Sex assault victim: ‘What happened . . . was completely preventable’
BY FRANK MAIN AND RUMMANA HUSSAIN Staff Reporters December 3, 2011 1:19AM
St. Leonard's House, 2100 and 2110 W. Warren Blvd., Thursday, December 1, 2011. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.
Updated: January 5, 2012 8:21AM
She was like any young commuter.
The 23-year-old brunette put in a hard day of work, met friends for dinner and headed to her new apartment in Bucktown.
But when she got to her door, paroled sex offender Julius Anderson allegedly forced her inside and sexually assaulted her.
She and two other of his alleged victims now say the state prison system and a Near West Side transitional housing facility where Anderson spent time failed to properly monitor him or other parolees who lived there. If they had, the attacks would have never happened, the women believe.
Anderson was paroled to St. Leonard’s House in June 2009. But he walked away without permission in August 2009 and, according to Cook County prosecutors, sexually assaulted the Bucktown woman and two others before he was caught the next month.
More than 150 other parolees — including three murderers — also left St. Leonard’s House without permission between 2000 and 2010, according to records obtained by the Sun-Times.
Anderson was among eight parolees who were charged with committing new crimes while they were on the lam from the halfway house, including a man convicted of aggravated battery for punching his girlfriend and hitting her with a lamp, the records show.
The Bucktown woman said she has been living in fear since she was attacked.
She no longer goes out alone at night.
She won’t let males walk behind her, including her boyfriend’s younger brothers.
She pauses to let men pass her on the sidewalk.
And she checks in with a friend every time she walks her dog, providing her exact route in case something goes wrong.
“I don’t ever want to meet anybody because I don’t really feel safe with people anymore,” the woman said. “This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. What happened to me and these other girls was completely preventable.”
Halfway house sued
The Bucktown woman and the two other women have filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against St. Leonard’s Ministries and the psychologists whose evaluation led to Anderson’s parole.
St. Leonard’s Ministries, a non-profit organization founded in 1954, operates St. Leonard’s House, a transitional housing facility commonly known as a halfway house.
The 40-bed halfway house is in the 2100 block of West Warren near the United Center.
According to its website, St. Leonard’s House was opened by a pair of priests from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. While the Episcopal Diocese and Episcopal Charities and Community Services “have consistently provided support,” the effort operates on federal, state and local money.
The organization has received more than $3 million in city contracts and $5 million in state contracts since 2005 and counts two aldermen, a state representative and a congressmen among its honorary board of directors.
Parolees are sent to St. Leonard’s for programs that most other host sites for parolees don’t offer, said Sharyn Elman, an Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman. The parolees have the freedom to hold jobs, go to religious services and move around the community during the day, Elman said, but must return to the halfway house at night unless they have special permission.
According to St. Leonard’s website, 20 percent of the parolees who participate in those programs wind up committing new crimes, compared with an average of 50 percent of parolees statewide.
Despite those results, the women Anderson allegedly attacked believe the agency didn’t do enough to protect the public from him.
St. Leonard’s House didn’t post a security guard to monitor paroled sex offenders 24 hours a day as it was required to do, the lawsuit said. It also allegedly failed to notify the Chicago Police Departments and local residents that Anderson left the halfway house.
But St. Leonard’s Ministries responded in legal papers that it was only required to maintain a sign-in/sign-out sheet for parolees.
“Residents at St. Leonard’s House could leave at any time subject to the consequences imposed by the Illinois Department of Corrections,” the agency said.
The plaintiffs are trying to make St. Leonard’s Ministries “sound like a private prison company instead of a religious ministry and to make St. Leonard’s House sound like a high-security prison instead of a community-based halfway house,” the agency said.
St. Leonard’s stopped accepting paroled sex offenders after Anderson was arrested in the 2009 attacks, but continues to house other types of parolees.
Psychologists’ actions questioned
The lawsuit also names Affiliated Psychologists and two of its psychologists as defendants. Under a state contract, the firm evaluated Anderson in 2006 to see whether he was fit for parole.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez had urged the state to commit Anderson to a secured mental health facility indefinitely after he completed his prison term in 2009, as Illinois law allows for habitual sex offenders.
But Affiliated Psychologists recommended parole for Anderson. The lawsuit said Affiliated Psychologists failed to take Anderson’s criminal and mental history into proper consideration.
The firm also failed to conduct a second evaluation in the months before Anderson was released in 2009, despite renewed concerns voiced by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
“Without any training as a psychiatrist or psychologist, I think it’s still pretty safe to say that [Anderson] is not someone who’s ever going to be OK to walk around other people, with families and children,” the Bucktown woman said.
In court papers, Affiliated Psychologists said it doesn’t have a duty to protect others from the criminal acts of a third person such as Anderson. The firm also said it’s entitled to immunity as an “arm of the court.”
