By Chuck Goudie and Ross Weidner, ABC 7 News
The family of 16-year-old Derrion Albert wants to know why one of the men convicted in his murder is now free. The 16-year-old Fenger High School honors student was on the way home from school when he was caught in the middle of a gang fight and killed in 2009.
The I-Team has been looking into the Cook County State’s Attorney decisions in the wake of the Jussie Smollett case and uncovered that the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx decided not to pursue a stiff prison sentence for one of the attackers shortly after she took office.
Cook County Prosecutors charged four teens involved in the gang melee that led to Albert’s death as adults. Three were convicted of murder at trial. One pleaded guilty. All are serving prison sentences.
But one teen – known then as “D.J.” – was 14 at the time. Prosecutors say he punched Albert and knocked him down, saying that he signed “his death certificate.”
Prosecutors decided to charge him as a juvenile in a special kind of case called an Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile prosecution or EJJ.
That means although “D.J.” was convicted as a juvenile – he was also sentenced to 30 years as an adult on the underlying offense of murder. However, that sentence would be stayed and not enforced unless he was convicted of a new felony after being released from juvenile custody. Click here and choose Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction for more on the EJJ process.
Albert’s family says then-Assistant State’s Attorney Kim Foxx decided to go the EJJ prosecution route and explained it to them.
“Kim Foxx kept telling us that was the best way to go, that way we have some kind of, the safety net,” said Anjanette Albert, Derrion’s mother. “That way if he got in trouble he goes back, that’s what it is.”
In 2015, 14-year-old “D.J.” was now 20 year old Dionte Johnson – out of juvenile prison – arrested and charged with felony Aggravated Fleeing after a Chicago police chase. Court records obtained by the I-Team show prosecutors filed notice that they were “seeking to revoke stay of his adult sentence.”
“They said that because he got in trouble now we were going to get the 30 years,” Anjanette Albert said.
Johnson was convicted of the felony on November 8 2016, Election Day. The same day that Foxx, who supervised the Albert case convictions, won the State’s Attorney’s race. Soon after, the Albert family says they were called to a meeting at the juvenile court building.
“They call us down there and tell us that the State’s Attorney decided to not pursue the motion,” said Norman Golliday, Derrion’s grandfather.
Anjanette Albert said they told them that, “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.”
Cook County prosecutors were no longer seeking to enforce the 30 year sentence. Instead, they’d ask a judge for probation.
“One of the gentlemen said that it was determined that he had been rehabilitated,” said Golliday. “My face almost fell off my head. I could not believe that the guy actually said that.”
Anjanette Albert said she repeatedly called Foxx’s office, but Foxx never called her back.
“I felt like she sat 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,” Albert told the I-Team.
The Albert family said they just want answers.
“I would just look her straight in her eye and ask her why? Why would she do that?” said Golliday
“I don’t have anything to say to Kim Foxx,” said Albert. She continued, “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.”
On Monday morning the I-Team asked State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to do an interview or give us a statement in response to our reporting. Late Tuesday, a spokesman for Foxx sent the following statement: “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.” The spokesman said they had no personal knowledge of the Albert family asking to meet with State’s Attorney Foxx.
Dionte Johnson and his attorney told the I-Team that they had no comment.
This article originally appeared in ABC 7 News.