Get BlazeTV
Op-ed

Horowitz: Prosecutors warn First Step Act releasing gangbangers in Chicago amid record gang violence

But the problem is 'gun violence,' you see

txking/Getty Images

During the confirmation hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Monday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed his concern about felons getting firearms in Chicago based on a dissent the current Seventh Circuit judge and SCOTUS nominee had written. "These gangbangers and thugs fill up the trunks of their cars with firearms and head into the city of Chicago and kill everyone from infants to older people," complained Durbin as he accused Barrett of supporting opinions that will make it easier for gangsters to bring in guns from other states.

Well, Senator, actually the problem is right in Chicago, and it has nothing to do with inanimate guns coming from out of state. It has everything to do with the gun felons and gangbangers that you have worked your entire career to set free from jail.

Durbin was a lead sponsor of the First Step Act, which offers hard-core drug traffickers and career criminals early release from prison. Durbin even voted for an earlier version of the bill, which reduced penalties on federal gun felons. Throughout the process of the prison release bill, we were told that these were only low-level offenders who were unjustly behind bars for too long and that this bill was not a prison release bill because judges would need to sign off on their release. Well, a new analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times shows that judges are signing off on the release of career criminals, including top gang leaders, much to the consternation of local prosecutors who are at their wits' end trying to stem the tide of gun violence.

The Sun-Times analyzed 200 cases of early release in Chicago under the First Step Act and found that "more than 60 percent" of those who applied were granted sentence reductions by judges, "including some of the nation's most notorious criminals." Thus far, 75 applications for sentence reduction were granted, 45 denied, and the rest are still pending. As I warned at the time, counting on judges to keep criminals locked up defeats the entire purpose of the mandatory minimums. In the 1960s and 1970s, liberal judges set criminals free left and right, which led Reagan to go on a crusade for tougher sentencing laws.

In April, over the objection of prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo, a Clinton appointee, cut the sentence of notorious gangster James Yates from life to time served after 22 years behind bars. Three of his former co-defendants were also released, and next month, Larry Hoover, co-founder and former chairman of the Gangster Disciples, has a hearing for early release under the provisions of the First Step Act.

Who is Larry Hoover? According to the prosecutor in that case, "He was the unquestioned leader of a gang that was responsible for a murder rate that, you know, was over double the unacceptable murder rate we have today."

This is what people forget. It's not just about drugs, and these people were not young college kids caught possessing some small quantities of drugs. These are gang leaders who are fueling most of the murder and violence in Chicago. The way the feds put them away is by nailing them on gun, drugs, and racketeering charges. It's that modus operandi that led to the massive decline in crime for two decades. But the reversal of those policies is what is fueling the recent rise in violence.

Chicago has had over 600 murders this year, on pace to more than double last year's total. Nearly three times as many children have been shot this year in Chicago as last year. What is the source of this violence? According to the Chicago Tribune, "Gang-related shootings have remained a persistent problem all year long. Dozens of children 17 and younger have been fatally shot, often in gang crossfire in neighborhoods."

This is the worst time to be releasing gang members. The Sun Times details other top gang leaders slated for early release, as well as corrupt cops who turned into career criminals and committed high-level crimes. The paper found that federal prosecutors contested 60% of those released by Illinois federal judges under the act so far.

There are a limited number of people with gang organizational leadership skills, and to release some of the best in Chicago at this time is the ultimate exercise in pouring lighter fluid on a raging forest fire.

If someone is serving hard time for a drug conviction in federal prison, chances are he is a gang leader. We saw this last October when Joel Francisco, who was released under the First Step Act, was charged with murder in Providence, Rhode Island, just months after being released. Francisco was serving life in prison for a third drug trafficking charge in 2005 under the "three strikes and you're out" law. However, he got such a severe sentence not because of drugs but because he was a known Latin Kings member responsible for a lot of violence in the city, including shooting a man in the back of the head, execution-style, in 1997. He pleaded no contest for that, so at the time, he escaped full justice in the state system. The feds targeted him specifically for this reason, yet the First Step Act released him.

This is the dynamic that politicians like Dick Durbin obfuscate by talking about "gun violence" instead of gang violence and his hand in releasing gangbangers from prison. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass put it best when he described "gun violence" as "a politically correct term that gives politicians wiggle room."

"It's not gun violence. It's street gang violence." Kass declared. "If we really cared about these victims and their memories, we'd have the decency to call what happened to them by its real name: gang wars."

In June, Laroy Battle was charged with shooting two teens to death at a candy store. The man was sentenced to probation 18 months ago for a gun felony, despite his prior record, and got no jail time, which allowed him to remain on the streets to allegedly commit this double murder.

In July, Teantun Davis was arrested for shooting a 5-month-old in the eye. Davis was arrested on June 26, 2019, for, you guessed it, illegally possessing a firearm. Yet he never served time in prison and instead was on probation. Indeed, the problem with Chicago is not the guns from outside the city but the criminals who abuse guns inside the city being released from jail. The Illinois incarceration population has plummeted by 52% since fiscal year 2013, and those numbers are accelerating more with coronavirus jailbreak. Durbin might be proud of those numbers, but they are reflected in the skyrocketing homicide rate on the city streets.
One last thing…
Watch TheBlaze live and on demand on any device, anywhere, anytime.
try premium
Exclusive video
All Videos
Watch BlazeTV on your favorite device, anytime, anywhere.
Subscribe Now
Recommended
Daily News Highlights

Get the news that matters most delivered directly to your inbox.