CHICAGO — A second Cook County Jail detainee has died of coronavirus, according to the Medical Examiner’s office.
Leslie Pieroni, 51, of the 1700 block of West Estes Avenue, was pronounced dead at 5:53 p.m. Thursday at St. Anthony’s Hospital, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. Pieroni had been hospitalized since April 3 after he tested positive for coronavirus, the sheriff’s office said.
Pieroni was booked on Dec. 23, 2018, when a judge ordered he be held without bond for allegedly sexually assaulting a boy in November 2018, according to WGN. Pieroni had previous convictions for sexually assaulting children.
Another detained man — 59-year-old Jeffery Pendleton — died Sunday from coronavirus. His family sued the county and Sheriff Tom Dart Thursday.
The jail is one of the biggest coronavirus clusters in the country. As of Thursday night, 276 detained people and 172 sheriff’s office staffers have tested positive for coronavirus for a total of 448 cases at the jail, according to Sophia Ansari, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
Over the last month, the Chicago Community Bond Fund has called on the courts, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to take swift action to release all detainees eligible for bond, as well as older adults and those with underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable to coronavirus.
The bond fund and more than 100 law groups, civil rights organizations, justice reform advocates and former Cook County Jail warden Nneka Jones Tapia have demanded broad release of detainees, fearing the virus would spread rapidly through the jail.
Sheriff Dart’s office has worked with the courts, the state’s attorney’s office and the public defender’s office to expedite bond hearings and hasten the release of eligible detainees as coronavirus spread at the jail.
But “the pace of release has been too slow to effectively mitigate the spread of this disease,” said Sharlyn Grace, executive director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund.
On Thursday, a federal judge denied a motion seeking the mass release of people detained at Cook County Jail.
While U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelley dismissed a motion for release, he granted a motion hold the sheriff’s office to higher safety and sanitation standards. The sheriff’s office will be required to provide soap to all detainees and offer rapid testing to people in custody showing symptoms. All detainees in quarantine must be provided personal protective equipment and strict social distancing guidelines must be practiced during the intake process, according to the judge’s ruling.
“It’s an important first step in protecting the rights of the detainees,” said Alexa Van Brunt, director of the MacArthur Justice Center’s legal clinic at Northwestern University. “This isn’t likely the end to the litigation. We’re evaluating next steps.”
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