total Cook County political bull----."
If a guard said he was working for Remus' campaign, then he was pressured to do so, Remus said.
"They had him for 48 hours and finally they convinced him what he should say," Remus said. Remus said he contacted the FBI on Monday to say he did nothing wrong.
One candidate running to succeed Sheahan tried Monday to make political hay out of this weekend's jailbreaks.
"This was a chance for Tom Dart to show his leadership skills, not to hide under a rock," former jail guard Sylvester Baker said of Sheahan's hand-picked successor.
At least two other guards, including a sergeant as well as three civilians, also are under investigation for possibly helping the inmates escape, sources said.
The 36-year-old guard is a former U.S. Marine and 11-year veteran of the county jail, a source said.
The guard originally told investigators an inmate overpowered him in a shower at knifepoint after splashing hot soapy water in his face.
Later, the guard allegedly told investigators he handcuffed himself and allowed the inmate to don his uniform as part of the escape from the SI2 Special Incarceration Unit, reserved for the jail's "worst of the worst."
Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the sheriff, would not comment on the allegations against the guard.
Sheahan would say only that, "I felt procedural-wise, he made a mistake; he was by himself," adding that investigators were scrutinizing whether the guard offered a legitimate level of resistance.
Theinmates overpowered guards, swiped keys from their post and escaped.
Two inmates, Arnold Joyner and David Earnest, apparently hopped on a Union Pacific train to Oak Park, where they were apprehended Sunday morning. A third escapee, Michael McIntosh, was nabbed Sunday night on the South Side.
Three others holed up in an apartment in Cicero, where Francisco Romero surrendered Sunday night and Tyrone Everhart and Eric Bernard surrendered early Monday.
Everhart, 28, of Markham, is being held without bail for a sexual assault in Oak Forest.
The trio of escapees wound up at the Cicero apartment with a 27-year-old woman and her five children, leading to almost six hours of negotiations between the inmates and a sheriff's lieutenant to end a tense standoff.
Sheriff's Lt. LaChom "Red" Madison negotiated with the inmates until the last of them surrendered and the children and their mother were out of the house.
He primarily spoke with Everhart, whose estranged father is a captain in the jail. Everhart was facing charges of aggravated kidnapping.
The four girls and boy, whose ages range from 1 to 8 years old, were placed in the custody of their father after state child welfare workers determined they were unharmed, said Dan Proft, a Cicero spokesman. The father told reporters his children watched TV during the ordeal.
Sunday's jail escape was the third there in 10 months. In response to his political detractors, who say the jail is mismanaged, Sheahan said he has operated the jail for 10 years without an escape before last year and has battled with the County Board to increase staffing levels in the jail.
STNG News Service
Contributing: Annie Sweeney, Lisa Donovan and Abdon M. Pallasch