This story was originally produced by the Chicago Reader. It is being republished on in collaboration with the Reader. Read our accompanying story, “False Alarms: A recurring trauma for many on house arrest in Cook County”

Jeremey “Mohawk” Johnson has been on electronic monitoring since August 2020, after he was arrested for allegedly hitting a cop with a skateboard at an anti-ICE and defund CPD rally in the Loop. More than a year after the Reader profiled him in March 2021, his case remains in pretrial limbo. Johnson has worn an electronic-­monitor (EM) ankle bracelet and been mostly confined to his home during that time. 

He has documented his struggles with near-incessant false EM alerts—which sometimes bring Cook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) investigators to his door—via his YouTube page, Monitored by Cook. The page includes dozens of videos documenting his problems with EM dating as far back as December 18, 2021.

The Reader interviewed Johnson again on Thursday, May 5, 2022; his ankle bracelet had sent four false alerts the previous day. He has encountered more difficulty with the electronic monitoring system after moving on April 13. “There’s been major inconsistencies and communication issues with [the CCSO]—specifically about my beacons and my address change,” he says. 

What follows are Johnson’s words, which have been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Move

They gave me a new leg monitor in March. I asked the person at the desk who was doing our forms what relocation would be like. That person just said, “When you get the lease, just send that to us in advance, that way we have the documentation. You should be good.”

I asked for relocation on March 21. We signed the lease online. I told County [CCSO], “I could send you the lease.” I sent it on March 21 at 11:39 a.m. They gave me a confirmation email at 11:39 a.m.; I got it 30 seconds later.

I called them [a week later] and they said, “You still have to process the request.” They called me, like, “We need your landlord’s information.” This happened March 28. I re-sent them the email with my landlord’s information at 8:51 a.m. I got the confirmation at 8:52 a.m. 

They called me April 4 and said that they never got any of my relocation stuff, and that it was never sent in. I told the woman on the phone, “I did send it.”

She’s like, “OK, you’re saying you have the confirmation emails. You’re giving me dates and times. There’s only a few of us working—can you resend it?” So I sent screenshots of my lease, screenshots of the signature, and the PDF with the entire lease. I sent that April 4 at 2:24 p.m, maybe 10 minutes after I’d gotten off that call. I got the confirmation email—at 2:25 p.m.

They said that they approved the movement, and that it was put on my schedule.

Related story

The TRiiBE interviewed Jeremey “Mohawk” Johnson over the phone on Nov. 19, 2020.

“This is the first time that I’ve ever been arrested,” Jeremey “Mohawk” Johnson said. “It feels like they’re trying to make an example out of me because they want to scare other protesters. And, in an environment where they’re actively trying to scare you out of protesting, I would wager that a lot of protesters feel guilty for taking this rest.”

Read the full interview in our story

Black folks can't get no rest

[One evening in April], two officers came to my house, and they had me sign a bunch of paperwork for the address that I was moving from. [One officer] said, “I don’t know what happened, ’cause I know you signed it, ’cause I was here when you relocated the last time.” This is the guy that dropped me off when I first got arrested and got put on house arrest. This is the officer that came and installed my first beacon. I know this guy. Never remember his name, but he’s always pretty pleasant. 

He comes over and he’s like, “When you move next week, and you take your beacons with you, make sure you call them, and somebody should come and set the beacons up immediately.” He said that to me on camera. 

I signed out on April 13, in the morning, to move all of my stuff. Put it all in the moving truck that my mom and my stepdad got to help me move. The sheriff’s officer told me that I have to move my beacons to my new place. They’re not coming to help me move, so nobody else can move them to the new place but me. And I was told by the Sheriff’s Department not to leave them.

I take the beacons with me. The beacons are like, “You’re tampering with the beacon, you’re moving outside of your zone.” And then they start calling my leg monitor, calling my phone—like, “Why are you moving the beacon? Why are you not where you’re supposed to be?” 

I’m like, “Y’all, I’m relocating—look at the movement schedule.” They’re like, “Oh, yeah, you are relocating, you have movement till five.” And I’m like, “Check your own email before you bother me.”

