The ongoing debate about Cook County judges releasing people accused of murder and attempted murder on electronic monitoring (EM) before trial seemed to reach a turning point on Thursday afternoon.
Speaking to a lunch crowd at the Union League Club, Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans dropped a mid-speech bombshell.
“Not one person who has been charged with murder or even attempted murder has been ordered to electronic monitoring under the sheriff since October of last year,” Evans claimed. “So that whole process is changing and I just want you to be well aware of it.”
Within hours, nearly every major corporate news media outlet in Chicago repeated Evans’ claim in their reporting.
Unfortunately, records from Evans’ own court system and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office show that his claim is categorically false.
In fact, at least three have been released on EM since Christmas, including one accused of shooting a 2-year-old boy in the head during a road rage incident on Lake Shore Drive last year, according to court records. Even more have been released since October.
Another man, who allegedly escaped from electronic monitoring last year and shot someone in the face while he was gone, has also been released on EM since October, court records show.
A third man released since October is not accused of murder or attempted murder. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006 and is awaiting sentencing.
We contacted Evans’ office on Friday morning to see if there was a misunderstanding.
The sheriff’s office EM roster lists about 20 people charged with murder or attempted murder who’ve been on electronic monitoring for less than 90 days, we said. We knew of some post-October releases from our research for a recent series of reports about the EM controversy, we added.
A spokesperson for Evans said that we would have to send them a list of all 20 people on the sheriff’s office list with their court case numbers to get a response. Instead, we sent them the list, which is available online, and invited them to look the cases up. We also sent along two case numbers of recent first-time EM releases that a researcher happened to come across during other work at the courthouse that day.
We didn’t hear back. (Update January 31, 12:52 p.m. — A spokesperson for Chief Judge Timothy Evans said in an email this afternoon that an inquiry is being made.)
The circumstances of all 20 people who, according to the sheriff’s “length of stay” list, had been on EM for less than 90 days vary. Some posted bond and went home on conditions, including electronic monitoring, set by judges weeks or months in the past. For example, a man who is charged with a suburban murder, was released January 5 on bail conditions, including EM, that were set on February 3, 2021.
At least one defendant had EM reinstated after having it suspended.
But several defendants on the sheriff’s list that were spot-checked by CWBChicago on Friday were given EM as conditions of bond after October, according to court records.
Last April, many Chicagoans were gripped by a road rage shooting that left a 21-month-old boy critically injured on Lake Shore Drive near Grant Park.
Prosecutors said the boy, Kayden Swann, was in a car seat behind his grandmother while her long-time boyfriend, Jushawn Brown, drove them to a relative’s home.
As their Lincoln sedan approached Roosevelt, Deandre Binion nearly ran into their back bumper because he could not get around them due to road construction, Assistant State’s attorney Kevin Deboni said last year. Brown leaned out of the Lincoln and yelled for Binion to back off because there was a child in his car, according to Deboni. Both men displayed handguns as they continued driving north, Deboni said.
Binion then fired several shots at the Lincoln, stopped his SUV, got out, and fired additional shots at the car before he escaped into the Loop, and onto the expressway, Deboni said.
One of the bullets he allegedly fired went through the Lincoln’s passenger window, struck Kayden in the right temple and exited through the boy’s cheek.
Binion’s defense attorney during the bond hearing, Mike Krejci, noted Kayden’s grandmother told the media that she blamed Brown for the entire incident and even said that Brown fired the first shots in the confrontation. But Deboni said police found no bullet holes in Binion’s SUV.
Judge Mary Marubio ordered Binion held without bail on April 23. A grand jury later returned a 17-count true bill against him, including seven counts of attempted murder and three counts of aggravated battery of a child under 13 causing permanent disability.
Binion’s attorney filed a motion to reduce bail, claiming Binion had obtained evidence that he was not the original aggressor and physical evidence that his car was struck by a bullet that Brown fired.
On December 13, Judge Michael Hood reduced Binion’s bail to $500,000 with electronic monitoring. Binion posted a 10% bail deposit and was released on EM December 30, according to court records.
Others who have been ordered onto and released on EM since October include a man who is charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting a man in Grand Crossing. He won a motion for bail reduction on January 6 and posted bail to go home on EM the same day, according to court records.
Among other examples:
• Christopher Solis-Govea, 19, is facing attempted first-degree murder charges for allegedly shooting a man who yelled something at his girlfriend near a Gage Park gas station in March 2021. Three months earlier, Solis-Govea went AWOL from electronic monitoring just three days after being placed on an ankle monitor for a felony gun case, prosecutors said. He was still missing at the time of the alleged shooting.
He was held without bail in July 2021, but Judge Lawrence Flood reduced his bail to $50,000 with EM on November 3. Solis-Govea walked out of jail on an ankle monitor by posting a 10% deposit bond two days later, according to court records.
• Garry Willis, 32, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years in 2007. His case has been tied up in appeals and legal wranglings ever since.
Last June, Judge William Hooks vacated the 50-year sentence Willis received in 2007, according to a motion to set bail that Willis’ attorney filed in October. Against the state’s objections, Hooks ruled on November 2 that Willis could get out of jail on electronic monitoring with GPS by posting 10% of a $200,000 bail. Willis’ aunt paid it the same day and he went home, according to court records.
“If your mother says she loves you…”
Regardless of the truth, Chief Judge Evans certainly scored political points with his claim about no more accused murderers being placed on electronic monitoring. All of the big news outlets reported his claim without question.
Mike Flannery, political editor at Fox Chicago, mentioned it at the beginning of his weekend talk show, “Flannery Fired Up.”
“It turns out Cook County circuit court judges have apparently been listening to all of those complaints about their releasing on electronic monitoring people accused of murder and attempted murder,” Flannery said before playing a video clip of Evans making his claim at the Union League Club.
Flannery was hardly alone in taking the judge at his word.
The WTTW report is best conveyed via screenshot:
Greg Hinz, columnist at Crain’s Chicago Business: “the number of alleged murderers released on electronic monitors since October has been reduced to zero”
NBC Chicago: “Evans also said that no one charged with murder or attempted murder has been added to the electronic monitoring program since October 2021.”
Chicago Tribune: “No one who has been charged with murder or attempted murder has been put on electronic monitoring since October, Evans said, though he later added that this was not due to any specific policy change.”
WBBM radio: “Evans on Thursday said no one accused of murder or attempted murder has been placed on electronic monitoring since October 2021.”
The Sun-Times did Evans a solid by reporting that he claimed no one accused of murder or attempted murder had been released on bond at all since October: “Evans noted that no defendant charged with murder or attempted murder has been allowed bond in Cook County since October, though he has not issued any directive mandating stricter bond decisions.”
Thursday’s claims about electronic monitoring releases were not the first provably false statements Evans has made about his courts’ bond policies.
In November 2019, he boasted that his affordable bail program was a smashing success.
“It’s not by magic that we haven’t had any horrible incidents occur using this new [bail] system,” he told county commissioners during a budget hearing.
After Evans made his claim, CWBChicago researchers found a host of murders and shootings allegedly committed by people on felony bail. They all seemed pretty horrible.
Since 2020, CWBChicago researchers have identified 114 people accused of killing, shooting, or trying to kill or shoot, someone in Chicago while on felony bail. Those cases involve 161 victims, 56 of whom died.