Why Are Chicago Prosecutors Undercharging Accused Violent Criminals?

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has come under criticism from the press and public officials in recent months over her light-on-crime approach to prosecutions, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot blaming Foxx’s office for some of the sharp increase in shootings and homicides in the city. The Chicago Tribune has reported that in Foxx’s first three years in office, the prosecutor ended up dropping all charges in nearly 30% of all felony cases, which is far more than her predecessor.

There are signs, however, that the problem goes even deeper than the lack of prosecution in many felony cases. It appears that those accused of violent crimes are also being undercharged, with prosecutors in Foxx’s office failing to prosecute violent felons who are alleged to have committed more crimes with illicitly owned firearms.

The website CWB Chicago recently reported on the case of 33-year old Marshal Delvalle, a four time felon who was recently arrested in connection with a string of reported robberies in the city earlier this month.

Yet, even though one of the incidents was allegedly captured on video, they did not charge Marshal Delvalle with attempted murder, aggravated assault, discharging a firearm, or even being a felon in possession of a firearm. But they did charge him with robbery.

Delvalle, 33, is accused of robbing four people in two incidents that police this month said was part of a pattern that involved nine similar cases in the area.

At 8:55 a.m. on Friday, October 2, an offender wielded a baseball bat as he tried to rob a 49-year-old man outside the victim’s home on the 7000 block of North Rockwell. When the men began struggling, the victim’s wife appeared, and Delvalle got out of a nearby tan Mercury Marquis with a gun, Assistant State’s Attorney Jocelyn Schieve said.

Delvalle allegedly pointed the gun at the woman and demanded her purse. He then shot at the husband as the man ran from the scene and fired on a witness who stepped out to see what was going on, Schieve said. The witness was shot in the foot.

In the other incident, Delvalle is accused of robbing a Lyft driver at gunpoint and firing several shots into the hood of the man’s car after taking his money and phone.

CWB Chicago reports that Delvalle recently got out of prison after a five-year sentence for aggravated fleeing and burglary, and his previous convictions include at least one count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Given the fact that Delvalle is prohibited by law from having a gun, why didn’t Cook County prosecutors charge him with being a felon-in-possession of a firearm? In fact, as CWB Chicago wonders, why didn’t Foxx’s office pursue attempted murder or aggravated assault charges for the first robbery cited above? In that case, prosecutors acknowledge that Delvalle shot at two people and hit one of them, but they’re not pursuing any charges relating to the actual shooting.

Chicagoans should be demanding answers from Foxx’s office. It’s bad enough that nearly 1/3rd of all felony cases are dropped by the Cook County State’s Attorney, but the case of Marshal Delvalle raises even more troubling questions. How many cases that are pursued by Foxx also result in leaving the most serious charges off the table? With the vast majority of felony cases ending in plea bargains, Delvalle isn’t likely to actually be convicted of robbery charges. Instead, the odds are good that he’ll take a plea to lighter crimes and receive a slap on the wrist as a result.

Chicago’s homicide rate is on pace to be the worst in two decades, but Kim Foxx continues to go easy on those accused of violent crimes. This is scandalous behavior, but with the prosecutor almost guaranteed to win re-election next month in spite of the many problems in her office, including the handling of the Jussie Smollett case, I doubt that the city’s violent criminals are too worried about prosecutors cracking down anytime soon.