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Kass: On our Chief Judge Tim Evans

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

Chief Judge’s Message to Crime-Plagued Chicago: Help Isn’t Coming, You’re On Your Own

By John Kass

On the day that a 16-year-old Latin King was charged with the murder of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega, Chief Cook County Judge Timothy C. Evans gave a message to the law-abiding suffering from increasing violent crime:

Help is not on the way.

You’re on your own.

Evans’s didn’t say those exact words. He’d never speak in such blunt terms. He’s always been cautious, using reasonable tones to speak in well-rounded circles, a man determined not to catch himself on the edge of his words. He’d object to my characterization of his speech.

But that’s what I came away with, after watching him speak at a friendly luncheon at the Union League Club of Chicago last week, when the topic of the 16-year-old came up.

I was sitting a few feet away from Evans. He spoke in his reasonable Tim Evans voice. But what he said was as if he he mashed his fist down on that scale held by Blind Lady Justice, then broke her sword over his knee, tore off her blindfold and kicked her out of the room as he pushed his political agenda.

And that agenda is not on the side of victims of crime.

Evans said judges should be seeking to rehabilitate offenders rather than punish them. He was speaking of 16-year-old Emilio Corripo, one of two people charged with the murder of the 8-year-old girl.

“They don’t have the pre-frontal cortex that is developed, and the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, does not, itself fully developed until you’re closer to the age of 25 years of age,” said Evans. “This kid is 16. There’s no way that he would have the prefrontal cortex already developed. So, while I can’t talk about that particular case, I’m just talking about the typical 16- year-old, he doesn’t have that part of the brain developed that makes it possible for him to distinguish between the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do.”

Pardon me?

I understand the compassionate desire to rehabilitate young people who’ve made bad choices. But what about compassion for the victims who have the crazy idea that the habitually violent shouldn’t be out on the street committing more violence?

Evans was defending his liberal and controversial “bail reform” policy, supported by the ethically challenged and Soros-backed Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and by her patroness, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has made it her mission to shrink the population of the Cook County Jail. They’ve all been supported by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who governs from fear.

Evans came up through the Chicago Democratic machine as a cautious man who never stuck his neck out for anybody. He sought a safe space. And he safely decided not to stick his neck out for the people of the city and the county who are under siege by violent crime.

The amazing thing is that Evans, who is a politician not a neurologist, thinks that Emilio Corripo’s pre-frontal cortex prevented him from distinguishing between right and wrong. Is that a judge talking, a criminal defense attorney, or a politician hustling votes?

The self-described Latin King charged in the murder of the little girl could certainly distinguish between his own gang and rival members of the Two-Six gang when he spotted them on 26 Street in the Little Village neighborhood, as Melissa Ortega was walking on the sidewalk holding her mother’s hand.

Corripo, 16, was on probation. He’d already been charged in three separate car jackings with a gun, including one incident where he allegedly pistol whipped a carjacking victim. So, I suppose he could distinguish the feeling he got when the system cut him a break with probation.

Now that he’s being held without bond in connection of the murder of the girl, I bet he can distinguish the feeling of being free and jacking cars, and the feeling of sitting in a cell.

I suppose that Corripo and his friend, cab driver Xavier Guzman, 27 who was also charged, could distinguish between Latin Kings and Two-Sixers, when Corripo allegedly picked up a gun and decided to pull the trigger.

Assistant States Attorney James Murphy said that Corripo understood the hand motions of the Tw0-Six gang were street gang signs, so it goes without saying that he could also distinguish between apparent disrespect to the Latin Kings and other hand signals glorifying the Two-Sixers.

Melissa Ortega, who’d been on an errand with her mother, holding her mom’s hand, was hit in the head by Corripo’s gunshots, authorities alleged. A bullet pierced her skull,

With the little girl dead on the street, as her mother screamed, Corripo and Guzman were able to distinguish something they felt was important. They distinguished between the feeling of being hungry and figuring out what to do about it. They decided to get lunch.

As they drove, they distinguished between all the places to eat on 26th Street and settled on Subway sandwiches, with that little girl not even cold.

“I would point to the utter disregard for human life and pure callousness that both of these defendants showed during these events,” Murphy said. “After shooting that little girl in the head, what do they do? They drive to a Subway to get Subway sandwiches.”

With all his concern for the brain development of 16-year-old gangbangers with violent criminal histories, and all his defense lawyer prattling about the pre-frontal cortex, you might think Judge Evans would show equal concern for the brain of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega.

