Chicago Police Board hearing officer, law partner wife found dead under ‘suspicious circumstances’ in Oak Park: police
Thomas E. Johnson was a campaign lawyer for former Mayor Harold Washington and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, while Leslie Ann Jones was a partner at Johnson, Jones, Snelling, Gilbert & Davis.
Oak Park police say they are investigating “suspicious circumstances” after two attorneys — including one who served as a hearing officer in several high-profile Chicago police misconduct cases —were found dead in their home in the western suburb Monday night.
Officers were called about 7:30 p.m. for a well-being check inside a home in the 500 block of Fair Oaks Avenue, near Chicago Avenue, and found the couple dead inside, Oak Park spokesman David Powers said in an emailed statement. Authorities later identified them as Thomas E. Johnson, 69, and Leslie Ann Jones, 67, husband and wife attorneys who worked in Chicago.
“On behalf of the Oak Park Police Department, I want to offer our condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Jones and her husband, Mr. Johnson, both of whom are known in the community and beyond,” Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds said.
Powers released few details about their deaths, but said preliminary“information gathered at the scene indicates suspicious circumstances.” Reynolds said the injuries sustained by Johnson and Jones did not appear to be self-inflicted.
The West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force and the Cook County medical examiner’s office were investigating. The medical examiner’s office has not released details about the cause or the manner of the fatalities.
Johnson and Jones were partners at the law firm Johnson, Jones, Snelling, Gilbert & Davis.
Jones joined the firm in 1988 — founded by Johnson four years earlier — and specialized in health care, employment, zoning, civil rights and housing litigation. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University and her MBA from the University of Chicago. She attended Harvard University’s law school and taught ethics at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.
Johnson, who also attended Harvard’s law school, had been active in the Illinois legal community for more than four decades. He served as principal counsel for the mayoral campaigns of Harold Washington, Tim Evans and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
For seven years, Johnson worked with Evans — the chief judge in Cook County —to reform the county’s bail system, which led to a drastic reduction in the number of people held in the county jail before going to trial.
“He was a very thoughtful and generous member of the bar who routinely embraced the best in human beings that he knew,” Evans said. “He was committed to fairness and justice in the way that rings loudest when we think about what this country’s judicial system and legal system stands for.”
Johnson also represented the Chicago Housing Authority for more than 24 years “in connection with its effort to transform its largest family public housing projects from dilapidated, gang-controlled high-rises into new mixed-income communities, integrated both racially and economically into the surrounding neighborhoods,” according to his resume.
Veteran Chicago attorney Thomas Geoghegan had worked on cases with both Jones and Johnson and said both were constantly selfless in their work, “giving up themselves to other people without even mentioning it.”
“Leslie was wonderful,” Geoghegan said. “She was just great and so intelligent, an omnivorous reader.”
“Tom was just a heroic, selfless lawyer,” he added. “Because he was such a remarkable person and such a decent human being, what will be left out was just how good a lawyer he was. He was the best.”
Oversaw cases involving Robert Rialmo, Laquan McDonald
Since 1991, Johnson had served as a Chicago Police Board hearing officer — a de facto judge in misconduct cases involving Chicago Police officers.
All told, he presided over more than 350 administrative disciplinary cases, several of which were very high-profile. They included the cases of former Officer Robert Rialmo, who mistakenly shot and killed Bettie Jones in Austin in 2015; Sgt. Sam Cirone, among the dozens of cops involved in the botched investigations of David Koschman’s death in 2004 and 2011, and four other officers who were found to have lied about the Laquan McDonald shooting.
“Tom was an outstanding hearing officer and a wonderful man,” Police Board President Ghian Foreman said in a statement.“All of us on the Board admired and respected Tom’s deep knowledge of the law and commitment to fairness.His work was of the highest caliber.
“Most importantly, he was in our eyes and by all accounts a thoughtful, kind, and caring man. We will miss him greatly, and offer our prayers and condolences to Tom and Leslie’s sons and family.”