COVID-19 Update: We Are Open 24/7 to Service Current and New Clients.

Articles Posted in Criminal defense

If you remember the hit television show The Shield, it followed the efforts of Vic Mackey and his “strike team” which was used exclusively for highly dangerous raids and anti-gang and drug efforts. Mackey ran the streets like a crime lord, however, making deals with some gangs while squeezing out others. In the process, he broke just about every law on the books, killed several people, and eventually admitted to everything in a plea bargain.

Real-life Victor Mackeys do exist and one of them, Sgt. Ronald Watts operated right here in Chicago. Watts is alleged to have extorted drug dealers, stolen drug cash, and coerced confessions from suspects using torture tactics. In 2012, Watts and another officer were convicted of federal theft of public services and extortion in a housing project. 

Since Watts has been in prison, the States Attorney’s office has agreed to the exonerations of 87 criminal defendants who were facing time on Watts-related allegations. Nonetheless, there are hundreds more who claim that they were convicted on coerced confessions, planted evidence, and more.

Chicago PD announced a new team that will target straw purchasers for guns. Essentially, felons or others who would otherwise be prevented from applying for a gun permit pay someone else to perform the transaction for them. The straw buyer then gives the weapon to the felon who now has a gun. According to Chicago police, this is how a large number of weapons sold outside of Chicago end up on Chicago streets. 

The federal-local team will consist of Chicago P.D. and the ATF. Investigators are focusing on gun traffickers, straw purchasers, and unscrupulous gun store owners who do less than the legal requirement to ensure their buyers are legitimate.

Illegal Gun Sales at Legal Gun Stores

Back in the old days, they made you burn a saint to prove your loyalty to the gang was above all other considerations. Today, it appears that carjackings are fulfilling the same role. Carjackings are on the rise in Chicago with a healthy cross-section of defendants under the age of 18.

Recently, a group of 14-year-olds carjacked an off-duty police officer. They are facing charges. One of the teens was on home monitoring at the time of the carjacking, leaving everyone to wonder how he was allowed out of his home to commit a crime. 

In another case, a Chicago 18-year-old is facing charges related to the carjacking of a rideshare driver. He is facing charges related to carjacking, armed violence, and causing a death while committing a violent crime. Meanwhile, many of these perpetrators are being charged under federal law, and federal authorities aid Chicago police in tamping down violent crime, gang violence, and weapons crimes. The same boy was arrested for another carjacking in March.

A Bloomington man was awarded a stiff 13-year prison sentence after he drove his motorcycle into protesters. One woman suffered abdominal injuries while another man sustained a swollen arm. The defendant, Marshall Blanchard, was given seven years for failing to give information following a traffic accident, and another six years on the hate crime charge. The sentences will run concurrently, however, meaning he will only have to serve, at most, seven years. He will also be given credit for time served. Several charges were dismissed as a part of the plea bargain, which on its face, makes little sense. Below, we will discuss why.

Failing to Give Information After an Accident

Failing to give information after an accident is generally charged as a class-A misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail. He was given six years, probably due to his negotiated plea to run concurrently (at the same time) with a more severe hate crime charge. The maximum penalty for the most serious types of hate crimes is seven years.

While The Donald himself is not facing charges related to what authorities call an “audacious” tax fraud scheme, his company and his Chief Financial Officer are facing accusations that they failed to report over $1.7 million in earnings. It is unclear whether or not Trump will be charged, but investigators noted that he signed some of the questionable checks. Nonetheless, that comes short of proving fraud, which requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant knowingly deceived the federal government by hiding income streams. It is much more likely that the company’s CFO will take the fall for this.

As part of the scheme, the CFO paid himself and other executives off the books by utilizing lucrative fringe benefits, hence reducing their payroll taxes. Meanwhile, Trump is employing his usual strategy of demonizing the investigation as a “witch hunt” perpetrated by “radical democrats.”

