Articles Posted in Criminal defense

The Department of Justice has announced charges against hundreds of individuals for COVID-19 relief fraud following an operation conducted by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Many of those facing charges have ties to organized crime, according to the DOJ. In one case, authorities allege that the pandemic relief aid was used to pay for a murder. 

The DOJ has announced charges against over 300 defendants in these cases who allegedly stole more than $830 million from the federal government by making fraudulent claims. In this article, a Chicago criminal defense attorney will discuss pandemic relief fraud, how it works, and prosecutors’ efforts to hold those who stole money accountable for their actions. 

Understanding COVID-19 Relief Fraud

Cook County prosecutors dropped charges against a man who was exonerated on an appeal for a crime he claimed he never committed. Throughout his time in prison, he maintained his innocence for a double murder that he says police pinned on him. He spent 34 years in prison on charges that he was involved in the shooting of two 14-year-old boys. 

Police believed that he was cruising the streets for rival gang members. When he could not find any, they claimed he shot the boys instead. The boys were running from a Cook County home back to their father’s house to meet their curfew. 

The defendant would be convicted on charges of first-degree murder and spend the next 12,000 days of his life locked up behind bars.

The son of notorious drug trafficker El Chapo has been extradited to Chicago from Mexico on charges of drug trafficking. Ovidio Guzman Lopez was charged in April along with two dozen others who are suspected of being a part of the Sinaloa Cartel. According to the lawsuit, the Sinaloa Cartel used chemicals shipped from China to fuel to fentanyl crisis here in the U.S. The cartel is believed to be responsible for importing 80% of the drugs found on Chicago streets over the past three decades. 

Standoff Between Sinaloa and Mexican Police

U.S. authorities have wanted to extradite Guzman Lopez since 2019. He was captured by Mexican authorities in a small town outside the city of Culiacán. In 2019, Mexican authorities attempted to apprehend Guzman Lopez but the cartel fought back engaging in shootouts with Mexican authorities and military. The Mexican president ordered Guzman Lopez released to avoid further bloodshed. 

Illinois has officially become the first state in the country to eliminate cash bail. Proponents of the measure say that it punishes the poor unfairly. The Pretrial Fairness Act prevents judges from setting bail but gives them broader discretion to deny release to those accused of violent crimes. Those opposed to the measure included prosecutors and police officers who see it as being “soft on crime.”

The measure is seen as leveling the playing field for Black, Brown, and poor communities that can’t afford to pay their way out of jail even when they are not a risk to the community. A 2022 civil rights report on cash bail showed that, on average, Black arrestees are required to pay 35% more than their white counterparts. Latinos on average pay 19% more. Hence, the system was intrinsically racist and remains so in states that have not eliminated cash bail. An estimated 60% of defendants ended up in jail because they could not afford to post bail. 

Critics of the measure believe that this will allow dangerous people back on the streets. Law enforcement and other critics of the measure believe that now that cash bail has ended, defendants have no incentive to return to court. This will end up creating a situation where they are searching for defendants who are let out of jail.

A Chicago man was recently found guilty of the rape of a 15-year-old girl while she was walking home in 2017. The 66-year-old defendant had been charged with two counts of rape, attempted rape, criminal confinement, armed robbery, and battery with a deadly weapon. The defendant was convicted on each of the seven counts and faces a maximum prison sentence of 146 years behind bars. The defendant rejected a 40-year prison sentence in a plea deal offered by the state. 

According to the charges, the defendant had followed the 15-year-old girl down the street as she was walking home. He dragged her into an alley, where he raped her, according to prosecutors. The same defendant has another count of rape filed against him. He has been charged in Chicago with raping another woman at knifepoint in East Chicago. 

Sexual Assault Charges in Chicago, IL

Former porn star Ron Jeremy has been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial by the judge presiding over his case. He faced dozens of rape charges but was only recently in the news after victims came out to share their stories. A judge declared that he was in “incurable neurocognitive decline,” and his condition was unlikely to improve. Prosecutors have asked that Jeremy be routinely reevaluated in case his condition improves. A hearing deciding Jeremy’s fate will be held later. He is likely to end up in a state hospital.

