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Chicago judge released accused rapist on $500 bail due to COVID. Now he’s missing.

Rene Chandler, 31, is accused of sexual assault and robbery in Chicago. Judge Thomas Hennelly just released him on $500 bail after ruling that he was at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to his precondition of asthma. After Judge Michael McHale heard more evidence in the cases against the accused, Chandler was ordered back into custody. He disappeared after he was released and remains at large.

In one case, Chandler invited a 26-year-old woman to a condo and then propositioned her, prosecutors said. When the woman started to walk out, Chandler allegedly grabbed her from behind, threw her on the couch, and sexually assaulted her. She reported the incident a short time later.

During that investigation, police learned that Chandler was a person of interest in another sexual assault case reported in Streeterville earlier that year.

That alleged attack involved a 22-year-old woman who told police Chandler invited her to a high-rise party via social media. When Chandler tried to rape her, she began “kicking and screaming and managed to knee [him] in the face,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

Chandler “became very angry and slapped [her face]” after she kicked him, according to allegations. When she tried to leave, he grabbed her by her wig, threw her to the ground, kicked and punched her, and sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said.

Afterward, he followed the woman onto the elevator and continued to batter her as they rode down to lobby level. The woman flagged down the police outside, but Chandler was no longer at the scene. Cops later arrested him.

A judge set Chandler’s bail on the attacks at $100,000 each, and he posted $20,000 to get out of jail on electronic monitoring.

A few months after Chandler was released on bail, another woman accused him of battering and robbing her as they rode in an Uber near Hyde Park.

The woman, 26, met Chandler through social media and had been dating him for a short time when they got into an argument in the Uber. When the driver pulled over because the argument was escalating, Chandler allegedly struck the woman in her face and took her new phone along with $640 cash from her purse, prosecutors said. According to the state’s allegations, he ran from the car and fled in a taxi cab.

A judge ordered him held without bail for violating the terms of bail in the sexual assault cases and set bail in the robbery matter at $80,000, court records show.

His attorney took advantage of the pandemic and petitioned to have Chandler released. Cook County Judge Thomas Hennelly backtracked on Chandler’s no-bail status on April 9th.

“He is absolutely not a flight risk,” Chandler’s defense attorney wrote in the bail reduction request.

The Cook County judge then proceeded to slash his bail bond to $500 as authorities swept thousands of detainees out of jail when the pandemic arrived this spring.

The state’s attorney’s office admitted that its lawyers did not tell Judge Hennelly the facts of the sexual assault cases. And, prosecutors said, Chandler’s alleged victims weren’t even notified of the bond reduction hearing.

The state also revealed that Chandler was accused in 2013 of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman he met online. But a judge later dismissed the case finding no probable cause.

After the bond reduction hearing, prosecutors leveled accusations at Chandler for discussing paying off an alleged victim to prevent her from testifying against him, and then they presented additional evidence in the sexual assault case in an attempt to have his no-bail status reinstated.

This alleged attempt at a pay-off occurred during a call in March that “details one of his cases and also discusses a previous attempt to tamper with a victim and pay her a sum of money to alter her story,” attorneys for the state said.

Following this introduction of new evidence, Judge Michael McHale ordered Chandler to return to jail and to be held without bail after hearing the evidence during a Zoom proceeding that was conducted due to the pandemic.

A warrant has been issued for Chandler’s arrest but he has not been taken into custody.

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