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Second Cook County Jail inmate dies after testing positive for coronavirus

The racial impact of COVID-19
The racial impact of COVID-19 13:54

A second Cook County Jail inmate has died after testing positive for the coronavirus, reports CBS Chicago. Leslie Pieroni, 51, was pronounced dead Thursday evening at a local hospital, according to the Cook County Sheriff's office.

He'd been hospitalized since Friday after testing positive for COVID-19, the sheriff's office said. The official cause of death is pending an autopsy, but he's believed to have died of complications from the virus, the office said.

Leslie Pieroni in undated photo Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff's Office

Pieroni was booked into the jail on Dec. 23, 2018, after being ordered held without bond for an incident the month before when he allegedly sexually abused a boy under 13, the Sheriff's office said.

He was charged with predatory criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse and was already a non-compliant registered sex offender at the time of that arrest, the Sheriff's office said.

In 2006, Pieroni was sentenced to eight years in prison for criminal sexual assault involving two children. He was also charged with failure to register in 2017 and was sentenced to two years' probation in February 2018, the Sheriff's said.

The first inmate to die of COVID-19 was Jeffrey Pendleton, 59, who was pronounced dead at another local hospital Sunday night.

He'd been in the hospital since the Monday before after testing positive for COVID-19, the Sheriff's office said.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, there were 276 detainees in custody who had tested positive for coronavirus, authorities said.

A federal judge denied a request Thursday for a mass release of inmates from the jail due to COVID-19 concerns, but ordered sheriff's staffers to implement new safety measures to stop the spread of the disease.

The jail has been called the single largest coronavirus hotspot in the country, but Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart claims the big numbers are the result of aggressive testing. He said the totals often associated with the jail also include 150 COVID-positive sheriff's staff members even though some don't actually work in the jail facility. 

"They threw in employees who are police officers who have never been in the jail, clerks who have never been in the jail," he said. "So that's a bit of a problem. My 5-year-old would have nailed the math a little better than they did."

He also says almost all the new safety steps are already in place.

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