Cook Co. sheriff accuses judges of 'strike'
Friday, August 29, 2008
The power struggle between Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans got a whole lot uglier Thursday.
Dart filed an emergency motion for relief in federal court, insinuating Evans' judges went on an eight-day recognizance bond strike, refusing to release even the most petty of nonviolent prisoners on no-cash bonds known as "I-bonds.
From Aug. 18 to Aug. 25, no judge at the main courthouse at 26th and California issued a single I-bonds, the filing charges. In one case, a 20-year-old man with no criminal history was ordered held on bond for a misdemeanor marijuana possession, a case normally a slam-dunk for an I-bond.
The development is just the latest volley in the battle of wills between Dart and Evans, who disagree over who should have the responsibility for making the politically touchy decision on which inmates should be released from jail on electronic monitoring. The responsibility has the potential to end a politician or judge's career should a released inmate go on to commit a serious crime while on electronic monitoring.
Currently, judges issue I-bonds for certain crimes, and then the sheriff is tasked with sorting through those still held on low cash bonds for nonviolent candidates who can be released on electronic monitoring. Dart argues that judges, who get a fuller picture of an offender's propensity for violence, should have the sole responsibility for who gets out.
Both are under pressure to release nonviolent offenders because of a federal consent decree mandating a reduction in jail overcrowding.
Evans has charged in a recent published interview that just as overcrowding was on the wane at the jail, Dart began reducing the number of prisoners he released on electronic monitoring. Now Dart charges that Evans, or his surrogates, responded in kind.
"As a result of the Circuit Court's abandonment of its policy issuing recognizance bonds, the Cook County jail will once again become overcrowded," wrote Daniel Gallagher, an attorney for Dart.
The emergency motion asks U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Kendall to appoint a monitor who can make the call on electronic monitoring, rather than the sheriff. Attorneys for Dart will appear before Kendall this morning at 11:30 a.m.
Cook County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson declined to comment on the matter. Judge Evans could not be reached for comment.