Shortly after prosecutors successfully argued to have a drug dealer detained in jail, the Lake County state’s attorney ordered the release of the man, which frustrated the judge and led him to deny the request for release.
Darion R. Flowers, 29, of Waukegan, was charged earlier this month with manufacturing under 200 pills of ecstasy, possession of under 200 pills of ecstasy and two counts of possession of methamphetamine under 200 grams.
The charges are all felonies, including one of which is a Class X felony that carries six to 30 years in prison.
Flowers appeared for a detention hearing on November 16 before Lake County Judge Theodore Potkonjak.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Francis DeRosa said during the hearing that officers, through the use of a confidential source, conducted five controlled buys with Flowers between August and September.
Flowers sold the confidential source tablets or powder that contained methamphetamine or MDMA, DeRosa said.
The buys were captured on audio and video and occurred at Flowers’ home. The investigation was led by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigation Group.
DeRosa argued for Flowers to be held pending trial and not released because he was on probation for a felony gun charge at the time of the offenses.
Potkonjak granted the request and ordered Flowers to be remanded to the Lake County Jail.
A subsequent court hearing was held in front of the judge the next day.
During the hearing, DeRosa informed the court that the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office had agreed to release Flowers from custody.
Potkonjak said that DeRosa had argued one day earlier for Flowers to be detained pending trial and that the request had been granted.
The judge also said he witnessed the prosecutor being confronted in the courtroom gallery after the November 16 detention hearing.
The man who confronted DeRosa was loud enough that everyone in the court could hear the exchange, the judge said.
The man questioned the prosecutor why Flowers had been detained despite the man making a personal phone call to Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart requesting Flowers’ release, Potkonjak explained in court.
DeRosa then sent a text message to the judge’s clerk after the confrontation.
“[Clerk’s name], is there a way to get Flowers [case] recalled, 23CF2266? State’s attorney Rinehart wants him released with conditions. I already reached out to his attorney [name] to try to get the case recalled as well. Waiting to hear back,” the message said, according to Potkonjak.
The clerk responded and told the prosecutor that the judge was gone for the day.
DeRosa responded and asked if the case could be heard in front of another judge.
A judge who was still at the court but was about to leave for the day said the case would have to be heard by Potkonjak because he was the one who ruled on the matter.
The prosecutor responded back to the clerk and said, “Understood. My boss is telling me to get this done.”
Potkonjak recalled that DeRosa argued the day before for Flowers to be detained because the man was on probation for a felony gun charge when he was arrested in the new drug case.
DeRosa said during the November 17 hearing that Flowers has an autistic son he cares for and works part-time as a security guard.
Potkonjak interjected and questioned who employs Flowers as a security guard when he is a convicted felon on probation for a gun charge.
Flowers responded and said it was “volunteer” work, to which the judge responded, “So he’s not employed as a security guard. Let’s get that part straight.”
DeRosa continued to argue for Flowers’ release and said the drug charges were non-violent and Flowers had community support.
Potkonjak explained the process of the new system under the SAFE-T Act and said that when prosecutors file a petition to detain and it is granted, then the court has the authority to rule on requests to reconsider.
“I feel bad he has an autistic child, I understand that… the heartache,” Potkonjak said before mentioning again that Flowers was on felony probation for a gun charge when he was arrested for the new offenses, which carry six to 30 years in prison.
The judge said his prior ruling would stand and he was denying the state’s attorney’s office’s request to have Flowers released.
In a lengthy statement to Lake and McHenry County Scanner, Rinehart said that his office learned “important information” about the need for Flowers to be home with a family member.
“We also consulted with the experienced investigating officer, who agreed that jail wasn’t necessary to protect the public. This information did not reach the courtroom Assistant until after the detention hearing,” Rinehart said.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said the lead detective spoke to the state’s attorney’s office prior to the initial detention hearing.
The detective left the decision of detention to the state’s attorney’s office based on the facts and circumstances of the case and based on Flowers’ lack of violent criminal history, Covelli said.
“The next day, we asked the judge to consider the new information in light of the urgent situation at home and law enforcement’s input. Despite the possibility of home confinement for a non-violent offense, the judge was unmoved,” Rinehart said.
The state’s attorney said “this is all more transparent” than a cash bail system where it would not be known the judge or prosecutor’s intent since “detention would be cloaked in a monetary number.”
Rinehart referenced a case prior to the implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act where a man posted $100,000 cash as part of a $1 million bond and was released from custody in an attempted murder case.
“We welcome a system where judges are openly deciding on detention or non-detention based on information that comes from police, victims, family, schools, therapists, clergy, or the community,” Rinehart said.
“In this case, we will continue to consult with law enforcement on potential resolutions while the defendant remains detained. We will also consider his home situation, along with any other information presented to us, with compassion,” the state’s attorney added.
Flowers remains held in the Lake County Jail and is scheduled to appear in court again on December 14 for a preliminary hearing.