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As SAFE-T Act goes live, murder suspects previously eligible to post bond are held in jail

A statue is pictured outside of the Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield.
Jerry Nowicki
/
Capitol News Illinois
A statue is pictured outside of the Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield.

In courtrooms around the state early this week, judges conducted the first hearings under a new system that determines whether a defendant will be jailed while awaiting trial based on dangerousness and risk of fleeing prosecution, rather than their ability to post bail.

The abolition of cash bail was included in the SAFE-T Act criminal justice reform of 2021 and originally slated to take effect Jan. 1, though court challenges delayed its implementation until Monday.

In St. Clair County Circuit Court, where nearly 2,000 felony cases and more than 3,400 misdemeanors are filed annually, at least one person was released from jail to await trial on the second day the SAFE-T Act’s bail reform provisions were in effect.

A woman accused of aggravated domestic battery for hitting her partner with a piece of wood was released on Tuesday morning. A mother of a newborn, she was released after a detention hearing found she was not a flight risk or a threat to the public or a specific person.

St. Clair County held three detention hearings Monday morning. All three were previously held on cash bail in cases filed before the SAFE-T Act went into effect. The new law entitled defendants held in lieu of bail prior to Monday’s effective date to petition to have their cases moved to the new system.

Two of those defendants stand accused of first-degree murder and another was being held on firearms charges. The hearings resembled detention hearings held in federal court – which has not used cash bail as a detention method since 1984 – with testimony focusing on whether the person is a flight risk or a danger to the public or a specific person.

“We are all going to make some interesting law this morning,” St. Clair County Judge John O’Gara said as he began the first hearing in his courtroom on Monday morning.

In a basement courtroom in the Kane County Judicial Center — the county’s St. Charles-based criminal courthouse — six defendants were called before Judge Salvatore LoPiccolo for initial appearance hearings Monday morning.

Of the six, all but one of whom had been arrested since Kane County’s last-ever bond call ended around noon on Sunday, four were released after their initial conditions hearing. Two remained in custody until the afternoon detention hearings, at which prosecutors asked the judge to keep them in jail.

Bond hearings have historically been quick affairs, often with no defense attorneys present for indigent defendants who wouldn’t get assigned a public defender until later in their case. But detention hearings in Kane County on Monday afternoon took about 15 minutes each. Both the state’s attorney and the public defender assigned to handle this week’s hearings laid out their cases for whether the defendant should continue to be held in Kane County Jail or released.

All parties and the judge also had access to the defendants’ criminal history, a practice that isn’t new in either Kane or St. Clair county courts, but is a novel development in many counties that have been working with the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services, which has been staffing up to compile those reports for the better part of a year.

DETENTION FOR MURDER SUSPECT: O’Gara, in St. Clair County, presided over the detention hearing for Darrayvia Crump, who was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting of Ivan Marshall in the back of an O’Fallon restaurant last year.

Crump did not fire the gun, Assistant State’s Attorney Erica Mazzotti said during the detention hearing, but did drive the vehicle to the location even after one of her co-defendants said they were “going to rob the dude.” Crump continued to drive her two co-defendants to the scene, making her legally accountable under Illinois law.

Cheryl Whitley, Crump’s attorney, said her client provided information that aided the investigation and would agree to home detention with a monitoring device.

O’Gara found Crump ineligible for release.

After the hearing, Crump was returned to the St. Clair County Jail where she will be held until her trial. She has been there since May 2022. Her bond was previously set at $1.5 million, of which she would have needed to pay 10 percent, or $150,000, to be released.

DETENTION FOR MURDER SUSPECT: In the second St. Clair County hearing, Assistant Public Defender Tom Philo, who represented Trevon Raymond, requested his release. Raymond is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Michael Triplett in East St. Louis on Sept. 21, 2021.

Months after the murder, Raymond was involved in a high-speed chase on the Stan Musial Bridge after shots were fired at an East St. Louis gas station. Raymond crashed his car, allegedly tossed a gun into the weeds and fled on foot. He was arrested, Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Lewis said during the hearing, and ballistics later tied the recovered pistol to the murder.

O’Gara also denied his release, finding there were no conditions that would mitigate the risk to the public or Raymond’s potential flight from prosecution. Raymond will now be held until his trial, set for late October. Previously, he could have freed himself by paying 10 percent of his $1 million bond.

O’Gara told the defendants that they had the right to appeal his decisions and, if they could not afford an attorney, a public defender would be appointed for them.

St. Clair County Public Defender Cathy MacElroy filed motions for detention hearings under the SAFE-T Act for all the clients she represents who were jailed in lieu of bail prior to Monday. She anticipates there will be hundreds of hearings in the coming month.

