CHICAGO (CBS) — What happens to a judge when he lets an accused rapist out for $400? And then it’s exposed the judge knew the accused rapist’s sister? Nothing. CBS 2 Investigators wanted to find out why, and they also wanted to find out how the accused rapist gained new employment for, of all things, a government-funded program.
When Cook Cook County Judge Stanley Hill went to reset bond for accused rapist Burnell Johnson, he spoke to the accused’s sister at the bond hearing.
Judge Hill: “What is it, Maxine, what?” — per the transcript.
“Maxine” said the family could post $400, and that’s what Judge Stanley Hill ordered.
And “Maxine” is Maxine Johnson, sister of accused rapist Burnell Johnson. Maxine Johnson is also a retired court clerk in Judge Hill’s courthouse.
Burnell Johnson is charged with seven class X felonies for aggravated sexual assault of a handicapped person. Oak Park police reports say Johnson, a PACE bus driver at the time, sexually assaulted his passenger repeatedly. That passenger, in her 30s, functions as a 6-year-old and has an IQ of 47. The assaults were allegedly captured on the bus’ surveillance camera.
“It didn’t make any sense,” says retired Cook County Judge Yolande Bourgeois, of Judge Hill’s low bond. “The nature of the charges were heinous.”
Riverview Police Chief Tom Weitzel’s officers often appear in front of Judge Stanley Hill.
“Will you please take some corrective action in regards to Judge Hill,” Weitzel wrote to Chief Judge Timothy Evans after seeing CBS 2’s original investigation in November. “I’ve never heard of that in all my years of law enforcement.”
“Highly improper!” said retired Judge Bourgeois. “Two judges had already held [Johnson] on no bail.”
Here are the outcomes from the series of hearings that ultimately lead to Johnson’s bonding out, where he remains today:
Fourth Municipal District Court
- June 9th, 2018: Judge David Navarro refused Burnell Johnson bond.
- June 12th, 2018: Judge Eulalia de la Rosa re-ordered no bond for Burnell Johnson.
- June 15th, 2018: Judge Stanley Hill drastically reduced previous orders to a “D” $4,000 bond with electronic monitoring, which means Johnson paid $400 and went home.
- July 19th, 2018: Judge Pamela Leeming said: “I find that the bond is set too low.” She raised it 10-fold, which Burnell Johnson paid.
Chief Judge Timothy Evans saw our report and, per his spokesperson, moved Burnell Johnson’s case from the courthouse in Maywood to 26th and California, citing the potential conflict sister Maxine Johnson posed.
“It’s odd in that it doesn’t address the initial problem, and that is the judge making a decision on a case where he knows one of the party’s relatives,” said CBS 2’s legal analyst Irv Miller.
“Which indicates that Judge Evans realizes there’s a problem there,” says retired Judge Bourgeois. “The problem is not the case, it’s the person hearing the case.”
Bourgeois thought Hill would be in trouble for the behavior, which she found improper.
“I think it’s an abuse of power,” she says.
When judges get in trouble, they’re often banished to what’s called Judge Jail — punching papers at the Daley Center.
The Circuit Court’s press release page announces when judges are punished by Chief Judge Evans and the Executive Committee.
In October, a trio of judges were admonished for improper behavior, and were relegated for stints in Judge Jail.
Soon after CBS 2’s initial investigation, Judge Hill was photographed with Chief Judge Evans at the unveiling of an Abraham Lincoln portrait in the Daley Center on November 26th.
Now at the Leightorn Court Building at 26th and California, Burnell Johnson’s electronic monitoring is unlikely to be taken away. After a hearing there, CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards asked Johnson: “Do you think Judge Hill gave you such a low bond because he knows your sister?”
Johnson didn’t answer. Edwards then went where Johnson works and asked again: “Burnell, I’m wondering … ”
Johnson scrambled into a burgundy bus. Yes, he was driving a bus again, for a government-funded program. But Mr. Johnson’s job was terminated after CBS 2 Investigators inquired about it.
It’s unknown if Judge Stanley Hill was even questioned about his actions. It takes a complaint to Chief Judge Evans and the Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County to open an inquiry. The most likely to file a complaint would be State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Although she’s a staunch bond reform advocate, she also advocates for victims of crime. Her surrogates in court vehemently objected to Hill’s drastically reduced bail.
Former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez told CBS 2 Investigators, “Had any Judge acted in such an outrageous and inappropriate manner during my administration, I would have immediately filed a complaint and demanded quick action.”
Did Foxx file a complaint? CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards asked her office, but they won’t answer, and won’t comment. No one else involved is commenting, either.
Burnell Johnson declined to comment, and pleaded not guilty.
Johnson’s Attorney declined to comment.
Maxine Johnson did not return phone calls.
Judge Stanley Hill did not return phone calls.
Chief Judge Timothy Evans had no comment. His spokesperson added there were several judges at the event; Evans and Hill happened to be pictured by each other.