A magistrate judge ordered an Indiana man charged in federal court with acting as the so-called straw-purchaser of the gun that killed Chicago Police officer Ella French to be released from jail pending trial — a decision Chicago Police Department’s top cop vehemently opposes.
Prosecutors had said they wanted Jamel Danzy held in custody, and a detention hearing had been set for Wednesday. But when the hearing began, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert said lawyers had come to an agreement on conditions for Danzy’s release.
Gilbert then agreed to release Danzy, 29, on terms that included a $4,500 unsecured bond, supervision by court personnel and a warning to have no contact with Eric Morgan, who has been charged along with his brother in state court in connection with French’s death.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown blasted the decision, which he views as another example of the lax judicial system releasing too many people charged with serious offenses.
“To say that I am extremely disappointed in U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffery Gilbert’s decision to release Jamel Danzy on an unsecured bond today is an understatement,” Brown said in a written statement. “It is an outrage.”
Brown said “the court has done a disservice to Officer French’s memory, to the entire Chicago Police Department, and to the thousands of men and women across the country who work around the clock, day in and day out to stem the violence that is plaguing our communities.”
Emonte Morgan, 21, and his brother Eric Morgan, 22, have been charged in the shooting and face several felony charges. Both were ordered held without bail Tuesday in separate court hearings.
The Saturday shooting at 63rd Street and Bell Avenue left French dead and her partner in critical condition.
Danzy, who was arrested Sunday, is charged with conspiracy to violate federal firearm laws. His release underscores the uphill battle authorities say they face when prosecuting so-called straw purchasers, who use their clean criminal records to put guns in the hands of people who aren’t supposed to have them.
“[Gilbert’s] decision sets a dangerous precedent that straw purchasers like Danzy are not a danger to society, despite the fact that his alleged actions directly led to the murder of a Chicago Police Officer and left another in critical condition,” Brown said. “The outrageous abundance of illegal firearms in our city and our nation is a major factor driving the violence that is continually cutting short the lives of our loved ones and fellow human beings.”
Straw purchasing has been characterized as a so-called paperwork crime that involves lying on a form. And straw purchasers have clean criminal records by nature, though prosecutors would point out that they use their clean records to commit their crime.
Attorney General Merrick Garland came to Chicago last month for the launch of a new initiative meant to curb gun violence, in part by targeting straw purchasers.
To have Danzy held, the feds would have had to show he is a danger to the community or a flight risk. They signaled during an earlier hearing that part of their argument could have involved at least one other straw purchase he allegedly made. Danzy admitted he also purchased a gun for his cousin, who he knew was a convicted felon, records show.
The criminal complaint filed against Danzy alleges the Honda CR-V stopped by the officers Saturday was registered to Danzy. He was not present at the shooting, it said. Authorities then traced the gun used in the shooting to Danzy.
He allegedly purchased the Glock semi-automatic pistol from a licensed dealer in Hammond on March 18.
Federal agents approached Danzy on Sunday at a Munster restaurant where he works, according to the complaint. He agreed to speak to the agents, and he initially told them his purchase of the gun was legitimate, the document said. Eventually, the feds say he admitted he was lying. He said he bought the gun for Eric Morgan knowing Eric Morgan could not legally purchase it because of a criminal conviction, court records show.
Eric Morgan was previously convicted of felony theft in 2019 in Dane County, Wisconsin, records show. He was sentenced to three years of probation.