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Group urges voters to unseat judge who appointed special prosecutor in Jussie Smollett case

The Judicial Accountability Political Action Committee opposes the retention of Judge Michael Toomin and Judge Mauricio Araujo, who was placed in “judge jail” after a county employee accused him of sexual harassment.

Judge Michael Toomin attends the induction ceremony for newly elected Cook County circuit judges at the Thompson Center in 2012. Brian Jackson~Sun-Times file

Activists and attorneys held a news conference Sunday urging Cook County residents to oppose retention of Judge Michael Toomin, who appointed a special prosecutor to probe State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case.

No one affiliated with the group referenced the Smollett case when discussing their recommendation, which came after a survey of roughly 80 attorneys.

Attorney Brendan Shiller, president of the Judicial Accountability Political Action Committee, said the results led to a list of 10 potential “targets” that was eventually culled down to just Toomin and Judge Mauricio Araujo, who was placed in “judge jail” in 2018 after a county employee accused him of sexual harassment.

The Cook County Democratic Party also voted this month not to endorse Toomin and Araujo. Though accusations of retaliation swirled over the decision to oppose retention of Toomin following his role in the Smollett case, party officials denied the move had anything to do with Foxx’s reelection and instead criticized Toomin’s actions as presiding judge of the county’s Juvenile Justice division.

Hanah Jubeh, a spokeswoman for Toomin, defended his juvenile justice reform efforts Sunday as she accused the political action committee of spreading “lies and misinformation” and colluding with the party. She claimed both have “ignored 40 years of distinguished service and seek retribution” against the judge.

“Judge Michael Toomin has historically been rated highly qualified, qualified and/or recommended by every bar association in his five prior retentions including as he seeks retention on the November 3rd ballot,” Jubeh said in a statement.

During the press event at the Westside Justice Center in Lawndale, Shiller described Toomin as “the primary driver in the [1990s] and 2000s of mass incarceration and racial inequality.”

Shiller added that Toomin protected corrupt former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and “acolytes” of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, who was sent to federal prison after his “midnight crew” tortured confessions out of innocent suspects.

Attorney Brendan Shiller speaks out against Judge Michael Toomin during a news conference Sunday at the Westside Justice Center.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

“I don’t think he believed he was protecting corrupt people and torturers,” Shiller said. “He did it because he was part of a culture, an old guard school, that believed this was the best way to reduce crime.”

Araujo filed for retention despite being placed on administrative duty. Since he was first relegated to “judge jail” after an allegation of sexual harassment, two other women have lodged similar accusations.

During Sunday’s news conference, translator Cecilia Salinas described Araujo as a “deplorable” figure who’s “drunk with power.” She detailed incidents in which the judge allegedly announced to his court that he had slept with a prosecutor, attempted to kiss a police officer without permission and asked a court reporter about having sex in exchange for money.

Paul Rosenfeld, the 47th Ward Democratic committeeman, further faulted Araujo for approving controversial no-knock warrants, like the one that led to the death of Breonna Taylor.

“Judge Araujo has signed numerous no-knock search warrants for corrupt CPD officers Xavier Elizondo and David Salgado, who are his personal friends,” Rosenfeld said. “It is actions like these that have Americans everywhere screaming for criminal justice reform.”

Araujo didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.