Jim Dey | Controversy surrounding SAFE-T Act not going away anytime soon | Columns


It’s time once again to dive in to another round of quick takes on the people, places and events that were being talked about over the past week:

How safe is SAFE-T?

The majority of voters this week dismissed public safety concerns over the proposed SAFE-T Act that abolishes the cash bond system for accused criminals on Jan. 1.

But the controversy remains alive in two other venues — the courts, where a legal challenge is pending, and the legislature, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pledged changes will be made.

First will come legislative review.

Proponents are feeling much better about leaving the law unaltered after voters, collectively, shrugged off the issue in the Nov. 8 election.

That being the case, they’ll be much less inclined to accept suggested changes that include making the legislation applicable after Jan. 1. That would avoid mass releases of jailed inmates. Critics also want to give arraignment court judges more authority to hold inmates charged with lesser felonies if they are deemed a public safety risk.

Chicago-area state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, a SAFE-T Act proponent, recently reiterated that “the facts and data about pretrial incarceration are on our side” and dismissed those who feel otherwise as dishonestly “stoking fear and outrage.”

Legislators will be meeting intermittently over the next three weeks, and SAFE-T Act changes, if any, will be discussed.

Meanwhile, 100 of Illinois’ 102 state’s attorney, some of those Stava-Murray dismisses as purveyors of needless fear, are laying the groundwork for their challenge to the constitutionality of SAFE-T.

Their 62 lawsuits have been consolidated into a single case that will be heard in Kankakee County. They chose lawyers from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office to act as lead counsel along with Kankakee, Kendall, Sangamon, Vermilion and Will counties.

The court has adopted an expedited schedule for reviewing legal arguments on the constitutionality question.

A hearing on summary judgment is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 6, and a ruling is expected on Dec. 13.

Most people are unfamiliar with the details and the implications of the legislation that, among many other things, abolishes the cash bond system.

SAFE-T is designed to ensure that criminal defendants charged with crimes that do not carry mandatory jail sentences are released from custody prior to trial.

Prosecutors have objected because that means defendants facing serious crimes that do not carry mandatory prison sentences will be released from custody without posting a bond following arrest and a brief court appearance.

14 of 17

Last year, Democratic legislators drew a congressional district map that they were confident guaranteed party victories in 14 of the state’s 17 U.S. House seats.

They packed as many Republicans as they could find into three districts to be represented by U.S. Reps. Mary Miller, Mike Bost and Darren LaHood and carefully spread other voters around to assure Democrats majorities in all the rest.

The plan worked beautifully. On Tuesday, the Democratic map produced the results forecast a year ago.

What happened proves once again the incredible advantage afforded the map-drawing party in power. It allows members of the U.S. House to pick their constituents, not the other way around.

Democratic map drawers over recent decades have been slowly drawing the state’s GOP congressional delegation out of existence. Their inability to purge Illinois of all Republicans has denied them winning all the congressional districts, but they’ve done their best to achieve that goal.

Nationwide, both political parties engage in gerrymandering, to the point that the number of truly competitive U.S. House races nationwide has shrunk dramatically.

Hastings survives

Despite all his problems, voters in Illinois’ 19th Senate District have rewarded Democrat Michael Hastings with another term in office.

But the margin of victory was narrow for the ambitious Democrat who has battled allegations of spousal abuse and been abandoned by members of his own party.

At one point late in the vote count, the Frankfort Democrat led Republican opponent Patrick Sheehan by a few hundred votes. But that lead, according to prognosticators, is expected to be sufficient to overcome any issues with mail-in and provisional ballots.

The question now is whether Hastings will be embraced by the Democrats who spurned him pre-election. Or are his troubles so serious the party can’t ignore them?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker demanded his resignation, a request Hastings dismissed out of hand. Senate President Don Harmon kicked him off his leadership team.

But that was then — pre-election for political purposes.

Hastings, who was involved in a bitter divorce, has denied the allegations against him. He’s not accused of any legal improprieties, and his continued presence in Springfield has been ratified by voters.

But he remains a PR problem, one his fellow and all-powerful Democrats can ignore if they so choose.

Judging the judge

The Adams County judge who got himself in hot water with his handling of a rape case won his retention election on Tuesday, according to the Quincy Herald-Whig.

The newspaper said election results from eight counties in Judge Robert Adrian’s 8th judicial circuit show Adrian received “just under 62% of the vote,” slightly more than the minimum 60 percent required for retention.

But he’s not out of the woods yet. Adrian still faces charges filed by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB) stemming from his handling of a criminal sexual assault case in October 2021.

Presiding in a bench trial, Adrian first found an 18-year-old boy guilty but later reversed the conviction after learning Illinois law mandated a prison sentence for the crime. He stated the minimum four-year prison sentence was too harsh.

A 16-year-old girl alleged that Drew S. Clinton raped her after she drank too much at a party and passed out.

Following the legal controversy, Adrian was stripped of his criminal court duties. He faces a disciplinary hearing before the Illinois Court Commission on charges that he acted contrary to law and then lied about his actions when investigators questioned him.

Two recent JIB cases involved judges who lied under oath and were found guilty by the courts commission. Both were thrown off the bench.

Ino Saves New

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November 12, 2022 at 06:46AM

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