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Crooked ex-Chicago cop gets early prison release due to coronavirus

Glenn Lewellen was convicted of teaming with a paid informant whose tips allowed them to kidnap, rob or arrest rival drug dealers between 1998 and 2006. 

Glenn Lewellen arrives for his trial at Dirksen Federal Building in 2011.
Glenn Lewellen arrives for his trial at Dirksen Federal Building in 2011.
Sun-Times file

A federal judge has granted a “compassionate” early prison release to crooked ex-Chicago police Officer Glenn Lewellen due to COVID-19 concerns.

In an order issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall modified Lewellen’s 18-year sentence to time served for his role in a drug conspiracy, citing the disgraced former cop’s “severe obesity, hypertension, and a heart condition.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with Lewellen’s risk factors, constitute extraordinary and compelling circumstances that the court did not and could not have foreseen at sentencing,” Gottschall wrote.

Lewellen was convicted of teaming with his longtime paid informant, drug dealer Saul Rodriguez, whose tips allowed the pair to kidnap, rob or arrest rival dealers between 1998 and 2006.

Saul Rodriguez
Saul Rodriguez
Sun-Times file

Federal prosecutors called Lewellen the “guardian angel” of Rodriguez and his crew, tipping them off to police operations and a federal wiretap while their shakedowns netted 250 kilos of cocaine and $3 million.

The judge’s order springs the 64-year-old from a low-security Florida prison more than six years earlier than projected by the federal Bureau of Prisons. He had served almost nine years and previously was slated for release in November 2026.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to deny Lewellen’s motion for release, saying he raised no more than a “generalized concern” about coronavirus exposure. One inmate and one staff member at the prison have tested positive.

And while Lewellen could’ve faced life in prison, the judge wrote that she thought at the time of his 2013 sentencing that the chances of him reoffending were “fanciful” — and that a clean record of conduct behind bars since then confirmed that.

“Lewellen has changed. He presents a very low risk to the public,” Gotschall wrote.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Lewellen said in his request that he’s arranged to live with an uncle in south suburban Frankfort upon release. He’s still subject to court supervision from a probation officer.

And his actions are still costing Chicago taxpayers. Earlier this year, the City Council authorized a $400,000 settlement for an Aurora man who was imprisoned for more than a decade on a drug case built on Lewellen’s testimony. That man’s conviction was vacated and charges were dismissed, even prompting an apology from another federal judge.

Rodriguez, Lewellen’s partner in crime, is still serving his 40-year prison sentence.