A nasty divorce case has put a man behind bars for 18 months in Chicago’s Cook County Jail despite what he says is a clean criminal record.  

Thanks to a law first proposed by Illinois’ black lawmakers after the George Floyd protests of 2020, thousands of dangerous inmates are being released onto the streets of Chicago and other cities, while those subject to civil complaints are jailed like criminals. 

Such is the case of Illinois native Steve Fanady, 59, who has been rotting in a Cook County jail cell in solitary confinement for 18 months over an unresolved divorce settlement. 

“I’m terrified of dying in prison over a 14-year-old divorce case,” Fanady told the New York Post, adding of the amount he is ordered to pay: “I never had anywhere close to $10 million.”

A provision of the state’s 2023 Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act, or SAFE-T, effectively eliminates cash bail, allowing inmates who aren’t deemed flight risks to be released pretrial. The provision applies to those charged with violent crimes such as murder, rape, armed robbery, and aggravated assault.  

Take the recent example of Cook County’s liberal use of electronic monitoring for violent criminals. Bertell Johnson, a convicted felon awaiting trial for murder, was charged with additional felonies after investigators seized firearms from his residence, including an assault rifle and a handgun with an auto switch, along with ammunition and narcotics, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said in a Jan. 29 press release.

“Mr. Johnson was caught with multiple firearms, ammunition, and a drum magazine while on EM [electronic monitoring] for murder,” Dart said in the press release. “This was an unacceptable risk to the safety of the community, and perfectly illustrates why I have for years argued that individuals charged with violent crimes should not be placed on electronic monitoring.” 

The provision doesn’t apply to Fanady, however, since he is in the Cook County Jail on a civil complaint, not a criminal one. 

Chicago’s news media barely has reported on Fanady’s case, perhaps because he doesn’t fit into the Windy City’s protected class: violent criminals. 

The Daily Signal spoke with Fanady via Zoom to bring attention to his story and shed light on the harsh consequences of woke measures such as the SAFE-T Act. 

Fanady said that he is being held in jail on a Cook County judge’s June 2022 order that he pay $10 million or transfer 120,000 shares of stock to his ex-wife—or face years in jail for indirect civil contempt.

His ex-wife, who wrote the judgment of dissolution of marriage with her lawyers, allowed him to keep stocks he had in foreign bank accounts, Fanady said. But, he said, she spent the next 10 years pursuing his business partners’ stock, saying it was hers. After the court ruled against her, she went after Fanady.

The judge wanted him to prove he doesn’t have the stock any longer, but he can’t, Fanady said, because the record retention deadline on the foreign accounts passed and documents aren’t available.

The judge has yet to make another ruling, he said, making it almost impossible for him to get out of prison. 

What’s happening to him doesn’t happen in the America he once believed in, Fanady told The Daily Signal. Now he sees violent criminals released on electronic monitoring shortly after getting arrested.  

The Daily Signal asked Fanady’s attorney, Laura Grochocki, about her client’s situation.  

“The Illinois Supreme Court’s mandate of no-cash bail for criminal defendants and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s release of thousands of defendants with violent criminal histories onto electronic monitoring, juxtaposed with his opposition to electronic monitoring for a noncriminal detainee like Steve Fanady, exposes a troubling incongruity in our legal system,” Grochocki said in a written statement to The Daily Signal.  

“This discrepancy undermines trust in the system’s fairness and raises serious concerns about the protection of constitutional rights,” she said. “It’s imperative to address these disparities to ensure equal treatment and justice for all.” 

In the Zoom interview with The Daily Signal, Fanady said he has been mistreated while in custody and is suing the sheriff for abuse.  

Fanady said his cell is infested with rats and cockroaches. He said he hasn’t been able to shower or to get medical treatment for his physical and mental health. He sometimes isn’t allowed out of his cell at all, he said, even with other inmates during daylight.  

Jail officials consider Fanady to be at high risk for suicide, especially after his parents—Greek immigrants who fled persecution in Turkey for a better life in America—both died while their only son was in jail. 

So, Cook County releases violent criminals with electronic monitoring, but won’t release Fanady. The double standard in Chicago could not be more obvious, and it’s ruining lives. 

The results of woke policies like the SAFE-T Act are that everyday Americans are targeted while criminals, even violent ones, get a slap on the wrist. 

Steve Fanady deserves better. The people of Chicago deserve better. 

The background on Fanady’s divorce case in this commentary was modified Feb. 22 at the request of his attorney to reflect Fanady’s account more accurately, to specify chronology, and to correct a typographical error that misattributed some of his ex-wife’s actions to him.

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