CHICAGO – An Illinois state senator charged with trying to board a flight with a gun and ammunition in a carry-on bag posted bond and left court Thursday without a word about the charges or whether it would affect his decision to run for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacant congressional seat.
The 62-year-old Trotter – wearing the same clothes he had on when he was arrested the morning before at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport – stopped to address reporters after his release, but apparently changed his mind when he was asked about the case.
“Not now, not today,” said Trotter, a couple of hours after he had appeared in court and a judge set his bond at $25,000.
Regardless of whether Trotter is saying so, observers say it’s clear that his congressional campaign – if he does continue to run – will look a lot different than it did before Wednesday morning.
“This will handicap him because everywhere he goes he will be asked why he was carrying a loaded gun onto an airline,” said Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman and a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Until Trotter’s arrest, he was one of the stronger candidates in a growing field, Simpson said.
Trotter has 24 years of public service, both as a state representative and a state senator, that he could tout during a campaign. That service was something his attorney pointed to in asking the judge to impose a “reasonable” bond. Now, though, said Simpson, voters will be asked to answer a much more basic question.
“Do you really want a congressman who’s not bright enough to not take a gun on an airplane?” he said.
Trotter is charged with a Class 4 felony, which carries a sentence of one to three years in prison upon conviction. In Illinois, defendants must post 10 percent of the set bond, so Trotter had to put up $2,500, to be released. He’s scheduled to return to court for a hearing Wednesday.
During Thursday’s hearing where a Cook County judge set his bond, Assistant State’s Attorney Lorraine Scaduto outlined the events that led to Trotter’s arrest.
Trotter, she told the judge, was at the airport Wednesday for an 8:07 a.m. flight to Washington, D.C. During a routine X-ray of his carry-on bag, Transportation Security Administration officers spotted the unloaded gun and clip of cartridges. Trotter was then taken into custody.
Scaduto said that Trotter explained to officers he uses the .25-caliber Beretta handgun for his job with a security company. She said he told them that he’d worked until midnight the night before and that he’d forgotten the gun and ammunition in his garment bag when he packed at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“He said he did not realize it was still in his bag,” Scaduto said.