Civil Suit Targets Public Activities of Suspected Gang

By Art Barnum
Chicago Tribune Staff Writer
October 15, 1999

Eight people described by police as leaders of a West Chicago street gang appeared in a DuPage County civil courtroom Thursday, ready to defend themselves against what they claim is unfair treatment and an abuse of their constitutional rights.

Earlier this month, the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office began a fight against west suburban gangs by implementing a little-used portion of a 1993 state law that allows civil actions against members.

The lawsuit named 22 defendants, tabbed as leaders of the Satan Disciples, based in the West Chicago area.

Nancy Wolfe, chief of the state’s attorney’s civil bureau, told DuPage Judge John Darrah in his Wheaton courtroom that all but a handful of defendants had been served with the lawsuit. The rest are incarcerated, Wolfe said, and soon would be served.

Wolfe asked Darrah for a hearing as soon as possible on a request for a preliminary injunction to stop certain gang activities, including public interaction with other members; possession of weapons; displays of gang signs, such as tattoos, slogans and hand signs; threatening or intimidating language; and gang nicknames or monikers.

“The only time I want these guys to hang out together is when they are in this courtroom,” said State’s Atty. Joseph Birkett.

Criminal defense attorneys Jeffrey Fawell and Richard Russo told Darrah that they recently were hired to represent one of the defendants, and both asked for additional time to study the constitutional issues in the case.

Wolfe initially asked that the request for a preliminary injunction and the constitutional issues be separated, but Darrah made it clear “that the constitutional issues are present and will have to be dealt with. Those issues should be allowed at all stages.”

He set a hearing date for Nov. 16.

Outside of Darrah’s courtroom, the eight defendants said they were being picked on by the state.

“There are six different street gangs operating in West Chicago, and we are the ones that get named,” said defendant Cayetano Castro. “We are not the cause of the problem. I, myself, was in prison for another crime when some of these things being blamed on us were committed.

“They want to punish us for crimes we already paid a price for.”

Following any action on a preliminary injunction, Birkett’s office would seek anti-gang rulings on a permanent basis.

Birkett said that over a five-year period, members of the Satan Disciples gang have harassed and intimidated police and residents, used weapons and narcotics to promote their activities, and engaged in turf battles.

“We expect a constitutional challenge, and we are confident that we can legally support our position,” said Birkett. He added that his office has received numerous requests from other counties and states asking for copies of the lawsuit and updates on the situation.

Birkett said he also will seek an undetermined monetary judgment against the defendants for the increased cost of police and fire protection in West Chicago.

Wolfe said the civil proceedings could include going after the defendants’ individual assets, including their cars and homes.

According to the lawsuit, the gang has a handbook containing rules of conduct, the gang structure, oaths and advice on gang members’ legal rights. It also states that the group has a membership and dues list and maintains bank accounts.

Members of the gang have injured and damaged area residents, the suit says.

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