Criminal Justice

Federal gun prosecutions increase in Chicago after feds send more agents there

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Federal gun prosecutions are on the rise in Chicago following an increase of federal agents in the city.

The Department of Justice has dispatched 200 additional agents from several federal agencies to Chicago as a result of President Donald Trump’s expansion of Operation Legend. The operation—named after a 4-year-old boy who died in a Missouri shooting—is intended to fight violent crime through a cooperative effort between federal and local officials.

The increased federal help is reflected in a surge of federal gun cases being quickly filed in federal court, report the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.

In the past two weeks, federal gun charges have been filed against about 20 people, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. One Chicago man was accused of gun trafficking. Other cases were based on guns found during traffic stops and spotted on surveillance cameras. Many of the defendants were felons previously convicted of gun crimes.

In the past, federal prosecutors typically stepped in after considering whether to take a case from state prosecutors. Now, federal prosecutors are increasingly handling cases upfront and are often filing charges quickly through criminal complaints rather than indictments, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Homicides in Chicago are up 51% this year over 2019, according to a DOJ press release on July 22. Those hit by stray bullets include dozens of young children. In one mass shooting last month, 15 people were injured outside a Chicago funeral home in a drive-by shooting.

Possible sentences in federal gun crimes can be much tougher, according to the Chicago Tribune. The maximum sentence for unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon is 10 years in prison, and defendants have to serve 85% of the sentence. In the Illinois justice system, some defendants are eligible for credits that can shave up to 50% off their sentence.

The federal sentence increases when defendants who have been convicted of at least three violent felonies. They may be sentenced to an enhanced federal term ranging from 15 years to life.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told the Chicago Sun-Times that she understands the need for the increased federal push.

“I think it’s meant as a triage for what we’re seeing this summer, which feels like a bloodbath,” Foxx said.

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