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After Killer Is Mistakenly Released, Cook County Officials Play Blame Game

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Steven L. Robbins (Indiana Dept. of Corrections)

Steven L. Robbins (Indiana Dept. of Corrections)

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02/01/2013 – 9 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The finger-pointing between Cook County officials intensified Friday as the search continued for a convicted murderer mistakenly released from jail.

Someone in the sheriff’s department allowed Steven Robbins, 44, an Indiana state prison inmate serving 60 years, to leave on Wednesday. He had been extradited to Chicago for a court appearance in an unrelated case.

But State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez says armed violence and cocaine possession charges against Robbins had been dismissed in 2007, and thus there was no reason to bring him here, despite a series of letters from the inmate demanding trial.

She blames sheriff’s police personnel.

Said Alvarez, “Despite the fact that the Cook County assistant state’s attorney told them they didn’t have to bring him back, they thought it would be better if they did bring him back to get this all cleared up because the guy keeps writing letters demanding trial,” Alvarez said.

“The case was brought, the judge made it clear on the record that that he had no pending case any more in Illinois, in Cook County, and he still had to serve his Indiana time,” she added.

Cook County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Frank Bilecki says his office had no knowledge of the letters, and that the state’s attorney’s office signed off on the extradition request.

A three-page form obtained by WBBM Newsradio and CBS 2 bears the signatures of the chief of the state’s attorney’s criminal division, a second prosecutor and presiding Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel.

Bilecki said the warrant for Robbins’ arrest remains in the sheriff’s system — and should have been quashed by the courts when the charges were dismissed in 2007.

Bilecki said the paperwork on Robbins apparently contained no “hold” order so he could be returned to the Indiana State Prison, in Michigan City. Seeing no hold, sheriff’s personnel released him, he said.

The extradition forms are clearly marked “subject serving sentence while in state custody or federal custody.”

In addition, Judge Rickey Jones, when affirming the 2007 dismissal on Wednesday, said that Robbins still had to serve his Indiana time, Alvarez said.

Sheriff Tom Dart agrees someone in his office made the mistake of letting Robbins go. An investigation is under way into what he indicated was a bureaucratic error.

So far there is no sign of Robbins, a Gary native who was not supposed to go free until 2029 for a murder committed outside a birthday party in Indianapolis in 2002.

Bilecki said detectives are pursuing a number of promising leads.  He said that more than 100 officers and agents from the Chicago Police, Cook County Sheriff’s Police, Illinois and Indiana State Police, U.S. marshal’s office and FBI have been looking for Robbins.

Federal authorities are offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can offer information leading to Robbins’ capture.

Robbins is African-American, 5’5″ in height, weighs 190 pounds and has a distinctive tattoo on the right side of his neck that reads “Nicole.”

Bilecki said investigators have spoken with some of Robbins’ Chicago-area relatives while the search continues in both states.

“We’re casting a pretty wide net over (Cook) County and the outlying Chicago area for anyone we believe he may be trying to contact,” Bilecki said.

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