After 10 months of motions, arguments and testimony, a federal judge ruled that wiretap evidence gathered by an indicted Chicago cop may be used in the sweeping racketeering conspiracy case against 11 members of the Four Corner Hustlers.
During a two-hour hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin ruled a host of recordings collected by indicted police Sgt. Xavier Elizondo could be used as evidence at trial. Elizondo and another Chicago cop were indicted last year on charges that they submitted phony affidavits for search warrants they used to rob drug dealers.
Since October, attorneys for two of the 11 defendants had argued Elizondo’s wiretaps should be barred because they were improperly applied for. Earlier this summer, former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and her former first deputy, Shauna Boliker — who’s now a Cook County judge — took the witness stand to testify in defense of the wiretap practices in the state’s attorney’s office.
Prosecutors previously disclosed that they have “hundreds of hours” worth of recordings collected in 2012 and 2013 as part of their investigation into the West Side gang. Elizondo submitted four of the five affidavits for wiretaps on phones used by reputed gang leader Labar “Bro Man” Spann.
Prosecutors allege the 11 defendants were part of a savvy, smooth-running criminal enterprise that was responsible for nine murders on the West Side between 2000 and 2012, along with a host of other shootings, robberies, drug deals and extortions.
While the wiretap evidence is now fair game for prosecutors, other pieces of evidence could be in jeopardy in the case, which was ordered split into two last March.
Eight of the 11 defendants — all of whom are not being considered for a possible death penalty if convicted — are scheduled to go on trial Sept. 17. Federal prosecutors have signaled they may seek the death penalty against the other three defendants, who are set for trial in September 2020.
Attorneys for the first eight said Monday prosecutors in the past week have sent them about 9,000 pages of additional materials to review before the trial. They asked Durkin to push back the trial’s start date.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, disclosed they are waiting for the Illinois State Police to give them test results and analyses related to gun and drug evidence that could be used at trial.
Durkin was clearly miffed at the potential delay coming to light so close to the trial date and floated the possibility of barring the evidence from trial.
“You apparently indicted [the case] without having some of this,” he told prosecutors. “You may have to go to trial without it.”
Durkin has, on several occasions, explained he scheduled the two trials for the fall because it is the easiest time of year to empanel a jury that’s able to sit for several months of testimony. Juror questionnaires have been mailed out and between 50 and 70 people have already responded that they would be able to serve on the jury of the first trial, which is expected to last two months.
If the trial date was moved, Durkin said, the search for a pool of jurors would have to start over.
“This is an enormous amount of disruption if you can’t go to trial on the date set,” Durkin said. “We’re going to lose people that already committed. That’s a problem.”
The judge might decide Wednesday whether to exclude some evidence and whether to delay the trial’s start.