Security threats looming over an impending street-gang trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse have prompted U.S. marshals to ask a judge to take the rare step of shackling alleged gang members during their trial.
Among authorities’ concerns are threats that have allegedly been made toward people under U.S. Marshals Service protection in connection with the case, a marshal supervisor told a judge Tuesday. Ken Robinson said the matter is under investigation, and he wouldn’t elaborate in open court.
Seven members of the Hobos street gang, a so-called “super gang” conglomerate of Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples and others, are set to go on trial for a racketeering conspiracy next week in the 14th-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge John Tharp. The feds have tied the gang to at least nine murders and other acts of violence, including the torture of two South Side brothers with an iron.
The trial could last months.
Among the slayings are the 2013 assassination of Keith Daniels, a federal informant allegedly gunned down by Paris Poe, and the 2006 shooting of police informant Wilbert Moore, who was allegedly killed by Poe and Arnold Council. The murders have left federal prosecutors worried about the safety of other witnesses during and after the trial.
Robinson said Tuesday the alleged Hobos should be shackled during the trial because of the charges they face and their disciplinary history while in federal custody. He also told Tharp the marshals won’t have the manpower necessary to simultaneously supervise the alleged gang members and people in the gallery.
“What we cannot account for is the associates that may attend the trial on a daily basis,” Robinson said.
If shackled, the men would wear leg irons covered in duct tape so jurors wouldn’t hear them clinking while the men walk. A skirt would be added to the defense table in Tharp’s courtroom so jurors couldn’t see the shackles, Robinson told the judge.
Tharp has already ruled once in favor of shackles, records show. But defense attorneys asked him to reconsider, arguing “none of these defendants has a history of attacking guards or being disruptive in court.” Steve Greenberg, who represents an alleged Hobo named William Ford, told the judge Tuesday that such a move would be “terribly cruel.”
Federal prosecutors have also persuaded Tharp to select anonymous jurors for the trial, records show, a move typically made in mob or terrorism cases. But Tharp made no ruling on the shackles Tuesday, telling lawyers simply, “this situation will be resolved before the beginning of trial,” which starts Sept. 6.
Meanwhile, federal authorities have restricted access to a courtyard on the east side of the courthouse “to ensure the safety and security of all judges, employees, jurors and visitors to the courthouse.” They announced the move last week but will not say what prompted it.