Alleged rapist and robber is missing after judge lets him out of jail for $500 due to COVID

Rene Chandler (inset) and court paperwork showing him bonding out for $500 on allegations of aggravated criminal sexual assault causing bodily harm. | CPD; Cook County Court records

A Chicago man who’s accused of robbing a woman while on electronic monitoring for allegedly sexually assaulting two other women has gone missing after a Cook County judge slashed his bail bond to $500 as authorities swept thousands of detainees out of jail when COVID-19 arrived this spring.

Rene Chandler, 31, is awaiting trial on charges of sexually assaulting and battering two women in separate alleged attacks downtown in 2018. While free on bail and electronic monitoring for those cases, Chandler allegedly beat and robbed another woman in April 2019.

According to court records, Chandler was ordered held without bail on the robbery charge for violating the terms of the sexual assault case bonds.

But, when COVID-19 arrived this spring, Chandler’s attorney filed an emergency motion to reduce his bond amount based on Chandler’s asthma condition.

“He is absolutely not a flight risk,” the defense attorney wrote in the bail reduction request.

As it turned out, he was.

Two sex assault accusations

In August 2018, prosecutors charged Chandler with sexually assaulting and battering two different women that he met separately on dating apps.

In one case, he invited a 26-year-old woman to a condo in the 800 block of North LaSalle and then tried to sleep with her, prosecutors said. When the woman started to walk out, Chandler allegedly grabbed her from behind, threw her on the couch, and sexually assaulted her. She reported the incident a short time later.

During that investigation, police learned that Chandler was a person of interest in another sexual assault case reported in Streeterville earlier that year.

That alleged attack involved a 22-year-old woman who told police Chandler invited her to a high-rise party in the 400 block of East Ohio via social media. When Chandler tried to have sex with the woman, she began “kicking and screaming and managed to knee [him] in the face,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

Chandler “became very angry and slapped [her face]” after she kicked him, according to allegations. When she tried to leave, he grabbed her by her wig, threw her to the ground, kicked and punched her, and sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said.

Afterward, he followed the woman onto the elevator and continued to batter her as they rode down to lobby level, according to prosecutors. The woman flagged down police outside, but Chandler was no longer at the scene. Cops later arrested him.

A judge set Chandler’s bail on the attacks at $100,000 each, and he posted $20,000 to get out of jail on electronic monitoring.

Robbery while on bail

A few months after Chandler went home to await trial, another woman accused him of battering and robbing her as they rode in an Uber near Hyde Park.

The woman, 26, met Chandler through social media and had been dating him for a short time when they got into an argument in the Uber. When the driver pulled over because the argument was escalating, Chandler struck the woman in her face and took her new phone along with $640 cash from her purse, prosecutors said. According to the state’s allegations, he ran from the car and fled in a taxi cab.

A judge ordered him held without bail for violating the terms of bail in the sexual assault cases and set bail in the robbery matter at $80,000, court records show.

Chandler remained in jail until COVID arrived.

“Absolutely not a flight risk”

On April 9, Chandler’s defense attorney filed a motion to get him out of jail due to COVID concerns. The lawyer told Judge Thomas Hennelly that the sexual assault cases were “he-said-she-said” and claimed Chandler bought the phone for the alleged robbery victim

Hennelly, who had not been overseeing the case previously, repeatedly questioned why the judge assigned to the matters didn’t take action for over a year if the lawyer’s arguments had been presented to him. In court transcripts, Hennelly seems reluctant to take a major step when the trial judge had not done so.

Nonetheless, Hennelly struck Chandler’s no-bail status and allowed him to get out of jail by posting a $500 deposit bond, court records show.

Prosecutors, who presented minimal counter-arguments during the April 9 bond hearing, filed an emergency motion to reinstate Chandler’s no-bail status.

Among other things, the state’s attorney’s office admitted that its lawyers did not tell Hennelly the facts of the sexual assault cases. And, prosecutors said, Chandler’s alleged victims weren’t even notified of the bond reduction hearing.

The state also revealed that Chandler was accused in 2013 of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman he met online. But a judge later dismissed the case finding no probable cause.

And, prosecutors accused Chandler of talking about paying off one of his alleged victims during a jailhouse phone call on March 31. During the call, Chandler “details one of his cases and also discusses a previous attempt to tamper with a victim and pay her a sum of money to alter her story,” attorneys for the state said.

After hearing the prosecution’s objection and Chandler’s defense, Judge Michael McHale ordered Chandler to return to jail and to be held without bail. But the hearing was conducted via Zoom due to the COVID pandemic and Chandler could not be taken into custody immediately.

Instead, a warrant was issued for Chandler’s arrest two days later.

He remains at large.

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