Chicago inmates cheer accused cop killer, face reprisals

How bad have things gotten in Chicago? This bad.

As you may have already heard, Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer was murdered in the line of duty by a felon who he was pursuing. Shomari Legghette shot Bauer six times with a handgun, killing him. After being arrested and taken to jail, Legghette was escorted past a holding pen where a number of inmates began cheering for him like he was some sort of conquering hero. (CBS Chicago)

A handful of inmates at Cook County Jail applauded when the man charged with killing Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer walked past their holding cell on Thursday.

The Cook County Sheriff’s office said surveillance video shows 27 inmates in a holding cell in an area connecting the Leighton Criminal Courthouse to the jail. As officers escorted Shomari Legghette back to jail after his bond hearing on Thursday, between 3 and 5 of the inmates can be seen clapping.

Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart, called the inmates’ actions “disgraceful and despicable.” She said officials were working to identify the inmates who clapped, and would ask the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to consider using the video against them in sentencing in their cases.

The inmates also are being transferred to other jails outside Cook County, according to Smith.

There’s a video at the link above, but I didn’t embed it for you here since I couldn’t locate one that wasn’t locked into autoplay mode. (How annoying is that?)

The display by the inmates was disgusting in and of itself, but the situation has become even more complicated. There are now suggestions that they will face reprisals for their actions when their individual cases are heard. This has some free speech advocates up in arms.

Cara Smith, the chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart, explained what’s being done. (Associated Press)

She said the five inmates were transferred overnight from Chicago to a jail in southern Illinois, where it will be more difficult for family and friends to visit them while they are in custody.

The jail also is forwarding to prosecutors the video and reports of the incident Thursday afternoon so they can use the information if the inmates are convicted, she said.

“The conduct that those detainees engaged in was disgraceful… and speaks to their character,” Smith said. “We feel it should be considered by prosecutors in connection with their sentencing.”

The video could be a “factor of aggravation” considered by a judge in sentencing.

At least one defense attorney is already going to the mat, declaring that the inmates’ actions, while reprehensible, are “a clear exercise of their right to free speech.” As such, he concludes that their display can’t be considered as aggravation when they face sentencing.

As much as it disgusts me to say it, that’s probably the correct call. Regardless of what crimes those men in the holding cell are charged with, speech they engage in while in the cell will almost surely be found to be completely unrelated. We may all be justifiably enraged at them, but if a judge takes that information into account and hands them down additional jail time or extra charges based on the cheering, it will likely be thrown out on appeal. Even worse, the court could be setting the inmates up for some sort of lawsuit down the road which they could conceivably win.

This is one case where it’s probably better to publicize their behavior as education for the public but let that be the end of it.