Since Chicago police Sgt. Xavier Elizondo was indicted in May on federal corruption charges, there’s been a raft of misconduct lawsuits involving the officer, who’s now also facing a criminal case in which he’s accused of submitting phony affidavits for search warrants that he would use to rob drug dealers.
The civil litigation could end up costing Chicago taxpayers millions of dollars in settlements.
And now the allegations of corruption also could hurt the prosecution of 11 members of the brutal Four Corner Hustlers — one of the biggest gang cases in Chicago history.
Eleven members of the street gang — including reputed boss Labar “Bro Man” Spann — were indicted last year in a racketeering conspiracy case that links the gang to six killings, as well as other shootings and robberies and drug dealing.
But, according to a new court filing, Elizondo’s troubles could end up hindering that case, set to go to trial next September.
Earlier this year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Salib, the lead prosecutor in the Four Corner Hustlers case, disclosed that authorities have “hundreds of hours” of wiretapped phone calls.
But this past week, the attorney for Rontrell Turnipseed — one of the men charged in the gang case, who is also a Chief Keef-aligned rapper performing under the stage name “ManeMane4CGG” — filed papers asking U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin to throw out wiretaps that could provide key evidence.
Michael Schmiege filed a motion for Turnipseed that seeks to bar the admission of any conversations recorded on five wiretapped phones used by Spann — in part because four of the five affidavits submitted to get them were given by Elizondo.
Schmiege says defense attorneys still haven’t received all of the files from the investigation of Spann’s alleged narcotics operation, so they can’t determine whether anything in Elizondo’s affidavits wasn’t true.
“You see what’s in the affidavits,” Schmiege says. “What they detail is a very, very lengthy investigation. I don’t know that we have all that information yet.”
Responses to the move to keep the wiretaps from being use haven’t been submitted yet. It isn’t known when Durkin will rule on the motion.
“Based on the allegations contained in the indictment Mr. Turnipseed requests an evidentiary hearing to determine the veracity of the wiretap affidavits for Target Phones 1-5,” Schmiege wrote in the motion.
Spann’s lawyer and the U.S. attorney’s office wouldn’t comment.
On Tuesday, the attorney for another one of the defendants in the Four Corner Hustlers case, Labar Spann’s cousin Deandre Spann, also filed a motion asking the judge to throw out the wiretap evidence. Gal Pissetzky, representing Deandre Spann, argues that the wiretaps were illegally obtained, though not based on Elizondo’s legal troubles.
The information Elizondo provided in the sworn statements he gave to get the wiretaps provide the clearest look so far into what authorities say was a smoothly operating drug operation headed by Labar Spann, doing business across swaths of the West Side since the mid-1990s.
But now the U.S. attorney’s office finds itself in the uncomfortable position of prosecuting Elizondo while also defending the integrity of the affidavits he submitted.
Elizondo and Officer David Salgado were indicted in May. Prosecutors have said they submitted bogus sworn statements to judges to get search warrants they used to rob drug dealers and others of cash and narcotics.
Elizondo — who previously was assigned to a joint FBI-Chicago police task force — is charged with embezzlement and conspiracy to commit theft. Salgado is charged with lying to the FBI.
Since the indictment, Elizondo and Salgado have been the subject of five federal lawsuits.
Both officers were stripped of their police powers in January as federal authorities were investigating department members for allegedly ripping off drug dealers.
In September, Elizondo’s lawyer filed a motion to bar the use of wiretapped conversations involving the sergeant in his own criminal proceedings.
In his wiretap affidavits, Elizondo describes a highly organized, often elusive narcotics organization made up of members of the “Outlaw” faction of the Four Corner Hustlers headed by Spann, who authorities have said kept a tight grip on drug sales even during frequent stints behind bars.
Elizondo wrote that law enforcement began focusing on Spann and narcotics distribution in February 2012 and learned that he controlled drug sales at 13th Street and Central Park Avenue, in the 3900 block of West Lexington, in the 3900 block of West Jackson and in the 4000 block of West Harrison.
According to court records, Stevon Sims, another of the 11 indicted gang members, bought one unit in the two-story greystone at 3927 W. Lexington in May 2014.
Police raided that building three times between November 2014 and January 2015. They seized 92.5 grams of heroin, 21.5 grams of cocaine, 1.9 grams of cannabis, a “military style assault rifle” with 30 live rounds, a 12-gauge shotgun with six live shells, two loaded handguns — one that was reported stolen in July 2014 — and another 12 live rounds of ammunition, according to court records.
Undercover officers also made several “controlled buys” of narcotics from Spann associates at drug spots he controlled, Elizondo said in his sworn statements.
Aside from the sale of narcotics, Elizondo said Spann and the Outlaw faction used violence to make money and cultivate loyalty.
“The Outlaw Fours are known to make their money by committing shootings and robberies, or ‘contracts,’ for other west side drug dealers,” Elizondo wrote in one statement. “If one faction was in conflict with another faction over a spot, Spann would be contacted for the purpose of robbing the spots and/or shooting individuals associated with the spot. Spann took these ‘contracts’ in order to gain alliances with other west side drug dealers who would be in a position to give more spots to Spann as payment for the contract.”
In one wiretapped call, Spann and another of the indicted gang members, Keith Chatman, discussed an undercover officer who was spotted while doing surveillance on Chatman before driving to the parking lot of a police facility at Homan and Fillmore. Elizondo wrote that the conversation included the following exchanges:
Spann: What up?
Chatman: Man, you know I’m so wrong on that s—, right? You know what I was finna do.
Spann: They on drug conspiracy s—.
Spann: They on some drug conspiracy s—.
Chatman: But look, check this out, ain’t, ain’t ain’t nobody talking about drugs. But hey man, look, I so wrong and s— at, at, at what I do and everything out here in these streets, and s—, right B, I followed his ass like, (laughs) I just followed his ass all the way to Homan and Fillmore, dude. He went clean in the gate, Joe.
While 11 members of the Outlaw Fours were indicted last year, just six are mentioned in the affidavits. Along with Spann, Chatman, Sims and Turnipseed, Elizondo said Deandre Spann and Sammie Booker were involved with narcotics between 2012 and 2013.
Another 29 people were listed by Elizondo as having some connection to the Outlaw Fours’ narcotics operations.
When the indictment was returned last year, three other members of the Outlaw Fours — all dead — were listed as unindicted co-conspirators. One of them was Justin Cook, whose family got a $1.5 million settlement from City Hall after he died in September 2014 while in police custody.
The affidavits typically cover drug dealings. There is little about the six murders authorities have tied the gang to — including the fatal shooting of former Latin Kings leader Rudy Rangel Jr. in 2003.
Only one murder victim, Maximillion McDaniel, is mentioned in Elizondo’s five sworn statements. Elizondo wrote that Labar Spann ordered Booker and Jasper Davidson — another unindicted co-conspirator, shot to death in 2003 — to kill McDaniel in 2000. Spann ordered the killing of McDaniel, Elizondo wrote, because McDaniel murdered Jonathan Roy, Spann’s driver.
Spann has used a wheelchair since he was shot in 1999 and left paralyzed from the waist down.