Gerald Reed, a former Illinois inmate who alleged he was beaten by Chicago police detectives who worked under disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge, was released from prison last year after Gov. J.B. Pritzker commuted his life sentence amid a series of bizarre turns that saw Reed’s murder conviction overturned, reinstated and then overturned again.
But Reed’s case took another pivot Tuesday when a special prosecutor retrying the double murder case asked a judge to set bond for him. Prosecutor Robert Milan alleged Reed went on a “three-state crime spree” that involved cases in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin after his release.
The prosecutor’s request poses an unusual question for the judge to consider: Should a defendant be held in jail until he can post bail if he has already served the sentence for the crime he is accused of?
A Cook County judge previously ruled that even if Reed is again tried and convicted, he cannot serve more time in an Illinois prison in connection with the 1990 case. Reed’s defense points out he is already in custody in the new charges.
Judge Steven G. Watkins denied the prosecutor’s request to issue a warrant because Reed is already in custody on the new charges, but he took the matter of bond under advisement and said he would issue a written ruling.
“In this situation, if this defendant could not post bond, and we already know he cannot be sentenced to another day in the Illinois Department of Corrections, he would in effect be incarcerated even though his sentence is commuted,” Watkins said.
Reed was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted of murdering two people in 1990, but he has maintained that two detectives working under Burge beat him until he confessed to fatally shooting Pamela Powers and Willie Williams on the South Side.
Judge Thomas Gainer in 2018 threw out his convictions and his statement to police after years of hearings over Reed’s allegations that he was tortured by the Chicago police officers. Reed remained in custody while prosecutors said they would bring him to trial again, without the tainted confession.
But after Gainer retired, the new judge assigned to the case, Judge Thomas Hennelly, reviewed it and reinstated Reed’s conviction and life sentence. Reed, though, was released from prison in 2021 after Pritzker commuted his sentence, freeing him but leaving his conviction intact. Later that year, in another reversal, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Reed’s conviction should indeed be thrown out.
Reed is one of dozens of defendants who have accused Burge and his “midnight crew” of detectives of torturing them to secure murder confessions in a sprawling scandal that has resulted in tens of millions of dollars in settlements, legal fees and other compensation to victims.
While arguing the new bond motion Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Milan detailed a series of crimes allegedly involving Reed in August and September that are pending in multiple states, including the theft of $46,000 in tools from a Kenosha water utility department, theft of $100,000 in construction equipment from a business in north suburban Hoffman Estates and an armed robbery and attempted armed robbery of two women in Hammond.
Milan argued that Reed poses a danger to the public and that he shouldn’t be allowed to “run roughshod” over the community after his original sentence commutation.
“How does Mr. Reed thank the governor and the state of Illinois? He does so by committing this three-state crime spree,” Milan said.
In response, Reed’s attorney Elliot Zinger said it makes “absolutely no sense” to issue another warrant for Reed and set a bond in the double murder case when he is already in custody on the new allegations.
Regarding the bond issue, Zinger said he can’t speak to the evidence in the other allegations Reed is facing, but noted that high bail amounts in those cases would likely mean Reed remains incarcerated.
“That doesn’t change the status of this case,” Zinger said of the double murder the special prosecutor is handling. “The governor commuted his sentence indicating there can be no further jail time in this case.”