While locked up at the Cook County Jail, reputed West Side gang leader Labar “Bro Man” Spann wanted everyone — jail guards, other inmates, the medical staff, even janitors — to know just how much power he wielded.
“I run this s—,” Spann, who’s now facing new, federal charges that accuse him of taking part in six killings, told another inmate in 2005, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. “No matter where you go on this compound, I’ll have your s— split.”
Between late 2003 and mid-2007, the Cook County sheriff’s office cited Spann —reputed boss of the brutal Four Corner Hustlers street gang — 17 times in disciplinary complaints, the records show.
In one instance, while threatening a corrections officer, Spann alluded to several unsolved murders having been carried out by his gang, according to the records.
Another time, they show, Spann sent a guard to the emergency room after attacking him with the wheelchair he’s used since being shot more than a decade ago.
He also was cited repeatedly for making threats in the jail, fighting with other inmates and fashioning a jailhouse shank, as well as lesser infractions such as possessing roll-your-own cigarettes and matches and several instances of insubordination.
In all, he was found to have been involved in jailhouse threats, violence and other infractions an average of about once every two months between late 2003 and mid-2007 while being held on a murder charge.
Yet Spann routinely escaped punishment by the Cook County Jail Disciplinary Hearing Board — largely because the board didn’t hold hearings on the complaints against him soon enough, the Sun-Times found.
The panel is required by law to hold a hearing on any allegation of misconduct by someone held at the jail typically within seven days, depending on the severity of the infraction.
But in 11 of the 17 jailhouse disciplinary cases against Spann, it failed to do that, according to Cara Smith, a top aide to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
“They didn’t hear [the cases] within the timeframe,” Smith says.
Asked why not, Smith says a backlog of cases at the time — when Dart’s immediate predecessor, Michael Sheahan, was sheriff — likely was the reason. “Right now, we don’t have a backlog,” she says.
Spann didn’t deny wrongdoing in 14 of the cases — including the one in which he was accused of bragging about “numerous unsolved murders” committed by his gang and telling a corrections officer, “You’re going to be next.”
Yet he wasn’t punished after being accused of making that threat, jail records show.
The board — which has the authority to impose punishments as severe as “restrictive custody,” in which a detainee’s jailhouse privileges are restricted — found Spann “guilty as charged” in only three cases.
For those, he was ordered to spend a total of 58 days in restrictive custody during the 3½-year period he spent at the Cook County Jail. He also was ordered to undergo psychological evaluations following five of the incidents. And he got a single “verbal reprimand.”
In March 2004, records show Spann told a corrections officer: “Your kids and your family are going to die, m———–, and then I’m going to kill your b—-! I’m gonna f— you up right now, I’m gonna shank you the first chance I get!”
In that case, the disciplinary board didn’t punish Spann but ordered him to undergo a psychological evaluation, records show.
Ten months later, Spann was accused of refusing to go back to his cell. When officers tried to take him there, he attacked one of them, according to a disciplinary report: “Spann started to use his wheelchair as a weapon and attacked [an officer] by rolling his wheelchair back onto [the officer’s] feet and legs multiple times.”
Spann eventually was taken to his cell, and the guard was taken to the jail hospital’s emergency room.
Sheriff’s records don’t indicate whether there was any disciplinary action taken.
Spann, 38, and 10 other reputed members of the Four Corner Hustlers were indicted by a federal grand jury last month in a sweeping racketeering conspiracy case prosecutors say included six murders between 2000 and 2003. Spann, who’s accused of taking part in all six killings, could face the death penalty if convicted.
He was already in federal custody when he was indicted after pleading guilty in June to a host of charges involving firing a gun at a west suburban gun range despite being a convicted felon. Authorities say Spann — who posted a photo of himself on Instagram firing the gun — could face as much as 70 years in prison in that case.
Spann has a history of felony convictions dating to 1996, when he was found guilty of manufacturing and delivering cocaine at age 17 and sentenced to a year in prison. In October 1998, he was charged with aggravated battery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Six months later, he was charged with defacing a gun and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Convicted, he got 2½ years of probation in each case, records show.
Then, in late 2003, he was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Latin Kings gang leader Rudy Rangel Jr. — who was wearing $300,000 in jewelry — at a West Side barbershop and attempted robbery.
Spann was acquitted by a Cook County judge, though Rangel’s killing is one of the six included in the new federal indictment.
Spann’s attorney Tod Urban declined to comment.
Among the other jailhouse disciplinary cases Spann faced:
• On Jan. 31, 2005, a guard noticed “a bulge in a bandage” wrapped around Spann’s hand and told him to take it off. In it, Spann was hiding “three pens wrapped in medical tape made into a sharp object,” records show, though they don’t mention any disciplinary action.
• On Feb. 6, 2005, Spann was looking out from his cell window to the jail parking lot and allegedly told a guard he “knows what make and model car [the officer] drives and also which way [the officer] goes home” and where that is.
Then, the report says: “Inmate also stated that he and his gang has [sic] been involved in numerous unsolved murders. Inmate Spann stated for instance a sheriff that was killed in his neighborhood, then stated your [sic] going to be next” to the officer. There is no record of any disciplinary action taken against Spann for the alleged threats.
It’s unclear whether Spann was referring to the 2002 killing of off-duty Cook County sheriff’s officer Frank E. Robins in the 4900 block of West Madison, for which two men were convicted, records show.
Before Spann was in custody for Rangel’s killing, the FBI, using a wiretap, intercepted a phone call in which Spann tried to take out a hit on a sheriff’s investigator, but the contract killing never happened, a source says.
The three cases in which the jail disciplinary board found Spann guilty involved two threats and one instance of insubordination:
• On Feb. 8, 2006, records show Spann threatened one of the jail’s janitors, who “stated that Inmate Spann said that ‘I can get you in here (jail) or on the street.’ ” The disciplinary board found him guilty. His punishment: 29 days of restrictive custody.
• Four days later — before beginning to serve his punishment for threatening the janitor — Spann started cursing “about why it took so long” to feed the inmates, records show: “Spann then threatened [an officer] by stating ‘You have to leave here at eleven o’clock out the same gate every night, so you better act right!” Again, he got 29 days of restrictive custody.
• The final disciplinary finding against Spann — a “verbal reprimand” — was over a June 2006 incident in which “Spann continued to call [an officer] a b—-.”