“It’s day one and I can already see that I will need more help,” MacElroy said as she moved between courtrooms with her arms full of files on Monday morning.

In addition to the detention hearings, defendants that are detained must be tried within 90 days – 30 days shorter than the previous 120-day speedy trial requirement. Extensions requested by the defense do not count against that timeframe, however.

DETENTION FOR FIREARMS OFFENSE: In the third St. Clair County case, Bernard Cherry faced possession of a stolen firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, resisting a police officer and two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. He was arrested in June. His bail was set at $250,000.

He, too, will return to the St. Clair County Jail until his trial.

St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson said on Monday that he expects more hearings later this week. Three were held on Tuesday morning, two of which resulted in detention for the defendants.

Gleeson said he set aside a courtroom for those hearings and reassigned a judge from traffic and misdemeanor court to preside over detention hearings.

The SAFE-T Act was a response to the cash bail system, which the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found disproportionately impacts minorities. In St. Clair County, MacElroy said 30 percent of criminal defendants are Black.

To the north in Madison County, they had their first detention hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Matthew Kelly was accused of aggravated stalking and criminal damage to property. The judge ordered that he be held in county jail until his trial.

RELEASE FOR VIOLATION OF ORDER OF PROTECTION: In Kane County, the two detention hearings were for violation of an order of protection and domestic violence charges – two areas where the SAFE-T Act sought to give judges greater authority to detain individuals if requested by the state’s attorney’s office.

Standing in an orange Kane County Jail uniform in the windowless courtroom, Tudor Marcel Stoica was read the charges against him after having been arrested the night before for allegedly violating an order of protection from his 80-year-old next door neighbor. Assistant State’s Attorney Christine Bayer pointed to Stoica’s history of breaking that stalking/no-contact order, resulting in a few other pending cases against him.

Stoica was out on bond twice for those previous violations.

“He poses a danger and a threat to our victim in his case,” Bayer told the judge. “Based on that, we’d ask that he’d be detained.”

In response, the public defender listed mitigating factors, like the fact that Stoica has full custody of his 11-year-old son and that he’s studying engineering at Northern Illinois University. In a prior life, Stoica was a physician — a “laparoscopic hernia repair specialist,” he reminded the public defender.

After a bit more back-and-forth, Judge LoPiccolo ruled that the state hadn’t shown “clear and convincing evidence that he poses a real and present physical threat to his neighbor,” given that their verbal altercation on Sunday night didn’t include any physical threats of violence.

Afterward, Bayer asked that the judge order an alcohol-related condition on Stoica’s release, as the police report had indicated Stoica had “an odor of alcohol” when he was arrested. LoPiccolo agreed.

“I will order that you’re not to consume alcoholic beverages and I’ll take it one step further,” he said. “I will order that you submit to random alcohol testing through pretrial services as well.”

The random alcohol testing order is an example of a condition Kane County Chief Judge Clint Hull said in an interview last week he expected to see less frequently under the SAFE-T Act, given the law’s mandate that defendants be placed under the least-restrictive conditions necessary while still ensuring they show up to court.

While Hull said he’s heard concerns from law enforcement predicting fewer opportunities to reach those who may need drug or alcohol treatment, he said he understands one of the SAFE-T Act’s many goals is to limit judges giving “conditions just for conditions’ sake.”

“This is the biggest criminal justice change since the code was written in 1963, so there's a lot of things that we don't know,” Hull said. “But I don't look at that as a negative. We're just gonna have to see what happens and I have complete confidence in the court system … if we have to adapt, we will adapt under the confines of the law.”

DETENTION FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: The second Kane County detention hearing on Monday ended in continued detention of a man accused of a pair of Class A misdemeanor domestic battery charges — one of the so-called “detainable offenses” laid out under the new law, and the type of case Hull predicted would be the most common to appear in detention hearings.

In the charging documents, Adrian Jowers denied he put his girlfriend in a headlock during an argument over a Link card. In court on Monday, Jowers stood as his criminal history was read, including a battery charge for allegedly punching a person on the street, and a Kendall County charge for reckless discharge of a firearm.

The public defender responded that Jowers’ previous criminal history had no bearing on the domestic violence charge that brought Jowers to court on Monday and asked the judge to release him so he’d be able to continue looking for work and helping provide for his two children, with whom he doesn’t live.

However, LoPiccolo said he was relying on Jowers’ criminal history to make the determination “that no conditions or combinations of conditions can mitigate” Jowers’ threat to public safety, especially to an identifiable victim, and ordered he be held in Kane County Jail. He’ll appear in court again next week.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association. 

Hannah covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and Illinois Public Radio. She previously covered the statehouse for The Daily Line and Law360, and also worked a temporary stint at the political blog Capitol Fax in 2018.