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Radio silence

Monday, Dec 10, 2012

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

One of the most fascinating things about the media frenzy surrounding state Sen. Donne Trotter’s arrest last week was that not one of his Democratic opponents in the 2nd Congressional District immediately jumped in front of the cameras to comment about it.

They stayed quiet even when Trotter (D-Chicago) announced the next day, after bonding out of jail on a gun charge, that he wouldn’t drop out of the race to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

And still nothing was said after media reports revealed that the gun was not registered and that Trotter had not reported an outside security job on his financial disclosure reports.

Trotter was arrested Wednesday morning for allegedly attempting to bring an unloaded pistol and an ammo clip through a security checkpoint at O’Hare International Airport. Reporters swarmed the courthouse after Trotter posted bond Thursday and then, when he refused comment, some descended on his home on the South Side.

His arrest was one of the biggest news stories in the city, mainly because of his congressional bid, yet none of the dozen or so other prospective Democratic candidates in the 2nd District special election issued a statement or responded on the record to questions about his arrest or his unknown second job.

One campaign insider said late last week that his operation was maintaining a “no comment” stance regarding Trotter but marveled how it was “really amazing” that everybody had shown such restraint in a race that appears to be hotly contested.

Well, Trotter is armed, I cracked.

All kidding aside, the political dynamics in black-majority political districts can be a lot different than in white districts. So many blacks have been arrested in this country that a candidate who piles on somebody right after they’re busted probably wouldn’t be received well by black voters — who make up most of the electorate in the 2nd District.

Plus, there’s an old political saw about how one should “never commit homicide when an opponent is committing suicide.”

Ironically, Trotter was arrested for allegedly violating a law that he voted for twice. Once a decade ago, when he voted to increase the penalties for his alleged violation from a misdemeanor to a felony.

And then again a few years ago when he moved that statutory language to another part of state law: “It is unlawful for any person to board or attempt to board any commercial or charter aircraft, knowingly having in his or her possession any firearm, explosive of any type or other lethal or dangerous weapon.”

Notice the word “knowingly” in the text. Trotter told police that he forgot he had the small, .25-caliber pistol and a separate ammo clip in his travel bag.

Trotter’s story is that he didn’t knowingly bring the gun through security, which seems logical because trying to do so at O’Hare would be a spectacularly stupid thing to do. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office, however, decided to charge him with a Class 4 felony, which carries a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of up to $25,000.

A former state’s attorney in another county who once was a legislator said Trotter’s “I forgot” defense will be a “tough slog.”

“The case law on this provision (knowledge) is clear and well established,” the ex-prosecutor said in an email message. “About the only way I could see a possible defense under this provision would be if Donne picked up someone else’s luggage that looked just like his luggage and carried it to security without ‘knowing’ that it contained a gun — or that someone planted a gun in his luggage.”

He said he always liked Trotter, but the Chicago senator is “in a world of hurt with the law.” But he added it’s “ridiculous” that every unlawful use of a weapon charge is a felony.

“There is no misdemeanor provision of UUW available for first-time offenders,” he grumbled.

And word from inside is that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez may take a hard look at Trotter’s revelation about his special gun-carrying permit via a job with a Chicago security company.

Things could get very ugly or end very quickly. And his opponents may have jumped on Trotter by the time you read this.

* And as it turns out, what I was hearing from inside the state’s attorney’s office was correct

The pistol-packing misadventure at O’Hare Airport that landed state Sen. Donne Trotter in a lockup facing felony gun charges has spawned a separate investigation into the politically connected security company Trotter said employs him as an armed guard, Chicago has learned.

Law enforcement sources say the investigation will likely look into whether Trotter, who makes nearly $90,000 a year as senator, really does moonlight as a security guard for Allpoints Security and Detective Inc., 2110 1/2 E. 71st St.

And a separate state probe has been launched to determine if the Southeast Side security firm has acted as a “front” to procure firearm control cards for people who are not employed as armed guards, according a source close to the investigation.

Apparently, the state’s attorney likes to leak info about ongoing investigations. Not good at all.

* In other news, Dick Durbin demanded no special treatment for Trotter

“We’re very serious, and we have to remain serious at airports. When people want to bring firearms on airplanes, they’ve got to know they face felony charges, which is what is looming over Sen. Trotter at the moment,” Durbin said.

“What happens as a result of this case, I can’t say. But we can’t make exceptions because someone’s an elected official,” Durbin said. “This applies to everybody across the board. Don’t tempt us. Don’t try to test the system because we’re serious about safety on our airplanes.”

I would add that there shouldn’t be any special leaking about this case, either.

* Related…

* Washington: Donne Trotter’s gun is worse than his stupidity

* Slating: Becoming chosen one doesn’t carry weight it once did

* Race to Replace Jackson Lacks Star Power

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - one of the 35 - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:34 am:

    “But we can’t make exceptions because someone’s an elected official,” Durbin said. Come on Senator. You elected officials make exceptions for yourselves all the time! Are you going to be covered by the same health care plan as the rest of the country? Or did you carve out an exception for congress?

  2. - Julian - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:40 am:

    I wonder how Senator Durbin feels about the “special treatment” Chicago aldermen get when it comes to carrying handguns?

    I agree with one of the 35, “The laws are for thee, and not for me”

  3. - The Captain - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:55 am:

    Only an out of state moron could come up with the headline “Race to Replace Jackson Lacks Star Power”. Are you kidding? You’ve got two former nominees for statewide office, a former congresswoman, a former congressman, a former football star, a high ranking budget leader in Senate leadership and the woman who ranked highest on the most recent poll is a state senator who is able to compete against these resumes. GO AWAY OUT OF STATE MORON JOURNALISTS.

