SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Just weeks after a convicted burglar was freed under a secret Illinois early prison-release program last fall, his parole officer learned he was a suspect in a violent battery case.
Instead of being locked back up, however, Darrell Bracey was on the street for another 11 weeks — during which time he was accused of a second beating and became the suspect in the alleged sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, according to internal and public records obtained by The Associated Press.
Corrections Director Michael Randle, who resigned this month after coming under criticism for the secret release program known as "MGT Push," told the AP last spring that the sexual assault allegation was "horrible" and that he would investigate whether miscommunication inside the agency prevented agents from picking Bracey up sooner.
But now state officials refuse to say what they learned in the promised investigation or whether they have taken corrective steps.
The 23-year-old Bracey was freed Sept. 23, 2009 after serving one year of a three-year sentence for burglary, including 55 days in the state penitentiary.
He was one of 1,745 inmates — hundreds of them convicted of violent crimes — set free as part of MGT Push, a cost-saving measure first reported by the AP. It got its name from the accelerated "meritorious good time" granted to most inmates as soon as they arrived in prison, before they could show they qualified for good-conduct credit.
Gov. Pat Quinn reversed the policy Dec. 30. On Jan. 6, Corrections began checking on the parolees to ensure "intensive compliance" with parole rules.
More than 1,000 MGT Push parolees — or 58 percent — have gone back to prison after being accused of new crimes or other parole violations, according to records the AP collected and analyzed. Those violations included missing a daily check-in call and having empty beer cans in the house.
But Bracey continued to get a pass despite what appeared to be serious allegations against him, internal Corrections documents show.
Transferred last week from a jail cell to Stateville Prison in Joliet, Bracey is unavailable for an interview until he is assigned a permanent prison cell, Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said. The AP's attempts to reach his family were unsuccessful; telephone numbers for a woman the internal documents identify as Bracey's mother were disconnected.
Just nine weeks after his release last year, Naperville police told Corrections on Dec. 2 that Bracey was suspected in a Nov. 21 beating that cut open a man's head, requiring eight stitches. By that time, Bracey already had received two verbal reprimands for parole violations.
On Jan. 7, a day after Quinn announced "intensive compliance" of parolee violations, police told Bracey's parole officer that Bracey had "basically confessed" to the battery, documents show.
Summoned to a parole office Jan. 9, Bracey allegedly lied repeatedly about having been contacted by police in the battery investigation, a parole violation in itself. Instead of being detained and sent back to prison, he was given only a curfew.
If he had been picked up in December, he could have been back behind bars Jan. 4, the day he admittedly had sex with the 14-year-old girl, according to investigators. Naperville police investigated the incident as a criminal sexual assault, records show, but prosecutors have not filed charges because the victim's family is not cooperating, according to the Will County state's attorney's office.
Despite a Jan. 12 police warrant seeking his arrest for aggravated battery, Bracey still was free Jan. 17, when he was accused in the misdemeanor battery of a man in nearby DeKalb County, according to DeKalb County State's Attorney John Farrell.
When the AP asked Randle about Bracey last March, he said he would investigate.
"If that happened, that's a horrible thing," Randle said of the alleged sexual assault. "We need to better understand what was communicated to IDOC ... versus what our actions were within parole."
Prison spokeswoman Elman said in August the investigation is complete but that she could not comment on "disciplinary action taken because it is a personnel matter."
When pressed about what the review showed, Elman contended Corrections had not erred — parole officials had properly "deferred" to police, waiting on them to seek a warrant for Bracey's arrest, she said.
But even after a warrant was issued, Corrections waited 10 days to order Bracey picked up, during which time he was accused of the DeKalb County battery. By then, officials considered him "missing."
Kyle Rubeck, a senior assistant DuPage County public defender who represented Bracey in the Naperville aggravated battery case, said he was unfamiliar with Corrections' practices or Bracey's time on parole. But he questioned whether it was a good use of time and money to pick up a parolee for a crime when he's not been formally charged.
Under the "intensive compliance" policy, however, Corrections didn't need warrants for hundreds of other parole violators during the period.
Records analyzed by the AP show that from Jan. 6 to Jan. 22, parole agents picked up more than 200 MGT Push parolees for such infractions as leaving home without permission, admitting to smoking marijuana and cutting off an electronic detention monitoring bracelet.
Naperville police finally apprehended Bracey Feb. 19 on the aggravated battery charge. He has since pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and received a new, 2 1/2-year prison sentence.
Police say after his arrest, Bracey acknowledged having sex with the 14-year-old, although he claimed not to know she was underage, according to a police report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The girl told investigators Bracey knew she was a minor, and that she refused sex with Bracey and tried to push him away, the report said.