No bail for Chicago men charged in Hadiya Pendleton's death
February 12, 2013 (CHICAGO) -- The two men suspected in the killing of Hadiya Pendleton say she was an innocent victim who ''was just there.'' That's what prosecutors said in court Tuesday.
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Bond was denied for Michael Ward and Kenneth Williams. The murder weapon has not been found, but prosecutors say surveillance video, eyewitness statements and the defendants' own words place them at the crime scene.
"The defendant stated that when the rival gang killed one of his friends, he thought, 'If we keep standing for this, we are going to be some straight b------.' Those are his words," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
Revenge. That's why Ward and Williams, according to prosecutors, ended up at the park where 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and her friends were hanging out.
Ward and Williams stood quietly in court, as the evidence was detailed, prosecutors saying surveillance video showed the pair driving around the park in Ward's mother's white Nissan, stalking Pendleton's group, which Ward allegedly said they mistook for rival gang members.
"The defendant further stated that the shootings that had been taking place between the gangs 'hurt to a point where everyone had to go.' And that's a quote," Alvarez said.
"My client was kept in custody for 48 hours," said Ward's attorney Jeffrey Granich. "During that time he repeatedly requested a lawyer. Those requests were ignored by the Chicago Police Department."
Ward, who is 18, was the alleged triggerman, firing at least half a dozen shots, killing Pendleton and wounding two boys.
But prosecutors say it was 20-year-old Williams who obtained the gun and was the getaway driver, staying in the vehicle because he feared he would be recognized after he was shot in a separate incident last summer.
"I'm under the impression that he did not make any statements inculpating himself in this homicide," said Williams' attorney Matt McQuaid.
Prior to his arrest, Ward had been on probation for a weapons conviction.
Tuesday, Alvarez acknowledged her office was never notified by probation officials that Ward had violated probation with three misdemeanor arrests, though it is unclear, she said, if those charges would have kept him off the streets.
"They were all dismissed eventually because, why? Because the complaining witness didn't want to follow through," said Alvarez.
Pendleton was a student at King College Prep. Defendant Williams graduated from that same high school.
The alleged gunman charged in Pendelton's death was on probation for a weapons conviction. While gun control reforms will be front and center in the president's speech Tuesday night, and during his visit to Chicago on Friday, another proposal that is being discussed is requiring mandatory sentences for those convicted on weapons charges in Illinois.
Illinois has some of the strongest penalties in the country for illegal gun possession, but in the midst of what many have described as an epidemic of gun violence, there is a call for stiffer, uniform punishment: mandatory minimum sentences. And it may well happen, but it's an issue that's not as simple as it may appear to be.
"If mandatory minimums had existed in the state of Illinois, Michael Ward would not have been out on the street to commit this heinous act," said Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
The young man accused of shooting and killing Hadiya Pendleton was arrested over a year ago with a loaded gun, and he got two years' probation.
"Our current gun laws are simply not working," said Alvarez.
What the state's attorney, mayor and police superintendent want are mandatory minimums: You get caught illegally carrying a loaded gun, you get a three-year sentence, and you must do at least 85 percent of that.
"Sometimes you need strong measures to deal with epidemics," said South Side State Senator Kwame Raoul.
Raoul will likely play a key role in efforts to pass a new mandatory minimum sentencing law. It is, he acknowledges, a complicated balancing act because a required sentence takes much of a judge's discretion.
"By embracing broad, sweeping measures, you also capture some people who may have no business being sentenced to prison for a lengthy period of time," said Raoul.
Another reality is that mandatory minimum sentences will expand the Illinois prison population. Designed for 33,000, there are currently 49,000 inmates, and prison watchdogs say mandatory minimums would likely adds thousands more.
"If this proposal makes its way into law, we'll have to find a way to build new prisons, or better, find a way to safely reduce the prison population," said John Howard Association's John Maki.
What happened in Harsh Park -- the loss of a young, innocent life -- has put a laser focus on gun crime sentencing.
Both Maki and Raoul believe mandatory minimums for illegal gun possession will happen, but need some careful crafting.
In the past year, Senator Raoul has had a drive-by shooting across the street from his Hyde Park home, a shooting at the end of his block and now the Pendleton shooting a short distance away. The issue, he says, hits home. Still, he is quick to acknowledge that mandatory minimums will require careful study.
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