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State Sen. Donne Trotter charged with trying to take gun on plane

A police mugshot state Sen. Donne Trotter

A police mugshot of state Sen. Donne Trotter

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Updated: January 7, 2013 7:17AM



One of the front-runners in the race for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacated seat was arrested on felony gun charges on Wednesday, adding yet another twist in an already unusual contest for a Congressional district with a history of troubled representation.

South Side State Sen. Donne Trotter, previously seen as a top-tier candidate for the open 2nd Congressional district spot, was charged with attempting to bring a firearm onto an airplane on Wednesday.

Trotter’s arrest and charges brings the number to three sitting state lawmakers who are currently facing criminal charges.

Party leaders said it was too soon to make decisions about Trotter’s candidacy for Congress, saying they were awaiting more facts.

However, Trotter’s arrest presented yet another legal dilemma in a district fraught with them.

Jackson’s resignation came after it was revealed he was under federal investigation for alleged improprieties in his finances. Jackson had taken the seat after ex-U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds resigned after convictions for having sex with an under-aged girl and for bank fraud. Reynolds announced last week he now wants to run for Jackson’s spot.

“I need to sit down and talk to [Trotter] face to face and find out what exactly happened,” said Frank Zuccarelli, who is chairing the effort to slate a candidate for a February primary in next spring’s special election.

Zuccarelli, who is the committeeman for Thornton Township, has publicly pledged his support behind Trotter. As of late Wednesday, that hadn’t changed.

“I am supporting him and he is my friend, I’m sure there is a good explanation for what happened,” Zuccarelli said. He said he had only communicated with Trotter by text. Trotter let him know he had been arrested. “We have to sit down and talk…I’m sure he’s together, Donne’s together. I’ve got confidence in him, he’s a good man.”

The head of the Cook County Democratic Party, Joe Berrios, said ultimately it would be up to Trotter to decide if he’s going to pull out of the race.

“It’s not for me to determine whether he wants to run or not,” said Joe Berrios, the head of Cook County Democratic Party. “The committeemen will take that into consideration. If it is a felony, he would have to stand trial. At the end of the day, it’s going to be his decision. All I know, is he is a state senator, and a very good one.”

Zuccarelli said he last saw Trotter late Tuesday at a Thornton Township meeting that began at 8 p.m.

Trotter was arrested Wednesday, charged with attempting to bring a handgun onto a plane at O’Hare Airport, Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said. Trotter had explained he had been at a job with a security firm the night before and forgot he had the weapon and some ammunition in his bag.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trotter was in Springfield and voted in support of a measure allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Trotter’s legislative voting record on guns doesn’t align with his alleged actions Wednesday.

The South Side Democrat once voted against allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons.

Trotter later voted “present” on another measure that would have softened the penalty for getting caught with a concealed weapon.

Trotter now joins state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago), who faces a federal bribery charge, and state Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), who was indicted last week on federal bank fraud charges.

In 1995, Trotter was a “no” vote on a measure carried by state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) that would have legalized carrying concealed weapons in Illinois.

During floor debate, Trotter stood to challenge Dillard on the propriety of allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons without having to go through extensive training or psychological evaluations.

“What you’re doing here [is] just basically creating part-time police officers who have not gone through the extensive training, who have not had the psychological evaluations, who will be getting out there who feel now that they’re — they are stronger, they are badder, they are tougher because they have this nine-shooter on their hip,” Trotter said.

Contributing: STNG Wire



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