Chicago — For the first few minutes of Laiveil Harper’s bail hearing at 26th and California, the most surprising detail was that officials said he took a stolen handgun to a meeting with his parole officer, where he was to surrender to authorities on a couple of outstanding warrants.
But then, more surprisingly, Harper broke into a loud, angry-sounding, minute-long rant against Judge Charles Beach, who subsequently ordered him held without bail.
And then, almost inexplicably, after Harper launched into another outburst and prosecutors served Harper with an order of protection for a civil matter, Beach changed his mind and lowered Harper’s bail.
In Room 100 of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, judges preside over dozens of Chicago felony bail hearings daily. The number of defendants who have managed to convince a judge to reduce their bail amount since CWB Chicago began monitoring the daily court call in mid-2020 is undoubtedly in the single digits.
The number of those who succeeded by yelling at a judge is now one.
Harper is currently on parole for a 2019 stolen motor vehicle case. He was on parole for a 2014 home invasion and robbery case when he was arrested in that matter. And he was on parole for a 2009 armed robbery when he got busted in the home invasion.
Sarah Dale-Schmidt, a prosecutor, said that Harper’s parole officer called him about two outstanding warrants, one of which was for driving while intoxicated in DuPage County.
“An agreement for the defendant to turn himself in was made, at which point he arrived [to the meeting] with a loaded firearm on his person,” Dale-Schmidt told Beach.
She said that officers found the gun during a custodial search after he surrendered this week. It was reported stolen in March 2022, the same month, coincidentally, that Harper got out of prison.
Prosecutors asked Beach to find Harper to be a danger to the community and hold him without bail.
Harper’s private defense attorney, Loren Blumenfeld, told Beach that Harper had “done nothing but follow the law” since getting out of prison. Blumenfeld said Harper works as a personal trainer at two gyms and as a rehabber to support his six children.
The lawyer argued Haper had “turned his life around. Has three different jobs.”
Beach began his analysis of the case and the state’s no-bail request by calling the allegations, “quite a headscratcher for me.”
But Beach didn’t get to speak for very long.
Are you kidding me?
Appearing via Zoom from a holding area, Harper cut Beach off and launched into a loud, sometimes unintelligible rant.
“Laiveil! Are you kidding me?” Blumenfeld interjected, to no avail.
“My kids woke up without me this morning!” Harper screamed as he continued with a 59-second outburst that Blumenfeld repeatedly tried to cut off.
Then, as quickly as he started, Harper stopped.
“I’m sorry, your honor,” said Harper in a suddenly calm, collected voice. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“Mr. Harper,” Beach replied. “you should listen to your lawyer…an outburst like that doesn’t exactly give me a lot of encouragement that you’re gonna follow things, right?”
“Yes, sir,” Harper agreed.
Blumenfeld corrected Harper: “Yes, your honor.”
“Yes, your honor,” Harper echoed.
Blumenfeld suggested an apology was in order, and Harper agreed.
“I apologize. I been working hard the past year to stay out of trouble. I apologize, your honor.”
Beach resumed his case analysis.
“You showed up voluntarily to meet with your parole officer. My inclination is that you’ve changed your circumstances. You’ve changed the way you wish to operate, notwithstanding that you had a weapon on you,” the judge began.
“I still have concerns that you’re a danger to the community,” said Beach. “I am going to hold you without bail at this time.”
“I been out for a year. I’m a personal trainer. Please. You gonna hold that against me because of my emotions? Imagine waking up without your kids … Please. You sayin’ I’m a threat to society? If you go on my social media, I got half of Chicago working out exercising for the greater of their health,” Harper countered.
Then, seeing Beach crack a smile, his voice grew louder: “You laugh?”
“I’m laughing in a positive way,” Beach offered before yielding to another loud rant from Harper, in which he claimed that people had recently attacked him, giving him a black eye.
Blumenfeld confirmed that Harper had mentioned being attacked recently, but Blumenfeld said he didn’t bring it up earlier because such information is not usually considered in a bail hearing.
“I am going to reconsider my decision based upon Mr. Blumenfeld’s statements,” Beach conceded. “And I don’t do that very often, Mr. Harper.”
At that point, the prosecutor asked if she could serve Harper with the pending civil order of protection. Beach agreed.
“I don’t even know what that is,” Harper said after being served. “That’s confusing to me, so….”
Beach explained the order to him and reduced Harper’s bail amount for the new gun charge from no bail to $100,000, meaning Harper must post $10,000 to go home. The judge also ordered him to stay in the house from 9:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Harper will, however, be held without bail temporarily while the Illinois Department of Corrections reviews his parole status.