Illinois court fail: felon on the run after skipping out on sentencing

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Illinois lawmakers are expected to head back to Springfield in a couple of weeks for a special session to change the state’s abortion laws, and there’s been talk about adding gun control legislation to the agenda as well. Democrats aren’t expected to take up any issues related to the state’s crumbling criminal justice system, however, despite stories like this recent case out of the Chicagoland area popping up on a regular basis.

A no bond warrant has been issued for a North Chicago man after he skipped out on his trial where a jury convicted him of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Giovanni M. Smith, 33, of North Chicago, was arrested on July 4, 2021, after police responded to a 911 call for a person with a gun.

The caller reported a person jumped out of a car in North Chicago while armed with a handgun.

The armed person, later identified as Smith, was reportedly chasing down another person in the street, prosecutors said.

Officers located Smith minutes later and the gun was recovered in the center console of the vehicle he was driving, prosecutors said.

He was charged with one count of armed habitual criminal, a Class X felony, and one count of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, a Class 2 felony.

Smith was originally held on $100,000 bond, but it was eventually reduced to $50,000 and he was able to get out of jail by posting just 10% of that amount.

The 33-year old appeared in court for most of his trial, but when it came time for the verdict to be announced Smith was nowhere to be found, and in fact still hasn’t been taken into custody.

Smith is facing a minimum six-year prison sentence if and when he’s found, but the big question is why he was released on such a low bond in the first place. The prosecutor who oversaw the case says he’s hopeful that a new law that will take effect next year will put a stop to cases like this.

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office said that Smith would likely not have been able to be released pending trial had the SAFE-T Act been in effect.

The new law goes into effect on January 1 and allows judges to hold defendants charged with violent crimes held without bond, the state’s attorney’s office said.

I’m skeptical that this will really have much of an impact, for two reasons. First, judges “may” order defendants charged with violent crimes to be held without bond, which obviously allows for a great deal of discretion. Perhaps more importantly, however, while Democrats did approve this law earlier this year in an attempt to distance themselves from the “Defund the Police” movement and mentality on the left, lawmakers have done little to address many of the underlying issues in the criminal justice system, from a shortage of public defenders to lengthy delays in scheduling trials. It’s going to be difficult to convince many judges to hold suspects behind bars until trial if that means they’re going to spending a year or more in jail beforehand, especially in cases like Smith’s, where no one was injured and his alleged crime wasn’t high-profile enough to make headlines or capture public attention.

And of course if Democrats carve out more non-violent, possessory crimes from our right to keep and bear arms it’s only going to make the clogs in the court system even worse while subjecting an untold number of Illinois gun owners to unconstitutional infringements on their Second Amendment rights. Even if the state legislature avoids gun control during its upcoming special session, it’s sure to be on the agenda in January, and 2A activists are going to have their hands full trying to convince lawmakers to focus on law breakers instead of law-abiding citizens.