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'He is absolutely not a flight risk,' defense attorney argues before his client, accused rapist, disappears


Accused rapist and robber vanishes after judge reduces his bail to $500 because of COVID-19

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A Chicago man accused of robbery and sexual assault has gone missing after he was released on $500 bail by a judge who determined he was at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and reduced his bail bond to keep him out of jail during the pandemic.

CWB Chicago reported that Rene Chandler, 31, was awaiting trial on charges of sexually assaulting and battering two women he met on dating apps in 2018 when he allegedly assaulted and robbed a third woman in an Uber in April 2019. At the time of the third alleged assault, he was wearing an electronic monitor pending a trial on the first two charges. Chandler was arrested and initially ordered to be held without bail for violating the terms of his sexual assault case bonds.

However, in the spring Chandler's attorney filed an emergency motion to reduce his client's bond based on the higher health risk from COVID-19 imposed by Chandler's asthma condition.

"He is absolutely not a flight risk," the attorney wrote in his bail reduction request.

Judge Thomas Hennelly granted the defense attorney's request, imposing a $500 bail bond, according to court records reported by CWB Chicago.

After his release, Chandler disappeared.

Chandler is accused of committing assault and robbery while previously on bail awaiting trial for sexual assault charges.

In August 2018, Chandler was charged by prosecutors with sexually assaulting and battering two different women he met on dating apps. He was arrested for the assaults and the presiding judge set his bail at $100,000 for each alleged attack. He posted $20,000 to be released from jail with electronic monitoring.

A few months after he was released, while his trial for sexual assault was pending, a third woman accused Chandler of battering and robbing her as they rode in an Uber. She claims that he struck her in the face and stole her new phone along with $640 cash from her purse, according to prosecutors. The state alleges that Chandler ran from the Uber and fled in a taxi cab.

After his arrest for the third assault, a judge ordered him held without bail for violating the terms of bail in the sexual assault cases, and set a new bail for the robbery charges at $80,000, according to court records.

However, in April after the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the United States, Chandler's defense attorney was able to successfully argue for his bail to be reduced. Judge Hennelly presided over the bail hearing on April 9 but was not the judge overseeing Chandler's sexual assault and battery cases.

According to CWB Chicago, prosecutors "presented minimal counter-arguments" to Judge Hennelly at Chandler's bail hearing. The state attorney's office admitted that its lawyers did not present Hennelly with all of the facts of the sexual assault cases. After Chandler's bail was reduced prosecutors filed an emergency motion to have his no-bail status reinstated.

Further, after the bail hearing, prosecutors accused Chandler of discussing a plan to pay off one of his alleged victims to prevent her from testifying against him at trial. During a phone call on March 31, Chandler "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," state attorneys said.

At a new hearing conducted over Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors presented the new allegations before Judge Michael McHale. After hearing the prosecutors' arguments and Chandler's defense, McHale ordered Chandler to return to jail without bail, but he was not taken into custody immediately. Chandler has since vanished.

A warrant has been issued for Chandler's arrest. He remains at-large.

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