Jeremy pleaded not guilty after a grand jury indicted him on 34 counts of sexual assault. 12 of those counts included allegations of forcible rape. His defense attorney stated that he believed Jeremy would be found innocent of the charges. He expressed regret that Jeremy would not have the chance to defend himself in a court of law. 

The law requires those who are facing charges to understand the charges filed against them and be able to participate in their own defense. The court ruled that Jeremy did not understand the charges against him due to his health and could not participate in his own defense. This is different than an insanity plea. Below, we’ll discuss the case in more detail.

The City of Chicago has been wrongly placing felonies on the records of those in diversion programs. Having a felony on your record can make it difficult to find housing or apply for a job. In one case, a man who was identified as Malcolm in an article published by the Chicago Sun-Times lost his job because his employer found out about a felony on his record. However, he had only been arrested for a low-level crime and pleaded it down as part of a diversion program. 

In many cases, these were people who were promised a clean record if they successfully completed a diversion program. Malcolm had a good job and was proud that he was able to provide for his children. He was offered a diversion program as part of a felony case and promised that he would have a clean record if he completed the diversion program. Instead, the felony popped up on his record and cost him his job. He was shocked. As it turns out, Cook County had wrongly been placing felonies on the records of those who completed diversion programs over the past three years. 

Malcolm became homeless as a result of losing his job. He began sleeping in doorways after he could no longer pay his rent. 

Chicago prosecutors are dropping cases that relied on a Chicago police officer’s testimony after that officer was accused of perjury. The officer testified that his girlfriend had stolen his car in order to get dozens of traffic tickets against him dismissed. The officer is accused of perjuring himself 44 times in a bid to get traffic tickets dismissed. The tickets involved running a red light, speeding, and parking violations. 

Perjuring yourself under oath is considered a criminal act. But more so, any defense attorney who tried a case involving the officer would bring up the fact that he was willing to lie under oath. In many cases, the facts of the case rely entirely on an officer’s testimony. Since the officer is no longer considered a reliable witness, this places the cases involving his testimony in peril. It could also result in appeals for convictions in which the case hinged on his testimony. 

An assistant state’s attorney has declined to pursue seven cases in which the officer made the arrest. Some of these cases dated as far back as 2021. The assistant state attorney offered no reason for refusing to pursue the cases, but defense counsel made mention of the officer’s credibility problems. 

The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that one of the provisions of the SAFE-T Act that would end cash bail is constitutional. The decision will allow Illinois to become the first state in the country to end cash bail. Instead of cash bail, judges will have the ultimate discretion on whether or not an individual is released from prison prior to their case. 

Gov. Pritzker signed the SAFE-T Act into law the previous year. This one provision, whether or not to eliminate cash bail, was thwarted by the courts. The issue boils down to fairness. In many cases, an individual could be held in jail on charges that they could later defeat in court. However, if they could not afford to pay their bail, it acted as leverage for prosecutors to coerce a guilty plea out of them. In other words, they were held in jail until they pleaded guilty to the charges, and if they refused to plead guilty, they would remain in jail until a trial could be scheduled. This created an unfair situation for the poorest defendants who could not bond out of jail. 

The provision is known as The Pre-trial Fairness Act. It was among the most controversial aspects of the bill. The cash bail provision was set to go into effect on January 1 of this year. Several prosecutors and sheriffs, however, filed cases in an attempt to halt the act. The provision was thus suspended until the cases could be heard by another court. The case made it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court before the provision was passed in a 5-2 vote. 

A Chicago-area woman is facing charges of emailing death threats to former President Donald Trump. She also mentioned his son Barron in the threat. The 41-year-old defendant is accused under federal law of transmitting threats to kill or injure, according to the U.S. attorney’s office here in Chicago. 

According to federal authorities, the defendant sent the following message: “I will state that I will shoot Donald Trump, Sr. AND Barron Trump straight in the face at any opportunity I get!” She emailed this statement to the head of an educational institution in the Palm Beach, Florida, area. 

Understanding the Law

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