Judge faces ‘tough day’ in court answering charges he brought loaded gun to work
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The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office was given more time to seek a special prosecutor at a hearing Thursday for a judge who allegedly brought a loaded gun into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
“This is obviously a tough day for Judge Claps, who has an outstanding record as a jurist for over 20 years,” defense attorney Thomas Breen said after a brief hearing at the Maywood courthouse.
“He’s always been on the side of law enforcement … it’s tough to be accused at this point in time in his life.”
Joseph Claps, 70, was allegedly seen dropping a gun on July 3 as he walked through the lobby of the courthouse, at 26th and California, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Two deputies who were walking by and saw the gun and allowed Claps to pick up and put it into his pocket, the sheriff’s office said. The deputies later reported the incident –– which was caught on the courthouse camera –– to a supervisor.
Claps was charged with a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited area.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said Claps’ gun was not confiscated because confiscation is not a consequence for a Class B misdemeanor charge.
Will County Judge Edward Burmilla was brought in to the hear the case Thursday. The state’s attorney’s office had asked the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute the case, but were told that that office also felt there was a conflict.
Breen suggested that was likely because Claps had previously served in that office.
Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Groth told Burmilla that they hoped to identity a special prosecutor by Tuesday.
The person picked to present the case will need to be approved by Will County Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt, Burmilla said. Since there was no one to present the state’s case Thursday, Burmilla said they would postpone Claps’ arraignment hearing until Aug. 9.
Burmilla also approved a request to relax Claps’ bond and allow him to travel out of state after Breen mentioned that Claps has two children and a mother who live outside Illinois.
Claps, dressed in gray sport coat and pink tie, walked quickly to a waiting vehicle after the hearing and declined to comment.
Breen said Claps has a valid FOID and concealed carry permit.
“He has decades of training with firearms from the Army and from his private life,” Breen said. “He’s certainly is no danger to anyone.”
Breen said he felt optimistic that the case would end with acquittal or discharge.
In the meantime, Claps, who had presided over a courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, has been re-assigned to nonjudicial duties, per the office of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans.