Whiteside County Sheriff says former inmate ’beat the system’ after trial stalled for 5 years

Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 5:38 PM CST
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MORRISON, Illinois (KWQC) - A county jail is usually a place where someone who has been arrested awaits trial or stays for a short period of time following a minor crime.

However, a Rock Falls man managed to stay in Whiteside County Jail for over five years, foregoing prison time and walking out on time served.

“He was in my custody for 2,071 days,” Sheriff John Booker said. “You can basically say he outsmarted the system.”

The time limit to stay in the county jail in 364 days, yet the man--whose identity TV6 is not going to mention--ended up staying 1,707 days more than that.

In February 2016, the man, who was living in Rock Falls, Illinois, was arrested by the sheriff’s department on two counts for felon in possession of a firearm, one count of being an armed habitual criminal, one count of possession of a controlled substance, and one count on intent to deliver.

He didn’t face trial for those charges until Oct. 27, which means that he stayed in the Whiteside County Jail for five years and five months.

Court documents show the original trial date to have been May 17, 2016. That date was then continued to June 21, 2016. Then, to July 19, 2016. The total number of continuances tallied up to be 30 before a trial was set and delivered.

According to Sheriff Booker, the trial’s delay was no accident for the man serving time.

“He would go through, get a new attorney and fire his attorney,“ he said. “He did that probably five times. Whether the state would continue or the defense attorney would continue, his case got continued many, many times.”

Once the final trial was set in motion the man, whose charges dropped to one--felon in possession of a firearm--pleaded guilty and received 11 years in prison.

Of course by that time he had already served out his sentence in county jail and was allowed to walk out on parole.

The cost of the man’s stay in jail ended up hurting the taxpayers more than anything, Booker said. A night in jail costs about the same as a nightly charge in a Super 8 Motel.

“It was almost $135,000 this cost me to house this inmate,” Booker said. “I’d like to think it was criminal but unfortunately we allowed it, our system allowed this to happen.”

Booker said the case brings about the need for change in the justice system.

“I’d like to see a limit on three continuances,” Booker said. “The state gets one, the defense gets one, and one for the heck of it. Then after three months these people are going to trial.”

It’s an early conversation that is being started in Whiteside County over quicker trials and sentencing. However, Sheriff Booker said the issue has not yet been put in front of Illinois state lawmakers.

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