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The Cook County State’s Attorney will not prosecute the child who allegedly tied three nooses in a tree outside of Haven Middle School in Evanston on Friday, May 13, according to the Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge’s Director of Communications Mary Wisniewski.

Haven Middle School, where a student allegedly tied three nooses in a tree on May 13. Credit: Adina Keeling

Instead, the child – a student at Haven – had their case “diverted” out of court, which means the case will not go to trial, and there will be no further court proceedings involving the child.

The District 65 investigation remains ongoing, according to Executive Director of Communications Melissa Messinger. 

“Our District was fully cooperative in the investigation conducted by law enforcement personnel and we must trust that the process was handled with diligence and care to ensure justice is served,” Messinger told the RoundTable in an email. “Our district investigation remains ongoing. Given student privacy laws, we are unable to share any updates beyond this.”

The court appointed a probation officer to the child, who will complete some type of diversion program, although which type, Wisniewski would not specify.

The RoundTable talked to several juvenile justice experts, who explained diversion typically involves community service, counseling or other experiences designed for restorative learning. 

After a law enforcement agency refers a juvenile case to the state’s attorney, the case can follow four potential paths. The state’s attorney can dismiss the case through a “no file,” divert it, defer prosecution or prosecute the case as would happen in an adult trial. Deferred prosecution is similar to diversion, but the State’s Attorney actually files the case, and the child has to appear before a judge, legal experts told the RoundTable.

The State’s Attorney’s office did not say what exactly the diversion program will be for this particular child, and State’s Attorney’s Chief Communications Officer Tandra Simonton declined to provide details because “the Juvenile Court Act prohibits the public release of information regarding juvenile matters unless ordered by the Court.”

According to Evanston Police Department Commander Ryan Glew, the case was “out of our hands” once the department referred the case to Cook County Juvenile Court and the Cook County State’s Attorney made the call to divert this case out of court. The vast majority of cases involving minors that EPD refers to Juvenile Court ultimately follow the diversion program path, Glew said. 

Last month, EPD announced the conclusion of its investigation into the incident, and it referred the Haven student to Juvenile Court “for the misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct,” an EPD press release from June 22 stated. At the time, EPD explained that by analyzing cell phone videos, surveillance camera footage and witness interviews, it found that the Haven student “was responsible for the nooses,” the press release stated.

However, EPD also said in the release the incident “would not be referred to Juvenile Court for a Hate Crime Offense because the actions and motive of the involved juvenile did not meet the legal, statutory elements of a hate crime.”

After EPD released the findings of its investigation and announced the referral to Juvenile Court, District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton sent a message to the community stating that “the District will move forward with its own internal investigation to determine the appropriate level of interventions, both disciplinary and restorative.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. It is really sad that a child would waste his precious time on earth engaging in such a hateful act. I realize he doesn’t realize it’s magnitude. So I ask all of the adults who have helped to shape his life, “Why are you so negligent?”

  2. The conclusion that the identified child (and the adults who aided and abetted him) will not go to trial is criminal in and of itself. He/she terrorized children in the school and members of the African American community. For centuries members of African American communities experienced hangings, were terrorized by whites who hung us for sport. So, to allow this child (who undoubtedly was assisted financialy and physically by an adult) is criminal in and of itself.