OP man indicted in jail smuggling

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By BILL DWYER

Oak Park resident Michael Lawson, one of 12 current or former Cook County Jail guards charged with bringing contraband into the jail, has been indicted by a Cook County Grand Jury. He is scheduled to be arraigned next Tuesday, July 12. Lawson, 42, of the 1100 block of South Humphrey, is charged with official misconduct, bringing contraband into the jail, and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

According to Cook County Sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham, Lawson was arrested June 4 at the jail after he was found to have a cell phone in his sock. A search of his car parked in the employee lot reportedly turned up cocaine and marijuana, as well as a cell phone charger.

In all, 12 current or former correctional officers, five current or former jail inmates, and four private citizens have been charged in the case. The charges stem from a six month investigation triggered by concerns expressed by other correctional officers and supervisors. Investigators from the jail's Internal Affairs Division, along with Cook County Sheriff's police and the Cook County State's Attorney used telephone wire taps and long-term surveillance of the targeted individuals to build a case.

According to the sheriff's office, the four citizens, who were friends of the five inmates, supplied Lawson and his correctional colleagues with drugs, cash and cell phones, which they then smuggled into Division 10 of the jail, one of the maximum security wings. Lawson resigned as a county correctional officer in June while under investigation.

The internal investigation is the largest such operation at the jail since Operation Fallen Star in 1993.

"These officers sold their badges to become small-time drug couriers," Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan said in a press release, "and as a result they will learn what it is like to live on the other side of the jail bars."

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