Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama: Gangs? We’ll take their money, but don’t ratchet their prison terms!

Chicago is now viewed as the Murder Capital of the United States. Barely a month after the September 11 attack on our nature, Obama voted against tougher sanctions against organized criminal activities.

Obama voted against a bill on October 15, 2001, that would have punished criminals more severely because of the crime was committed “in furtherance of the activities of an organized gang.” The legislation was already on the books for the government to go after gangs civilly: “to recover compensatory damages for all damages, losses, impairments, or other harm proximately caused, together with the costs of the suit and reasonable attorneys' fees.” (§ 740 ILCS 147/35.)

Could it be because of his alliance with Wallace 'Gator' Bradley, ex-leader of the Black Gangster Disciples? Google it. It’s a post not done being written yet.

Here is the entire text of the bill he voted against – the underlined parts are the new text and appear that way in the original.

Let me summarize it for you:

Creates an additional basis for the death penalty: Ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(21) the defendant committed the murder in furtherance of the activities of an organized gang. For the purposes of this subsection, "organized gang" has the meaning ascribed to it in Section 10 of the Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act.

Similar provisions raising Simple Assault to Aggravated Assault, raising Battery to Aggravated Battery, and including Aggravated Battery with a Firearm – using the same operative language above.

That’s it. That’s the entire bill.

The civil penalty language linked above is from the “Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act” – the act referenced in the criminal sanctions act above.

Here’s the Roll Call vote:

Let’s give him his say. Here is what he said on the day of the vote:

[What] I'm concerned about is that we use this term "gang activity" as a mechanism to target particular neighborhoods, particular individuals for, admittedly, heinous crimes that I think need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law irrespective of where they happen and irrespective of the particular criminal body that they're working with.

Was it because gang violence was down? Here’s a snap shot of gangs’ contribution to the 2001 Murder stats (Source: 2001 Crime):

A big enough increase to have noticed during the year. So, no, couldn’t have been that.

Note that the proposed bill refers to “Section 10 of the Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act.” Here are the relevant parts of Section 10:

"Streetgang" or "gang" or "organized gang" or "criminal street gang" means any combination, confederation, alliance, network, conspiracy, understanding, or other similar conjoining, in law or in fact, of 3 or more persons with an established hierarchy that, through its membership or through the agency of any member engages in a course or pattern of criminal activity.

For purposes of this Act, it shall not be necessary to show that a particular conspiracy, combination, or conjoining of persons possesses, acknowledges, or is known by any common name, insignia, flag, means of recognition, secret signal or code, creed, belief, structure, leadership or command structure, method of operation or criminal enterprise, concentration or specialty, membership, age, or other qualifications, initiation rites, geographical or territorial situs or boundary or location, or other unifying mark, manner, protocol or method of expressing or indicating membership when the conspiracy's existence, in law or in fact, can be demonstrated by a preponderance of other competent evidence. However, any evidence reasonably tending to show or demonstrate, in law or in fact, the existence of or membership in any conspiracy, confederation, or other association described herein, or probative of the existence of or membership in any such association, shall be admissible in any action or proceeding brought under this Act.

Note that Obama did not have a problem with the “Streetgang” legislation. He was fine with taking gangs to court and suing them. His problem was in targeting gangs for heightened criminal sanctions.

Bambi: Chicago. Is. The. Murder. Capital. Of. The. United. States.

Let’s read what his colleagues were thinking when they passed the “Streetgang” legislation. Here’s the Legislative Findings (you can read these at the first link above) – emphasis added below:

Sec. 5. Legislative findings. (a) The General Assembly hereby finds and declares that it is the right of every person, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, or disability, to be secure and protected from fear, intimidation, and physical harm caused by the activities of violent groups and individuals. It is not the intent of this Act to interfere with the exercise of the constitutionally protected rights of freedom of expression and association. The General Assembly hereby recognizes the constitutional right of every citizen to harbor and express beliefs on any lawful subject whatsoever, to lawfully associate with others who share similar beliefs, to petition lawfully constituted authority for a redress of perceived grievances, and to participate in the electoral process.

(b) The General Assembly finds, however, that urban, suburban, and rural communities, neighborhoods and schools throughout the State are being terrorized and plundered by streetgangs. The General Assembly finds that there are now several hundred streetgangs operating in Illinois, and that while their terrorism is most widespread in urban areas, streetgangs are spreading into suburban and rural areas of Illinois.

(c) The General Assembly further finds that streetgangs are often controlled by criminally sophisticated adults who take advantage of our youth by intimidating and coercing them into membership by employing them as drug couriers and runners, and by using them to commit brutal crimes against persons and property to further the financial benefit to and dominance of the streetgang.

(d) These streetgangs' activities present a clear and present danger to public order and safety and are not constitutionally protected. No society is or should be required to endure such activities without redress. Accordingly, it is the intent of the General Assembly in enacting this Act to create a civil remedy against streetgangs and their members that focuses upon patterns of criminal gang activity and upon the organized nature of streetgangs, which together have been the chief source of their success.

Sounds like a bad situation. “Clear and present danger.” “Criminally sophisticated adults.” “Several hundred streetgangs.”

The “Streetgangs” act gave just civil remedies. Here they are:

§ 740 ILCS 147/15. Creation of civil cause of action

Sec. 15. Creation of civil cause of action. (a) A civil cause of action is hereby created in favor of any public authority expending money, allocating or reallocating police, firefighting, emergency or other personnel or resources, or otherwise incurring any loss, deprivation, or injury, or sustaining any damage, impairment, or harm whatsoever, proximately caused by any course or pattern of criminal activity.

(b) The cause of action created by this Act shall lie against:

(1) any streetgang in whose name, for whose benefit, on whose behalf, or under whose direction the act was committed; and
(2) any gang officer or director who causes, orders, suggests, authorizes, consents to, agrees to, requests, acquiesces in, or ratifies any such act; and
(3) any gang member who, in the furtherance of or in connection with, any gang-related activity, commits any such act; and
(4) any gang officer, director, leader, or member.

So several years later, the gang problem continued. The legislature wanted to extend the penalties to enhanced criminal sanctions.

And Obama stood in the way.

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