Chicago — A four-time felon was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison last week for illegally possessing a handgun just six months after promising a different federal judge that he would “break the cycle” of crime that he found himself in.
In 2021, Deshawn Danzler faced more than 12 years in prison for refusing to give a federal grand jury the identity of the person who shot him, even though prosecutors granted him immunity. Another man was killed in the June 2015 shooting, which was allegedly retaliation for a gang-related shooting a few hours earlier.
Danzler’s “break the cycle” promise may have swayed U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman, who did not sentence him to 12 years in prison. He sentenced him to about two years, which Denzler had already served.
“Your honor, I’ve been jumped, shot, cut, backstabbed. … I’ve been everything in life but successful,” Chicago Tribune reporter Jason Meisner quoted Danzler as telling the judge during the February 2021 sentencing. “I am tired of losing people to the streets and the system. … I want to be the one to break the cycle.”
“This was a gift,” Guzman warned Danzler in granting him a sentence of time served, according to Tribune reporting. “If you don’t abide by my conditions, you will be right back in jail.”
Far from breaking the cycle, Danzler—who was on parole for his third gun conviction as he stood before Guzman—was arrested six months later for having a handgun outfitted with an extended magazine and a switch that made it capable of firing automatically like a machine gun. Chicago police found the weapon during a traffic stop of an allegedly stolen car.
Initially charged in state court, federal prosecutors decided to take over the case.
On Friday, a different judge was less forgiving than Guzman had been.
“You are out of chances,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin told Danzler as he handed down a 62-month sentence, the Tribune reported.
In a routine sentencing memorandum filed earlier this month, Danzler’s attorney asked Durkin to impose a sentence of fewer than four years, which was the punishment recommended by Danzler’s probation officer. The attorney cited Danzler’s “mental health and its impact on his conduct and the related need for treatment, the non-violent nature of the offense.”
“Since being shot, Mr. Danzler has lived in fear of losing his life, and without any counseling, guidance, or community assistance, he has attempted to protect himself by possessing guns. It was only after he was shot that Mr. Danzler accrued criminal convictions,” the attorney wrote.
But prosecutors filed their own sentencing recommendation. In it, they pointed out that Guzman previously told the chief federal judge in Chicago that he had no fear for his safety when he refused to testify before the grand jury.
Instead, when he was in front of the grand jury, Danzler said he wouldn’t cooperate “cuz’ I wanna exercise my Fifth Amendment.”
“Defendant was asked three times whether he was refusing to testify because he was afraid, and refused to answer that question,” the prosecution memo claimed.
Prosecutors asked Durkin to sentence Danzler to between 63 and 78 months for the gun charge.
“Living in Chicago, it’s a curse and a blessing,” Danzler said during his sentencing on Friday, according to the Tribune. “It gives you a strong warrior, survival-like mentality … But the curse is all the pain and the trauma you have to go through just to get that mentality.”