Cook County judge seals documents in highly-scrutinized case of man accused of stabbing child

A Cook County judge on Friday ordered factual documents sealed in the highly-scrutinized case of a man accused of killing 11-year-old Jayden Perkins and injuring his pregnant mother in a stabbing in their Edgewater apartment.

Crosetti Brand, 37, who has a documented history of violence against women, is charged with murder, attempted murder and other felonies in a March attack he allegedly perpetrated just one day after he was released from prison where he was sent after threatening Jayden’s mother weeks earlier. The killing spurred grief and outrage in the community and raised questions about safeguards for domestic violence victims and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board’s handling of Brand’s release.

Judge Angela Petrone took the unusual step of sealing documents that contain “factual allegations or summaries” in a case of such high interest to the public, ruling that there are “limited circumstances” that overrule the public’s right to access information about court cases.

The hearing unfolded with elevated security after outbursts during at least two prior hearings, including one in which a family member ran to the front of the courtroom yelling at Brand. Family members lined the gallery, some in shirts that said “Justice for Jayden.”

No one was arrested after the past incidents, but the judge said any future disruptions would be met with a contempt of court charge.

“Do not make me do that … I know that emotions are running high,” she said.

Cook County prosecutors made the request to seal the documents after Brand, who is representing himself, filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the pretrial publicity biased the grand jurors against him. Petrone denied the request to dismiss the charges.

“The People make this request out of concern that any publication of pretrial pleadings … may receive further media attention and may affect the Defendant’s ability to receive a fair trial,” the state’s motion to seal reads.

Brand did not object to the request.

When delivering her decision, Petrone noted the public’s right to open and transparent court proceedings, but said it is not “absolute.”

Among future filings that will be sealed, prosecutors said they will file documents that will detail past incidents involving Brand that are “not of public record and are of a sensitive nature.”

Brand’s record of abuse was a matter of public interest after he was arrested, including nearly two decades of terrorizing Jayden’s mother prior to the attack.

Prosecutors said the woman, who was engaged to someone else, was in a romantic relationship with Brand more than 15 years ago. Brand has racked up multiple convictions for battering her, threatening her and her mother and violating orders of protections, court records show.

In 2013, Brand pleaded guilty to charges of domestic battery for punching another woman, who had recently ended a relationship with him, hard enough to knock her unconscious and leave her bleeding from the mouth. Before the physical confrontation, he told her, “I’m gonna blow your head off, you think you gonna leave that easy,” according to the motion.

Later, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison in a November 2015 attack on a third woman, who had recently ended a relationship with him, according to court documents. He also threatened her son when he tried to intervene.

“Of the people that come through this courtroom, it’s hard to find someone who is more dangerous than this defendant,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Anne McCord Rodgers during a March detention hearing.

After serving time for the 2015 attack, Brand was released from prison on parole in October. Months later on Jan. 30, Brand sent Jayden’s mother a text message threatening her and her family, then showed up at her apartment on Feb. 1, according to prosecutors and court records.

He rang the doorbell multiple times and tried to pull the door handle out of the door. The woman contacted the parole board, and he was sent back to prison, according to prosecutors.

In the interim, records show that the woman tried to get an emergency order of protection, but a judge denied the emergency order because Brand was locked up.

Brand was released one day before he returned to the apartment and killed Jayden, prosecutors alleged. His mother was in the apartment with her two sons, and unlocked the door ready to leave when Brand barged in, they alleged.

He attacked the mother, then stabbed Jayden when he tried to intervene, prosecutors said, all in front of a younger child.

The state’s top parole official and another board member resigned in the wake of the attack, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker created a new executive review board position with a mandate to expand domestic violence training for board members.