Burglary suspect released under new law

A man on parole for armed robbery was charged last week with burglarizing a downtown Hinsdale shop in May by using a sledgehammer to gain entrance to the business. But he was released from custody under the state’s new cashless bail rules, prompting frustration from law enforcement officials.

According to Hinsdale police, Terry Johnson, 30, of Chicago was one of seven suspects that arrived in two vehicles at Kelsey’s Resale Boutique, 49 S Washington St. at 1:20 a.m. May 24. Authorities allege that Johnson used a sledgehammer to shatter the front door, and the suspects proceeded to steal $68,000 in merchandise in under two minutes before fleeing.

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin’s office reported that blood evidence located on the floor near the front door was found to be consistent with the DNA profile of Johnson, who was on parole for armed robbery and aggravated battery out of Cook County. Johnson, the first arrest in the case, was charged Sept. 21 with armed violence, a class X felony, and burglary, a class 2 felony.

Appearing before Judge Joshua Dieden in DuPage County Circuit Court Sept. 21, Johnson was granted pre-trial release under the controversial SAFE-T Act signed by Gov. JB Pritzker last year, which took effect last week.

Under the act, Illinois became the first state to completely eliminate cash bail, meaning judges can no longer order people accused of certain crimes to pay money to get out of jail while awaiting trial. Johnson was required to wear a GPS electronic monitoring device and ordered to remain at least 1,000 feet away from Kelsey Resale Boutique as conditions of his release.

Hinsdale Police Chief Brian King suggested that the circumstances of Johnson’s case weigh against pre-trial release and would like Illinois lawmakers to amend the act.

“There are circumstances when detaining an individual makes sense,” King said. “I would advocate for the legislature to return judicial discretion in cases which are now deemed non-detainable. The judge is in the best position to make that determination.”

Berlin sharply criticized the SAFE-T Act for undermining safety.

“The fact that Mr. Johnson, who is currently on parole and now accused of a forcible felony, will be out on the streets pending his trial illustrates a deficiency in the new law,” Berlin said in a statement. “I have been saying all along that after hearing the facts and circumstances of a case, a judge, not the legislature, is in the best position to decide if pre-trial release for a defendant is appropriate.

“The forcible felony of burglary is excluded from the list of detainable offenses under a dangerousness standard unless there is use of force against another person,” Berlin continued. “I urge the (Illinois) General Assembly to amend the law and allow judges to use their discretion in every case, similar to New Jersey’s pre-trial release law.”

Hinsdale police said the Illinois Department of Correction is reviewing its request for parole violation action against Johnson. King said the investigation into the incident continues in hopes of arresting more suspects and indicated he expects a vigorous prosecution.

“Ultimately, Johnson will face trial in DuPage County where the state’s attorney makes the prosecution of burglary a priority,” he said.

Johnson’s arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 16.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean