On Friday afternoon, Orland Park police arrested Nickolas Burch after they allegedly found him carrying a gun in a Louis Vuitton bag strapped over his chest at the Orland Square mall.
It happened just 18 days after Burch pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in a case that had him facing multiple counts of attempted murder, robbery, and other felonies stemming from a 2016 shooting in Lakeview. That was the second time he faced and beat attempted murder charges as an adult.
Prosecutors on Saturday charged Burch, 32, with two counts of Class X armed habitual criminal, one of the most serious criminal charges in the state short of murder, and misdemeanor resisting.
But they didn’t ask his bond court judge to hold Burch without bail. Nor did they tell her that he had just settled an attempted murder case to lesser charges 18 days earlier. Nor did they tell her that he was on federal electronic monitoring for a gun conviction. Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) records show that Burch is on parole for the Lakeview case. Prosecutors didn’t tell the judge about that, either.
Judge Barbara Dawkins set Burch’s bail at $5,000 — a fraction of the $50,000 that his own defense attorney asked for, according to court records. And she added electronic monitoring as a condition of release, even though he was already on electronic monitoring in the federal system. He will need to post a $500 deposit to get out of jail.
“I spoke with one of our officers who said the force arrested one of the ‘baddest guys’ they’ve ever come in contact with,” Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said in a Facebook post yesterday afternoon. “These are the people Cook County puts back on the street when the person should have been held without bail and put back in federal custody. It’s shameful.”
A talking point
When Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and members of her office are confronted about the county’s bail practices, they consistently shift the responsibility for bail decisions to the county’s judges. Here’s an example from a WGN report in October:
“People love to say, ‘It’s Kim Foxx,’ because I have pushed for bail reform,” [Foxx] said. “It creates a narrative that everybody is out committing crime.”
Since her election in 2016, Foxx has supported bail reform, measures that protect the rights of defendants, beliefs in line with those of Chief Judge Timothy Evans. But at the meeting she made it clear her office does not control bail, only judges do.
“A judge makes the determination,” she said. “The state’s attorney’s office does not set bail.”
“No one who commits crime of violence should be out,” Foxx said. “What had been manipulated is my support for bond reform, meaning that I think everyone should go. Your ability to get cash should not determine your bond. Your threat is the only determination if you should walk or not.”
Foxx is correct. Judges are responsible for making bail decisions in Cook County.
But the prosecutors in her office — along with defense attorneys — are responsible for providing judges with the information they need to make good decisions.
Here’s the story of Nickolas Burch.
Lakeview robbery and shooting
On the evening of August 1, 2016, a 27-year-old man was shot behind his home on the 3200 block of North Racine. A single bullet passed through the man’s neck and lodged in the wall of a nearby house. A passerby found him lying in the intersection of an alley behind a gas station.
When police arrested Burch for the crime several weeks later, he kicked and spat on them and said he would break their necks once they took off his handcuffs, according to a CPD arrest report.
Burch was on federal parole for a weapons violation at the time. Prosecutors in 2016 said he had agreed to buy two Breitling men’s watches from the Lakeview victim, whom he met through a mutual friend. According to the allegations, the victim looked away at some point, then turned back to see Burch pointing a gun at his face. It reportedly fired when the victim tried to slap it away.
Prosecutors said Burch stole the two watches and $1,200 cash from the victim. A grand jury indicted him on five counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery by discharging a firearm, armed robbery with a firearm, three counts of armed robbery by discharging a firearm causing bodily harm, unlawful restraint, nine felony counts of aggravated battery of a peace officer, and felony resisting.
On January 24, 2022, a plea deal was executed. Prosecutors dropped all those charges except one count of armed robbery with a firearm. Then, they agreed to reduce the remaining count to attempted armed robbery with a firearm. Burch pleaded guilty to that. Judge Adrienne Davis sentenced him to 110 months in prison with 1,667 days credit for the time he spent in custody before sentencing. She also gave him a year of supervised release effective immediately, according to court records.
