Last week, we told you about Antonio Gonzalez, the man charged with attempted murder and other felonies for allegedly driving over a Chicago cop who was trying to stop him for questioning in a fresh homicide case. Gonzalez was an escapee from electronic monitoring with two felony cases pending at the time, according to prosecutors.
Gonzalez is not charged with the murder that cops wanted to talk with him about.
But Isaac Corona is. This story is about him and the remarkable good fortune he has had in striking favorable plea deals with Cook County prosecutors.
Last Monday, Corona and Gonzalez were in the back seat of a stolen SUV with two juvenile accomplices in the front seats, according to prosecutors. As the car rolled past a school on the 5100 block of South Elizabeth around 3:30 p.m., Corona spotted 21-year-old Justin Gamino standing next to a car.
Gamino, the father of a 2-year-old girl, was on-track to earn his high school diploma next month, according to his family. Prosecutors said there are no indications he had a gun or any kind of weapon as Corona allegedly opened fire on him from the back seat of the SUV.
Staff members tried to save Gamino, who was shot several times, but he didn’t make it. Police found 14 shell casings at the scene.
The SUV sped away and crashed as police closed in on it. All four occupants ran from the car. Gonzalez stole another car nearby and ran over an officer, prosecutors said. Other cops arrested Corona and the two teens.
Officers found a so-called “ghost gun” inside the crashed SUV and Corona tested positive for gunshot residue, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.
Corona’s public defender said he is the father of two and volunteers for an anti-violence peacemaking group.
Judge Mary Marubio ordered Corona held without bail.
Before the judge made her bail decision, Murphy detailed Corona’s criminal background for her.
When Corona was a juvenile, Murphy said, he was adjudicated delinquent for illegal gun possession. He received three years probation.
Then, on September 3, 2016, Corona allegedly walked up to a victim and fired three shots from a revolver. The bullets missed, and the gun jammed when he tried to fire again, Murphy said.
A grand jury indicted Corona on charges of attempted murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm, and aggravated assault by discharge of a firearm, court records show.
Corona struck a deal with prosecutors. They dropped the attempted murder and aggravated assault charge. He pleaded guilty to a reduced count of reckless discharge. Judge Lawrence Flood then sentenced him to three years in prison and gave Corona credit for 547 days he spent in custody before trial. He earned most of those “in custody” days while on home electronic monitoring, records show. By law, the state also reduced Corona’s sentence by 50% for good behavior. His parole ended in May 2020.
Then, on January 13, 2021, Corona ran from cops during a traffic stop on the 5300 block of South Maplewood. Prosecutors said officers found a loaded handgun in one of his jacket pockets and a loaded ammunition magazine in the jacket’s other pocket. They charged him with being a felon in possession of a firearm with a prior conviction.
While he was on bail for that case in October, police responded to a ShotSpotter alert and 911 calls of shots fired on the 5200 block of South Maplewood. Officers said they found Corona, who was on electronic monitoring, standing in a yard with his hands in his pockets. One of those pockets allegedly contained a loaded ammunition magazine. He was charged with unlawful possession of ammunition and resisting police, both misdemeanors.
Three days later, Corona pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in his pending felon with a firearm case. Judge Angela Munari-Petrone sentenced him to just two years in prison. That sentenced was reduced by 50% under state law and he received credit for 281 days time served, mostly on electronic monitoring. Prosecutors dropped the newly filed ammunition and resisting charges two days later.
State records show Corona arrived at Stateville Correctional Center on November 4 and he went home on January 7. He was still on parole when he allegedly killed Justin Gamino last week.
No ‘sweetheart deals’
Prosecutors offered Corona a two-year sentence for his third felony gun case while they were trying to clear out a backlog of cases that built up during the COVID pandemic.
Last December, top leadership of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office raved about their ability to reduce the backlog while, in their estimation, not compromising justice.
“What I told [prosecutors] to do was just to take a look at your cases, and make appropriate offers based upon your evidence and based upon the law, based upon your conversations with your victims,” First Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier told WBEZ. “So I was not telling anyone to, you know, to give away the candy store or make any sweetheart deals, we want to ensure that the work that we’re doing that we’re continuing to do it with integrity, despite the circumstances that we’re under, but we do empower our [assistants] to look at their cases and to use their discretion.”