A veteran Chicago criminal court judge and former prosecutor finds himself on the other side of the law after accidentally dropping his satin silver revolver in the lobby of the courthouse where he works.
Judge Joseph Claps, who has served as a judge for more than 20 years and presided over felony criminal cases, was charged by the Cook County Sheriff’s office with carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited area, a “B” misdemeanor under Illinois law, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The gun was loaded, Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart, told the Tribune.
Claps was issued a summons to appear in court on July 19 and released on his own recognizance. He was also reassigned to nonjudicial duties pending a Wednesday meeting of an executive committee of court officials, a court spokesperson said.
Before he became a judge, Claps, 70, worked as the top assistant to the Illinois Attorney General and as a Cook County criminal prosecutor.
Clap’s July 3 fumble was witnessed by two sheriff’s deputies, police say, and was captured on surveillance video. In the video, the judge is seen on the left of the screen walking toward the camera wearing a long-sleeved white dress shirt and carrying his suit jacket draped over his left arm.
As he walks past two people, the judge drops a silver object to the floor. The two passersby hear the weapon hit the ground and turn quickly to look at it, before walking swiftly toward a police officer at a nearby desk, who remains seated.
Meanwhile, Claps nonchalantly bends forward and reaches for the weapon. As he grasps it, he appears to lose his balance. Gripping the pistol, he appears to briefly place its muzzle on the floor and use it to balance himself, before pushing himself upright.
Then he places the pistol in his right pants pocket and calmly walks away.
Claps is legally licensed to carry a concealed firearm, the Cook County Sheriff’s office said, but in Illinois even properly licensed persons are prohibited from carrying weapons into certain places, including courthouses.
[Photo: Cook County Sheriff’s Office]