Crooked Chicago cop gets more than 7 years in prison for stealing cash and drugs
Xavier Elizondo was convicted in October of using bogus information to get search warrants to steal cash and drugs.
Chicago Police Sgt. Xavier Elizondo once had a “stellar career” as a veteran law enforcement officer before turning “thoroughly corrupt,” said the federal judge who sentenced him to prison Friday.
It might have been the opportunities he discovered through the course of his police work, the judge said. Opportunities to prey on less powerful members of society by landing bogus warrants, forcing his way into people’s homes and stealing.
Regardless, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly said Elizondo “did some really bad things” that led to his corruption conviction last fall. So Kennelly gave Elizondo, 47, more than seven years behind bars, declaring that Elizondo had “completely corrupted the legal system” in Cook County.
The stiff sentence fell short of the 10 years sought by prosecutors but brought to an end a sentencing hearing that technically began in early March — days before the coronavirus pandemic took hold and brought business at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse largely to a halt.
The hearing’s conclusion is now the most high-profile event to occur at the courthouse since the virus upended daily life. However, it took place with strict social-distancing guidelines in place that Kennelly made a point of enforcing, including on courtroom benches. Face coverings are also now required in all public areas of the courthouse.
Before he learned his sentence, Elizondo told the judge, “this is not somewhere I expected to be at this point in my life.”
“I hope and pray that there is some consideration of leniency,” Elizondo said.
Elizondo was convicted on several corruption counts in October along with Officer David Salgado, 39, whose sentencing hearing is set to conclude July 15. Both officers had a “no-pay status” with the Chicago Police Department as of Friday, a CPD spokeswoman said.
The officers were accused of abusing a system that let cops use anonymous “John Doe” informants. The officers had the informants lie to judges to get warrants that let them search properties where they stole money, drugs and cartons of cigarettes, according to an indictment that also accused them of sharing illegal proceeds with informants.
First charged in May 2018, the officers’ fates are being determined at a time when the topic of police reform has again been thrust into the national spotlight after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Though the circumstances differ, Elizondo’s corruption conviction has now netted him a sentence exceeding those given to officers in recent local cases where Chicago cops shot people without justification.
In 2017, a federal judge sentenced Officer Marco Proano to five years in prison for opening fire on a stolen Toyota Avalon full of teenagers in December 2013, wounding two. And a state court judge sentenced Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2019 to nearly seven years in prison for the October 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald.
Another Chicago police officer, Ronald Coleman, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 for tipping off a street gang in a federal obstruction of justice case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Franzblau tried to persuade the judge to put Elizondo away even longer, arguing that Elizondo and Salgado “went into people’s homes and treated it like their personal police playground.”
But defense attorney Michael Clancy asked the judge to give Elizondo closer to five years in prison, arguing that even federal authorities have relied on Elizondo’s police work in the past.