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On July 29, 1960, Stephen A. Cage was barely 18 years' old when he was arrested along with his cousin for an assault and robbery of two white teenagers near Comiskey Park who claimed that Cage and his cousin roughed the boys up with brass knuckles and took their money. Stephen was sent to the “Boys’ Court,” a long defunct court which handled cases of 17-21 year-old boys charged with misdemeanors and civil infractions. In 1960, Judge Saul Epton presided over the Boys’ Court, a job he relished because he could give young men a second chance and hopefully steer them from a life of crime. Stephen was represented by an assistant public defender, whom he had never met or spoke with before appearing in court that day. He was convicted. The public defender told the judge that 90 days of jail time was appropriate, the State agreed, and the judge accepted this recommendation. As Stephen understood it, he would have no criminal record after successfully completing his incarceration and probation, though his arrest would remain on his record. Stephen served 92 days in the county jail. He was then assigned to a probation officer to complete a term of one year of probation. He completed his term without incident. He put himself through school and earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and for over 40 years worked for the Veteran’s Administration. He retired and began to substitute teach. When he applied for a full-time teaching position with the Chicago Public Schools, his ancient criminal conviction surfaced and he was denied employment. So much for expungement.
In October of 2003, NU Law Student Brad Hall, under the supervision of CWCY attorney Steven Drizin, filed a clemency petition for Mr. Cage. Justice Eugene Pincham signed an affidavit attesting to the fact that the Boys' Court proceedings were not supposed to result in criminal records for youth. A historian on the Boys Court also filed an affidavit. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Steve had to have his leg amputated after a bout with diabetes a few years ago. Judge Pincham died. One Governor went to Prison and another was indicted. Times have been tough for Stephen. But he continued to press for clemency, insisting that he was innocent and that it was a matter of principle.
Today, Governor Quinn granted Steve and 132 others clemency, making a dent in the backlog of over 2,500 petitions left him by Governor Blagojevich. I just got off the phone with Steve. He was crying tears of joy. We’ll find out later whether it is a full pardon based on innocence or just a typical pardon. Either way, it won’t matter to Steve. We’ll make sure his record is clean once and for all.