Here is a rare case where a Jumbo (as in Jimmy Durante’s desperate “Elephant? What elephant?” defense when caught stealing the biggest pachyderm alive in the Broadway show “Jumbo”) actually worked.
Judge Joseph Claps of Cook County, Illinois, was acquitted this week on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon into a prohibited area, reports the Chicago Tribune.
You see, a gun, or what looked like a gun and sounded like a gun when it hit the floor appeared to fall out of Claps’ jacket when he was entering the courthouse. The judge was licensed to carry, but it is still illegal to bring a firearm into the building. Sheriff’s deputies testified they believed the object was a gun, but they didn’t intervene because they weren’t sure whether the judge was allowed to have the weapon, and because, well, he was a judge.
Did Judge Claps admit he screwed up and accept the consequences like a trustworthy, honest public servant? No! He went to trial, and allowed his lawyer to argue that prosecutors couldn’t prove the “object” was a gun. ( “Gun? What gun?”) Claps’ lawyer argued that the dropped object could have been a replica or a toy. “It could have been a cap gun,” Breen said. “It could have been a water pistol. It could have been a lighter, a cigar lighter. It could have been anything.” Anything that looked like a gun sufficiently to convince the security personnel that it was a gun. And really, we all know how judges sometimes carry water pistols and cap guns into court!
Edward Burmila, the Will County judge who tried his 70-year-old colleague, said prosecutors had failed to prove that the dropped object was a gun.Would such a ludicrous defdense have been successful for anyone else? If you think so, I have some prime Florida swampland you might want to buy. Witnesses saw what they believed was a gun fall out of the judge’s jacket, and coincidentally, he owned a gun and was licensed to carry one. And he was acquitted because a fellow judge believed that there was a reasonable possibility that it was just a water pistol or a gun-shaped cigar lighter?
Now this judge resorted to an evident lie to avoid accountability for an illegal act. Note that he never took the stand so he could be asked, under oath, “what dropped out of your jacket?” That’s because everyone knows that it was a gun, and he knows that lying under oath would force the judicial ethics panel to remove him. This isn’t Brett Kavanaugh searing that a three-decades old discovered-memory is false. This is a judge denying that a legal violation that was witnessed and recorded on tape is what everyone knows it is, and corrupting the justice system to do it..
Both he and Judge Burmilla disgraced to their profession, Claps by lying, and Burmilla for using a standard of reasonable doubt that he would have laughed at if it had been argued on behalf of a typical citizen. Both hould be disciplined. If it were up to me, I’d kick them off the bench for good.