Chicago, IL – The family of murdered 16-year-old Derrion Albert wants to know why Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx decided to let his killer go free.
Foxx decided not to pursue a 30-year prison sentence for one of Derrion’s attackers right after she took office, WLS reported.
In 2009, Derrion was caught in the middle of a gang fight on his way home from school and beaten to death.
At the time, Cook County prosecutors charged four teens involved in his death as adults. One pleaded guilty, and three were convicted at trial.
Dionte “D.J.” Johnson was only 14 years old when he participated in the beating death of Derrion, WLS.
But prosecutors said it was Johnson punching and knocking Derrion to the ground that signed the 16 year old’s “death certificate.”
Then-Assistant State’s Attorney Foxx prosecuted the case and told the family she was going the route of EJJ – Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile – for Johnson as a safety net, WLS reported.
What that meant was although Johnson was convicted as a juvenile, he was also sentenced to 30 years as an adult.
That adult sentence would be stayed until after Johnson was released from his juvenile sentence. However, if he was convicted of another felony after being released from custody, Johnson would have to serve the original 30-year adult sentence, according to WLS.
Derrion’s family said Foxx tried to convince them it was the best prosecutorial route for their loved one’s killer.
“Kim Foxx kept telling us that was the best way to go, that way we have some kind of, the safety net," Derrion’s mother, Anjanette Albert, told WLS. "That way if he got in trouble he goes back, that's what it is."
Sure enough, not long after Johnson was released from juvenile detention, he was arrested again and charged with felony aggravated fleeing after he led Chicago police on a chase.
Prosecutors filed a notice that they were "seeking to revoke stay of his adult sentence,” WLS reported.
That information was met with enthusiasm by the Albert family.
"They said that because he got in trouble now we were going to get the 30 years," Derrion’s mother said.
Johnson was convicted on Election Day - Nov. 8, 2016 – the same day Foxx was elected Cook County State’s Attorney.
Shortly thereafter, the Albert family was asked to meet with prosecutors and given some very bad news, WLS reported.
"They call us down there and tell us that the state's attorney decided to not pursue the motion," Derrion's grandfather, Norman Golliday, told WLS.
Anjanette Albert said prosecutors told her the decision had been made by Foxx.
"Kim Foxx decided not to go any further with this to just, it's over. She's going to drop it and he's going to get out and there was nothing that we could do,” Foxx told the family, according to the victim’s mother.
Instead of asking the judge to enforce the 30-year sentence that Johnson had already been convicted of, prosecutors decided to just ask for probation for Derrion’s killer, WLS reported.
"One of the gentlemen said that it was determined that he had been rehabilitated," Golliday said. "My face almost fell off my head. I could not believe that the guy actually said that."
Derrion’s mother said repeated calls to Foxx’s office went unreturned, WLS reported.
"I felt like she spat in our face, she cried with us, she hugged us and then you turn around and let this murderer, I don't care how old he is, he was convicted of first degree murder. My son is not here anymore and she gave us all this hope and she promised us that this was going to be OK. And it didn't turn out like that," Anjanette Albert said.
At this point, the family just wants answers.
"I don't have anything to say to Kim Foxx," Derrion’s mother said. "The person that I thought that she was, her heart, her kindness the way that she was with us in court, that's, I don't never want to see her again. Never."
Derrion’s grandfather is equally disgusted.
"I would just look her straight in her eye and ask her why? Why would she do that?" Golliday told WLS.
A spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office told WLS they were unaware the Albert family had asked to meet with Foxx.
"Based on the Class 4 Felony, which carries a sentencing range of probation or up to three years in prison, it was not in the interest of justice to pursue a 30 year prison sentence in this case,” a spokesman for Foxx’s office explained.
But the sentence wasn't supposed to be for his latest crime, it was for killing a teen.
Her office's response is not dissimilar to the logic Foxx espoused after her office dropped 16 felony charges of disorderly conduct against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett in March.
Smollett was released despite solid assertions from the police department and Foxx’s assistants that the actor was guilty of staging a hoax attack on himself, and they had the evidence to prove it.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the charges of lying to the police had been dropped in exchange for restitution in the form of giving up his $10,000 bail and performing 16 hours of community service for the Reverend Jessie Jackson’s charity.
But even as the prosecutor’s office claimed there was nothing unusual about deferred action in a case like Smollett’s, WLS reported that staff in the state’s attorney’s office was scrambling to find similar examples to use in their own defense.
“We are looking for examples of cases, felony preferable, where we, in exercising our discretion, have entered into verbal agreements with defense attorneys to dismiss charges against an offender if certain conditions were met, such as the payment of restitution, completion of community service, completion of class, etc., but the defendant was not placed in a formal diversion program,” read a memo that was circulated in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, according to WLS.
“Please ask your [assistant state’s attorneys] if they have examples of these types of dispositions and we will work with them further to figure out on what case it was done,” the memo continued. “Nobody is in trouble, we are just looking for further examples of how we, as prosecutors, use our discretion in a way that restores the victim, but causes minimal harm to the defendant in the long term.”
Foxx’s office has yet to offer proof that the celebrity’s case was handled in a similar manner to other defendants.
Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, numerous lawyers’ associations, and President Donald Trump have all called for a federal investigation into Foxx’s handling of, and interference in, the Smollett case.