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The judge, the madam and the babies she ‘bought’

Kimberly Miniea

Kimberly Miniea

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Updated: March 1, 2012 8:04AM



A notorious madam, convicted of running a brothel with her teenage daughter, goes to court next month, desperate to prove she’s fit to be the adoptive mom of two little girls.

Kimberly Miniea has fought to get the children back from foster care for more than two years, ever since police raided the west suburban home where her prostitutes charged $220 per trick.

She’s had some discreet help from a powerful family friend: retired Cook County Judge James M. Bailey.

Though Miniea’s many arrests have been widely reported, authorities never publicly acknowledged the 77-year-old former judge’s involvement in her case.

Now the Chicago Sun-Times has gained access to a sealed Juvenile Court record that allows the full story to finally be told.

Meet the ‘new girls’

The seven-inch thick file contains a lifetime of documents, secret videos and reports that Miniea’s attorneys didn’t want the public to see.

Bailey, who 51-year-old Miniea called her platonic “boyfriend,” was arrested in a raid on her brothel in 2009, according to the records. Quietly released without charge, Bailey wrote to the judge who was sentencing her for pandering, asking him to go easy. The sentencing judge says he never saw the letter, but Miniea got probation, even though she was already on probation for a prior pandering conviction.

Bailey, a repeated visitor of the brothel, was caught on tape by undercover vice cops as he was introduced to “two new girls” inside Miniea’s Berkeley home, according to the court papers.

He describes his relationship with the madam as entirely appropriate.

But Miniea boasted to undercover cops that she kept a VIP list of clients — a “who’s who of politics.” Thanks to Bailey and the others, she “doesn’t have problems with the police,” court records say Miniea told the undercover cops.

Perhaps the most disturbing detail revealed in court documents: Miniea said she’d used the cash from her illegal sex business to buy at least one of the two girls she adopted from a heroin addict who once worked for her.

When Miniea filed to take guardianship of the girls in 2008, it was Bailey who gave her legal advice.

In the letter he later wrote to the judge asking for leniency, Bailey described Miniea as “always an excellent parent.”

Within weeks, Juvenile Court Judge Richard Stevens is due to decide if she’ll ever get the girls back.

The ‘hanging judge’ and the madam

Bailey and Miniea both favor vanity plates on their SUVs: Bailey’s is “JMB”; Miniea has “MZ KIM.”

Beyond that, it’s hard to see what they have in common.

Bailey is the self-made son of Irish immigrants. During his 28 years on the bench he was known as a
“hanging judge.” He sentenced more defendants to death than any other jurist in the state.

Miniea’s grandfather owned a bank. She grew up on a private estate in River Forest with a housekeeper, a pool and tennis courts. She married an abusive drug dealer, worked as a model and got addicted to cocaine.

Bailey was known as the “Disposition King,” for the efficient way he administered his courtroom. He was trusted with some of the highest profile cases to pass through the Cook County Criminal Court.

Miniea learned the sex trade from a Gold Coast madam. She opened her own brothel in 1987.

Bailey has a son and a daughter who work as prosecutors for the Cook County State’s Attorney office. They have ambitions of following him onto the bench.

Miniea’s only biological daughter, Kim Petersen — known as “Kim Jr.”— made national headlines as a 17-year-old high school student when she was arrested for helping Miniea run her sex business in 2007.

Beyond his 2009 arrest at the brothel, Bailey has had no real run-ins with the law. For him, a legal problem meant having one of his cases reversed.

Miniea’s contact with the law includes arrests for driving under the influence and police taking her biological daughter into temporary protective custody when they found her home “in disarray, cat and dog defecation on the basement floor and a strong urine odor.”

Bailey retired from the bench in 1994 and has spent recent years in private practice.

Miniea has been fighting a series of vice probes since 2006, when police investigating a suspected arson at a Hillside apartment found lingerie, a black leather whip and condoms in a bedroom bureau. Miniea allegedly told police she rented the apartment to run an escort service to “entertain married men.” She beat the case.

‘I keep buying babies’

Their wildly contrasting lives first crossed paths when Bailey represented Miniea in “a few traffic violations,” more than 10 years ago, according to the letter Bailey later wrote to the judge sentencing Miniea.

But it was a routine traffic stop of a middle-aged man that set in motion a chain of events that eventually led to their joint arrest, revealing just how far their connection went beyond a typical attorney-client relationship.

When Hillside Police pulled over the driver on the afternoon of April 2, 2009, they found Miniea’s business card in his pocket and alleged Las Vegas call girl Vicki Ward in the passenger seat.

