State Sen. Donne Trotter said Wednesday he still hopes to win the backing of his party in the upcoming election to fill former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat in spite of his arrest last week while taking a gun through airport security.
Trotter, speaking to a crowd of reporters at a Northwest Side courthouse after a brief appearance on the gun charge, said he hoped his party could unify behind one candidate to succeed Jackson, who announced his resignation last month amid a federal investigation and a diagnosis of bipolar depression.
"Certainly I would like to have the support of the Democratic slating committee on Saturday, which ultimately and hopefully will lead to me getting the vote of the people," Trotter said.
Trotter's attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, would not address the facts of the gun charge but acknowledged it could taint Trotter's political career.
"It's a cloud hanging over his head that we're not happy about," Durkin said. "But life goes on. People make mistakes."
But a rival for the party's nomination in the Feb. 26 special primary, Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, echoed criticism of others in the contest who said Trotter's arrest was an unneeded distraction for voters in a district that has faced scandal-plagued representation in the past.
"I think right now, the way this race is panning out, we don't need anyone with a cloud hanging over them and putting that same cloud over this race and the 2nd Congressional District," Beale said. "We need to make sure this race stays focused on the issues and not get sidetracked by people's problems that they are dealing with."
Beale, who also has a vote in slating Saturday as the 9th Ward Democratic committeeman, said it will be difficult for any contender to put together a majority of the weighted vote of party leaders to gain the endorsement.
"Because there are so many people in the race and there are so many relationships that people have, it's hard for one person to walk away" with the endorsement, Beale said.
During the brief court hearing for Trotter on Wednesday, Assistant State's Attorney Jim Lynch said prosecutors intended to present evidence to a grand jury and seek an indictment. Judge Gloria Chevere granted a continuance until Jan. 17.
Outside court, Durkin said he was disappointed that prosecutors would seek a grand jury indictment for "an incredibly minor case."
Durkin noted that the statute Trotter was charged under requires the state to prove he "knowingly" tried to take the gun aboard the plane.
"I think the state was smart to avoid a preliminary hearing for fear of losing," the attorney said. "Forgetting is not knowing … I don't think they would have survived a preliminary hearing."
Trotter, 62, was charged with trying to board a jet Dec. 5 at O'Hare International Airport with a .25-caliber Beretta handgun in his carry-on luggage, a felony that could bring probation or up to three years in prison. He told police he got off work as a security guard and forgot that his gun was in a zipped-up side pocket of his garment bag, along with a magazine containing six live rounds.
Transportation Security Administration officials spotted the weapon in the bag as Trotter went through a security checkpoint, authorities said. He was trying to board an 8 a.m. flight to Reagan National Airport in Washington.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun