Exclusive — ‘Most Dangerous Governor in America’: Lawmakers Demand Answers on Illinois Governor’s Prisoner Review Board Release Scheme Endangers State

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker responds to a question after announcing that three more people have died in the state from from Covid-19 virus, two Illinois residents and one woman visiting from Florida, during a news conference Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

For two years, Illinois Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker has bypassed the appointee process for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (PRB) to fill it with his hand-picked appointees.

One of the newest board members is a man convicted of a double homicide. During this timeframe, Pritzker’s PRB has released several prisoners–many of whom are now fugitives after violating the terms of their release. Republicans in the state legislature are demanding answers and accountability.

Technically speaking, after a governor nominates someone to a PRB position in Illinois, it kicks off a 60-day confirmation clock. But what Pritzker keeps doing to circumvent normal procedure is appointing people, then withdrawing their nominations before the state can vote on them, then reappointing the same people, which resets the 60-day clock. Illinois Senate Republicans are calling for a committee hearing to hold the Board accountable.

State Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) calls it the “Springfield shuffle.”

“Democrat legislators could force these people to come to the committee,” Plummer told Breitbart News. “They could force a vote on the floor. They refuse to do that because they’re more concerned about offending JB Pritzker than they are about the safety of their community.”

The Illinois Constitution states: “Any nomination not acted upon by the Senate within 60 session days after the receipt thereof shall be deemed to have received the advice and consent of the Senate.”

State Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield) told Breitbart News that the state Senate is “not going to be willing to vote for these people.” McClure said he suspects Illinois Democrat Senators think that “if you want to reappoint them, fine. But if it gets to the 60-day mark, we’re going to vote on them and they’re going to get rejected.”

Clemency grants under Pritzker have skyrocketed compared to his GOP predecessor. Under former Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), 6.5 people on average each year were paroled through the PRB. To date under Pritzker, that rate more than doubled to 15.4.

Releases under Pritzker also dramatically increased in the leadup to and during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. In 2019 alone, 22,006 people were admitted into the Illinois Department of Corrections system and 23,662 were released. In 2020, while 11,635 were admitted, 20,614 were released. This includes PRB releases and general Illinois parole releases.

The PRB currently consists of 14 members. Seven of them are Pritzker appointees.

Four of Pritzker’s appointees have served, unconfirmed, since Spring 2019: Arthur Mae Perkins, Joseph Ruggiero, Oreal James, and Eleanor Wilson.

Board Members Include Convict and Victim 

Max Cerda was nominated by Pritzker for the Prisoner Review Board in March 2021. Cerda was involved in gang activity as a teenager and convicted of a double homicide and attempted murder when he was 16 in 1979. He claims he was attempting to avenge a friend’s death. Cerda was paroled in 1998 and founded BUILD, to “engage at-risk youth in schools and on the streets to help them realize their potential and contribute to our communities.”

Victim Lisa Daniels was appointed by Rauner. Daniels’ son, Darren B. Easterling was killed at 25 in a drug deal gone bad.

Daniels created the “Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices to redefine Darren’s legacy and the legacies of so many young men who live and die like him every day.” She said the center focuses on “restorative justice” and “Like each and every one of us, Darren was a flawed human being, created in God’s perfect image.”

To be paroled by the Board, an inmate must petition for clemency. Once the petition is complete, the Board will hear the petitioner at their next quarterly meeting and the Board then makes recommendations to the governor.

“The prisoner review board needs to review each and every case individually on its own merits. My problem is… they’re intentionally manipulating the system by putting extremists on the prisoner review board, including a double murderer, and then hiding those people and their decisions from not just the people of Illinois, but from the state Senate of Illinois. My job is to make sure that we have a legitimate process in place so that those hearings can be held,” said Plummer. “We do not have a legitimate process in place. We have an illegitimate process, of being manipulated, and endangering our communities, our families, and our law enforcement personnel.”

Pritzker’s Problematic Prisoner Releases

“You’re talking about a guy who doesn’t follow good public policy,” Plummer observed. “His politics are far left.”

In February, two cop-killers were paroled by Pritzker after receiving recommendations from the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, Johnny Veal, 68, and Joseph Hurst, 77.

Hurst shot two Chicago Police Officers and killed one, Eugene Ervin and Herman Stallworth, respectively, during a traffic stop in 1967. He said he regrets his actions and converted to Islam while in prison.

In a pre-meditated gang attack, Veal killed two Chicago Police officers who were visiting his area in a “‘walk and talk’ community outreach program” in 1972. Veal sat in a high-rise housing project and used a rifle to kill Sgt. James Severin and Officer Anthony Rizzato as they crossed a nearby baseball field. Veal claims he is innocent, despite significant evidence against him.

Pritzker’s PRB is so radical he has even turned off hard leftist prosecutors.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx supported Hurst’s parole but objected to Veal’s. She told the Chicago Sun-Times that while Veal was incarcerated he also plead guilty to a weapons charge. Foxx called Veal’s killings a “cold-blooded execution” that he later bragged about.

The Sun-Times reported that because of Veal’s parole, Fox said, “she’ll no longer make recommendations to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board on parole.”

Foxx is one of many local prosecutors nationwide backed by leftist billionaire George Soros in recent years in her campaign.

McClure, a former prosecutor himself before his election to the state Seante, said he also opposes Veal’s parole. “I disagree with [Kim Foxx] basically on just about everything… So anytime Kim Foxx and myself are on the same page about something, something is definitely wrong.”

Kim Foxx gained notoriety in 2019 for her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, when the Empire actor allegedly staged a hate hoax.

“I think it speaks volumes,” Plummer said, “when Kim Foxx, who is one of the worst prosecutors in the country, who is a far-left idealogue, even says that the Prisoner Review Board in Illinois is such a mess, that she is not going to afford recommendations to them. I mean, they are more extreme than Kim Foxx.”

Those examples of PRB prisoner releases are hardly the only ones receiving scrutiny.

Chester Weger was paroled by the PRB in November 2019. He was convicted of murdering one of three women who were found brutally killed during a camping trip at Starved Rock State Park in 1961.

In a crime spree in 1977, Salik Abdullah (formerly Theodore Parsons) murdered two teenagers in Champaign County to steal their car to commit a robbery. He then shot and paralyzed a gas station employee. He was sentenced to 500 to 1000 years and was paroled in March of this year.

“Pritzker ran as a moderate business-minded Democrat,” said McClure. Now, “he’s one of the most progressive governors, if not the most progressive.”

McClure and Plummer told Breitbart News for each of these above reasons they call Pritzker the “most dangerous governor in America.”

Several Prisoners Pritzker Released Are Now Fugitives

Ray Larson murdered a child in 1972, when he was 27, and previously he was convicted of rape and burglary. Larson was paroled by the Prison Review Board on May 13, 2021. Days later, he was listed by the Illinois Department of Corrections website as an “absconder” after he failed to check into his parole officer. He was arrested on May 28 and the 76-year-old is eligible for parole again in 89 years.

In general, the Illinois Department of Corrections has a history of issues with absconding parolees.

For example, Alfred Miles was charged with murder in 1986, then aggravated battery while he was in prison. He is currently listed as an “absconder” after failing to comply with his parole.

In 2018, Shannon Smith was on parole for robbery when he allegedly shot four people, including his sister who he killed. There is still a warrant out for his arrest.

Fernando Palimino was paroled in 2007 after firing a gun at police officers. On New Year’s Day 2008, he absconded when he became the primary suspect in three homicides.

“We have recent examples of people that get released that are older, that commit crimes,” McClure said.

In April of this year, Breitbart News reported: “A murderer who was paroled following decades behind bars has reportedly been accused of killing another individual in Los Angeles after his release.”

 “Did any of these people have any compassion for these victims?” McClure asked. “If this had been their family member for them, I think they’d have a different perspective. They cannot put themselves in the victim’s shoes and they’re only concerned about what it’s like to be the prisoner, who’s a murderer, who’s in rapist. It’s absolutely backwards and insane.”

Plummer said Pritzker himself, as well as Democrats in the legislature, are to blame for all of this. “When it comes to JB Pritzker and the Democrat legislature in Illinois, victims of crimes are the very last in line,” Plummer said. “Instead of looking out for their communities, instead of looking out for their constituents, they are acting as sock puppets for J.B. Pritzker, because his checkbook is more important to them than the safety of their constituents.”

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board did not respond to Breitbart News after several requests for comment.

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