Ward, 26, gave her address as a home on the 5700 block of Hawthorne in nearby Berkeley: Miniea’s house. Ward had five white envelopes with her name and “$500” written on them.

The handwriting matched items seized from Miniea’s home in 2007; the number on the business card matched one on an escort website, “Jackie’s Girls.”

Detectives watched Miniea’s home and saw a series of men each stopping by for 45 minutes to an hour. Rummaging in her trash, they found a list of men’s phone numbers.

Undercover Cook County Sheriff’s vice officers were enlisted. Posing as wannabe working girls, two met Miniea at a downtown nightclub event she’d advertised on her website, the “Sexpo,” at Excalibur. Miniea told them she ran a “full-service” escort agency and asked them to call.

Wearing hidden recorders, they showed up at her home for an interview. They taped her as she discussed her 50 percent take of the $220 clients paid for sex, gave them a tour of the basement bedrooms and explained how she “doesn’t have problems with the police because she has lots of friends and her boyfriend is a judge,” according to a police report.

She allegedly boasted about her lavish lifestyle and said she’d used her illegal income to buy her oldest adopted child from a heroin addict who once worked for her.

“I paid for her to have [the little girl] for me,” she was taped saying. “I keep buying babies. ... I’m going to burn in hell for this.”

Bailey arrived minutes later with a toy for Miniea’s then 8-month-old adopted daughter.

“Miniea introduced him to the undercovers as Judge Bailey and explained that we were two new girls,” the vice cops wrote.

After Bailey left, Miniea told them that every Monday, the judge “goes golfing and returns to her house with all his golf buddies.”

Miniea’s many VIP clients included “three mayors, a city commissioner, a police chief, several senators and a priest,” she said on tape.

“She stopped herself by saying she probably shouldn’t be talking about that,” the report says.

Bailey arrested at brothel, not charged

Police executing a search warrant stormed into the brothel five days later on June 1, 2009. They weren’t surprised to find Bailey inside, again.

It was a Monday lunchtime, and the judge was enjoying a cup of coffee, Miniea later told her psychologist.

Arrested in that raid were Bailey; Miniea; Kim Jr., then 19; prostitute Casey Norder, 21; Kevin Schwartz, 30, of South Elgin; an elderly woman; a 40-year-old Chicago woman and Ward, the alleged Las Vegas call girl.

Police also seized a safe containing valuables and documents.

Word that a judge had been arrested spread quickly in the suburban holding cells, according to one of the arrestees. The excitement didn’t last long.

Schwartz was charged with soliciting a prostitute; Norder was charged with prostitution; Miniea and Kim Jr. were both charged with felony pandering. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took Miniea’s adopted kids away.

But Bailey and the other three arrestees were all released without charge.

Police Chief Joseph Lukaszek said only that four arrestees were freed because “at the time of the execution of the search warrant they were not in the process of committing any acts involving prostitution.” The police report from that night wasn’t in Miniea’s or Kim Jr.’s criminal court files when the Sun-Times examined them.

A year later, in August 2010, Miniea took a plea deal. Michael Goggin, a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney who prosecuted many cases in Judge Bailey’s courtroom, represented her.

Judge Kenneth Wadas sentenced Miniea to two year’s probation. Kim Jr.’s charges were bargained down to a misdemeanor. Police gave Miniea back her safe.

The case didn’t go to trial. Bailey’s arrest was kept out of the public record.

And a few weeks later, Miniea got the children back.

‘He’s like my soul mate’

Miniea was confident enough after her 2009 arrest with the judge to hand a court-appointed advocate for the children her escort agency business card.

“If you ever need a job, let me know,” Miniea joked, according to the Juvenile Court file.

When a court-appointed psychologist reviewed Miniea’s arrest history with her in 2010 after the plea deal, Miniea laughed and said, “It looks pretty bad, huh?” She boasted that CNN host Larry King had approached her and Kim Jr. for a story, the psychologist wrote in a report.

Bailey was her “platonic” boyfriend of seven years, Miniea said, according to the report.

She showed the psychologist a ring on her hand. Asked if they were engaged, she said, “No, he’s married. .... He’s like my soul mate.”

She emphatically denied Bailey was a former client. “Good God no!,” she said, according to the report.

Miniea also recanted her claim that she’d bought her older adopted daughter. The account she gave to undercover cops on tape was “bull----” she’d told them because “it made a more interesting story,” she said.

“What an ass I sounded on those tapes!,” she told the psychologist.

