Case against man accused of trying to kidnap girl in Carol Stream dropped
It was a pretty stunning case last summer. A man ran up to a 13-year-old girl, grabbed her around the waist and tried to carry her away on Aug. 7, 2020, near a Carol Stream park. Three boys who were with her helped her fight the man off, and he ran away.
Three weeks later, authorities arrested 31-year-old Humberto Caldera of Carol Stream and charged him with kidnapping, aggravated battery in a public place and unlawful restraint. Prosecutors called it part of a pattern of "very depraved behavior."
But June 21 -- the day before his trial was set to begin -- DuPage County prosecutors abruptly dropped all the charges.
Because new information came to light when his defense lawyer obtained police records, via a subpoena. Those records, assistant public defender Jennifer Maples argued in a written motion, indicate police also investigated another man for the crime -- one who looked a lot like Caldera, lived a half-mile from the park, and had allegedly told police he had one of the victim's sandals.
"We felt that in light of this new information, we would not be able to meet our burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt," said Paul Darrah, public information officer for the DuPage County state's attorney's office.
The public defender's office declined to comment on the turn of events, because Caldera still faces trial in a pair of unrelated cases. In one, he is charged with felony trespassing and violation of a domestic-violence bail bond. In the other, he is charged with misdemeanor conduct, accused of following a 17-year-old girl home from a park, video-recording her and trying to enter her house, despite her telling him to leave her alone.
The charges from the Carol Stream case were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled. Darrah made it clear, however, that no further charges are coming.
Just how much do the two men resemble each other? Court records indicate Caldera is 32, 5'11" and weighs 160 pounds, with black hair. The other man, who is facing criminal charges in an arson case, also has black hair, is 25 years old, is 5'8" and weighs 175 pounds. Both men have beards.
At the time of Caldera's arrest, prosecutors told a bond-call judge that Caldera had been convicted in 2019 of grabbing the buttocks of two women he approached in Chicago, and had a 2013 conviction for putting his hands between a woman's legs in Rosemont. They also alleged a search of his cellphones showed about 50,000 pornographic images of what appeared to be girls ages 15 to 17 and photos of younger girls in tight clothing. But a judge threw the cellphone items out June 1, ruling they had been obtained improperly.
Carol Stream Police Chief William Holmer said the department is disappointed the charges were dropped.
"We lost a couple of key pieces of evidence (by judicial ruling), and that did not help the case," he said.
Police do not have another suspect. The other man was ruled out early on, he said.
The department is studying how it handled the case and discussing areas Holmer thinks could have been done better, including documentation and communication with prosecutors.
Jeffrey N. Ward
The 2nd District Appellate Court has overturned the domestic battery conviction of a Geneva blogger and occasional political consultant because prosecutors did not prove the victim was insulted or provoked when he pushed her.
Because of that, the trial judge was wrong not to issue a directed verdict of "not guilty" when the prosecution rested its case during a 2018 trial.
Jeff Ward, who writes about Kane County politics and other news online and was a campaign consultant for some local officials, was charged in 2018 with domestic battery -- contact of an insulting or provoking nature. He was accused of pushing his wife, Leslie, at the scene of a car accident involving their 18-year-old son. The crash was investigated by Geneva police, a frequent target of criticism from Ward.
Leslie Ward testified she was neither insulted nor provoked by the push. She said Ward was merely trying to move her out of the way while addressing a police officer and called the trial a farce.
A three-judge appellate panel issued its decision Wednesday.
Writing for the majority, Justice Joseph Birkett said Kane County prosecutors didn't provide sufficient evidence that Leslie Ward was insulted or provoked, instead wrongly relying on an eyewitness who said she was "surprised" to see the push. It's not enough, Birkett wrote, to show that a third party found the conduct insulting or provoking -- you have to prove the victim was insulted or provoked.
Birkett also wrote that a Geneva police officer falsely testified that state law required him to make an arrest for any alleged domestic battery he saw, even if the victim didn't want an arrest. And the trial judge shouldn't have let jurors consider testimony by that police officer that he had dealt with Ward on "numerous" other occasions, or that the officer considered Ward to be a bully.
"I'm beyond thrilled that the 2nd District Appellate Court has exonerated me," said Ward, who filed the appeal himself, with the aid of several attorneys. "I do not, and have not ever, abused my wife."
The Kane County state's attorney's office referred us to the Illinois State's Attorney's Appellate Prosecutor's office when we asked for comment. ISAAP referred us right back to its client, Kane County.
Danno, a 22-month-old German shepherd, was sworn in as a new Lake County sheriff's canine Wednesday by Lake County Clerk Robin O'Connor.
- Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office
Sic 'em, Danno
One of the newest members of the Lake County sheriff's office will never carry a gun, drive a patrol vehicle or hand out a traffic ticket.
But Danno, a nearly 2-year-old German shepherd, joined new deputies Serge Troekurov and Alexis Avalos-Landeros and was sworn in Wednesday in a ceremony presided over by Sheriff John D. Idleburg and Lake County Clerk Robin O'Connor.
Danno met his human partner, Deputy Andrew Martini, back in April and the pair underwent two months of intense training before hitting the streets together.
Joining Danno at the ceremony was fifth-grader Norah Gault of Barrington, who submitted the winning entry in a contest to select the new police dog's name.
Cops vs. Courts
After another weekend of gun violence in Chicago -- with more than 100 people shot, 18 of them fatally -- the verbal sparring and finger-pointing between police and leaders of Cook County's criminal justice system escalated this week.
During a Tuesday news conference, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown accused the county's court system of "making us all less safe" by releasing criminal defendants on electronic monitoring as part of efforts to reform the bail system and reduce jail populations.
"There are too many violent offenders and too little consequences in our courts," Brown said.
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans responded later Tuesday, saying there's no evidence to support the statements from Brown and others.
"Looking at individual tragic cases in isolation may contribute to the speculation that releasing individuals before trial rather than incarcerating them -- whether by placing them on electronic monitoring or other forms of supervision -- means an increase in crime," he said. "But speculation based on isolated cases is not the same as reality based on a complete picture, and research has shown that bail reform has not led to an increase in crime."
According to research cited by Evans, 181 defendants in murder cases were released while awaiting trial in Cook County between Oct. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2020. Of those 181, two were charged with committing a violent offense while free, he said.
• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.