ST. CHARLES, Ill. (AP) – One suburban Chicago community is taking a street gang to court — not to criminal court, as is the standard practice nationwide — but to civil court.
The city of Elgin, in a lawsuit recently filed on its behalf by the Kane County prosecutor, is seeking an injunction that would bar 25 reputed members of the Maniac Latin Disciples from associating with each other.
The 38-page suit also asks a judge to prohibit members from engaging in a lengthy list of other activities, from showing gang hand signs and carrying spray-paint cans to wearing hats emblazoned with the letter `D.’
The suit also seeks unspecified monetary damages for the gang’s past illegal activities.
In announcing the lawsuit, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said in a Tuesday statement that the goal was to “put an end to the violent, disruptive and anti-social behavior of these gang members.”
Prosecutors typically go after gangs using criminal drug, gun or racketeering statues. But Elgin is using Illinois’ 1993 Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act, meant to thwart gangs via civil injunctions.
The law is rarely used, though several other counties have deployed it. Kane County has used it twice before — in 2010 against Latin Kings in Elgin and in 2012, against Aurora’s Latin Kings.
There’s a lower threshold of proof in civil cases. And defense lawyers have criticized the 1993 civil law, saying it unfairly provides prosecutors a backdoor to curtail someone’s freedom of movement and association.
If Elgin prevails, a gang member engaging in one of the prohibited activities can be charged with a misdemeanor. Once stopped, they also can be searched, potentially leading to more serious charges.
An initial hearing in the case is set for Oct. 8.
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