Is This a Witch Hunt?

Chicago Alderman Carrie Austin and her chief of staff are facing federal criminal charges alleging bribery. According to the charges, Austin brokered a deal for a multi-unit real estate development contract. Federal authorities believe that the developer offered Austin home improvements to grease her wheels. Her chief of staff was also offered home improvements. Between them, they acquired new kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, bathroom tiling, new sump pumps, and a brand new HVAC system.

The federal government looks unkindly on businesses offering free services to elected officials, especially when that business went on to win a major contract that was granted with the help of the gift receiver. Austin is the third Chicago alderman to face indictment and the second charged this year. 

On what basis are these charges filed?

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently issued an update on its PSN program (Project Safe Neighborhoods). PSN is, according to the government, an evidence-based program that has been proven effective against violent crime. 

PSN is a collection of strategies that brings together state, local, and federal law enforcement to target the worst criminals and violent crime. While this language is fairly opaque, the undertone is gangs. The initiative seeks to hold organized crime accountable for the numerous deaths it causes each year. 

While authorities say that there has been progress, they also admit that the “number of violent crimes in Chicago remains stubbornly high.” Chicago remains a major target for federal authorities whose focus remains on weapons trafficking and drug trafficking. Several federal agencies are partnering with Cook County law enforcement to help better bring violent criminals to justice.

Authorities have made a reported $22 million cannabis bust after pursuing a vehicle at high speeds. The defendant, Jesser Oaxaca, 32, will face one count of trafficking cannabis, numerous weapons charges, and one charge of delivering cannabis. 

According to police, they spotted the van exiting a warehouse they suspected of drug activity. Two suspects emerged from this. One was Oaxaca and the other was an accomplice, Nicholas Valentino. 

Authorities followed the van while Valentino and Oaxaca conspired on Facetime to ambush the pursuing agents. At one point, Valentino fired two shots into the officers’ car. No one, however, was injured. Afterward, a high-speed chase ensued. The two vehicles piloted by each suspect fled in opposite directions. The Volkswagen, driven by Valentino eventually crashed into a squad card, thus ending the chase. 

A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate Kim Foxx’s State’s Attorney’s Office after the prosecutor trying the case of Jackie Wilson admitted to having a relationship with a witness and then lied on the stand. The ruling included extremely aggressive language describing the incident as an “absolute disgrace,” terminology which has been thrown around a lot in reference to Chicago’s criminal justice system recently. At the very least, the judge accused the State Attorney’s office of ineptitude but also indicated that there is evidence of a cover-up. 

Cook County prosecutors argued passionately against having an independent special prosecutor involved in the case. However, they also said they welcomed the investigation and that they would not oppose further investigation into Nick Trutenko who allegedly perjured himself on the stand after having an illicit relationship with a witness. 

The special prosecutor will have the authority to investigate the office for wrongdoing surrounding the breakdown of a high-profile case that was highlighted by prosecutorial misconduct. If criminal charges are warranted, the prosecutor will have the authority to convene a grand jury.

The officer is okay. He was shot in the vest. The woman who fired the bullets, however, was critically injured in the exchange of gunfire. She was charged with attempted murder, weapons crimes, and aggravated battery. On Monday, she accepted a plea for aggravated battery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Good behavior credits plus time served mean that she could be out in as little as four years. Had the defendant been convicted of attempted murder, she would have faced a minimum sentence of 26 years. 

What Happened?

Two plainclothes officers witnessed the defendant during a suspected drug deal. One officer called the defendant over for questioning. She immediately ran. The officer gave chase. When he was about to catch up with her, she turned around and shot him. The bullet penetrated a flashlight on his vest and then also penetrated the vest leaving a scar on his body near his heart. The officers returned fire but critically wounded the defendant who survived her injuries to stand trial. She was expected to plead innocent and then defend herself at trial, but a last-minute plea deal subverted the effort.

Contact Information