Man seeks to replace ‘hostile’ judge who upped bond 2,400%

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Anthony Stacey is seeking a new judge in his upcoming trial, saying his bond was unfairly boosted 2,400 percent.

A southwest suburban man wants a new judge for his upcoming trial, saying his bond was unfairly hiked from $2,000 to $50,000 despite his inability to pay the original amount.

Anthony Stacey, 37, of Alsip, was arrested April 8 on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and aggravated battery to an officer.  The unemployed roofer remained in Cook County Jail because he couldn’t afford to post 10 percent of his $2,000 bond.

Then on May 12, another judge, Kerry Kennedy, boosted Stacey’s bail to $50,000, even after a public defender said his mother was ready to post the lower amount.  The judge didn’t give a reason for raising the bond, according to a transcript.

Stacey stayed in jail until he appealed the bond to the state appeals court, which  reduced it to $5,000 on Sept. 26. He was freed on electronic monitoring after coming up with $500 to pay 10 percent of the bond.

Stacey’s predicament is the kind of case that critics of the current Cook County bond system point to when they say the process is out of whack. Last week, advocates filed suit against the county and others, arguing that the system discriminates against poor defendants.

Stacey’s problems started earlier this year after he was allegedly caught speeding while driving under the influence of alcohol in Orland Park. He allegedly hit a guardrail and drove down a hill before stopping.

An Orland Park animal-control officer who was following Stacey with his emergency lights on asked if he was OK and whether he was drunk or high, authorities say. Stacey allegedly responded, “I just want to get in my car and go,” and shoved the officer.

The officer pushed Stacey to the ground, but he got up, and the officer then pinned him against Stacey’s vehicle until other officers arrived and Stacey was arrested, authorities say.

The officer refused medical treatment. Stacey, who wasn’t hurt in the scuffle, had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, police said.

This month, Stacey appeared at another hearing before Kennedy. According to a transcript, Kennedy asked Stacey’s new lawyer, John Fotopoulos, which three justices were on the appeals panel that lowered the bond. When Kennedy learned the names, he remarked, “Three people who don’t do criminal. Interesting.”

The three justices were James Fitzgerald Smith, a former Des Plaines city attorney; Cynthia Cobbs, a former director of the administrative office of the Illinois courts, and Terrence Lavin, a former civil trial lawyer.

Kennedy ordered Stacey to undergo a drug test, a condition of his release from jail. The results aren’t public, but no one has moved to revoke Stacey’s bond based on the results, records show.

On Oct. 13, Fotopoulos filed a petition for Stacey to get a different judge based on Kennedy’s “sarcastic comments” and his decision to order the drug test, which Fotopoulos said were evidence of the judge’s “hostility” and “ill will” toward his client.

Fotopoulos also wrote that Kennedy didn’t follow a recommendation from a bond assessment system that was put in place in mid-2015. The system was a court reform intended to make bond decisions more uniform.

When asked for comment, Kennedy’s office referred questions to Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans. A spokesman for Evans said state court rules bar judges from commenting about a pending case.

Some critics of the bond system say even more reforms are needed to ensure fair bonds. The Cook County sheriff is proposing to change state law to allow sheriffs to make bond recommendations. Currently, only the judge, defendant and prosecutor have a say.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says too many people are being held in jail because they can’t afford the relatively small amounts of bail set in their cases. On Thursday, for example, nearly 300 people were being held in jail because they couldn’t raise $1,000 or less to cover their bonds.

Last week, “someone needed $50 to bond out. He spent eight days in jail for trying to steal shrimp from Mariano’s because he couldn’t pay,” said Cara Smith, policy chief for Dart. The man was then given court supervision and released, she said.

“We have to ask what message is being sent when you set a $5,000 bond or a $10,000 bond for someone who doesn’t have two pennies to rub together,” Smith said. “The law says bond should not be oppressive. I would argue that is the definition of oppressive.”

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