According to IDOC, Burch arrived at Stateville Correctional Center two days after being sentenced. He was sent home on parole the same day.
On Saturday, a judge would need to set Burch’s bail conditions following the Orland Park incident. A separate judge would be making the same decision for Kelly Turner, a 33-year-old woman identified in federal court records as his fiancée, who was arrested with him.
Here’s what the prosecutors told the judges. Then, we’ll show you what Orland Park police said happened.
During separate but nearly-identical bail hearings for Burch and Turner, prosecutors said Orland Park cops were doing routine patrol work on the Orland Square mall parking lot when they saw a handgun lying on the driver’s side floorboard of an unoccupied car.
Officers watched as Burch, wearing a Louis Vuitton fanny pack across his chest, got into the car’s driver’s seat, and Turner stepped into the passenger seat, prosecutors said. Police conducted a traffic stop.
Turner allegedly told officers she put the gun on the driver’s floorboard before they went shopping. Police found another loaded handgun inside the Louis Vuitton fanny pack along with Burch’s COVID vaccination card and a credit card with his name on it, prosecutors alleged.
Turner’s judge was told that she has an Indiana concealed carry license, which is not valid in Illinois, and that she also has a pending felony case in the suburbs for reckless discharge of a firearm. She’s a single mother of a 13-year-old daughter, and she lives in Indiana while flipping homes and working for Kellogg’s, her defense attorney said.
Burch’s judge was told that he has three felony convictions: a 2016 attempted armed robbery for which he received a nine-year sentence (the Lakeview case); a 2010 aggravated battery causing great bodily harm; and a 2008 robbery. Again, prosecutors did not mention the details of any of the earlier cases, including the 2016 shooting in Lakeview. Nor did they tell the judge that the 2016 case had been resolved less than three weeks earlier, or that Burch was on supervised release.
His defense attorney said the fanny pack was in the car and belonged to someone else, and both guns belonged to Turner. He said Burch flips homes for a living.
The Orland Park Police Department provided some additional details in a statement on Monday. Here is part of it:
On February 11, 2022 at approximately 3:15PM, Orland Park Tactical Officers were investigating a suspicious, unoccupied vehicle in the parking lot of 304 Orland Square Drive.
During their investigation, officers noticed a handgun on the driver’s side floorboard. While researching the vehicle owner’s identity, three subjects returned to the vehicle. A male subject wearing a fanny pack, later identified as Nickolas Burch, entered the vehicle through the driver’s side. A female, later identified as Kelly Turner, entered the passenger side of the vehicle while a juvenile entered the back seat.
Officers approached the vehicle and ordered the subjects to exit.
Neither Burch nor Turner chose to comply with the officer’s request to exit the vehicle. Officers observed Burch as he removed the fanny pack he was wearing and gave it to Turner. Turner’s door was opened by officers and she was removed from the vehicle still holding the fanny pack.
Burch refused to exit and officers had to break out his window. Burch eventually exited the vehicle and a loaded handgun was located on the floorboard. Burch was taken into custody.
Turner, the vehicle owner, was informed that she was also going to be placed into custody. Upon hearing this, Turner handed the fanny pack to the juvenile and instructed her to re-enter the mall and leave.
The fanny pack was searched and a loaded handgun with an extended magazine was discovered. Also found in the fanny pack was Burch’s wallet that contained a business card for his Federal Probation Officer who was subsequently contacted and informed of the charges.
Under Illinois law, judges can only hold defendants without bail under very limited circumstances. In cases like Class X armed habitual criminal, a prosecutor must ask the judge to hold a defendant without bail and present evidence to support the state’s request. The prosecutors in Burch’s case did not ask.
Burch’s private defense attorney had a request, though.
“I would ask the court to set a reasonable bond,” said Hunter. “I’m thinking [a] $50,000” deposit bond.
Judge Barbara Dawkins was even kinder than that.
