Second Cook County Jail Detainee Dies of COVID-19

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

A second detainee at the Cook County Jail has died after testing positive for COVID-19, hours after a federal judge rejected a request Thursday to release medically vulnerable detainees who face a higher risk from the new coronavirus.

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The Cook County Sheriff’s Office on Friday announced Leslie Pieroni, 51, was pronounced dead Thursday evening at St. Anthony’s Hospital. He had been hospitalized since April 3 after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Autopsy results are still pending, but preliminary reports indicate he died as a result of complications due to the virus, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Pieroni was booked into the jail on Dec. 23, 2018. He was ordered held without bond after being charged in a November 2018 sexual assault of a child under the age of 13, the Sheriff’s Office said.

He was charged with predatory criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Pieroni had a previous conviction for the criminal sexual assault of two children and was sentenced to eight years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, according to the Sheriff’s Office. In 2017, he was charged with failure to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to two years of probation.

Jeffery Pendleton, a 59-year-old detainee, became the jail's first COVID-19-related death on Sunday when he was pronounced dead at Stroger Memorial Hospital. He had been hospitalized since March 30 after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Pendleton’s family filed a lawsuit against Dart on Thursday, alleging Pendleton was shackled while at Stroger Hospital, which they claim was “excessive, caused gratuitous pain, and violated his constitutional rights.”

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly rejected a call by advocates seeking the mass release of “medically vulnerable” detainees at the jail. But he did order jail officials to enforce social distancing among detainees and provide them with hand sanitizer and masks as they deal with the outbreak.

As of Thursday evening, there were 448 total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the jail, including 276 detainees, 172 Sheriff's Office employees. It has been labeled as possibly the “the largest-known source of U.S. infections” by The New York Times.

“Everything Sheriff’s officers and county medical professionals have done since before the virus started spreading in the Chicago area was in an effort to prevent the loss of life to this deadly virus,” a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said in a statement Friday. “We will continue to work round-the-clock to aggressively combat the spread of COVID-19.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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