Like many politicians and government agencies, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is feeling the heat as Chicagoans grow increasingly weary of violent crime and stories about lax prosecution.
The office, headed by Kim Foxx, is fighting back with a new talking point in which it claims that prosecutors approve 86% of felony cases that Chicago police bring in for review. It’s unclear if that means the office approves the charges sought by police or if the 86% includes cases in which prosecutors approve significantly reduced charges.
Foxx’s office is less boastful of another statistic: Cook County prosecutors have successfully convicted just 60% of Chicago felony cases this year, according to the state’s attorney’s data.
And the statistics do not reveal what percentage of the approved felony cases are later dropped by prosecutors — a number that the Chicago Tribune found was significantly higher under Foxx than her predecessor.
Over the weekend, as we were clearing out some files containing potential stories ideas, we came across a remarkable case from September that we never got around to telling you about.
It’s the story of Giovanni Rodriguez, who was arrested three times in 15 months for allegedly carrying illegal guns in Little Village. In all three cases, according to CPD reports, Rodriguez admitted on bodyworn camera footage that he was carrying the guns.
And Cook County prosecutors approved felony charges all three times. They also dropped the charges in the first two cases within weeks. The result? Kim Foxx’s felony approval percentage scored points even though her office didn’t fully prosecute the cases.
Here’s what happened:
Around 3 p.m. on June 4, 2020, Chicago police responded to the 2200 block of South Millard in Little Village after a ShotSpotter gunfire detection device identified 20 possible shots fired in the area, according to a CPD report.
Officers saw a car leaving the area and pulled it over for a traffic violation. They found a loaded revolver inside a plastic bag on the back passenger seat where Rodriguez was allegedly sitting.
When police asked who the gun belonged to, Rodriguez “freely stated, ‘it’s mine,'” according to an arrest report that documented the incident.
On the way to the station, with police body cameras rolling, Rodriguez told the officers, “You know what’s going on. I’d rather be caught with it than without it. I need to protect myself,” the officers wrote in their report.
The report said Rodriguez is a “self-admitted Latin King” from a cell centered at 27th Street and Drake Avenue.
Prosecutors charged Rodriguez with felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in a vehicle by a person under the age of 21, records show. Judge Arthur Willis released Rodriguez on his own recognizance the next Day, June 5.
And on November 13, 2020, prosecutors dropped the case, court records show.
Early on July 18 of this year, CPD conducted a “directed patrol” in Little Village due to recent violence between the Latin Kings, Satan Disciples, and Two Six street gangs.
Officers said they saw a large group of known Latin Kings standing in an alley, so they approached the group. As they neared the group, Rodriguez began walking backward while holding his front waistband, according to a police report. Then, he turned and ran from an officer who previously arrested him for illegal gun possession, the report said.
Two officers allegedly saw him throw a gun into a garbage can as he ran. They recovered the gun and arrested Rodriguez after his pants fell to his knees, causing him to trip and fall into a garage, the police report continued.
Once again, the incident was recorded by CPD body cameras, and Rodriguez told an arresting officer, “Come on man. I have a kid. I just had it for protection,” according to the CPD arrest report.
Prosecutors charged Rodriguez with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a person under the age of 21, and Judge Mary Marubio allowed him to go home by posting $300 of his $3,000 bail amount.
Two months after prosecutors approved the felony gun charge, they dropped the case on September 15 in front of Judge Edward Maloney, court records show.
Five days later, around 6:30 p.m. on September 20, cops watching a CPD surveillance camera in Little Village saw Rodriguez manipulating an object in his waistband and walking back and forth between the street and a yard near 27th Street and Drake Avenue, according to prosecutors.
Cops said they saw a bulge in Rodriguez’s pants as they approached him. But Rodriguez allegedly started running away.
Moments before cops caught Rodriguez, they heard a gunshot nearby. They retraced their steps and found a handgun lying in the front yard of a home that had a bullet hole in its mailbox, prosecutors said.
Rodriguez told cops that he wasn’t trying to shoot them, but the gun went off as he tried to get rid of it, according to prosecutors.
They charged him with reckless discharge of a firearm and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. Judge Charles Beach set bail at $10,000, meaning Rodriguez had to pay $1,000 to get out of jail. Beach also ordered Rodriguez to observe a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew and to wear an ankle monitor to help enforce the restriction, court records show.
Just eight days later, Judge Edward Maloney, the one who was presiding when prosecutors dropped gun charges against Rodriguez earlier in the month, told Rodriguez he didn’t need to observe the curfew any longer, according to court records.
We’ll keep an eye on this case to see if prosecutors drop charges again. Of course, if they do drop charges, it won’t affect their 86% “approval rate.”
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