Tom Dart, judge at odds over required 2-day furlough from home confinement for suspects on bail

Dart says he has to give pretrial detainees on home confinement time free of electronic monitoring. Judge Edward Maloney, who ordered a suspect held with no furlough, says sheriff must follow his ruling.

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Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he disagrees with allowing defendants who are on home confinement with electronic monitoring from getting two days a week of freedom but has to provide that under a criminal justice reform law. A judge disagrees.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times file

A 21-year-old convicted drug dealer awaiting trial on new charges is at the center of a standoff between a judge and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart over the state’s controversial new criminal justice reform law.

One provision of the law, called the SAFE-T Act, says criminal defendants who are free on bail and ordered to stay home while awaiting trial must get two days of unmonitored furlough a week to move freely to look for a job, buy groceries or take care of other personal business.

But, in the case of Royal Brown, Dart and Cook County Judge Edward Maloney have arrived at a strange impasse over the furloughs.

Dart objects to them — but says he has to allow them under the law.

The judge disagrees. In a ruling last month, Maloney ordered that Brown, who’s being held on drug and gun charges, can’t get that “48-hour furlough” if he’s released on bail.

And, at a court hearing Wednesday, Maloney said Dart doesn’t have the authority to violate his order.

Judge Edward M. Maloney

Judge Edward M. Maloney

Injustice Watch

Brown hasn’t been able to post the $8,000 he needs to be released on bail. So Dart hasn’t been put in a position of possibly going against Maloney’s order.

At Wednesday’s hearing, an adviser to Dart explained the sheriff’s opposition to Maloney’s order.

An assistant public defender said her office “agrees substantially” with Dart’s position that he has to enforce the SAFE-T Act.

Even though Dart says he’s required by the law to allow the furlough days, he says they’re dangerous. He says his office isn’t allowed to actively track defendants’ movements on furlough days and they’re getting into trouble during that time. Dozens of people have been arrested on new charges since the furloughs became law Jan. 1, records show.

Dart says the General Assembly should repeal or modify that part of the SAFE-T Act.

Proponents of the furloughs, including Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell, say people placed on home confinement with electronic monitoring always have their GPS bracelets turned on, and sheriff’s officials can go back later to see where they’ve been. They note that 99% of the people on furloughs haven’t gotten locked up again during those periods.

A written statement from Dart’s office says, “We have spoken with other judges who agree that there is no discretion and that a judge cannot order the sheriff to deny [electronic monitoring] participants the two days of movement. Based on this, we send letters to judges that order ‘no movement,’ advising them that all EM participants are guaranteed two days of essential movement under the new law. We advise judges that if they do not want the individual to have two days of essential movement, they should reconsider their order placing the individual on electronic monitoring.”

Dart’s office has sent at least 115 of those letters to judges, a source said.

At the hearing, Maloney said he realizes judges are expected to impose the least restrictive bail conditions possible. But he said his “no movement” order for Brown was based on a likelihood he’d fail to appear in court for his hearings and because he’s a potential danger to the community.

“He’s really not concerned about coming to court,” the judge said of Brown, pointing to four arrest warrants issued to Brown for failing to appear in other cases.

Brown was arrested twice in 2019 for dealing heroin on the West Side, pleaded guilty and got probation.

On March 22, Brown was arrested on the West Side after a Chicago police officer said he spotted Brown selling crack cocaine and yelling “rocks.” The officer said Brown was carrying about 1.3 grams of crack and nearly $1,000 in cash.

Brown was released from jail on an individual recognizance bond, known as an “I-bond,” which didn’t require him to post bail.

Royal Brown.

Royal Brown.

Chicago Police Department

Three days later, Brown was arrested on a charge of illegal gun possession. The police said they spotted him carrying what turned out to be a stolen Ruger 9mm handgun and that he struggled with an officer during his arrest.

Maloney ordered a $75,000 deposit bond, known as a “D-bond,” citing Brown’s violation of the conditions of his bail in the drug case.

The judge also ordered a $5,000 deposit bond in the gun case.

Deposit bonds require a defendant to post 10% of the total amount of bail to be released from jail. The defendant is supposed to get that deposit back after showing up for court hearings.


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