The psychologist concluded there was a “high risk” that Miniea would re-offend, a prediction that proved correct within a month of her getting the kids back.

It was secretly videotaped. Standing in her kitchen just a couple of yards from her then 7-year-old adopted daughter in December 2010, Miniea graphically described sex acts to yet another undercover vice cop posing as a wannabe prostitute.

Miniea used the n-word to describe a man who got one of her prostitutes pregnant, told the undercover cop that her prostitutes now operated out of two apartments in other suburbs and intimated that Bailey had helped her get off lightly in court.

She was charged with pandering, again. Social workers took her children away, again. And Miniea dodged jail time, again — this time after Bailey weighed in.

Bailey to judge: Miniea ‘excellent parent’

“Dear Judge Wadas,” Bailey wrote in a letter to the judge who was still handling Miniea’s criminal case. “Kimberly Miniea has requested me to write a letter of reference for her. ... I am happy to do this.”

“I have known her and her family for over ten years,” he wrote. “I ... represented her where she was granted guardianship of two young children. She was always an excellent parent to them.”

He put Miniea’s problems down to “drugs and alcohol” but said she had “overcome these problems” and was studying to become an addiction counselor as well as looking after her terminally ill mother.

“Having spent over 20 years on 26th Street as a judge, I know all too well that sentencing is the most difficult process that a judge has to do,” he wrote. “I truly believe that Kimberly would be an excellent candidate for an extension of probation.

“After talking in-depth to her, I have seen her over the past few months change and strive to become a credit to her (sic) and to society. I whole-heartedly believe she is finally on the right track.”

Wadas says he never saw the letter. It wasn’t read in open court at Miniea’s sentencing on June 28, 2011, and when the Sun-Times examined the criminal court file, it wasn’t there. But a copy was in the Juvenile Court record.

Miniea took another plea deal, which her attorney Goggin, prosecutors and Wadas had discussed off-the-record in Wadas’ chambers. Goggin says he didn’t show Wadas the letter during the conference. Prosecutors do recall Goggin showing Wadas “numerous letters” but don’t specifically remember if Bailey’s was among them, Cook County State’s Attorney spokesman Andy Conklin said.

The state recommended prison time. But Wadas merely extended Miniea’s probation, tacking on 240 hours of community service and an order that she stay in alcohol treatment.

“I have no recollection whatsoever” of that letter, Wadas said during a brief interview in his chambers last week. “If the defense attorneys had it, they didn’t show it to me.”

His voice rising, Wadas, who served with the Marines, added that Miniea “is on probation in my courtroom, and I have no comment.”

‘I just represented her’

Bailey didn’t have much to say about Miniea, either, when a Sun-Times reporter recently knocked on Bailey’s door in west suburban Westchester.

“I can’t talk about it, I represented her,” Bailey said on his doorstep. Told that his 2009 arrest at Miniea’s home is detailed in a Hillside Police report, he denied knowing that the home was a brothel, even though its seedy history had been widely reported in 2007.

“Hell no,” he said. “I didn’t know. I just represented her.”

Told that he was secretly recorded being introduced to “two new girls” inside the brothel, Bailey said he was “just bringing a toy” for the infant inside the home.

And told that Miniea was taped saying that she’d bought at least one of the babies he helped her adopt from a heroin addict, Bailey laughed.

“She didn’t buy those babies,” he said, declining to comment further.

Bailey was more forthcoming in a phone interview last week , admitting the arrest was “embarrassing” and that it was “possible” he’d “once” gone to Miniea’s home with friends after a game of golf.

Still, he maintained that his connection to Miniea was no more than a normal “attorney-client” relationship.

Miniea’s repeated claims that he is her boyfriend are “bull----,” he said. “I’m too old for that!,” he scoffed. He denied giving her a ring and said the toy he gave her child was “something I had lying around in the garage.”

Miniea has “low self-esteem, and she likes to brag that she knows people,” he said.

He wrote the letter to Wadas and gave it to Miniea’s attorney Michael Goggin, he said, because he’s seen how she’s made “real change in her life.”

Neither he nor Miniea got preferential treatment from law enforcement at any point, Bailey said, though he acknowledged he was a personal friend of “Tommy Dart” — the Cook County sheriff whose undercover vice cops taped him inside the brothel.

Dart was once the assistant state’s attorney in his courtroom, and he was friends with Dart’s father, Bailey said.

The sheriff and his department had “zero consideration and zero influence” in Hillside Police’s decision not to charge Bailey, Dart’s spokesman Frank Bilecki said.

The State’s Attorney’s office also had no role in the decision not to charge Bailey, Conklin said.

Hillside Police Chief Lukaszek agreed that nobody leaned on him.

“If they’d tried, I’d have called the FBI,” he said.

There was no evidence to back up Miniea’s claims of having a clientele of VIPs, he said.

‘My mom is my heart’

The bonds that bind a mother and her child are deep and unconditional, and the courts are loath to sever them.

“You will never believe how much I love my mom,” Miniea’s older adopted daughter, now a third-grader, scrawled in a heartbreaking note about Miniea that she decorated with hearts and flowers in felt pen. “My mom is my heart. I love my mom. She is the best. I think that she is beautiful. ... She really is the best mom in the world.”

The attorney representing Miniea in her attempts to win the children back, Michael McInerney, filed the note in Juvenile Court in July 2011.

If it was a nakedly emotional ploy, it was probably necessary.

The lenient treatment Miniea got in Judge Wadas’ criminal courtroom was no longer being extended by Juvenile Court Judge Stevens. Though Miniea continues to visit the girls in foster care, Stevens stripped her of her guardianship of the two little girls on Feb. 7, 2011.

Miniea, whose mother lost a long battle with cancer last Tuesday, wouldn’t comment for this article. But McInerney said that Miniea is “for all intents and purposes the mother of” the two girls. “The pandering is old news; there’s no evidence of that since her 2010 arrest,” he said.

Bailey “really has nothing to do with this case,” he said. “He can speak for himself.”

In May, the state filed to remove Miniea as a party to the case, signaling its intent to deny her any say in the children’s fate.

And in October, a Lutheran Children and Family Services therapist, contracted to provide services to Miniea and her children, wrote that Miniea’s “maintaining her prostitution business without the knowledge of the child welfare system” made her “untrustworthy.”

Perhaps more significantly, a court-appointed advocate for the children — who’d long advocated an eventual reunification of the family — also recommended that Miniea be removed as a party to the case.

On Feb. 29, Judge Stevens will hear testimony on Miniea’s motion to be restored as the adopted children’s guardian and on the state’s motion to permanently remove Miniea from their lives.

It’s the kind of difficult, melancholy and essential work that juvenile courts are used to dealing with in private. When the Sun-Times asked in December to view the court file that allowed this story to be told, Stevens had to look up the law.

Miniea’s attorney objected, saying it would damage Miniea’s relationship with the court-appointed psychologists, therapists and social workers. Miniea didn’t think that the public would ever read what she’d told them, he said.

Nobody else objected. Stevens and Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Patricia Martin opened the file

> ‘This is about two little girls’

The two little girls have a biological mom, a distant relation of Miniea’s.

The mother has a history of prostitution and drug arrests, just like Miniea said.

Until the court took the children from Miniea, the biological mother visited with them three times a year.

The biological mom says she never worked for Miniea. She raised an older daughter with the proceeds of her own escort business, she said.

She gave the young girls to Miniea at birth because, “Kim could give them a life that I couldn’t,” she told the Sun-Times. “They went to private schools. … They wanted for nothing.”

“I did not sell those babies,” she said.

The court should give the girls back to Miniea, she believes.

“Everybody makes mistakes,” the biological mother said. “Sometimes you have to fall hard to know what you’re doing right and wrong. This time Kim sees she can’t keep doing what she was doing.”

Miniea “lies a lot,” she conceded. But Bailey really is Miniea’s “boyfriend,” she said.

The judge gave Miniea a ring for Christmas, she said.

“So what?”

Miniea should get the children back, the biological mother said.

But Gary Schneider, the 29-year-old tipster who brought this story to the Sun-Times, strongly disagrees.

He’s made a series of wrong turns in his own life. But now he says he’s trying to do the right thing.

The girls’ biological mom is his real mom, too. She gave him up for adoption decades ago. He grew up in a nice home in Skokie, far away from the shameful things that the half-sisters he’s never met were surrounded by.

Still, he screwed up, all by himself.

When Schneider was 21, he was convicted of child pornography and statutory rape for making a sex tape with his 17-year-old girlfriend.

In 2008, he went to federal prison for playing a key role in a $5 million internet scam that ripped off 2,000 eBay users.

But this isn’t about him, or even his mom, Schneider says.

“This is about two little girls that should not be raised in that home,” he said. “It’s stomach-turning and repulsive that [Judge Bailey] would do anything to help that happen.”

Contact staff writer Kim Janssen at
kjanssen@suntimes.com



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