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Dart aide to testify for a law to withhold bond in gun cases

Monday, March 13, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times
by Frank Main

Gang member Jose Roman was allegedly caught with guns twice in 2014 and walked out of jail each time after putting up a total of $35,000 for bond, court records show. Now he’s behind bars in Cook County Jail — with no bond — awaiting trial in the shooting. | File photo from video

Gang member Jose Roman was allegedly caught with guns twice in 2014 and walked out of jail each time after putting up a total of $35,000 for bond, court records show.

Then in 2015, police arrested Roman for allegedly being an accomplice to a shooting.

Now he’s behind bars — with no bond — awaiting trial in the shooting.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is proposing a law making it clear that prosecutors can ask judges to deny bond for a range of gun cases — including possession by a felon, aggravated discharge of a weapon, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, being an armed habitual offender and gun possession by a gang member.

Currently, the law only spells out that prosecutors can ask to deny bail to people charged with illegal gun possession near a school, said Dart’s policy director, Cara Smith.

She plans to testify before a state Senate committee Tuesday about the proposed legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago.

“These measures would have an immediate impact on the gun violence in Chicago,” Smith said.

Earlier this year, Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, introduced legislation to do away with the state’s cash-bond system entirely.

Under his bill, people charged with nonviolent offenses would be freed on their own recognizance until their cases are adjudicated. Judges would have the discretion to order detention or electronic monitoring for people accused of harming others.

Smith described Mitchell’s measure as a “long-term solution” and Cunningham’s bill as a “short-term step” to combat gun violence.

Cunningham’s bill would have applied to about 2,600 cases in which people received bonds in gun cases last year, Smith said.

More than half of those defendants came up with $5,000 or more to post the required 10 percent of their bonds. About 16 percent paid $10,000 or more. And about 5 percent came up with $15,000 or more.

One in five defendants were able to post bond to get out of jail within 45 days of their arrest, according to the sheriff’s office.

Dart’s get-tough approach to bonds for gun cases comes as he pushes to eliminate bonds for nonviolent offenses like shoplifting.

On Monday, nearly 200 people who are charged with nonviolent offenses were unable to pay $1,000 or less to be released from the jail on bond, Smith said.

Then there are the people with repeated gun arrests, like Roman, who are able to raise the money for their steep bonds.

Roman drew the ire of then-police Supt. Garry McCarthy in 2015 after he was arrested as an alleged accomplice in the shooting of a man on the Northwest Side.

McCarthy pointed to Roman as a symbol of how Cook County’s justice system is soft on illegal gun possession.

Roman, 24, was arrested twice in 2014 for having illegal guns in vehicles he was riding in.

Both times, he was charged with being a felon in possession of a gun and with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. And both times, he was freed on bond.

The bonds were set at $250,000 and $100,000 each and Roman paid 10 percent of those totals to be released pending trial. The cases are still pending.

In 2015, he and a friend, Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez, were driving around in Jimenez’s Mercedes. Jimenez, 38, shot a man in the legs while Roman watched. A video of the shooting was captured on Roman’s cellphone.

Jimenez, who received a $25 million settlement in a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the city, used the money to build up his gang, the Simon City Royals, federal officials said. Both men were recently sentenced to federal prison on gun charges. They also face trial in Cook County Criminal Court on charges related to the 2015 shooting.

 

Kevin Lenoir, 23, is charged with murder in the AK-47 killing of a man in Englewood in 2016. | Cook County Sheriff’s photo

 

Smith pointed to another man — Kevin Lenoir — as an example of the need for legislation to allow for pretrial detention of people charged with gun crimes.

In March 2016, Lenoir was arrested after he allegedly tossed a loaded gun from a car during a police chase. He was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, came up with $10,500 for his bond and was released from jail.

While he was still free on bond in July 2016, Lenoir was on a porch in Englewood and allegedly fired an AK-47 rifle at a man in a minivan, killing him. Lenoir, 23, is being held in the Cook County Jail without bond. He’s awaiting trial on a murder charge.

 


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