“Bond will be set at $5,000-D with electronic monitoring,” she ordered. That’s one-tenth of what Hunter asked for. Burch will need to pay a deposit of $500 to get out of jail.
“Judge, you broke up when you said the amount,” Hunter later said. “It sounded like $5,000-D.”
In Turner’s hearing, Judge Mary Marubio also set a $5,000 bail, although she did not impose electronic monitoring on Turner. Marubio also ordered Turner held without bail until she sees the judge handling her reckless discharge case today.
“A Serious Danger To The Public”
In February 2008, Burch received a 139-day sentence for allegedly punching a Chicago man repeatedly in the head and stealing his phone.
Burch was charged with attempted murder two months later after a man was beaten, shot, and robbed in Chicago. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated battery and received a six-year sentence, according to court records.
Then, in May 2011—just two months after being paroled for the shooting—Burch was a passenger in a car that Chicago cops tried to pull over in the Edgewater neighborhood. The driver sped from the cops, and Burch bailed out, dropping a handgun while cops chased him down.
Federal prosecutors took the case, calling Burch “a serious danger to the public.”
He received a sentence of 57 months and was on supervised release for the case at the time of the Lakeview shooting. That supervision continues and is the reason for the federal government’s ongoing involvement.
After cops arrested Burch for the Lakeview shooting, he remained in the county jail until last April when a Cook County judge granted him bail due to COVID concerns. Against the U.S. Attorney’s Office wishes, a federal judge agreed to let Burch go home on electronic monitoring in the federal matter the next month, court records show.
Within a month, Burch began to ask the court for permission to move around. The first request, in June, was to get a driver’s license.
In August, Hunter filed an unopposed emergency motion asking the federal judge to permit Burch to attend the repass and funeral for his brother, Ralph Banks, who was shot and killed on the Eisenhower Expressway.
That’s a common request that is regularly granted. What’s unusual about Burch’s emergency motion, which is on file in federal court, is that it included a copy of a memorial flyer that clearly showed gang signs being displayed. (As an aside, Banks was convicted of participating in a 2015 gunfight that littered dozens of shell casings along a residential street one block from Wrigley Field. A North Side rapper was shot in the incident and cops found three handguns at the scene.)
In November, Hunter asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin to remove Burch from federal electronic monitoring (EM) altogether so he could be more active in the home flipping business he owns with Turner. Hunter argued that Burch couldn’t even get the mail at his South Loop high-rise residence on EM.
Federal prosecutors opposed the idea.
“When [Burch] has been given opportunities to travel outside of his residence for attorney visits, medical appointments, and funeral services, he has traveled to unapproved locations and returned home late,” the government said in a written response.
On November 17, Durkin agreed to modify Burch’s conditions by restricting him to his home “at all times except for employment; education; religious services; medical, substance abuse, or mental health treatment; attorney visits; court appearances; court-ordered obligations; or other activities pre-approved by the probation officer.”
On January 31, Burch was put back on the federal electronic monitoring program, according to court records, and he was on federal electronic monitoring when he went to the mall Friday, according to Orland Park police.
But, again, Cook County prosecutors didn’t tell his bond court judge about that before she put him on Cook County’s electronic monitoring program Saturday.
“Truly…A Wake Up Call”
Burch’s federal public defender in the Edgewater gun case laid out his story in her sentencing memorandum to the court several years ago:
[Burch] has a bullet lodged in his chest from a wound that he sustained after being shot in 2007.
His father left shortly after he was born and apart from a brief period from 2005-2006, he has had no contact with his father.
There was no father figure or positive male model in Mr. Burch’s life for him to look up to, seek advice from, or learn from.
He has three brothers and all of them have been incarcerated at some point in their lives.
This is the first time that Mr. Burch has been charged with a federal crime and it has truly been a wake up call for him. We can do better than to write Mr. Burch off.
It is clear that steps must be taken to change so that he does not appear before this Court or any in the capacity of a defendant again