Melissa’s brain didn’t have a chance to develop. The bullets pierced her brain, and she was dead.

I’ve known Tim Evans for a long time, long before he was Chief Judge of the Cook County Courts, back when he was a Chicago alderman. He’s always been pleasant, courteous, a perfect gentleman.

But he’s not a leader. He had his chance and he decided not to lead. The people of Chicago, the county and the country are starving for sensible leadership on the vexing issues of crime and violence that strangles the city. And in Chicago and Cook County, taxpayers aren’t getting any leadership from Evans, Foxx, Preckwinkle and the woefully ineffective Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Crime is out of control. Chicago is dying. City Hall blames the pandemic for the tremendous loss of downtown business, but the reason people don’t come downtown to spend their money isn’t the Vax Pass.

It’s the violence, stupid. And the knowledge that if you become a crime victim, the Cook County criminal justice system will bend over backwards worrying about the thug who just pistol whipped you, cracked your skull, took your wallet and your car.

The sense of lawlessness I warned about long ago with the advent of progressive prosecutors backed by George Soros continues in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement riots. It spreads. And most of the victims of the violence are black and brown people. Across the country, cops are being shot at and killed.

You see evidence of lawlessness in every big city where Democratic politicians have demonized cops and talked of defunding police, where Soros-backed prosecutors like Foxx are elected and re-elected and take it upon themselves to ignore criminal law passed by state legislatures and signed by governors

Now Evans feels political heat for his “bail reform” policy. Guys like Evans don’t like heat. He’s survived a lifetime in Chicago politics by saying almost nothing to avoid heat. At the Union League, when I used my phone to take his photo, he joked, “John we’ve both been around so long.”

I said: “Tim, this is like seeing you at ward night back in the day.”

The reason I mentioned the old tradition of ward nights—when Chicago aldermen would address the voters of their wards and take care of their needs and wants—was that Evans’ luncheon address was stacked with friendlies, just like a ward night the Chicago Way. There were at least two tables of judges loyal to Evans and many other court personnel beholden to him. He wanted a friendly crowd, they asked him friendly questions. It wasn’t an accident.

He’s always been cautious, a make-no-waves politician. He came up through the machine, and kept his mouth shut as he climbed. He was a loyal coat-holder for 4th Ward boss Ald. Claude Holman. Shortly before his death in 1973, Holman proudly shared the secret of power.

“I am a puppet for Mayor Daley,” Holman said.

He meant the real Mayor Richard J. Daley, the real boss, not the weak and petulant son, Mayor Fredo.

Evans succeeded Holman, later becoming floor leader to the late Mayor Harold Washington. When Washington died, Evans allowed himself to be pushed for the mayoralty by the hard political left, which was then weak in the city. They portrayed Washington’s black mayoral successor, former 6th Ward Ald. Eugene Sawyer as an “Uncle Tom” though Sawyer had marched in the South with the late Rev. Martin Luther King.

It was ugly. It broke black politics in Chicago for decades. Richard M. Daley took advantage and became mayor for two decades Evans was later defeated as 4th Ward alderman by Toni Preckwinkle. With Rich Daley at City Hall, Evans became a judge, then ultimately chief judge.

I asked Evans point blank who’ll take the political blame for the crime issue: Evans and his judges? Preckwinkle and Foxx? Lightfoot?

He couldn’t answer. He’s not made that way.

He’s Tim Evans, who came up in the Chicago Democratic machine and tried on the late Washington’s political mantle for a time, until he exchanged it for the black robes of a judge.

I was there for most of it, and on the next edition of The Chicago Way podcast, I might tell you about that about that memorial service after Washington’s death at the UIC Pavilion, the one that turned into an ugly political rally for Evans, as Sawyer’s foes depicted Sawyer as a traitor to his race. Both men were tainted by it. It is a story about masks of virtue worn after Washington’s death, as if in ancient Greek theater.

But for today, is Judge Tim Evans a man to make waves and lead?


Tim is a survivor. He’s not alone. Chicago’s political class is full of survivors. They aren’t interested in standing tough on crime. They’ll lose votes if the do. So they don’t.

They keep busy playing musical chairs, wondering if they’ll have a safe place to land when the music stops, as the city groans in pain, stumbles and falls, and the people continue to vote with their feet.


(Copyright 2022 John Kass)

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