Friday was a big day for 21-year-old Armando Rodriguez. Prosecutors wiped his slate clean by dropping four felony gun charges he was facing in Avondale “restorative justice” court.
Less than 36 hours later, police allegedly found an intoxicated Rodriguez sitting in a car with a gun on his lap at a Near North Side gas station. Prosecutors on Sunday charged him with a fresh felony gun charge.
When Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced the Avondale Restorative Justice Community Court last summer, he said the court would resolve conflicts through “restorative conferences and peace circles” instead of typical criminal court procedures.
“We have recognized for a long time that young people need a second chance,” Evans said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Rodriguez, who would become one of the court’s first participants, may have blown that second chance in record time.
On November 15, police who responded to calls of shots fired from a newer model SUV on the 3600 block of West Leland spotted a vehicle matching that description nearby and saw it crash into another car, prosecutors said at a bond hearing the next day.
Rodriguez climbed out of the car, ran a short distance, returned to the car, grabbed a handgun from the passenger side, and then ran away again, prosecutors said.
Cops ran after him and took him into custody. He was carrying a glass jar containing about an ounce of marijuana and officers found a loaded handgun along the pursuit path, according to the allegations. The SUV that he ran from was stolen, but police weren’t sure if he was the passenger or the driver when it crashed, prosecutors said.
Rodriguez was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, criminal trespass to a vehicle, and possession of cannabis and Judge John Lyke sent him home on electronic monitoring on $2,000 bail. A grand jury returned a true bill charging Rodriguez with four felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon a few weeks later, records show.
Another judge took him off of electronic monitoring when his case was transferred to restorative justice court in March, records show. On Friday, after Rodriguez agreed to a “repair of harm agreement,” prosecutors dropped all charges before the court’s “circle keeper,” Judge Beatrix Santiago.
Everything went great for almost a day and a half.
Early Sunday, police responded to a service station on the 300 block of West Chicago after an employee called 911 about a man in a car who refused to leave the lot, prosecutors said. Cops arrived and allegedly found Rodriguez asleep in the car with a loaded pistol sitting on his lap.
“I’m sorry,” Judge Mary Marubio asked after being told about Rodriguez’s restorative justice experience, “he just got a case dismissed on the 20th?”
“Yes,” the prosecutor confirmed, “at the RJCC,” using the initials of the Restorative Justice Community Court.
Rodriguez’s public defender said he didn’t refuse to leave the parking lot. Rather, she argued, “he was intoxicated in his car.” She said Rodriguez is a Lakeview High School graduate. Other than his freshly-dismissed felony gun case, he has no criminal background.
Judge Marubio set bail at $4,000 and ordered him to observe a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew. He’ll be required to wear a monitoring band to enforce the curfew after he posts a $400 bond to get out of jail, she said.
By the way, Beatrix Santiago, the “circle keeper” judge who oversaw Rodriguez’s case in restorative justice court knows a thing or two about forgiveness.
Four years ago, the state’s Court Commission, which hears allegations of judicial misconduct found she knowingly deceived a mortgage lender, according to Injustice Watch.
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