ECWd’s – Coles County
Sheriff Darrel Cox may now be facing even more trouble if the reasons for a recent FOIA denial are in fact true. When we discovered the Federal Wrongful Death law suit (Click here for Wrongful Death article previously published), filed against him and a corrections officer we submitted two FOIA requests. One to the Department of Corrections and the second to the Illinois State Police.
The request was for a copy of all investigative reports and related documents pertaining to the work performed by DOC and/or the ISP at the Coles County Sheriff’s office after the death of David J. Bower on or about February 28th, 2013 from an apparent suicide while in the custody of the Coles County Jail. This would include any inspections, investigations, findings etc. related to this incident. (Click here to read FOIA request).
Jail and detention staff agree with DOC findings, “Obstructions over the cell bars will no longer be tolerated”. (CLICK HERE for full DOC report). That single tidbit may be a major problem as it appears to be an acknowledgment of wrong doing.
The big question, why was it ever tolerated?
Where this matter appears to take a turn and point towards possible criminal charges is the response from the Illinois State Police for the same FOIA.
“The Illinois State Police Freedom of Information Officer, Lieutenant Steve Lyddon, is denying your request for the following reasons: “
5ILCS 140/7(1)(d)(i) The information requested, if disclosed, would interfere with pending or actually and reasonably contemplated law enforcement proceeding conducted by law enforcement or correctional agency.
5 ILCS 140/7(1)(d)(iii) The information requested could create a substantial likelihood that a person will be deprived of a fair trial or an impartial hearing if the information were made public, as this case has not yet been adjudicated.
Need some translation of what this really means?
The first denial was based on 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(d)i. As pointed out in their denial, if the information was disclosed it would, not may, would, interfere with pending or actually and reasonably contemplated law enforcement proceedings.
You must keep in mind that the person who died in this case can’t be charged with anything else criminally because he is unfortunately dead. Since he is not the subject of any law enforcement proceeding it’s a pretty safe bet that the pending or actually and reasonably contemplated law enforcement proceeding conducted by the ISP is focused on the jailer and the Sheriff, who is ultimately responsible by law. In short, the information they have in their investigation, if disclosed, would interfere with pending law enforcement proceedings. That can’t be good for Darrel Cox.
The second exemptions claimed in the denial tells us a whole lot more though! 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(d)iii.
“The information requested could create a substantial likelihood that a person will be deprived of a fair trial or an impartial hearing if the information were made public, as this case has not yet been adjudicated.”
Is it possible that Darrel Cox and his corrections officer could be facing a trial in this case? The ISP has clearly found something in their investigation that was substantial enough to withhold it from the public in order to ensure no one is deprived of a fair trial or an impartial hearing.
By all indications in their response, it points to evidence that the ISP believes is worthy of adjudication.
Official misconduct may be one of those charges in light of the fact the DOC has already stated the jail and detention staff agree that their findings reflected an action that will not be tolerated in the future.
Talking with other law enforcement officers it became pretty clear that the action identified is a well-known violation and should have never been allowed, which it clearly was in this case.
Other disturbing matters in the DOC report raise even more questions regarding how Darrel Cox allows things to be done in the Coles County Jail.
DOC states in their report that the covering of the bars is a violation of policy no matter what the reason was. They also stated that discovery of this type of action by an inmate must be corrected upon discovery.
It’s a fact that the corrections officer did not correct this violation and in fact ignored it until inmates in cell block C got his attention and the report even claims it was the detainees that found the man hanging. How is it that detainees could find him hanging yet the very officer trained to ensure a safe jail failed to?
As pointed out in the Federal civil law suit, the Sheriff of Coles County, Darrel Cox, was responsible for the care and treatment of all inmates at the Coles County Safety and Detention Center, which is the designated jail for the County of Coles.
With a clear violation of policy, along with many other concerns in the DOC report, is it safe to say Darrel Cox intentionally or recklessly failed to perform a mandatory duty as required by law?
If the answer is yes, then will we soon see Official Misconduct Charges placed on Sheriff Darrel Cox?