Group protests RICO laws in front of Lake County sheriff's office
Nigel Patrick said he was a thriving businessman and a deacon at a local church before he was sent to Lake County jail for 90 days on charges he violated a controversial RICO law in October 2014.
"I was wrongfully charged," Patrick said as he walked with other protesters Monday in front of the Lake County Sheriff's Office. "They released me, and said all the charges were dismissed. They didn't have enough evidence against me to proceed."
Patrick, who said he was released Jan. 29, wants an apology from the law enforcement officials who put him behind bars without cause. The jail stay hurt his home life, his ministry, and his reputation, he added.
"I'm affected me emotionally and mentally," he said. "My wife just had major surgery. Instead of being there for her, she had to be there for me."
Assistant State's Attorney Reginald Mathews said he could not comment on the case because it's part of an ongoing investigation, but confirmed Patrick was arrested Oct. 30. Court records show the case against him was dismissed Jan. 27.
Patrick was one of 50 community members and members of the Black Abolition Movement for the Mind in Waukegan who picketed during the Waukegan protest while chanting "RICO has got to go."
He was one of 21 people charged by Lake County prosecutors under the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for allegedly being a member of the 4 Corner Hustlers street gang.
All have pleaded not guilty to the RICO charges and face 21 years to life in prison.
RICO laws allow prosecutors to file charges against members of a corrupt organization for a crime the organization committed.
The law, enacted in 2012, came after prosecutors previously could only charge gang crimes as isolated acts, officials said. That allowed gang leaders to be shielded from prosecution by telling underlings to carry out violence in order to keep their hands clean.
The 4 Corner Hustler charges is the first time RICO laws were used to prosecute gang members in Lake County, authorities said.
Prosecutors said the yearlong investigation revealed gang members had been distributing and selling cocaine, heroin and prescription pills, in addition to committing violent crimes including murder in Lake County, authorities said.
The investigation into the case was led by the FBI, but included police from Mundelein, Zion, Waukegan, and North Chicago, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the state's attorney's office, the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group and the Lake County sheriff's office.