File Photo – McHenry County Courthouse | Photo: Google Street View

The state’s attorney said an 8-year-old has been left “terrorized” after the man who sexually assaulted her in McHenry County was released and the suspect’s GPS monitor has repeatedly malfunctioned, triggering police responses.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said a defendant was charged in January with predatory criminal sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl.

The man was released from custody by a McHenry County judge despite prosecutors requesting him be held in custody due to his danger.

The defendant was placed on GPS monitoring that is supposed to alert the victim and local law enforcement if the defendant comes within the three-mile restricted area around the victim’s residence, Kenneally said.

The GPS will also alert if the GPS monitor is not sufficiently charged or loses GPS connection, effectively going “offline.”

Kenneally said that when the GPS alerts, it triggers an emergency response from police who respond to the victim’s residence.

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The trigger also sends an emergency notification to the victim and her mother that the defendant’s whereabouts are “unknown.”

Since March, the defendant’s device has gone “offline” seven times, mostly in the middle of the night. Kenneally said this has been “terrifying” for the victim, her mother and the victim’s siblings.

“These alerts have also caused significant disruption in their lives, as can be expected when regularly being awoken by police banging on doors and alarms going off signaling an alleged child molester may be on his way to your house,” Kenneally said.

The state’s attorney said many of the supporters of the SAFE-T Act touted electronic monitoring as a cheaper and equally effective substitute for pretrial detention.

“The truth, as had been established by over two decades of social scientific research, is that electronic monitoring has never been proven to be effective in reducing recidivism. Moreover, electronic monitoring was not designed for and is least effective when used on violent offenders,” Kenneally said.

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The state’s attorney said electronic monitoring technology is plagued with technical problems, including false alarms, signal cover issues, false or missed readings, freezes, battery issues and an easy ability to defeat the device.

“How is it, then, that we have deluded ourselves into “reforming” our justice system such that, at least in this instance, we are prioritizing the short-term liberty interests of one who allegedly sexually assaults a child over the well-being of the alleged child victim?” Kenneally said.

The charges against the suspect are detainable under the Illinois SAFE-T Act. It is unclear what led to the judge releasing the man, whose charges are the most serious class of felony besides first-degree murder.