The Extension

I asked for a movement extension, ’cause I moved to the other side of the city. It was taking a long time for me to get to work—the Green Line’s messed up. There are massive delays on all the trains, the trains just aren’t running like they used to.

They don’t grant it for weeks. I already have the work movement approved, I’m just asking for more time. I call someone on the phone—he says, “Hey, it does make sense that you need a movement extension—the train’s bad, so you asking for more time to get to work should not be a problem. I need you to resubmit the schedule with whatever current pay stub you have and the new times you need.” 

I did that, and I got a reply from the sheriff saying, “We already granted this movement, just ask for an extension.” And I’m like, “No, you don’t understand, that’s what I’m doing. [My contact] said the system won’t let him add an extension without new paperwork or a new schedule.” Cook County was like, “We approved this already—just ask for an extension.” I’m like, “That’s what I’m doing.” 

They approved my movement, and gave me my movement extension—they said, “If you leave at 11:00 a.m., you’ll get there by 12:00 p.m.,” and I’m like, “Not from where I live. I need to leave at 10:30 a.m.” They send me my movement request the morning of—giving me permission to leave at 10:30 a.m.—at 10:44 a.m. They didn’t send it to me until I called them four times that morning. 

Because of how the automated system works, if you leave your house late, they assume something happened and you’re not leaving at all; so if you do leave, they call. The system will automatically hit you with an alert if you leave 15 minutes after your leaving time. It’s supposed to be a 15-minute grace period, that’s what I was told by Investigator Collins, because I’ve had multiple phone conversations with Investigator Collins, and that’s how she said it works. I could not leave until 15 minutes late, because I did not get the movement approved until 15 minutes late. 

They called me on my leg monitor in my Lyft, and asked me why I was outside. They called me for leaving late, after they approved my movement late.

The Officers

On April 20—after getting beacon violation, after beacon violation, after beacon violation—at about 6:42 p.m., officers come and start grilling me. They’re like, “So this is your new spot? Where’s the consent form?” I’m like, “I don’t have a consent form . . . nobody from the Sheriff’s Department came to install my beacon or give me a new consent form.” A resident consent form is the form you fill out that allows you to live where you live. 

My name is on the lease, and the landlord knows I’m on house arrest. I’m allowed to live here, and by the letter of the law this is my place. I was told initially—by the person who said that they never got my paperwork—that because my name is on the lease I’m good. These officers were not notified of that, they were not notified of anything. 

They started asking me about my beacons. They’re like, “Why do you have two beacons?” I’m like, “Because County gave me two beacons.” They’re like, “OK, you’ve moved, why do you still have two beacons?” And I’m like, “Because y’all never came to get them—if you never came to get them, and they gave me two, what was I supposed to do with the other one? Eat it?”

They’re like, “Oh, your beacon is not registered to your new house.” And I’m like, “I put in this movement request last month. Y’all had from March 21 to April 4, and you got all that paperwork sent in—you got all this time to log the beacons at the new address the day that I moved.” No one did it, no officers came to install them—because they’re supposed to be stuck on the wall. One of them’s just sitting in my windowsill, where it can be reached and tampered with.

There’s a cat here; cats touch anything they can when they can. At that point, the cat’s jumping on the beacon and knocking it down, jumping in the other window where the other one is, knocking it down. I’m getting these tampering violations—sometimes while I’m at work, since the cat’s playing with them.

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Then [Investigator Reimer] asks me, “You’re not putting it in your pocket and then leaving the house with it, are you?” 

That’s multiple charges: that’s tampering with a beacon, that’s unauthorized leave, that’s felony escape. That’s three different things, if I put it in my pocket and try to leave. That is the goofiest thing I can do, because not only is that more charges, but it’s, quite frankly, antithetical to getting away with anything. If I wanna sneak out, I’m not gonna take something that makes my signal stronger. Why would anybody do that? 

