A long-serving judge in Chicago was charged with a misdemeanor after he dropped an apparently loaded pistol in the lobby of the city’s main criminal courthouse, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Judge Joseph Claps was charged Friday with a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited area. Claps previously oversaw felony criminal cases at the Leighton Criminal Court Building where the gun-dropping incident occurred. He’s since been reassigned to “nonjudicial duties” pending the outcome of a Wednesday meeting of the court’s executive committee.
In surveillance footage of the incident, Judge Claps can be seen walking through the lobby as a small, silver pistols tumbles to the floor. Claps looks down, then bends down, to pick up the gun without incident as two people pass by on his left side.
In a second video released by the CCSO, Claps can be seen removing an object from his pants pocket and then placing it underneath his arm as he walks toward an elevator bay at the courthouse.
According to a sheriff’s incident report obtained by the Chicago Tribune, two deputies noticed the handgun fall out of a jacket folded over Judge Claps’ arm.
The Chicago Sun-Times added that those same deputies notified their superiors about the incident and then reviewed the courthouse’s surveillance video before charging Claps.
Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told the Tribune that authorities believe the gun was loaded at the time it was dropped. Smith also noted that Claps has a firearm owner’s identification card and a concealed carry license. But even with such licensing and documentation, weapons are still prohibited in Cook County courthouses.
Smith made it clear, however, that Claps was never detained or searched at any point during or after the incident. She said this may have been because the deputies involved mistakenly believed a judge could carry a weapon on the premises.
Carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited area is a Class B misdemeanor in the Land of Lincoln. The 70-year-old arbiter of justice is scheduled to make his first court appearance sometime next week. If convicted, Judge Claps faces up to six months in county jail and a $1,500 fine.
[image via screengrab/CCSO]