State must release records about early release of prisoners to McHenry County, judge says

McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally makes an argument during court proceedings Friday, March 11, 2022, during the second day of Michael M. Penkava and Colin B. Scott’s trial before Judge Mark Gerhardt at the McHenry County Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center in Woodstock. Penkava and Scott are both elders in a Crystal Lake Jehovah's Witnesses congregation and are charged with misdemeanor failure to report the sexual abuse of a child.

David A. Soskin of Bull Valley was two years into his 10-year sentence on charges related to a multi-state drug trafficking ring when he was released from prison.

It was the latest in a series of releases that had McHenry County prosecutors wondering what was going on, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said.

Soskin, now 47, was required under the state’s truth-in-sentencing guidelines to serve five years of the 10-year sentence and received credit for almost a year’s stay in the McHenry County Jail.

The math didn’t add up.

The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office made “numerous unsuccessful, informal attempts” to obtain records related to the releases, according to a news release Friday. And after that was unsuccessful, it sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

“What is particularly concerning is it appears IDOC acted in bad faith in not complying with the FOIA and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office represented them,” Kenneally said, calling the decision to deny the FOIA request “strange to say the least and highly suspicious.”

IDOC said in its denial that state law prohibited the release of records “relevant to the secure confinement and rehabilitation of the committed person.”

The state’s attorney’s office argued that law did not apply because the people whose records were being requested no longer were incarcerated.

McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel on Thursday sided with the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office, ordering IDOC to provide the records to prosecutors by June 9 and pay a $2,500 civil penalty, according to the order.

“IDOC, under the current administration, seems committed to turning our prison system into a turnstile for dangerous criminals, regularly using every esoteric regulation at its disposal to lessen criminal sentences imposed by elected judges beyond any sense or reason, and then hiding the process by which this is all being done,” Kenneally said in the release Friday. “We look forward to finally reviewing IDOC’s ‘justifications’ for these early releases and exploring all available legal options thereafter.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which represented IDOC in the lawsuit, declined to comment Friday, citing pending litigation. The spokesperson did not follow up to an inquiry about whether the state plans to appeal as the case is closed in McHenry County.