Following concerns about the security of a street-gang trial set for next week, a federal judge on Friday denied requests to have several alleged gang members shackled during the proceedings.
Several members of the Hobos street gang, a so-called “super gang” of factions from the Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples and others, are set to go on trial Tuesday on charges of racketeering and conspiracy. The feds have also tied the gang to at least nine murders and other acts of violence.
U.S. marshals had requested that the defendants be shackled due to the nature of their charges and disciplinary history while in federal custody. They said the marshals would not have the manpower needed to supervise the defendants as well as others in the gallery during the trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
But U.S. District Judge John Tharp denied those requests during a Friday status hearing, claiming the shackles could sway the jurors’ perceptions of the defendants.
“The charges in this case are obviously quite serious, and the concern that the marshals have raised is quite appropriate,” Tharp said. “That said, there’s obvious prejudice that [shackling] inures, and I have to try to balance the rights of the defendants against the legitimate needs of security.”
“What reinforces this is the fact that should the defendants not comport themselves perfectly appropriately at the trial, the prejudice that will float to them from that sort of misconduct will far outweigh the prejudice of shackles,” he continued.
Tharp said it was a “difficult” decision that he will not hesitate to revisit during the trial if necessary.
Tharp also addressed concerns that a guilty plea by one of the defendants could adversely affect the other defendants.
He said Stanley Vaughn, who pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, could either withdraw his plea or be granted a severance and go on with a simultaneous, separate trial with a separate jury.
But Tharp made no ruling on Vaughn’s trial Friday, in order to give Vaughn time to discuss his options with his lawyer.