  4. - ilskeptic - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:57 am:

    Re: ‘one of the 35′
    Actually, it was pretty well established back when the Affordable Care Act was passed that Congress has access ONLY to the same health plans offered as part of the ACA. Here’s one recent link:

  5. - Skeeter - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    With a big field, there is absolutely no upside of taking the lead in opposing Trotter. Let it play out. Let somebody else go negative. Stay out of the mud

  6. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:02 am:

    The thundering silence may come from a concern relating to other ‘perks’ that elected officials in Illinois seem to have.

    Will the code of silence break and disarm hordes of politicians? Stay tune to the continuing soap opera - As Illinois Squirms

  7. - Hammer - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:02 am:

    When your opponent is drowning throw that [guy] an anvil. This is a perfect time, not to jump on the gun stuff but to release anything else your research has found and drag out the negative press through Christmas either a) stunting his fundraising or b) running him out. Who’s running these campaigns?

  8. - Rod - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:06 am:

    All of the worse case scenarios for Senator Trotter seem to be playing out. Now that the Allpoints investigation according to Rich’s story is going full blast there will likely be only more trouble ahead. I just hope the Senator keeps his retirement benefits when this is all done, regardless of the tiny gun affair he did normally act as a responsible legislator. Our State is like a Greek tragedy that never ends.

  9. - langhorne - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:26 am:

    i like trotter, but he stepped in it big time. i think it will only get messier as time goes on. he should cut his losses, apologize, and withdraw from the congressional race. then do the best w the charges. he can remain in the senate. what troubles me most is that he was so comfortable with having a gun in his garment bag that he could forget about it. that suggests he carries it that way frequently (granted, not illegal, except for trying to go thru security and not registering with the city)

  10. - Esteban - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:42 am:

    If I were to carry a weapon for protection, it certainly wouldn’t be a .25 caliber handgun.

  11. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:42 am:

    I think the column has it just about right. I’d add that I don’t think anyone can build themselves up by piling on Trotter.

  12. - Loop Lady - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:54 am:

    There’s plenty of mud to go around in a policial contest. Wouldn’t be great if this special election stayed out of the gutter? Not gonna happen, but I can dream…Trotter needed to keep his rep on the up and up and he just stepped in a very messy pile…

  13. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:16 pm:

    === Apparently, the state’s attorney likes to leak info about ongoing investigations ===

    Another strike against Alvarez. She just keeps digging that hole deeper.

    Thanks for a well-written column, Rich. The code really should allow for something lesser than a felony charge in certain circumstances.

  14. - OneMan - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:32 pm:

    Someone may want to tell the security outfit to reduce the amount of flash on their site and fix some of the grammar issues…

  15. - Todd - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:37 pm:

    I am at a loss for words on the screed Ms. Washington wrote.

    Her self induced fear of both firearms and the possibility that someone might carry one explains why it is so difficult to have a conversation with many in the media about the topic.

    That said an article in the Atlantic did a balanced job I thought of looking at the whole thing.

  16. - casey - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:02 pm:

    …and as for the race lacking “star power”, I believe that “star power” is what is wrong with politics today anyway. The generally uninformed electorate will fall for the flashy instead of the dull but qualified every time.
    Give me a reasonable, intelligent person like a Kurt Summers - Preckwinkle’s former Chief of Staff, over these superficial career politicians anyday.

    I also hear that at the WVON Senior Citizen Breakfast this past Saturday, Rep. Monique Davis threw her hat into the ring for the office. Oy vey……what is in the water out there ?

  17. - ILPoliticalJunkie - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:25 pm:

    Unless Black Leaders/Politicians come out to show support, then I doubt Trotter will win this election. There are many alternative candidates for people to choose in this race.

  18. - Pale Rider - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:03 pm:

    I don’t know if it has been mentioned yet, but was the magazine loaded? If the magazine was loaded then under Illinois law the gun was loaded. There is some significance to carrying a loaded firearm and improper transportation of a firearm.

  19. - John - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:47 pm:

    Special treatment? How about the fact that Chicago is just about the only jurisdiction that arrests people for mistakenly carrying a gun to security. Every other airport, 4-5 times a day, just tells the person to take the gun back to their car. Why is Chicago so special?

  20. - 332bill - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:10 pm:

    Pale Rider
    A gun can be transported legally in a case with a loaded magazine (clip) as long as the magazine is not in the gun or a bullet in the chamber.

  21. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:34 pm:

    OneMan, I observed earlier that 1995 called Allpoints and wants the Webpage back. I failed to note the atrocious grammar at that time. My bad.
    Another concern about Allpoints and “typical” security contracts is that a “typical” contract (at least in my experience with several State agencies) will specify the weapon type and caliber to be carried by armed security guards provided under the contract. Historically, this provision was included to prevent a “Dirty Harry” scenario where a guard might try to pack a weapon too powerful for the assignment. The opposite was not contemplated, but it will be interesting to see what exactly the contract requires in this regard.

  22. - casey - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:54 pm:

    Don Rose has an interesting take on Trotter.
    Is it prohibited to link to other stories here?

  23. - Todd - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:01 pm:

    Pale you are wrong

    The mag can be loaded so long as the gun is not uncased

  24. - Quinn T. Sential - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 5:59 pm:

    Todd, for reporting purposes the TSA classified Trotter’s pop gun as “loaded” without a bullet in the chamber:

  25. - Quinn T. Sential - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:55 pm:

    Horse meets barn door in passing:

  26. - Quinn T. Sential - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 9:06 pm:

    Here I am on the road again, there I am upon the stage, there I am playing star again, there I go, turn the page:

  27. - Ben J. - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 9:48 pm:

    Everyone should follow the same rules. Politician or not. It all comes down to common sense.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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