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Dart supports plan to keep warrants from languishing for decades

Tuesday, April 04, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times
by Frank Main

Sheriff Tom Dart | Sun-Times file photo

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Under Turner’s bill, prosecutors could ask the court to extend a warrant longer than five years.

According to a sheriff’s office study of 41,149 warrants that were outstanding in Cook County on Jan. 19, most were issued because a defendant had violated a judge’s conditions of probation or supervision — such as passing a drug test or doing community service.

In 1994, a judge issued such a warrant for Latasha Eatman after she failed to complete her sentence of community service for a marijuana conviction for which she received probation.

On Oct. 13, Chicago Police officers arrested the 43-year-old woman on the warrant and she spent almost two months in jail until the issue was resolved. The officers discovered her warrant when they checked her name during a license investigation of a South Side store where she worked.

READ MORE ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Sheriff proposes scrapping Illinois’ cash-bond system

It wasn’t until Dec. 2 that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office withdrew her violation of probation and a judge terminated the case, freeing her. She missed Thanksgiving and her son’s birthday while in jail.

Eatman thought she might be sent to prison for a year.

“She was terrified,” Smith said.

Javier Medina faces a court hearing on Tuesday after spending months behind bars for a 2005 warrant. | Cook County Jail photo

On Tuesday, Javier Medina, 49, is scheduled to appear in court on a warrant for a probation violation. The warrant was issued in 2005 after he failed to appear in court for his appeal of a drug conviction for which he received probation.

A Chicago Police officer arrested Medina on the warrant after stopping his car for a traffic violation on Sept. 28. He’s been held without bond in the jail ever since.

Many of the warrants the sheriff’s office studied were issued after a defendant failed to show up for court and the judge revoked the defendant’s bond. Most of those bond forfeitures occurred in cases involving charges of drug offenses, drunken driving and traffic violations.

Only a fraction of the warrants — about one in eight — were issued for the arrest of someone who was charged with committing a new crime, the study found.

About one in five warrants in Cook County were at least 20 years old and about 3,000 of them were for people who would be 65 or older today, according to the sheriff’s office.

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