A grown woman enticing a 14-year-old high school student into having sex with her is certainly a terrible thing. In fact, in Illinois, it is a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison, even though you could still get off with probation.
It’s impossible to quantify such an iniquity, to measure it in hard figures. Unless, of course, you’re a judge. They do it all the time. Judge Theodore Jarz, in fact, did something like it for 50-year-old Dayna Chidester a few days ago.
Chidester was in jail and facing charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, indecent solicitation and grooming. The allegations involved Chidester, who up until recently was a teacher at Reed-Custer High School, enticing a 14-year-old boy into having sex with her, a prosecutor said.
The prosecutor, Jeffrey Brown, asked Judge Jarz to set Chidester's bond at $2 million. That’s the same amount another Will County judge, Bennett Braun, set for a different teacher who was in jail.
This was a few months ago and the teacher, Michael Kazecki, formerly of Washington Junior High School, was charged with beating his wife to death.
For Kazecki, a prosecutor asked the judge to set a $5 million bond. Judge Braun had other ideas. He decided to go with $2 million, which seemed pretty high. At least until Kazecki posted the $200,000 to get out.
Braun was up for election a couple months after Kazecki was released on the bond he set at $3 million lower than what prosecutors had asked for, and he lost. Whether the decision to go with the lower bond had any bearing on the election or not, it probably didn’t help.
And that’s unfortunate, because the $2 million bond seems to be doing just what it was meant to do, which is ensure Kazecki’s appearance in court.
While it might be impossible to compare a woman charged with enticing a teenager into having sex with her to a man charged with beating his wife to death, unless you’re a judge, you can’t think it’s anywhere close to half as bad. But there’s Chidester’s $1 million bond, exactly half what they set for the man charged with killing his wife.
Herald-News reporter Felix Sarver asked Carole Cheney, the spokeswoman for State’s Attorney James Glasgow, why the prosecutor asked Jarz to set a $2 million bond for Chidester. Sarver reported that Cheney told him the reasons were “stated in open court,” which sounds like something to say when you don’t have a good answer.
Sarver, incidentally, attended Chidester’s bond hearing. He reported the reasons stated in open court were that Chidester was a teacher who had contact with and authority over minors, and the extent of the police investigation into her alleged crimes.
Chidester is no longer a teacher. Even if she was, it has nothing to do with whether she might skip town or neglect to show up for court. Neither does the extent of the police investigation into her alleged crimes.
Judge Jarz weighed in as well. He pointed out that Chidester may not be much of a flight risk, but noted he was "very concerned about the risk to the community," which was comforting. It’s good to know someone has the welfare of the community in mind and is willing to put a staggering bond on a 50-year-old teacher who may have lured a teenager into having sex with her to protect it.
Jarz must have been a little less concerned about the community a few years ago, when a reputed gangster with a star tattooed on his face appeared before him. That guy, Antonio Luna, was accused of shooting man in the head at a Meeker Avenue bar. Jarz set his bond half as high as the one he gave Chidester.
Luna faced a dozen charges, including attempted murder, but still got a bond of just $500,000. Not that he ever came up with the money to get out before he was sentenced to prison. The judge could have set the bond at $500 million for all the difference it would have made to Luna.
And he should have set it that high, in the interest of looking stern. And concern for the community.
• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at email@example.com or on Twitter @JoeHosey.