Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is blaming her predecessor, Anita Alvarez, for an “error” that led to a man charged with murder being acquitted and released from Cook County Jail — only to be shot to death within an hour of his walking out.
It’s not unusual for a former jail inmate to be killed not long after getting released, but Belmont survived less than an hour.
Jail officials said Belmont, 23, was released around 11:12 p.m. Monday, and Chicago Police said someone in a white SUV opened fire on Belmont around 11:43 p.m. Belmont collapsed in the street in the 3300 block of South California Avenue — less than a mile from the jail — and was pronounced dead shortly before midnight. No one was in custody for the shooting as of Wednesday night, according to police.
Belmont’s lawyer, Michael Johnson, said Wednesday he had told his client he had caught an incredibly lucky break when prosecutors missed a deadline to take Belmont to trial on a first-degree murder charge stemming from a 2015 robbery attempt.
A spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Foxx, who was sworn in Dec. 1, said an “error” occurred in the handling of the case under the administration of Foxx’s predecessor, Alvarez.
“As a result, case law demanded that we dismiss the murder charges,” spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said in an email. “Going forward, we are working to improve training protocols for our prosecutors to prevent such errors.”
Anita Alvarez declined to comment Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.
Simonton didn’t provide any other details about the error. Alvarez couldn’t be reached for comment.
Police had no new information Wednesday regarding Belmont’s slaying, including whether there were any suspects.
A typical sequence of delays and continuances had been occurring in Belmont’s murder prosecution. He had been locked up for nearly two years while the case was pending.
The case was continued at least 12 times between May 2015 to mid-January 2017, according to court records. Two of those continuances occurred after Foxx was sworn in.
Along the way, Belmont made his demand for trial on April 15, 2016, and charges were dropped on Jan. 27, 2017, Johnson said. Belmont had been held without bond on the murder charge, but with only an armed robbery charge still pending against him, Johnson asked for the judge to set bond. That led to Johnson posting the $10,000 he needed to get out of jail Monday night.
Johnson said someone in the State’s Attorney’s office may have let Belmont’s case slip through the cracks, probably because of some confusion stemming from how the charges against Belmont were upgraded in April 2016, from attempted murder to murder.
Johnson said he’d talked to Belmont while Belmont’s family scraped together bond money, and told his client to find someplace to live — outside his old neighborhood — while his still-pending robbery case played out.
“I said ‘Your family is going to bond you out, and the first thing you got to do is, find a friend or relative in the suburbs. You need to get out of the neighborhood,'” Johnson said. “(Belmont) didn’t even get a chance to do that.”
Johnson said he has had a handful of cases in which the speedy-trial deadline has allowed a client to get out from under a charge, but never in a murder case. The law states that a defendant being held in jail must be taken to trial within 120 days of being charged; in Cook County, however, judges almost always extend that deadline for months and even years as prosecutors and defense lawyers seek time to prepare for the case.
Belmont and two other men, 23-year-old Terrence Hogans and 21-year-old Khalil Powell, were charged with a pair of robberies that happened within an hour of each other early on May 1, 2015, police said at the time.
Hogans shot one of the victims in their first alleged robbery, which happened about 2 a.m. in the 3700 block of South Vincennes, Cook County prosecutors said at their bond hearing. That victim, 40-year-old North Side man Sorrell Marshall, died three weeks later of complications from his gunshot wounds.
Johnson said he thought Belmont’s slaying Monday was a coincidence, not retribution for Marshall’s death. Belmont had been in gangs in his teens, but was not at the time of the alleged armed robbery, and Marshall had no affiliation with gangs, Johnson said.
“I have no idea how anyone would have known (Belmont) was getting out when he did,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what happened, if it was a robbery, if it was the guy in the car with him (that was the target) or if he just ran into someone who didn’t like him.”
Veteran defense attorney and Chicago-Kent Law School professor Richard Kling said the State’s Attorney’s office tracks speedy-trial deadlines closely, but it’s not unusual for prosecutors to have problems locating witnesses necessary to bring a case to trial— sometimes forcing them to dismiss a charge.
It’s also not rare, Kling said, for a defendant to be killed shortly after getting out of jail.
“I have many clients who have won an acquittal, and within a few days of getting out, they’re dead,” Kling said. “I don’t remember anyone ever walking out of the jail and being killed.”
Contributing: Rummana Hussain, Mitchell Armentrout and Sam Charles