We in law enforcement learn quickly that no matter how many arrests you make, how many gang-bangers you take off the streets, how many tickets you write; you're never sure that your bad-guy will stay off the streets because the Great Unknown is The Courts. As an officer, you always hope for the best - that the court will actually enforce the law as it is written - but you learn fast that sometimes a "Motion to Fix" will be filed and the perp will walk.
Routinely, the activist judges who "serve" Cook County rely more on cronyism than legal precedent in making their decisions.
Case in Point: James Amirante. (author's note: I do not personally know either James or Sam Amirante. This blog post is my opinion based on my reading of public court records.)
James is the son of retired-Judge Samuel L. Amirante. Samuel is the principal partner at Amirante & Associates. While on the courts, Sam made a lot of friends. People tell me that many of those friends are sitting judges in Cook County.
James has problems. Apparently those problems are a result of his behavior. He can't seem to keep from getting arrested. A public record search at the Cook County court revealed that James Amirante has been arrested for Aggravated Domestic Battery to a pregnant woman, and for multiple DUIs.
In fact, the courts were getting so tired of seeing James Amirante that in early 2008 Judge Marguerite A. Quinn issued a harsh sentence against James for his most recent drunken driving charge. But by August 2008 James was tired of having to comply with all those regulations that Judge Quinn ordered so he stopped cooperating.
The Social Service Department, the agency charged with monitoring Misdemeanor DUIs, are those who follow up with the offender's court-ordered rehabilitation program and report to the court. That department detailed James Amirante's short-comings in their Supplemental Violation of Supervision report in August of 2010. Here are the highlights:
* This petition alleges that the Respondent (James Amirante) failed to maintain the required contact with SSD, pay supervision fees, reengage in treatment at Haymarket, complete drug screens and comply with the Breath Alcohol Indicator interlock device on his vehicle.
The report goes on to say that --
In addition to not violating any criminal statute of any jurisdiction, this order of supervision included the following conditions:
* Level 3 Alcohol treatment
* Victim Impact panel
* Supervision fee
* Fines and Costs
* Random drug testing
* SSD Community service program (100 hours)
* BAI ID on vehicle
Amirante went on to violate all those court ordered protocols.
* Defendant was arrested for Domestic Battery in April 2010 and plead guilty. He did 2 years probation.
* Defendant was arrested for Aggravated Domestic Battery to a pregnant woman and unlawful restraint in May of 2009. He plead guilty and was found guilty. He was sentenced to 1 year in IDOC, with credit for 92 days served.
* Defendant was arrested for Domestic Battery in February 2009 and was sentenced to 18 months conditional discharge and 20 days of SWAP ( In March 2010 Judge Joel Greenblatt unsatisfactorily terminated this case and sentenced defendant to 10 days in Cook County jail.)
* Defendant failed to complete Aftercare program and was discharged in November 2009.
* Defendant had BAI ID installed in his vehicle in September 2008 and as of December 2010 has had over 200 failed start attempts.
* Defendant completed 8 out of 12 court ordered drug screens through CSI and Haymarket, however last Drug screen was July 2009. Defendant refused to submit to random drug screen testing in January, February, March and April of 2010.
* Defendant owes $425 in fines, and had completed ZERO out of 100 Community service hours.
* Defendant served 6 months in prison and reported to 1 appointment with SSD. Since that contact, defendant had failed to appear for 3 consecutive scheduled appointments.
The Social Servies Department wrote:
...that the court consider an alternative sentence for this defendant. The defendant has had total disregard for this supervision order since it was written on August 26, 2008. He continues to be non-compliant with the courts conditions, fails to maintain contact with the Social Service department and continues to be a risk to public safety. (emphasis mine).
The most maddening aspect of this case is that Mr. Amirante's case was continued 25 times! That means that Judges glossed over, or ignored, the numerous violations and decided to do nothing. In reality Mr. Amirante's drivers license should have been revoked, and he should have seen significant jail time. Unfortunately, his D/L was NOT revoked, and he saw very little overall jail time, in light of the charges and violations.
Here are some of the judges who touched this case:
* Judge Gillespie
* Judge Wheatley (2 times)
* Judge Steven Connelly (2 times)
* Judge Lyons (2 times)
* Judge David Bender (2 times)
* Judge George Skully (2 times)
* Judge O'hara (2 times)
* Judge Collins-Dole
The final disposition was rendered by Judge Erica Reddick. She terminated the case unsatisfactorily in January of 2011. That means that the case just vanished into thin air. A motion to reconsider this travesty of justice was denied by Judge Reddick in March of 2011.
Based on the court papers filed, it is evident that the Social Service department did an excellent job of cataloging and presenting to the courts just how dire Amirante's situation was.
The magnitude of this case is mind-numbing, but all too-familiar to those of us who actually attend courts in Cook County. Nothing will happen to these judges unless the public actually learns how corrupt they are and decides to vote them out of office.
(On a side note, Judge Thomas J. Carroll of Judicial Sub-circuit #3, believes DUIs are quasi-criminal, and decides the cases before his bench with that mind-set. Note to Carroll: DUIs are Misdemeanor offenses with punishment up to 1 year in jail, and $1,000 in fines.)
Also on my radar is Judge Laura Cha-yu Liu. Judge Liu left a large firm, was appointed to the bench in December of 2010, and then developed cancer. I don't know how many days she was actually a judge but she's been seen around the halls at 50 W Washington, smiling, chatting and getting coffee at Starbucks. She is being paid while she's on medical leave. Maybe the Inspector General can look into how "sick" Judge Liu really is.
I attempted to get audio or stenographer notes from other hearings and was informed that audio recordings, and stenographer recordings, were canceled 5 years ago. So the only information I could get were court filings and reports. With no recordings, it was impossible to tell what the various judges told their defendants, which ones acted like advocates and social workers, and what their courtroom decorum was like.
Satire Alert: More "transparency" from our Judicial Know-it-alls.
While Amirante's case is one of the most egregious, it appears that when DUI offenders violate the court conditions, the don't respect their own court orders. They do not take the order seriously nor do they take seriously orders of judges who might have previously sat in on violation proceedings.
Continuing cases in violation proceedings seems to be the order of the day. Many of these cases go on for several years past the termination date. It is not uncommon to find cases that are 5 or 6 years old.
What is uncommon is for a judge to take away the driving privileges of defendants that refuse to comply with the court's orders and continue to prove that keeping their supervisions in tact only serves to endanger the public.
The courts continue to prove that a defendant's privilege to drive no matter how dangerous he might be outweighs the public's right to get support from the courts in protecting them from harm.
There is no doubt that the conditions on the DUI court orders are onerous and expensive. On average it costs about $15,000 to fight a DUI in Illinois. But what does it take for a judge to understand that when for instance you have a defendant continuously dropping hot for marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, or opiates - the court needs to do everything it can to make it as difficult as possible for that individual to legally drive.
What does it take for a judge to realize that in great part the judges, through their behavior on the bench, are becoming enablers in very dangerous situations. In fact, defendants have been heard to say, when offered revocations of supervision or jail time, that they will never take it because the judges in many of the traffic divisions in Cook County will never send anyone to jail or revoke supervisions.
What we have are findings from a secondary department (SSD) that are routinely being ignored by sitting judges, and in fact, I'm told that the current trend is for the judges to get the case updates from the defendant's attorneys and discount all the information tendered to the court by the various monitoring agency. It is the agency that seems to be on trial in these courts and not the offender.
The next time you're in the voting booth and any of these judges names come up, please vote NO. That would be a start.