The McHenry County state’s attorney says the “failure” SAFE-T Act recently allowed the release of a hit-and-run suspect who seriously injured a child and a convicted murderer who failed to register as a sex offender for the sixth time.
McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said earlier this week that the Pretrial Fairness Act of the SAFE-T Act, which ended cash bail in Illinois, has “glaring problems.”
Kenneally has been outspoken against the Pretrial Fairness Act that went into effect last month.
The state’s attorney has repeatedly highlighted cases in recent weeks where defendants, who he believes should have been held, have instead been released from custody.
One of those defendants includes a 54-year-old man charged with failing to register as a sex offender after he allegedly failed to register his address and other information with the Woodstock Police Department.
The man was convicted of murder in 1988 and sentenced to 35 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
He was released in 2009 and has been charged six times since then with various failing-to-register offenses.
Kenneally said the offense is considered detainable but a judge found it was not necessary to hold him.
The judge found that admonishing the defendant to appear for court, submit himself to the orders and process of the court, not violate any criminal statute, comply with all court orders and notify the clerk of any change in address was sufficient to mitigate the risk to the community.
A second defendant, a 20-year-old man, was arrested for driving with a suspended license in September 2022.
He failed to appear at his first court date in October 2022 and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
While the warrant was pending, the man was involved in a serious vehicle crash that resulted in a juvenile suffering a head laceration that required 15 staples and another victim suffering serious neck and back trauma.
The defendant fled from the scene of the crash.
A second warrant was issued for failure to report a crash resulting in injury, a felony offense, and reckless driving.
Police were able to serve the warrants nine months later on September 30.
Kenneally said the charges against the defendant are non-detainable and he cannot be detained pretrial for failing to appear in court. He was released.
A third defendant, a 45-year-old man, was arrested for felony retail theft.
The defendant has been previously arrested 21 times, including arrests and convictions for armed robbery, residential burglary and cocaine delivery.
Prior to his arrest in the recent case, the man had just been released from the Illinois Department of Corrections after finishing his sixth stint in prison.
Under the SAFE-T Act, retail theft is a non-detainable offense and the defendant was released into the community with the admonishment to stay away from the business he had allegedly stolen from, comply with court orders and not violate the law.
“As I will continue to repeat, the most glaring problem with the SAFE-T Act is that pretrial release decisions are being made based on the type of charge a defendant faces, not a defendant’s dangerousness or likelihood of complying with court orders,” Kenneally said.
“Here we have multiple defendants, which, based on the allegations and criminal histories, might allow a judge to reasonably conclude that they present a clear risk of disregarding the law and/or court orders if released,” Kenneally said.
A fourth defendant highlighted by the state’s attorney was a 39-year-old man who was charged with possession of a controlled substance after being found with fentanyl.
The man has been arrested 19 times previously, including for multiple drug-related felony offenses for which he received probation and substance abuse treatment.
At the time of his latest arrest, the defendant was on bond for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Possession of fentanyl as charged is a non-detainable offense under the SAFE-T Act and the man was released after being admonished to comply with court orders and not violate the law, Kenneally said.
A fifth defendant, a 23-year-old man, was arrested for obstructing a peace officer causing injury.
He was encountered by police outside of a residence. Officers were aware that the man did not have a valid driver’s license and informed him not to drive.
The defendant told them that he was “going to drive and they wouldn’t be able to catch him.”
He got backed his car out of the driveway and police initiated a traffic stop.
The man attempted to walk away from the traffic stop and resisted arrest, causing injury to an officer.
Kenneally said the defendant has a violent criminal history that includes vehicular hijacking. He is currently on probation for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.
Obstructing a peace officer causing injury is a non-detainable offense and the defendant was released from custody after being admonished by the court to comply with court orders and not violate the law.
“Tragically, under the SAFE-T Act, a judge is without power in cases involving non-detainable offenses to detain even if he believes the defendant will reoffend or not comply with court orders,” Kenneally said.
The state’s attorney called the encounter with the 23-year-old man “unfair” to law enforcement officers who have to encounter him again.
“We expect law enforcement to do the near impossible by apprehending recalcitrant defendants in a way that looks good on camera, yet our laws continue to put those same defendants and police at risk of further catastrophic interactions,” Kenneally said.