It’s “Monday Gunday,” our weekly look at how prosecutors and judges handle gun cases in Chicago.
First up this week: Cops pulled over Darion Williams of Elkhart, IN, for a traffic violation in the Loop around 7:30 a.m. on March 10. Officers say they saw an open bottle of liquor in the car and took the 28-year-old into custody. According to police, a further search of the vehicle turned up a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat, two wallets belonging to other people and 25 credit cards that bore different names.
Prosecutors charged Williams with four traffic violations and unlawful use of a weapon. Judge Mary Marubio set bail at $5,000, and Williams went free after putting down a $500 deposit.
• A security guard flagged down cops in the 1700 block of West Howard late on March 8 to report seeing a man brandish a handgun and then throw the weapon under a nearby parked car. Cops recovered the gun and then arrested the man that the guard pointed out: Shawn Ghaziani, 25. Prosecutors charged Ghaziani with unlawful use of a weapon and possessing ammunition without a valid Firearms Owner ID (FOID).
He was released on a recognizance bond without even appearing in front of a judge.
• Police say they saw Justin Johnson driving in Edgewater around 8 p.m. March 10 with only one headlight and no taillights working. Cops say they found marijuana in Johnson’s pants pocket and a joint on the car’s center console. But, when an officer tried to open the locked glove compartment, Johnson allegedly turned nervous and reportedly asked if “it’d be OK to not search the glove box.” Inside, cops eventually found a loaded 40-caliber handgun, prosecutors said. Johnson denied ownership of the gun.
Prosecutors charged him with being a felon in possession of a firearm, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and carrying a firearm without a FOID card. Three traffic citations were also issued.
Judge Michael Clancy set bail at $10,000 and Johnson has gone free after posting $1,000 as a deposit.
• Finally, our gun case verdict of the week. Last summer, cops tried to stop a car in River North for a traffic violation. Even after officers activated their blue lights and illuminated the car’s interior with their spotlights, the driver kept driving for more than a block while his passenger leaned forward and then reached toward the rear seat with his right arm, according to a police report.
Once the car was stopped, officers learned via computer that the passenger, Steven Heard, “has multiple previous [arrests for] aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated possession of a firearm.“ Believing that Heard’s alleged movements before pulling over were an effort to hide a gun in the back seat, cops conducted a search. Beneath the rear passenger-side seat they found a loaded semi-automatic handgun with a laser sight, according to their report.
Prosecutors charged Heard with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. In September, a grand jury returned a true bill charging Heard with three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and four felony counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon with a previous gun conviction.
Following a bench trial last week, Judge Catherine Haberkorn found Heard not guilty of all charges.
In a 2009 case, Heard was charged with eight counts of attempted murder, five counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number, and eight counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm in an occupied building, and the other 21 felonies were dropped in a plea deal approved by Judge Stanley Sacks. Heard was sentenced to six years in prison.