Anderson is now committed to a state-run mental health institution in downstate Rushville as a sexually dangerous person — as Madigan and Alvarez had originally sought.
Officials for St. Leonard’s House and Affiliated Psychologists declined comment, citing the lawsuit.
A life behind bars
Anderson, 61, has spent most of his adult life behind bars.
He was first convicted of rape in 1973 and got out of prison in 1977.
Two months later, he went on a “psychotic rampage,” raping women in Evanston and Rogers Park and holding up two Northwestern University students in their Evanston dorm — stealing 95 cents from them at gunpoint, prosecutors said. He was convicted and sent to prison for those attacks.
Later, he bashed a correctional officer in the head with a pipe during a failed escape.
Anderson was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, records show. He also racked up nearly 100 disciplinary violations in prison before he was paroled on June 26, 2009. The state selected St. Leonard’s House as his parole “host site,” but he didn’t stay long. On Aug. 7, 2009, six weeks after arriving, Anderson asked state parole officials for permission to leave and was denied, records show. He removed an electronic monitoring bracelet and left without permission, records show.
The same day, the Department of Corrections issued a warrant for his arrest after an electronic monitoring system alerted parole officials he was “out of range” and no one at St. Leonard’s House could confirm he was there, state records show.
But the Department of Corrections didn’t assign a special agent to search for Anderson until Aug. 19, according to the lawsuit.
By that time, Anderson had sexually assaulted two more women on the North Side, prosecutors said.
“These attacks could have happened to [anybody’s] sister, best friend or daughter. There was a complete lack of oversight in monitoring and no accountability here,” said attorney Martin Dolan, whose firm Dolan Law represents the victims.
Elman, the corrections spokeswoman, declined to comment on the alleged 12-day delay in launching a manhunt for Anderson, citing the pending lawsuit. Anderson’s parole agent is named as a defendant in the case — as is Anderson.
On Aug. 15, Anderson allegedly put a knife to the throat of a 25-year-old woman after she got out of a cab in Lake View. Anderson dragged her into an alley, told her “I will kill you” and performed oral sex on her, prosecutors said.
Three days later, Anderson allegedly followed the Bucktown woman for a block and a half from her CTA Blue Line stop. She was listening to music on her headphones and didn’t know she was being watched, officials said. As she turned the key to her apartment, Anderson allegedly stood behind her brandishing a knife or a piece of metal and forced her inside.
“First, he tied my hands behind my back with a cord that he had conveniently brought with him,” she told the Sun-Times.
“Over the course of the next several hours, he would tie a plethora of different things around my neck and then would ultimately tie my feet to the bed, face-down, where over the next three hours he proceeded to sexually assault me.”
Anderson said he hadn’t been with a woman in 32 years and had strong sexual urges, according to detectives.
On Sept. 1, 2009, Anderson committed another sexual assault after he followed a 28-year-old woman from the Red Line’s North and Clybourn stop, prosecutors said.
Armed with a knife, he forced his way in to her boyfriend’s apartment in Lincoln Park, prosecutors said, bound her wrists with electrical tape and attacked her. He told the woman he suffered from hepatitis C and wanted to have sex before he died, authorities said.
Anderson was arrested later that day after the police tracked him with a cell phone he allegedly stole from the victim that day. When he was arrested, Anderson was wearing a jacket belonging to one of his victims, authorities said. Records show he had tried on the clothing of one of his victims during one of the sexual attacks in 1977.
The charges against him in all three 2009 incidents are pending in court.
An uneasy neighbor
Veronica Zepeda, who lives near St. Leonard’s House, said she is always on alert for parolees from the halfway house who roam her neighborhood during the day.
She said a female friend was approached by Anderson, who stopped to chat with her a few weeks before he was arrested in the sex attacks. Her friend’s dog barked at Anderson, and he left, Zepeda said.
She said her friend was shocked when she saw Anderson’s mug shot on TV in connection with the 2009 sexual assaults.
After Anderson was arrested, Zepeda and other neighborhood residents asked the board of directors of St. Leonard’s Ministries to stop accepting sex offenders.
Zepeda said neighbors were upset that St. Leonard’s failed to notify them or the local police district that sex offenders lived there.
“For women and children, they are a little safer now because they stopped taking sex offenders,” she said. “We, in the community, believe you cannot really change them.”
Zepeda said residents have also successfully lobbied Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) to keep St. Leonard’s from expanding in the neighborhood. Fioretti is among the politicians who sit on St. Leonard’s Ministries’ honorary board. He didn’t return a call seeking comment.
“We’re not trying to shut them down,” Zepeda said. “We understand what they are trying to do. But we don’t want this place to grow. We believe it has a negative impact on our neighborhood.”
Contributing: Dan Rozek