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Sheriff probes sex assault of female inmate at Markham courthouse

Hamidullah Tribble, 21; and Nelson Drake, 23. | Cook County sheriff's office

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has launched an internal investigation to figure out how two male jail inmates were locked up with a female offender last month in a courtroom holding cell at the Markham courthouse.

The inmates, Hamidullah Tribble, 21, and Nelson Drake, 23, were charged this week with sexually assaulting the female inmate on May 2 in a holding cell adjacent to a courtroom in the south suburban courthouse.

Five sheriff’s employees, two deputies, two sergeants and a lieutenant who were on duty in the courtroom at the time have been reassigned to new posts while the Sheriff’s Office of Professional Review gets to the bottom of how the woman came to be locked in a small cell with two men, and why none of the deputies assigned to the courtroom noticed the assault as it was taking place, said Cara Smith, director of policy for Sheriff Tom Dart.

“The question that is subject of our investigation is: where were the people that were supposed to be there, and what were they doing?” Smith said.

Sheriff’s officials are looking to add security cameras in the courtroom lockups.

“Ideally, there are cameras of every corner of our whole system, but we’re not there yet,” Smith said, noting that deputies should have been just a few feet away from the holding cell at all times. “(But) cameras don’t take the place of highly trained staff doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

There are some 2,400 cameras throughout the main Cook County Jail complex, as well as cameras in lockup in the basement of each district courthouse, but none in the tiny holding cells in individual courtrooms at the branch court house, Smith said.

Sheriff’s officials asked State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to investigate the assault for criminal charges. The male inmates initially told sheriff’s deputies the woman had threatened them with a syringe and demanded they perform sex acts on her. No syringe was discovered in the holding cell on on any of the inmates.

Tribble is in jail held on $100,000 bail on charges of aggravated kidnapping of a child, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and unlawful restraint, according to prosecutors. Drake is being held without bond on a first-degree murder charge, and a separate case in which he is charged with attempted murder, armed robbery, aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated unlawful restraint.

Both men will appear in bond court on June 29 in Markham on the new sexual assault charge, prosecutors said.