Bail denied — twice — for inmate with COVID-19

Vada Allen, 57, was one of the first detainees in the jail to test positive for the new coronavirus.

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A Peoria man who was among the first Cook County Jail detainees to test positive for COVID-19 has twice been denied a chance for bail.

Vada Allen, 57, was locked up in February after spending three months on a house arrest electronic monitoring anklet on DUI charges. Allen’s lawyer said he was ordered held without bail when he violated terms of his house arrest to attend a hearing in an another DUI case in Peoria— and then a judge in Peoria issued a no-bond warrant for him when he missed a subsequent hearing there because he was locked up in Chicago.

Allen had been denied bond last week at a special bond hearing mandated by a systemwide review of cases that was intended to target nonviolent offenders for release to lower the jail population. But Allen’s lawyer did not know then that Allen, who suffers from respiratory and heart problems, had been in isolation at the jail after testing positive for COVID-19.

“There’s a stay-at-home order (for Illinois residents),” Barry Horewitch told Judge Alfredo Maldonado on Wednesday. “He’s not violent. He’s not a danger to the community. He’s going to stay home.”

A prosecutor had said that Allen should not be released because of his failure to comply with terms of his previous bond and suggested that he should continue to be quarantined at the jail, where he would have medical attention if needed.

Maldonado on Wednesday kept the no-bond order for Allen in place, seemingly concerned about Allen overstaying his time in Peoria while on monitoring.

“Whether he is positive or not positive, someone is not going to be held in custody simply because he may have tested positive,” Maldonado said.

Allen was taken to the jail’s Cermak Hospital on March 20 after exhibiting flu-like symptoms and learned four days later that he had the virus, his sister, Denotra Allen, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Allen’s next court hearing is set for May 6.

Jail officials announced that two inmates — one of them a 42-year-old Chicago man who slept in a bed next to Allen in the jail’s Residential Treatment Unit — had tested positive for COVID-19, the first cases among the 5,500 inmates then at the jail. As of Wednesday, 10 days later, that total had climbed to 167 cases. Thirty-four sheriff’s office staff have tested positive as well.

Allen had watched the number of inmates held in isolation cells grow over the past two weeks but told his sister he had returned to the general jail population.

“They’re all down there, yelling,” she said. “They don’t want to be down there (in the isolation area).”

Allen, who is seeking to go on disability because of health problems that made him unable to keep working as a electrical engineer for a railroad company, had permission to travel to Peoria for a court hearing in January, his wife, Bennetta Allen, said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Neither of his DUI cases involved a traffic accident, she said. Though Allen had a heart attack last year and suffers from sleep apnea, he has kept an upbeat tone in calls home even while feeling the symptoms of coronavirus.

“He told me the other day ‘I was happy I was in here, because the coronavirus looked bad out there,’” Bennetta Allen said of a recent phone call with her husband from the jail. “He still doesn’t know how he got it in there.”

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