Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday unleashed his anger at a judge who dismissed criminal sexual assault charges against a man charged again in January with the brutal attack of a Belmont Cragin teenager on her way to school near a Safe Passage route.
The resolution introduced at a City Council meeting was to honor all of the police officers ultimately responsible for apprehending 25-year-old Luis Pantoja.
“I think I speak for everybody in saying one’s heart is broken for this young girl. And these resolutions don’t do justice to the justice you’ve done on behalf of the entire city,” the mayor said.
But Emanuel seized the opportunity to take a political shot at Circuit Judge Laura M. Sullivan, who dismissed similar charges against Pantoja in September 2013. In that case, a Hispanic woman said she didn’t fully understand English and stumbled over a defense attorney’s questions after revealing intimate details of a rape she said she suffered in August at the hands of Pantoja.
The attorney cross-examining the Spanish-speaking woman asked if it would be easier for her to answer with an interpreter, and she said, “Yes, please.” Instead, Sullivan asked the defense attorney to rephrase the question, and the preliminary hearing continued, according to a transcript obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. When it ended, records show, the judge found there was no probable cause and effectively dismissed a criminal sexual-assault charge against Pantoja.
“I will say that the one person who won’t be getting a resolution will be the judge who let this indvidual out on a technicality,” Emanuel said Wednesday. “There was a technicality there. A young woman’s life is now changed. A family is different. The neighborhood is different. Decisions judges make have consequences. And that technicality has reverberated and changed a young girl’s life. So, while this is to honor you, we should remember where it began and how it began.”
A local resident found the girl in the Belmont Cragin attack — shoeless, bleeding and all but unconscious with her pants yanked off — around 8 a.m. Dec. 17 in the resident’s backyard in the 2400 block of North Long.
Pantoja faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated battery and unlawful possession of a weapon in the case.