He asked me that, and then he told me—after investigating and calling—like, “The language that the call center was using was confusing. It said you were leaving and that you were taking it out on the street, and then it was popping back in the system two minutes later and you were going all over with it. It’s sitting in your window, we see that now, the beacons are probably bouncing off of each other, and messing up the signal, and then because of where your bedroom is, you’re losing it.”

The beacons

[Reimer] and I were talking about it, and I asked him, “What do I do with the beacon?” They were like, “Do you want to tape it up now?” We can’t find the tape. [Reimer] tells me, when I can, get some Command Strips, call the call center, tell them that I was told by the Sheriff’s Department to tape the beacon up in the windowsill myself, and then have them track the signal to make sure it works. He said this to me, right? He didn’t tell the call center that he told me to do that—or maybe he did tell them, and they lost it. 

Again, nobody from County came to bring me my paperwork or to install my beacon. It took them seven days to get out to me, after I called them every day for a week saying, “Hey, my beacons aren’t on the wall. I keep getting zone violations, and whenever I call y’all, y’all bring up my old address. You should know that I don’t live there anymore.” 

I keep getting, “The beacon is not registered to your current apartment. You’re getting beacon violations because your room might be too far away from the beacon. Something’s going on with your bedroom.” Stuff like that. 

I ordered some Command Strips. I call the call center: “I’m calling to put my beacon up, because I was told by the sheriff to put my beacon up.” 

The person at the call center tells me, “You’re not allowed to touch that.” I’m like, “I understand that—I was told to call you to let you know that I’m putting the beacon up on the windowsill, and that you should check the signal to make sure that it’s working properly.”

The call center tells me, “It’s up to your discretion because you said that the officer told you to and that you got that on video. Our hands are tied—I just know, legally, you’re not supposed to do that. I’m gonna go ahead and put that in the data record.” 

I’m like, “Well, I’m telling you that I’m not gonna do it, so there is nothing going on. Imma just leave that shit where it is.” 

Homie records it anyway. I keep getting zone violations while I’m in my bedroom ’cause my beacon’s in the living room in the front of the house, and my bedroom is towards the back of the apartment. The range is not big enough, so it keeps losing me. Even in my own bedroom, it keeps losing me.

The System

This is what happens when you have an institution of people who outsource all of their work to different departments, and then don’t talk to each other. The call center is communicating with the sheriff through, like, notes. The sheriff is calling protocol; protocol may have different standards than what every sheriff has. 

And then every sheriff operates differently. They have a general understanding of what the rules are, but I get different things from different sheriffs depending on who comes to work that day. There’s zero consistency—and negative two communication—amongst branches and between officers. On top of the fact that the technology isn’t working particularly well, it creates a mess. 

None of what they were supposed to do on their end happened. I can’t control if they give me consent forms or not; they’re supposed to bring those to my house. I can’t control if they install the beacon or not; they’re supposed to come and install it. That did not happen when I moved, so my hands were tied. The only thing I could do was sit in my house, go to work when I was allowed to, and hope to God that they show up and do what they said they were going to so that I don’t get in more trouble. But that did not happen.

I can’t even get a straight answer on whether or not I’m allowed to answer the door. ’Cause one person, I’ve called him, he’s like, “If you don’t step outside, you can go to your door and [get] deliveries—you can open your door and grab your pizza, you can’t go outside. If you’re not on your porch or outside of your building, it’s fine. Use your own discretion.” Completely different person said, “I don’t know about that. I wouldn’t even chance it.” It really depends on who I talk to that day. So I just do nothing, I just have my roommates do everything for me, because it’s safer that way. 

So the way the system works is, false accusation happens. False accusation gets put on file. Then they fix it. It is accusation, potential punishment, then they fix it.

Even though the system clears them, prosecutors can look at the record, bring up how many alerts you have—not violations, just alerts. Violations are not alerts. All I am getting is alerts saying, “We think you’re outside, we think you’re here, why did you leave late.”

Photos courtesy Jeremey Johnson
Photos courtesy Jeremey Johnson

Prosecutors can look at alerts and say, “He’s sneaking out.” Even if the system clears them—even if the sheriff comes to your house, says, “OK, we see video evidence you didn’t leave at this time”—which I have done before. 

