Murder defendant schemed with girlfriend to smuggle drug-laced papers into Cook County jail: prosecutors

CHICAGO — Dwain Johnson has been in the Cook County jail since December 18, 2020, the day a judge held him without bail on allegations that he was the getaway driver for a group that shot and killed a retired Chicago firefighter Dwain Williams during a botched carjacking attempt.

Now, Johnson is in even more trouble. Officials say he tried to bribe a correctional officer to help him smuggle drug-laced paper into the jail with the help of his girlfriend.

The girlfriend, 23-year-old Kasandra Claudio, appeared for a bail hearing Saturday afternoon on charges of bribery and bringing contraband into a penal institution. Judge Maryam Ahmad ordered her to pay a $300 bail deposit to go home.

During the hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Rob Schwartz said Johnson approached a correctional officer in the jail’s maximum security wing with the smuggling proposal earlier this year. Johnson offered to pay the jail employee $1,500 for receiving the papers, laced with synthetic cannabinoids, from Claudio and bringing them into the jail, Schwartz alleged.

Kasandra Claudio and Dwain Johnson | Cook County sheriff’s office

He said Johnson gave the correctional officer a note with Claudio’s number and the message, “I need you one time and I pay nice.” Johnson also gave the jail employee two codewords, “zorpion” and “telzo LMK,” that were to be texted to Claudio when the deal was on.

Instead of doing that, the correctional officer went to their supervisor, launching an investigation. Police arrested Claudio after she delivered the papers to an undercover investigator at the North Riverside Park Mall on Thursday evening, officials said.

Prosecutors will seek to indict Johnson through a grand jury.

Murdered during a carjacking attempt

Johnson is one of four people facing murder charges for the December 3, 2020, murder of Williams. The 65-year-old retired firefighter was leaving a popcorn shop when a crew of armed hijackers tried to take his Jeep. Williams, a concealed-carry holder, was killed during an exchange of gunfire with the carjackers, officials said.

Two of the accused men were on bail for felonies at the time of the crime, which was caught on video.

Paper problem

Like jail operators across the country, the Cook County sheriff’s office has been trying to cut off the supply of drug-infused papers that are sold between inmates.

Last month, the sheriff’s office enacted new restrictions after two private defense attorneys were caught bringing contaminated papers into the facility for client meetings. Under the new rules, defense attorneys who want to take paperwork to client meetings must schedule an appointment so the documents can be inspected. Correctional workers and county employees are also barred from taking paper into the jail unless it is work- or union-related.

Investigations into the private defense lawyers who allegedly brought contaminated papers into the facility remain active.

Sources familiar with the Cook County jail’s operations believe smuggled drugs are responsible for increasing in-custody deaths.

Medical examiner records show that 12 people have died in the jail so far this year. Two passed of natural causes and one was murdered. The causes and manners of death in the other nine cases have yet to be determined.

By comparison, there were seven jail deaths during all of last year, two of which were attributed to drug ingestion. In 2021, two of the jail’s ten deaths were the result of drug use, according to medical examiner records. 

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