Afternoon Edition: July 10, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Marvel Thompson is among the most notorious of hundreds of Chicago criminals looking for a break under the federal First Step Act. | Cook County sheriff’s office

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

Happy Friday! This afternoon will be partly sunny with a high near 87 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 70 degrees. Tomorrow will also be mostly sunny, with a high near 89 degrees, while Sunday’s forecast includes some showers and thunderstorms as things cool off; the high will be near 81 degrees.

Top story

Chicago Black Disciples gang kingpin Marvel Thompson: I’m sorry for my life of crime

In his own mind, Marvel Thompson was the self-styled Robin Hood of Englewood, feeding the poor and encouraging kids on the South Side to stay in school.

To federal authorities, though, he was the king of a violent gang involved in selling drugs and mortgage fraud. The FBI arrested Thompson in 2004. When he pleaded guilty the next year, he admitted only that he’d sold drugs: “As far as the ‘king’ and all that, I’ve told them a thousand times that’s not me.”

Still, Thompson got 45 years in prison. Now he’s trying to get out — 22 years early. And he has written a letter to the judge who’ll decide whether to free him, saying he’s sorry for his “illegal misdeeds” — and for using drug profits to try to do some good.

“In my mind at the time, my criminal undertakings, and fruits thereof, were legitimately used to pay rent for poorer families, pay for cloths [sic] for poorer children, and buy them school supplies and otherwise aid, financially, those in need in the community,” Thompson wrote.

Thompson never admits in the letter that he was the leader of the Black Disciples. The nine-page, handwritten missive to U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo is part of a recent court filing seeking Thompson’s release under the 2018 First Step Act, which allows prisoners to seek sentence reductions based on changes in federal drug laws that came after they went to prison.

Prosecutors oppose his bid to halve his sentence, writing: “Thompson led one of the largest and most violent gangs in the city. Gang activity and the gang lifestyle he championed continues to plague the communities he victimized.” 

Although prosecutors routinely object to early-release requests made under the First Step Act, federal judges in Chicago have approved more than 60% of the requests they have ruled on under that law. Three of Thompson’s co-defendants have been freed, and another top Black Disciples leader got his 25-year sentence reduced to 20 years.

Thompson is among the most notorious of hundreds of Chicago criminals looking for a break under the First Step Act. In the 1990s, he became “king” of the Black Disciples, one of Chicago’s biggest gangs, succeeding imprisoned Jerome “Shorty” Freeman, according to prosecutors. The case against Thompson showed he ordered a member of his gang to be shot in the hand for disobeying an order, and his underlings were accused of beating and killing gang members who didn’t follow the rules. He owned a record company and laundered drug proceeds through more than a dozen properties, according to prosecutors, who said he used the buildings in a mortgage-fraud scheme even as he was giving his time and money to community organizations. 

In prison, Thompson said, he’s learned carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills and hopes to return to his family and work in community outreach: “I realized that I needed to contribute to the efforts to curb the violence that the people of my community were inflicting upon each other,” he wrote.

Read the full story from Frank Main.

More news you need

  1. Under the Archdiocese of Chicago’s just-released plan to reopen school in the fall, students will have to stay with the same group all day, wear face masks and get their temperatures checked upon arrival. Parents who don’t want to send their kids back to school have the option for online learning.
  2. The Chicago Police Department’s summer mobile patrol unit will be participating in community service projects once a week in an effort to build trust on the South and West sides. In addition to being deployed to crime “hot spots,” the officers will be attending prayer circles, peace marches and delivering food and masks to seniors.
  3. United Airlines and the union representing its pilots have reached a tentative agreement governing furloughs, leaves of absence and early retirement, both sides said today. The agreement would encourage volunteers to quit flying, reducing the number of forced job losses.
  4. If you’ve been enjoying the reopened Riverwalk, you can now enjoy it a bit longer as the pre-pandemic operating hours resume. Beginning today, the Riverwalk will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., the city announced.
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A bright one

Sun-Times photo archive rescued and being restored by Chicago History Museum

In December 2017, an executive from the Chicago History Museum opened a 30-by-30-foot storage locker in Dixon and found more than 225 containers inside it, housing roughly 5 million negative frames from Chicago Sun-Times photographs.

Until then, the location and condition of our newspaper’s photo archive had been a mystery — both owners and employees were unaware the negatives were sitting in a storage facility about 100 miles west of Chicago.


Chicago Sun-Times photographer Gene Pesek’s negatives from a news conference held by Mayor Harold Washington in July 1986.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Now, 16 full- and part-time Chicago History Museum employees have been working around the clock to organize and digitize large batches of the newspaper’s images — mostly 35-millimeter negatives shot over a span of 75 years, beginning in the mid-1900s. The millions of images captured iconic moments, like Elvis Presley performing at the Chicago Stadium in 1972 and Mayor Harold Washington being inaugurated in 1983. 

More than 100 of those images go on display today in a free exhibition at the museum titled “Millions of Moments: The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Collection.” Also today, 45,000 Sun-Times images are available for the public to view on the museum’s website; archivists plan to add a few thousand images every month as they scan more negatives. You can purchase copies of these images online.

Read the full story from Ashlee Rezin Garcia, and see more photos from the archive here.

From the press box

The White Sox were already expected to have a strong lineup this season, but new designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion adds extra power and veteran presence to the young team, writes Daryl Van Schouwen.

The Bulls aren’t joining the NBA’s Orlando bubble, but Joe Cowley writes that its success or failure can still affect the team’s future.

And Mark Potash explains how coach Matt Nagy recruited NBA coach Doc Rivers to help fire up the Bears this offseason.

Your daily question ☕

Would you feel comfortable sending your kids back to school in the fall? And if you’re a teacher, do you feel safe going back to the classroom? We want to know why, or why not.

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you to share the most fun thing you’ve done so far this summer. Here’s what some of you said…

“Set up an outdoor movie theater for my kids and a few neighbors. We watch a lot of Disney movies, so we call our evenings ‘social Disneying.’” — Suzanne Ruks Stavropoulos 

“As an airline pilot, I’ve been sidelined for the summer. This has given me ample opportunity to fly my own airplane. Although I’m always keen to take a friend or two along for an airplane ride, I’ve really enjoyed the hours I’ve spent social distancing by flying solo  low and slow with just my thoughts. I don’t plan in advance where I’m going to go, I just fly wherever my intuition guides me. It’s something I love to do and I find it to be a big stress reliever during this problematic pandemic.” — Scott Batzel

“Swimming in our new pool with all my kids and husband. Even the dog.” — Sheri A. Mendez 

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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