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'Thin' security at Daley Center fuels concern

Thursday, February 01, 2007
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by Stephanie Potter

The attorney husband of a Cook County judge who recently was the target of an alleged threat says proposed cuts to courthouse security trouble him.
''I'm concerned about the safety of my wife,'' said Glyn Rostoker, whose wife is Circuit Judge Veronica B. Mathein. ''I don't see that my wife is safe. And Todd Stroger wants to make the safety of sitting judges less secure.''
Cook County Board President Stroger's recommended 2007 budget would cut more than 230 court security officers, slashing $10.7 million from the budget.
It's possible some of that could be restored, however. Stroger is planning to propose budget amendments that would restore $2.45 million in public safety funding, although a spokesman said it has not yet been decided how that money would be spent.
Stroger is seeking to balance a budget with a projected $500 million deficit. Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry said Stroger empathizes with Rostoker.
''The president is equally concerned about the failure of leadership from those who manage those functions, which has left him in the position of ultimately being forced to make their difficult decisions for them,'' Mayberry said.
Mayberry said he hoped that ''Sheriff [Thomas J.] Dart will make the appropriate managerial decisions and priorities to preserve those functions.''
Dart has blasted Stroger's proposed cuts, saying last week that he would not go along with them.
''With these type of cuts, we would no longer be able to guarantee the safety of judges, attorneys and the public in our court facilities,'' Dart said in a news release.
Rostoker's fears were the product of acts allegedly carried out by Tamara Thompson, 33, an attorney who represented herself in a child custody case before Mathein.
Thompson is charged with threatening a public official, a class 3 felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Marcy Jensen, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office, said Thompson, of Flossmoor, became belligerent during a Dec. 14 court appearance and was forcibly removed from Mathein's courtroom. She then threatened Mathein in a Daley Center hallway in front of witnesses, Jensen said.
More than a month later, she passed through the security procedures at the Daley Center and was arrested after entering Mathein's courtroom.
Earlier this week, sheriff's office spokeswoman Sally Daly said Thompson was being held in the jail's Cermak Hospital. It was not clear whether she was represented by an attorney, and a phone number listed for her was disconnected.
Thompson, who was registered as an attorney under the name of Tamara N. Honore, formerly worked as a law clerk in the Office of the Chief Cook County Judge. She left that job in March 2005. In a court filing, her former husband said she had a history of mental health problems.
Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans said that she did a ''marvelous job'' as a law clerk, but he added that he has not had contact with her since she left her job.
Evans said all alleged threats against judges are taken seriously.
''I believe that the law requires that deputies be assigned to courtrooms and I believe that every courtroom where there is a judge working ought to have a deputy,'' Evans said.
Thompson was arrested on Jan. 23 in Mathein's courtroom. It worries Rostoker that she got that far in the first place. He said he had been told that a security alert would prevent her from entering the Daley Center.
Thompson apparently came into the courthouse pushing a wheelchair full of boxes, which Rostoker said should have raised a red flag.
''This woman got a long way,'' Rostoker said. ''And they want to cut security even further.''
Daly said an intelligence bulletin regarding Thompson had been issued after the initial incident, but noted that 20,000 to 30,000 people come into the courthouse every day. She said many litigants carry boxes into the courthouse, and the boxes were checked.
''We do the best we can with the personnel that we have,'' Daly said.
Thompson was arrested after Mathein's clerk recognized her, Rostoker said. She alerted Mathein, who was already on the phone with a sheriff's investigator who had called to update her on the case. Thompson was arrested soon after.
James J. Grogan, chief counsel for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, said she has no public record of disciplinary proceedings and had not yet registered with the commission for 2007. The deadline for attorneys to do so is Feb. 1, and those who have not registered are removed from the rolls, he said.
Mathein said she wasn't comfortable commenting on the facts of the case. But she said all of the judges in the building have concerns about security, citing a November incident in which an attorney was accused of assaulting a deputy in Associate Judge James G. Donegan's courtroom.
''I'm sure [Evans] is doing everything he can possibly do to convey what we need,'' Mathein said.
Daly said the court security divisions are already understaffed.
''Additional cuts will only compound the problem and it will probably spill over into the Criminal Courts as well,'' she said.
After the murders of the husband and mother of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, the sheriff's office organized a Judicial Threat Assessment Unit, Daly said. Since then, the unit has opened 285 cases related to alleged threats or other matters involving the security of judges, she said.
''It's an ongoing issue and an ongoing problem and cuts in staff certainly do not bode well for this type of unit,'' Daly said.
Dart goes before the Finance Committee to discuss his budget on Friday.

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