bruary 14, 2006 (CHICAGO) - Charges have been filed against a guard accused of helping six inmates escape from the Cook County Jail. The announcement came late Tuesday evening.
Thirty-six-year-old Darin Gater is an 11 year veteran with the Cook County Sheriff's office who served in the Marines. He apparently told investigators that his motive in this jailbreak was to influence the upcoming sheriff's election and to embarrass current sheriff Michael Sheahan. But one jail expert says there is little chance this elaborate scheme was carried out by one guard.
The 9-1-1 call came moments after the three remaining escapees sought refuge in a Cicero apartment Sunday night. By early Monday morning, all six had been captured.
Now the Cook County state's attorney office says this wasn't a case of a guard been overpowered in the jail, but a rogue guard acting illegally. Thirty-six-year-old Darin Gater of Chicago has been charged with aggravated arson for setting a diversionary fire, two counts of possession of contraband, a shank and a cell phone, escape, two counts of aggravated battery to a correctional officer and official misconduct.
Tuesday at Gater's South Side house, his fiance said from behind her closed door, Gater has hired an attorney and they will all have more to say Wednesday.
"It is very frustrating to us but we can't do anything. It's out of our hands," Gater's fiance said.
It has also been a frustrating time for Steve Calcaterra, who is with correctional officers union. He hasn't been able to speak to Gater at all.
"We believe the officers' rights are basically being trampled on and want desperately to serve these officers and let them have the rights they're afforded," said Steve Calcaterra, Metropolitan Alliance of Police.
Though Gater is the only one to be charged at the moment, jail expert Charlie Fasano, with the John Howard Association, says there is no way one guard could have done this on his own.
"You're talking about a number of barriers and a number of other officers who have to either be intimidated or complicit or something. So it's a very complex thing and it's not a one, two, three and we're out of the jail," said Fasano.
Union spokesman Steve Calcaterra said Tuesday that because Gater has been criminally charged, this case is out of their hands. But they continue to represent the other five officers who have been suspended with pay.
Gater will appear in bond court Wednesday at 1 p.m.
Six corrections officers have been suspended with pay while investigators continue trying to determine how six inmates escaped from the Cook County Jail over the weekend.
The Chicago Police Department received a tip about the jailbreak on Saturday afternoon, several hours before the inmates bolted. Police officials said the information was passed on to the sheriff's department, where proper procedure was followed by the person who answered the phone.
"If they look into it, they will look into it. But if someone wants to lie about someone they can get away with doing it here but don't do it to the FBI," said Richard Remus, (D) Sheriff Candidate.
"I want to ask for an independent investigation. I want the county board to convene a blue ribbon panel and investigate the escapes," said Richard Remus, (D) Sheriff candidate.
"I don't think a blue ribbon committee is necessary. I think there is enough confidence that the public can rely on Mr. Devine and US attorney's office," said Peter Garza, state's attorney.
A spokesman for the FBI said they will not investigate. "There's no jurisdiction for us to investigate and we're not investigating. It's a state facility and they're state prisoners," said Ross Rice, FBI.
The six inmates escaped during the weekend. The last three were captured in Cicero early Monday morning.
"We're very upset and are aggressively trying to get to the bottom of what caused it and if there's anything we can do to make sure it doesn't occur again, and we're shaking things up," said Dart.
There are reports the inmates had help from a jail guard who wanted to embarrass Sheriff Sheahan and his hand-picked successor, Tom Dart, on behalf of sheriff candidate Remus.
"Absolutely not. That's ridiculous. I wouldn't compromise public safety or an officer's future for political gain," said Remus.
"I think it's a dark sham scan. I know Remus and don't think he would stoop that low to jeopardize the citizens of Cook County," said Sylvester Baker.
Richard Remus, (D) Sheriff candidate.
Remus denies any ties to guard, jail break plot
Democratic candidate Richard Remus admits he knows the Cook County Jail guard who was involved in the recent jail break, but says he is not friends with the man. Remus said the guard does not work on his campaign.
Remus, a 48-year-old plummer, is one of 3 democratic candidates running for cook county sheriff. He said he would never stoop so low to have a jail guard help an inmate escape. "I think it's ludicrous. I think it's crazy," said Remus.
In 1990, Remus, who was discharged from the U.S. Army and resident of the 19th Ward, began to campaign for Michael Sheahan.
"The sheriff won the election in 1990..they offered mme a position with the vehicles," said Remus.
After six years working in various sheriff department jobs, Remus was promoted to the head of the jails Special Operations Response Team known as SORT. Remus was the boss to several correctional officers, chiefs, captains, lieutenants and sergeants. In 1999, Remus was accused of leading a mass beating of jail inmates. Jean MacLean Snyder represented one inmate who filed a lawsuit against Remus and Sheahan.
"A group of 40 SORT officers were led by Richard Remus and came in Division 9 in the security unit accompanied by some un-muzzled dogs and they went from tower to tower, cell to cell, pulling inmates out of their cells and beating them up," said MacLean Snyder. "The whole thing was fabricated and orchestrated by one inmate," said Remus.
MacLean Snyder says the investigation into the beatings was covered up until 2003 when the Chicago Tribune began looking into it and the federal government launched an investigation. Remus said that was when he was fired. He said his campaign for sheriff is not revenge against the Sheahan administration, but a campaign to clean up the jail.
The sheriff's office said Remus resigned voluntarily, and he has filed his own federal lawsuit against Sheriff Sheahan saying he was forced to resign. As for the investigation of the beatings, a grand jury reports officers did participate in the mass beatings but no one was criminally charged because the statute of limitation has run out.