As switch to cashless bail approaches, advocates on both sides are watching courts

Supporters of the state's plan to eliminate cash bail have started attending bond hearings in DuPage and Kane counties, gathering information about how cases are being handled before the new law takes effect Jan. 1.

On Tuesday, state Sen. Karina Villa of West Chicago and state Rep. Anna Stava-Murray of Naperville joined the group for a bond call at the DuPage County courthouse in Wheaton. Villa and Stava-Murray, both Democrats, voted in favor in 2020 of the SAFE-T Act, which is eliminating cash bail come Jan. 1.

Under the law, judges will have to determine whether someone should be jailed before trial based on the severity of the crime, the likelihood the person will show up in court and whether the person poses a threat to the safety of a specific person or the community.

Representatives of Indivisible Aurora, The People's Lobby and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice are organizing the court-watching effort.

"We're working to ensure proper progress of cashless bail," said Nicholas Richard-Thompson, a community organizer with Indivisible Aurora.

Stava-Murray watched three cases: a man accused of stealing four books of lottery scratch-off tickets from his employer, a man accused of burglary and a woman accused of misdemeanor domestic battery.

The woman was released on personal recognizance. The burglary suspect was ordered held on $3,000 bail. The woman had no criminal history, but the burglary suspect had felony convictions, Stava-Murray said.

The man accused of stealing the lottery tickets had just started a job, and coming up with the $1,000 to be released will be a hardship, Stava-Murray said. She said statistics show that people who are held in jail on bail are at higher risk of being arrested again when they are out.

"What is going to happen Jan. 1 is simple. The people who don't pose a risk will be out in the community" at their jobs and with their families, she said.

"If you can't post (bail), you are sitting in a cage for at least a week," said Ruth Julian of Wheaton, who began watching bond calls in Kane and DuPage counties Aug. 1.

  Heather Brown of West Chicago, a Republican candidate for the Illinois Senate, expresses opposition to cashless bail, at a rally Tuesday. Susan Sarkauskas/

But not everyone is on board with the monumental shift in how Illinois' criminal justice system will operate.

Heather Brown of West Chicago, a Republican running against Villa in November's election, attended a rally after the court-watching session holding a sign reading, "What about the victims?"

"It is going to cause havoc in our community and potentially hurt domestic violence (victims) that have no-trespass orders, and there is no protection for the victim or public," she said of the change. "DuPage County is going to end up like Cook County."

Nicole Prader, Winfield Township supervisor and leader of the Winfield Township Republican Party, also attended.

"We should let judges do their jobs without being cuffed," Prader said.

Cops on a Rooftop

Police officers will climb atop Dunkin' locations across the suburbs Friday for the annual Cop on a Rooftop fundraiser for Special Olympics Illinois. Organizers are hoping to top the $870,000 raised last year. Daily Herald File Photo, 2019

While cops may quickly tire of jokes involving their profession's legendary love of doughnuts, at least they've found a way to put the old cliché to a good use.

Law enforcement officers from dozens of departments across the suburbs will scale Dunkin' locations in their hometowns Friday for the annual Cop on a Rooftop fundraiser to support Special Olympics Illinois.

They'll greet customers and accept donations from 5 a.m. to noon at most sites. For a full list of locations, visit

Every person who donates will receive a coupon for a free doughnut. Those who donate $10 or more will receive a Law Enforcement Torch Run/Special Olympics travel mug.

And depending on the location, officers may be selling T-shirts and other items, with proceeds benefiting Special Olympics.

With more than 300 Illinois Dunkin' locations taking part, organizers hope to top the $870,000 raised by 2021's Cop on a Rooftop. Over an 18-year partnership, law enforcement has raised more than $5.75 million for Special Olympics through Cop on a Rooftop and other events.

A done deal

Despite some potential "skulduggery" by prosecutors, a former Schaumburg cop imprisoned on misconduct and drug-dealing charges shouldn't get to withdraw his 2014 guilty plea and take his case to trial, a state appeals court ruled this week.

Terrance O'Brien is one of three former Schaumburg cops accused of shaking down drug dealers and peddling narcotics in DuPage County. A state appeals court this week rejected his bid to withdraw his guilty plea. Daily Herald File Photo, 2013

Former officer Terrance O'Brien has been trying to get out of his plea and 24-year prison sentence since learning that a police informant in the case against him had been involved in other criminal activity - information that was not disclosed by prosecutors before he admitted guilt.

O'Brien argues that DuPage County prosecutors violated his constitutional rights by failing to turn over that information before his plea. And, he argues, had he known that the informant was under investigation for money laundering and theft - evidence that would have called the witness' credibility into question - he may not have taken a plea deal.

But in their unanimous ruling, the Second District Appellate Court said that while prosecutors are required to provide such information to a defendant before he goes to trial, there's no such requirement before a plea bargain.

O'Brien, 55, formerly of Palatine, was one of three Schaumburg cops accused of skimming drugs from police seizures and then using an informant to sell them on the street in 2012 and 2013. A second, Matthew Hudak, pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Prosecutors dismissed charges against the third officer, John Cichy, on the eve of his trial in 2018 after admitting they had not disclosed information about the informant.

Despite his lengthy sentence, O'Brien could receive parole as soon as July 2025. Hudak could go free in August 2024.

Senior scam education

The DuPage County recorder, state's attorney, sheriff and treasurer's office are presenting the free Safe from Scams: Protecting Seniors and Their Assets program from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 2 at the Knuepfer Administration Building on the county government campus, 421 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton. Senior citizens, their caretakers and their relatives can learn how to spot common scams including phone, internet, dating and social-media schemes.

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