Lake County top prosecutor lobbies state legislators to pass assault weapon ban

Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart added his voice Thursday to those urging state legislators to pass a ban on so-called assault weapons before the legislative session ends next week.

Rinehart spoke during a news conference held by the Gun Violence Prevention Political Action Committee. The PAC launched the #HalttheAssault campaign after seven people were killed last year at the Highland Park July 4 parade.

"No daughter should fear standing with their mother at a July Fourth parade," Rinehart said. "(Gun violence) is not a destiny, it's a decision."

He noted that although Highland Park had banned the sale of such weapons before the shooting, the suspect bought a military-style rifle legally elsewhere. Authorities say he used an M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle, with several 30-round ammunition magazines.

State Sen. Kam Buckner, a Chicago Democrat, said he is confident legislation could be considered "in the next couple of days." But when asked by a reporter if a ban shouldn't be a slam-dunk for passage, given Democratic control of the General Assembly, Buckner said there isn't a "gun safety" majority in both houses.

"Let's not look at this along party lines," he said.

Nevertheless, just past midnight Friday morning, the House did pass legislation filed by Speaker Chris Welch, on a 64-43 vote.

Welch filed it as an amendment to SB2226, and it quickly made it out of committee before a late-night debate in the full House and a vote. The legislation would ban the manufacture, sale and possession of dozens of firearms defined by the state as assault weapons. Already-possessed guns on that list could be kept but would need to be registered with Illinois State Police within 300 days, ABC 7 reported. The bill also would increase the age to own a FOID card from 18 to 21, and set 10 as the limit of rounds per magazine.

There had been at least two bills pending concerning high-velocity, large-capacity weapons. House Bill 5855, introduced Dec. 1 by Democrat Rep. Bob Morgan of Highwood, was assigned to the Rules Committee. It appeared to be the basis for Thursday night's legislation. And in the Senate, SB2510 was filed in February 2021 by Democrat Sen. Omar Aquino of Chicago. It lingered in the Assignments Committee.

Buckner noted Highland Park wasn't the only mass shooting in the state in 2022. Others included one in November in the East Garfield Park neighborhood in Chicago, where one person was killed and 14 others injured, and a shooting outside a Near North Side McDonald's, where two people were killed and seven others injured.

Others speaking at the news conference earlier Thursday included Democrat Sen. Ram Villivalam of Chicago, and Pamela Bosley, founder of the Terrell Bosley Anti-Violence Association, named after an 18-year-old killed in a 2006 robbery outside a South Side church. Today would have been Terrell Bosley's 35th birthday, she noted.

Meet the new boss

The FBI's Chicago field office has a new special agent in charge.

Director Christopher Wray appointed Robert W. "Wes" Wheeler Jr. to head up the office, which has jurisdiction over an area stretching from Chicago and the suburbs to the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois.

Robert W. "Wes" Wheeler Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI Chicago Field Office Courtesy of the FBI

A 23-year agency veteran, Wheeler most recently served as the chief of staff to the executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch at FBI headquarters in Washington.

After joining the FBI from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 1999, Wheeler was assigned to the Sherman Resident Agency in Texas, a satellite of the Dallas field office. Three years later, he was assigned counterterrorism duties in the Plano (Texas) Resident Agency and also served with the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Wheeler in late 2009 was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, for several months to work kidnapping matters as a member of the Major Crimes Task Force. Other assignments since include chief of the National Explosives Task Force, leader of the Washington field office's international terrorism squad and section chief in the International Operations Division.

Wheeler replaces Emmerson Buie Jr., who retired in August after leading the Chicago office for nearly three years.

Kane County prosecutor charged

A Kane County prosecutor finds himself on the other side of the courtroom, as he faces a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol stemming from a traffic crash in November.

Joseph M. Gay, 39, of St. Charles is due to appear in court Jan. 11. To avoid any appearance of favoritism or impropriety, Kane County's chief judge asked the Illinois Supreme Court to assign the case to another county. A McHenry County judge is now handling the case.

Gay was arrested at 12:11 a.m. Nov. 20 on Route 31 just north of downtown St. Charles. He lost control of his Jeep, hit a light pole and traveled another 250 feet along a sidewalk before hitting a concrete barrier between the sidewalk and a parking lot, according to a St. Charles police report.

Gay initially asked one of the police officers if he knew he was an assistant state's attorney but then said the officer should "do what you have to do," according to the report.

He declined to take field sobriety tests or a breath test. When asked by officers, he admitted to having drunk "too many" beers at two St. Charles establishments, on the anniversary of his marriage to his late wife, reports state.

The report says Gay had trouble getting his driver's license out of his wallet and dropped a credit card, stumbled as he walked, was glassy-eyed, smelled of alcohol, didn't give the correct time when asked and had trouble paying attention.

Gay was released on a $300 personal recognizance bond.

When asked about Gay's employment status, Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser said she would not comment on a personnel matter. As of Wednesday he was working.

Not the lawyer's fault

When he went on trial in 2011 on charges that he killed his 5-month-old son, Ibrahim Kibayasi admitted on the stand that he violently shook the boy two years earlier - causing a fatal brain injury - but said he neither intended harm nor knew shaking an infant could be deadly.

The strategy didn't work. A judge found Kibayasi guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to 35 years in prison.

Ibrahim Kibayasi

More than a decade later, Kibayasi, now 43, continues to seek a new trial, with his latest appeal arguing that his lawyer is to blame for his conviction due to a faulty defense strategy.

A state appeals court last week rejected the claim, unanimously ruling that it was a reasonable defense strategy and adding "there is no reasonable probability that the result would have been different" with a different approach to the case.

In a tragic coincidence, the court's Dec. 30 ruling came the same day another baby boy from Mount Prospect, 6-month-old Zayden Chavez, died as a result of abuse, according to authorities. Zayden's dad, Adrian Chavez, 25, of Waukegan was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and is being held in the Cook County jail without bail.

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