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Strange Tail: the City of Chicago vs. Reggie the Cat

By Lorraine Swanson, Editor, Lake Effect News

In the continuing saga of Reggie, Lincoln Square’s most wanted cat, his person, Luise Jochum, schlepped out into the cold on a rainy, October afternoon for Reggie’s administrative hearing at 400 W. Superior.

Reggie, the pumpkin-shaped, 20-pound, orange tabby was busted for violating a city ordinance that requires pets to be leashed by the same cop who nabbed him two years ago for being an animal-at-large. Because this was Reggie’s second offense, he faced a fine of up to $500.

For nearly a month Reggie’s neighbors, who have appointed him the “Mayor of Lincoln Square,” have been taking turns walking the friendly, roaming cat on a leash. Reggie has been thrown out of some of the finest coffee houses in Lincoln Square, and according to neighborhood legend, once spent 11 days in the basement of the Davis Theater.Reggie, Chicago's most-wanted cat

Sliding her cane and purse on the conveyor belt at the security checkpoint in the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings building, 81-year-old Jochum, sans Reggie, grabbed the sides of the metal detector for support and walked through it, setting off the beeper. Jochum, who apparently doesn’t pass through too many metal detectors, forgot to take off her jangly bracelet.

Standing precariously without the support of her aluminum cane, the security guard waved a wand over Jochum, which was set off by more of her jangly jewelry. Not wanting to see Jochum topple over in the lobby of the administrative hearings building, the guard quickly handed back Jochum’s cane.

Taking the afternoon off from being productive members of society were Jochum’s neighbors: Wendy Carlstrom, who drove Jochum downtown, Pat Kovar and Maureen Sanderson. Neighbor Charles Fowler, wearing a suit and reading the Wall Street Journal, was already waiting for them in the lobby. Kovar carried pictures of Reggie crashing one of her backyard cocktail parties to show to the judge.

Susan Dimanno, co-founder of the Tree House Humane Society and a volunteer court advocate for animal abuse cases, greeted Jochum and her neighbors. Ald. Gene Schulter (47th) also sent his aide Patrick to assist in the delicate legal negotiations. (For the record, the damn pay box on Sedegwick ate five of Lake Effect News’s quarters, crediting us with only 45 minutes of street parking when we paid for two hours.)

Reggie’s dream team ran into its first obstacle when it approached the information desk. The room number recorded on Reggie’s ticket was “404,” which we soon found didn’t exist because there is no fourth floor at the administrative hearings building on Superior.

After several minutes of docket checking, Reggie’s dream team was redirected to the courtroom of Administrative Law Judge Diedra A. Cato, which greatly resembled a double-wide trailer. Jochum, Dimanno and Patrick disappeared into a side room to beg the court’s mercy for Reggie.

The rest of us sat in the courtroom watching the other live administrative hearing drama unfold. (Note to readers: they don’t fool around in administrative hearings, a department that serves to enhance the quality of life of all Chicagoans. It’s not like Cook County Circuit Court where, if the judge is in a good mood, he or she lets you off on your speeding ticket or disgusting building code violation. Nope, the administrative hearings department’s job is strictly to collect people’s money to help the city with its budget deficit.)

The cop who arrested Reggie wasn’t there. The ticket alone, we later learned, served as an affidavit. Jochum reappeared moments later and waved the other dream team members down the pew with her cane. Dimanno and Patrick took their seats in the row ahead of us, looking frustrated.

Finally, the administrative law judge called Reggie’s case: “The City of Chicago Vs. Luise Jochum.” Jochum approached the bench, and, raising her right hand, swore to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Reggie’s dream team was able to negotiate a plea bargain, reducing his fine to $100, plus an additional $40 for the administrative hearings department’s valuable time.

Waiving her rights to an appeal, Reggie’s, or rather Jochum’s violation was reduced from an animal-at-large to a disorderly conduct violation. An audible sigh of relief could be heard from the other alleged offenders waiting for their own hearings that Lincoln Square was now a little safer from this reckless, marauding elderly woman with a cane and her chubby cat.

“We tried to get it dismissed,” Patrick from Ald. Schulter’s office said apologetically after we had reconvened outside the courtroom. “They said it was a good ticket.”

Reggie’s dream team was still left with lingering questions. Had someone complained about Reggie, who couldn’t outrun a pigeon? Why was Reggie being singled out, when there were clearly other cats out there selling crack and driving without insurance? What if Reggie slipped out the door again and invited himself to one of Kovar’s cocktail parties?

“Reggie brings so much love to the neighborhood,” Sanderson said, as Fowler went to pay Reggie’s $140 fine. “Everyone is going to miss him.”

“Well,” Carlstrom said, “I guess we better start lining up some volunteer cat walkers.”

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