Jason Van Dyke reading, writing letters from Rock Island as he awaits sentencing
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Jason Van Dyke spends 23 hours a day in a small cell in the Rock Island County Jail, writing letters to his family and reading novels, his lawyer said following his first visit with his client since a jury found Van Dyke guilty of murder and aggravated battery.
Lawyer Dan Herbert made the six-hour round trip to Rock Island, Ill., where Van Dyke was shipped from the Cook County Jail last Monday morning. Van Dyke’s family visited him in the Cook County Jail but as of Friday, had not made the trip to Rock Island, a city of about 40,000 residents that is one of the “Quad Cities” on the Illinois-Iowa border.
“He looked OK. He’s obviously still shaken up,” Herbert said Friday. “He still doesn’t know what kind of sentence he’s looking at.”
Van Dyke will return to Chicago for a post-trial hearing on Oct. 31 and is expected to be sentenced later this year. Legal experts say the 40-year-old could face a sentence in excess of 96 years — consecutive six-year minimum sentences on each of 16 counts of aggravated battery, plus an additional consecutive prison term for whatever sentence Judge Vincent Gaughan hands down for Van Dyke’s second-degree murder count.
Van Dyke has had no interaction with other inmates at the Rock Island County Jail, as he remains in protective custody. Van Dyke was similarly isolated during his three-night stay at the Cook County jail before he was sent to Rock Island Oct. 8. As a white police officer who was convicted of murdering a black teenager in one of the most high-profile cases in state history, Van Dyke was sent to Rock Island for his own safety and to preserve order in the Cook County lockup, sheriff’s officials said.
“The solitary is hard on him, but the alternative is (he’s) going to be harmed or killed in general population,” Herbert said. “It’s still a tough way to do your time.”
Herbert said Van Dyke was not surprised by the jury verdict — guilty on all counts, with an acquittal on a count of official misconduct.
Van Dyke spent his last minutes of freedom on FaceTime — a video chat app — with his two daughters, before he joined his attorney in the courtroom Oct. 5 for the reading of the verdict, Herbert said.
Van Dyke had been scolded by the judge that morning for leaving the court house the day before without telling his attorneys. Van Dyke said his daughters both had received threats. Chicago police reports show that Van Dyke called CPD Thursday after his older daughter learned that students at her Southwest Side high school were forwarding her picture to each other. His younger daughter also was told by classmates that there were threats against her, according to police reports.
“He knew he was going to get convicted of something in this political climate,” Herbert said.
Van Dyke holds out hope for the hearing later this month, where his lawyers will make their first attempt to have the conviction tossed, but he isn’t optimistic.
“He’s hopeful but recognizes that this thing, from the get-go, was a sham trial,” Herbert said.
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