When Gary Coleman appeared in misdemeanor bond court last Tuesday, he didn’t even know his own name.
Coleman, 32, was in court after he allegedly punched a 60-year-old woman in the face in the Loop, causing her to strike her head on the sidewalk and lose consciousness. Yet, he only faced a misdemeanor charge.
When Coleman couldn’t identify himself, Judge Arthur Willis compared Coleman to the mugshot on a police report and determined that the right man was standing before him.
Coleman continued to display clear signs of mental illness throughout the brief hearing. He spoke loudly about nonsense. Willis, perhaps the most vocally compassionate of Chicago’s bond court judges, ordered him to receive health care in jail and set bail at $11,000.
Two days later, Judge Gerardo Tristan Jr. sentenced Coleman to eight months conditional discharge for knocking the woman out. Then, Gary Coleman walked out to the streets of Chicago with the same chronic mental health challenges that he walked in with.
The next evening, he found himself at the Cermak Green Line station. Also on the platform were a 66-year-old tourist and her daughter, who had just picked up her race pack for Sunday’s Chicago Marathon at McCormick Place.
The younger woman saw Coleman walking toward her and her mother. He was talking to himself angrily, she later told police. She turned away. When she turned back, she saw her mother in mid-air, falling to the train tracks below after Coleman punched her in the face, Assistant State’s Attorney John Chambers said Sunday.
Coleman left the train station. An ambulance took the older woman to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a broken right orbital bone, a dislocated wrist, a concussion, and cuts to her forehead, Chambers said.
Detectives distributed CTA surveillance images of the attacker to police across the city. Officers arrested Coleman when he walked into a CPD station downtown to use the phone.
He was back in bond court Sunday, still talking loudly about nonsense and interrupting the proceedings as a series of felony allegations were laid out against him: aggravated battery of a senior citizen; aggravated battery of a transit passenger; aggravated battery in a public place; and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.
“Fortunately, [the victim] didn’t hit a rail that could have electrocuted her,” Judge David Navarro said after hearing the allegations.
Assistant Public Defender Courtney Smallwood said Coleman lives with his daughter, has a 14-year-old child, and was recently admitted to a university.
On Tuesday, a different public defender said Coleman was homeless and added that his colleagues could not get any other information from Coleman.
Judge Navarro ordered Coleman held without bail Sunday on the new allegations. He added $50,000 bail for a violation of conditional discharge.
Cook County leaders talk a lot about the need to take care of people who have mental health conditions, but the case of Gary Coleman appears to show what happens in real life.
Somehow, a man who has undeniable psychiatric conditions knocked a 60-year-old woman unconscious on a downtown street, and prosecutors, a judge, and the man’s own attorney all decided that the best place for him to be was on the street — where he severely injured an even older woman the next day.