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Man charged with murder in Park Manor crash that killed 2

Some Cook County judges seeking retention in November stand out for the excellent reputations they have earned for their work on the bench.

Cook County's Leighton Criminal Court building. | Sun-Times files

A man accused of causing a crash last month that killed two men in Park Manor as he fled a traffic stop on the Dan Ryan has been charged with murder.

Cook County prosecutors added two counts of first-degree murder to their case against 33-year-old James Thompson at a hearing Wednesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in connection with the crash, which happened shortly after 1 a.m. on Nov. 15.

Thompson, of Back of the Yards, also faces two counts each of reckless homicide and leaving the scene of the crash.

James Moore, 42, and 35-year-old Jerome Clopton were killed when Thompson slammed into their car at 83 mph as he blew through a red light at 71st and State streets, prosecutors said.

After the crash, Thompson got out of a his 2013 Ford Fusion, jumped a chain-link fence and escaped. However, he left behind a wallet with his state ID inside and his cellphone, prosecutors said. DNA evidence on the driver’s side airbag also matched his profile in an FBI database.

James Thompson | Chicago police

Thompson, who was on parole at the time of the crash for a drug conviction, was taken into custody Monday at a Washington Heights motel, according to his arrest report.

A public defender said Thompson denied the allegations, and said there were no witnesses to the crash who could identity him as the driver.

Even if Thompson was the driver, his attorney said, his actions would not amount to murder. He asked the judge to set bail at an amount Thompson could afford to post.

Thompson, prosecutors said, has never been issued a valid driver’s license and had been convicted 14 times of driving without a license.

When a state trooper attempted to pull him over for speeding on Interstate 94 near 87th Street, Thompson accelerated and wove in and out of traffic until getting off the expressway at 71st Street, prosecutors said.

Judge John F. Lyke Jr. said he believed that putting people in danger in order to elude police was “selfish” and that Thompson had shown a “total disregard” for the court’s orders by continuing to drive without a license.

Lyke ordered him held without bail and his next court date was set for Jan. 24.