So even though you can have all of this evidence, a prosecutor can still bring this up in court—you can have your bond revoked and be put back in jail, over these alerts, even when they’re not violations. 

I started putting the cameras up and posting the videos. I’m like, “You not finna lie on me in court and get me locked up when I ain’t do nothing. Imma give you hard video, you not gonna play me.”

I have alerts. And oftentimes the alerts clear themselves before they call you. Sometimes they’ll call you and then an alert got cleared ten minutes ago, but whoever called didn’t see that the alert got cleared. So they can call you and bother you about something. It’s a mess over there. And that mess gets people convicted.

These alerts are still admissible in court. And that’s what bothers me. Not just for my situation. Regardless of what you feel about somebody’s relationship with the law, you should not be locking people up over faulty technology, especially when you know it’s faulty. 

Especially with that new law they’re trying to pass that creates severe punishment for multiple violations, because the same County that is saying, “We know the monitors don’t work well, we know the GPS technology is faulty,” is also actively trying to implicate and punish people in legislature for these same signal failures. That just ain’t right.

The Impact

I’d go to work; I catch two, three, four violations just trying to commute, and more violations means more chances for a prosecutor to lie on me in court. It’s safer for me to not work. It’s safer for me to be broke, it’s safer for me to ask my parents for money, than it is to risk catching a charge for trying to be productive.

I worked at Warby Parker. I can’t pick up a shift to make more money to pay rent without permission from County. If somebody’s like, “Hey, can you work this location today?” I can’t do it. I can’t trade shifts with coworkers. There’s a whole two-thirds of my job that I can’t participate in that could potentially humanize people—or show people that I’m not a fucking animal—that I just can’t do. 

I’m not trying to go back to jail ’cause the train got delayed. I’m not trying to get locked up ’cause I missed the bus and I didn’t have $30, $40 for an Uber because it’s surging ’cause the weather’s bad. It is safer to not have a job. It is safer to call my parents and borrow money every month. Or to get on Twitter and Instagram and be like, “Hey, y’all, I’m struggling right now, I need help.” ’Cause I do need the help, ’cause I can’t work. Half the time I was working I had to leave early ’cause I’d get called while I’m at work. Or I get called three times before I go to work—I get called at two in the morning, get called at six in the morning, so my sleep’s interrupted.

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My hairline is going, my beard is turning gray. I’m not even 28 yet, and I’m already looking like how my dad might have when he was in his 40s. I’m stressed, I have flashbacks about jail all the time. My leg monitor constantly triggers my fight or flight; my therapist was telling me that just being on this thing for as long as I have—and then having it go off all the time, and interrupting my REM cycle—is triggering my fight-or-flight. If a scale is “one, completely relaxed,” and “ten, thinking you’re about to die,” I wake up most days at a six to seven. Stuff keeps happening with the leg monitor that brings me up to a ten. So it’s been deeply, emotionally taxing. 

I just don’t understand why they want to do this for this long. It’s so disproportionate. I allegedly got into it with an officer, right? I got beat up, I got knocked to the ground—stomped on and hit with sticks by multiple officers, a medic had to pick me up and drag me away. I got pepper-sprayed point-blank in the face multiple times. I got choked. After I got out of jail, I had a bad limp for two weeks ’cause of how bad I got beat up. 

Now, like, two years later they’re still trying to figure out if they’re gonna put me in prison. How much they want to do to a person over an alleged incident? If I ain’t did it, all of this is for nothing. And if you think I did do it, you done got your licks back before I got arrested, so you ain’t tired yet? You gonna take it this far, after you done already beat my ass? No matter how you cut it, this has been taken way too fuckin’ far. 

It’s making me think it was never about justice or public safety. No city that sends police officers to beat up and kettle people in public has any moral authority to put people on house arrest for public safety, in my opinion, ’cause they put the public in danger. ’Cause they were dangerous to me, ’cause they were dangerous to those protestors.