After five years, woman finally gets back impounded car

After five years of separation, without any contact, Symone Smith wasn’t sure what to expect from Friday’s planned reunion.

So in a dusty, gravel parking lot on the city’s Far South Side, Smith was delighted that there was still a spark — albeit with the help of a set of jumper cables.

After one final indignity Friday — paying off $3,250 in city fines — Smith was finally reunited with her 2010 Nissan Sentra, which had been gathering dust in the city’s vast impound lot at 103rd and Doty since 2012.

“I still think this process totally sucks, but I’m happy that it’s in a decent condition,” said Smith, a nurse who lives in Hazel Crest. “We thought that it would definitely have been a lot worse.”

Smith, her mother and the tow truck driver who hooked up the jumper cables were all astonished when the car’s engine rattled to life.

Symone Smith poses with her 2010 Nissan Sentra, which has been impounded for the last five years, outside the city impound lot on Friday, April 21, 2017 in Chicago, Ill. | Michelle Kanaar | For the Sun-Times

Last month, a Cook County judge signed the paperwork that allowed Smith, 26, to finally pick up her car. Smith was a nursing student in April 2012 — just two months after she got the car, her first — when she let a friend take it to the store.

Brian Hewlett was supposed to come right back. But the police pulled over Hewlett and found a bag of suspected crack cocaine, according to a vehicle-seizure report.

The car was towed to the impound lot. Smith expected to have to pay a small fine to retrieve her car. But she later learned the state’s attorney’s office had put a hold on it. The prosecutor’s office typically goes after assets that can be linked to the drug trade.

Hewlett was charged with possession of cocaine for the 2012 incident. Smith has never been charged in connection with that incident, and steadfastly denies she knew anything about Hewlett’s alleged drug possession when she let him use her car.

Symone Smith and her mother, Antoinette Smith, at the Daley Center shortly after a Cook County judge signed paperwork in March allowing for the release of Symone’s car five years after it was impounded. | Stefano Esposito | Sun-Times

Complicating matters, Hewlett was arrested a year later and charged with murder, in which he was accused of gunning down a 17-year-old boy outside a high school basketball game at Chicago State University. Hewlett is awaiting trial in both cases.

Cook County prosecutors and Smith’s lawyer, Zachary Limbaugh, disagree about why it took so long for Smith’s case to be wrapped up. Limbaugh has said the case changed substantially in March when Smith was finally able to pay off the loan on the $19,000 vehicle. With the lender no longer a party to the case, Smith and the state’s attorney’s office were able to reach agreement, Limbaugh says.

On Friday, before she could take possession of her car, Smith had to pay the city fines — for owning a…

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