Confusion ensues at courthouse after cellphone lockers removed

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Tuesday marked the second day that courthouse visitors did not have the option to put their smartphone into a public storage locker. (WLS)

Many visitors to the Cook County courthouse in Chicago missed their court appearance on Tuesday simply because they had nowhere to store their smartphone.

Tuesday marked the second day that courthouse visitors did not have the option to put their smartphone into a public storage locker. The lockers were removed Friday.

"It don't make no sense," said Antwaine Macklin. "I'm here, then we don't show up and they want to issue a warrant."

So far, three people have had warrants issued for their arrest since the lockers have been removed, according to the Public Defender's Office.

"We're locking up people who are actually trying to come to their court dates," said Brandy Brixy, deputy chief of the felony trial division with Public Defender's office.

A cellphone ban is not new to the criminal courthouse at 26th and California in the Little Village neighborhood. The Cook County chief judge issued the order three years ago to protect jurors and witnesses from being photographed.

But this week, even witnesses have had trouble getting into the building.

Cook County sheriff deputies have been busy in the lobby sending runners up to judges to help people get continuances or special orders to bring their cellphones.

"Wherever the fault lies, we just want this fixed because what we're seeing today and yesterday and what will be the case for the foreseeable future is chaos, confusion and some injustice, unfortunately," said Ben Breit, a spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff's Office.



The county removed the lockers over the weekend.

County officials said that in the past, building management staff saw people putting guns and drugs in the lockers and they are not trained in security or law enforcement.

The county sent notice to the court in February that the lockers would be removed.

Meanwhile, the chief judge's office believes the county has options.

"There's options that could be considered in which a private company could come in and run it at no cost to the county," said Pat Milhizer, a spokesperson for the chief judge.
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