A Cook County judge has acquitted former Chicago Public Schools Principal Kurt Jones of three felony charges stemming from a March 2020 incident in which he threw a water bottle that hit a school cafeteria worker in the head.
The embattled ex-principal of Franklin Fine Arts Center in Old Town resigned in June of last year after CPS presented him with its findings in an administrative investigation that looked into several misconduct allegations, including the thrown bottle that led to his arrest the following week.
In a bench trial that culminated with Judge Angela Petrone’s verdict Thursday, she found Jones not guilty of two counts of aggravated battery causing bodily harm and permanent disfigurement. The judge also acquitted Jones of the third charge, a specific statute for bodily harm to a school employee, finding that he did injure a school worker but didn’t do so “knowingly.”
“A small laceration, treated by skin glue, is nowhere near the type of injury the law requires to find great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement,” Petrone wrote in her order. “Fortunately for Ms. [Faye] Jenkins, there is now no visible mark on her forehead. This court stood, moved toward her and looked closely to where she was pointing on her face and saw no mark.”
Petrone found every defense witness credible and every prosecution witness to not be credible, including the cafeteria worker who was injured, the Chicago police detective who investigated the case and two other school employees.
The judge said she felt “a motive has been shown for Ms. Jenkins to fabricate or embellish her testimony” because the cafeteria manager contacted an attorney after the incident and filed a lawsuit against CPS, and because a CPS administrative investigation of Jenkins had recently found her guilty of unrelated conduct. Jenkins has not yet been disciplined in that case pending the conclusion of Jones’ criminal trial and other legal proceedings.
In her ruling, Petrone also cited a Facebook post by Jenkins that mentioned winning money in 2021 and a previous conviction in an unrelated case.
Jenkins’ testimony wasn’t credible in part, the judge found, because she didn’t remember making a 911 call three days after the incident in which she said, according to an emergency dispatcher’s testimony, that Jones hit her with a water bottle “by accident.”
Petrone also didn’t find Jenkins credible because her story didn’t add up with that of a physician assistant who testified in Jones’ defense that Jenkins’ facial cut required skin glue to be closed, not stitches, and that she was cleared to return to work immediately.
However, prosecutors didn’t enter any medical records as evidence at trial, including documentation Jenkins provided the Chicago Sun-Times of a March 20, 2020, clinic report signed by the physician assistant who testified at trial. That document showed Jenkins had “possible early concussion symptoms with associated dizziness and blurred vision,” and said Jenkins should return for a follow-up appointment. Another medical report from a March 25 visit showed a different physician assistant diagnosed her with a concussion.
Jones ‘very, very grateful to Judge Petrone’
Jones’ attorney, James McKay, said in an interview the former principal was “elated” with the verdict and “very, very grateful to Judge Petrone.”
“The judge’s written order is very strong in her language. She did not find Faye Jenkins credible at all,” McKay said, calling each of the state’s witnesses “dishonest.”
McKay said he thought the CPD detective did a “half-assed” and “terrible” job in the case, an opinion proven by the “rare” instance of a judge finding a detective not credible, he added.
“Kurt Jones never should have been charged. And that detective never should have had him arrested,” McKay said. “He had to go through this process for well over a year and a half until he was fully exonerated. And the powers to be just ruined his life for all of that time.
“Kurt Jones never should have been in criminal court, period.”
A spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Neither did representatives of the Chicago Police Department.
On Twitter, Jones celebrated the verdict and wrote “CPS, CPD, Kim Foxx — we are not done!” He also wrote a message to former CPS CEO Janice Jackson on Twitter saying, “Let’s get back to honesty, integrity, and maybe my son, a CPS student, can see truth, honesty and integrity in this program.”
CPS officials declined comment, citing pending litigation.
Jones has a pending civil lawsuit against CPS accusing the district of breaching his contract, violating his due process rights and wrongfully terminating him.
Jenkins has also sued the school system, accusing the district of failing to protect her from the former principal despite a series of past complaints.
Reached Friday afternoon, Jenkins said the state’s attorney’s office had not yet informed her of the judge’s verdict. She was surprised to hear Jones was acquitted.
“I got hurt, and it’s nothing,” she said. “He should at least be accountable for throwing that bottle.”