State’s attorney, City of Elgin attack another gang — in civil court
By Dave Gathman firstname.lastname@example.org June 25, 2013 1:40PM
Updated: July 27, 2013 6:29AM
ELGIN — Following up a successful effort that began three years ago to weaken the Latin Kings street gang by using the civil courts to keep members from associating with each other, the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office now has sued 25 Elgin members of the Maniac Latin Disciples (MLD) gang.
The suit, filed Friday in Kane County civil court on behalf of the city of Elgin, is the third in three years to be filed by State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon. It is similar to the previous suits, filed in September 2010 against 81 Elgin members of the Latin Kings, and in May 2012 against 35 Aurora members of the Latin Kings.
The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office lodged a similar suit against members of the Latin Kings in February 2012, most of whom live in the Harvard area.
The latest suit, like the previous ones, names specific members of the Maniac Latin Disciples, as well as the MLD gang itself. It asks that a judge issue an injunction prohibiting the named gang members from associating with each other in public, writing gang graffiti, and other activities generally associated with street gangs.
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, McMahon said the goal is to dramatically shrink the gang’s criminal activities by impeding its members’ ability to freely operate within the community among law-abiding residents.
“By and through their association with the Maniac Latin Disciples ... members engage in a pattern of criminal activity including felonies, murders, shootings, aggravated batteries, unlawful possession of and unlawful use of weapons, unlawful possession of and delivery of controlled substances, criminal defacement of property, and other conduct injurious to the people of the state of Illinois and the city of Elgin,” the suit states in part.
Could be arrested
If a judge grants the requested injunction, anytime a person named in the suit is caught in public with another listed MLD member, he can be arrested and charged with unlawful contact with a known street gang member.
“This provides our gang unit with one more tool,” Deputy Elgin Police Chief Bill Wolf said. “Besides the unlawful contact charge, once you have someone for that, we can search them” and possibly find weapons or drugs.
Wolf said the injunctions also could be used as an excuse, so to speak, for a King or a Maniac to leave their gang. “They can say now, ‘I’m not allowed to associate with you anymore, or I could be arrested.’ ”
The suit also asks a judge to order the gang to pay unspecified punitive and compensatory damages — money — to make up for past damage and financial losses incurred as a result of the gang activities and to offset the city’s and prosecutors’ costs of fighting the gangs.
“This type of lawsuit has been effective in the past, in this jurisdiction and others, at undercutting street gangs and their ability to carry out their criminal conduct among law-abiding citizens,” McMahon said. “We continue to seek opportunities to file similar civil lawsuits, and we are pleased to work with law enforcement to put an end to the violent, disruptive and antisocial behavior of these gang members.”
“The people named in this suit have participated in many crimes, from murder to drug offenses to brazenly refusing to obey police instructions,” McMahon said. “The people of Kane County expect us to improve their quality of life by reducing crime. We are listening. And we have filed this lawsuit on behalf of those law-abiding citizens who are tired of the destructive crime in their community. We will continue to act in support of their efforts to return to a community that is safe for everyone.”
The project was investigated and prepared with the help of the Elgin Police Department’s gang unit, which researched the criminal histories of gang members in Elgin and came up with a list of who should be targeted. After the suit was filed, the Kane County Sheriff’s Office collaborated with the EPD to serve summonses on each person named.
Each gang member being sued is ordered to respond to a courtroom in the “old courthouse” in downtown Geneva on Oct. 8, to answer the accusations in front of Circuit Judge David R. Akemann.
Elgin Police Cmdr. Ana Lalley said the MLDs were chosen as the second target “because of the level of activity we have had with the Maniacs,” and the number of “predicate offenses” — such as aggravated batteries and unlawful weapons use — that the city could show in arguing that MLD members were dangerous.
The lawsuit was made possible by the 1993 Illinois Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act. That law holds that street gangs operating to terrorize communities with repeated acts of violence may be held accountable for monetary damages and enjoined from further gang activity.
A statement from McMahon’s office noted that “the complaint is a series of allegations that must be proven in court by a preponderance of the evidence. The defendants have the right to deny and challenge these allegations or to admit them or otherwise settle or resolve this complaint.”
About half of the 81 Elgin Latin Kings sued in 2010 never appeared in court to challenge the issuing of injunctions against them. Some argued against the suit on grounds that it interfered with their constitutional right to associate with anyone they want.
Four men named in the Latin Kings case joined together to fight it, claiming they had become born-again Christians. These four said they had dropped out of the gang and that the injunction actually was inhibiting their efforts to spread the Gospel message to other Latin Kings and try to talk them into leaving the gang, too.
Wolf said several of those named in the Kings lawsuit have convinced authorities that they genuinely have left the gang and that those people have been dropped from the Kings injunction.
But prosecutors have to be careful about that, Wolf said, because insincere gang-bangers also could step forward and claim that they have left a gang. He said the cases of five or six Kings remain in the court system, all involving claims of religious discrimination.
The first arrests in the Elgin Kings case happened in February 2012 after a patrolman saw somebody throw a beer can out of a car driving along McLean Boulevard. Questioning the car’s occupants, the officer learned that two were on the injunction list, and both were charged with unlawful contact with a street gang member.
Since then, Wolf said, at least 10 more Kings have been charged with unlawful contact.
Wolf said the impact of the first suit on Elgin’s Kings has been noticeable.
“The Latin Kings used to be the most active gang in Elgin, not only in terms of being suspects in crimes but also in being victimized by other criminals. That’s no longer the case,” Wolf said.
“We believe some of the Kings have moved out of Elgin.”
Asked whether yet a third Elgin gang could be targeted by a lawsuit, Lalley said gangs now should be aware that “this is just normal business practice for us now.”