A Cook County judge quickly found Reggie Daniel guilty of first-degree murder Tuesday in the slaying of a commodities trader who was exercising in a luxury River West apartment building in March 2016.
Daniel will be sentenced on Sept. 24.
Judge Carol Howard delivered her verdict at 6 p.m., almost immediately after defense attorneys and prosecutors delivered their closing statements in the fourth day of the bench trial.
Daniel, who uses a wheelchair, fatally shot Darrin Joss, a 45-year-old trader, as Joss was using an exercise machine in the eighth floor gym of the Alta K Station apartments at 555 W. Kinzie on March 2, 2016. The shooting, which followed an argument between the two men, was captured on surveillance footage and played for the court.
Defense attorneys had asked Howard to find Daniel guilty of second-degree murder, but the judge said they had failed to convince her the crime was anything less than first-degree murder.
“Darrin Joss was, as two witnesses described him, a big teddy bear,” Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Amanda Pillsbury said during closing arguments.
As soon as the verdict was announced, several friends and family members of Joss hugged and began to weep in the courtroom gallery. Daniel, meanwhile, gave a backpack of possessions to his family and handed his gray tie to a Cook County sheriff’s deputy.
Daniel, who took the stand in his own defense, testified that Joss had harassed and attacked him on several occasions in the months before the shooting.
Daniel testified that in August 2014, as he was talking with the doorman in the lobby of the building, Joss’ girlfriend invited herself up to his apartment to have a nightcap. It was there, Daniel said, that the woman asked Daniel how much he would pay to have sex with her — an offer he declined.
Daniel said that, for months after, Joss threatened and periodically attacked him in the building.
“I felt terrified,” Daniel said. “He said that when he catch (sic) me at the right time he was going to kill me.”
Daniel testified that on March 2, 2016, he was near the the exercise area when Joss threatened him once again. Daniel said that he’d been carrying a gun on him for two days — since the last time he and Joss had crossed paths.
After an argument and an exchange of insults, Joss went back to the exercise machine, leaving Daniel. Daniel then wheeled up behind Joss and shot him in the head as he was exercising. He shot him once more as he fell to the floor.
Daniel turned himself in at Chicago Police headquarters about eight hours after the shooting. He testified that he didn’t remember what he did with the gun he used to kill Joss.
Under cross-examination from Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Maria Augustus, Daniel conceded that he never told police, Alta security or building management about the threats.
“Did you call the police?” Augustus asked.
“No,” Daniel replied.
“Did you outcry to anyone about these threats?”
Daniel said that he didn’t alert anyone to the threats because he was scared that it would “enrage” Joss and his threats and attacks would escalate.
Andrea Bosco, the Alta K Station community manager, testified that residents in fear for their safety because of threats from another resident could break their lease without a fee.
In fact, Bosco said, three Alta K residents broke their leases after Daniel killed Joss.
Daniel moved into the building in the summer months of 2014 as part of a Chicago Housing Authority program that allowed housing voucher holders to live in high-end apartments.
Shortly after the shooting, the Sun-Times reported that Daniel’s monthly rent in the building was $2,055 — $1,884 of which was covered by taxpayers through the program.
“Darrin was a good man and everything [Daniel] said about him was a lie,” one of Joss’ friends, who did not want to be identified, said after the verdict was read.