Chicago's Handgun Ban and RICO

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments concerning the challenge to Chicago ‘s handgun ban ordinance.  Legal scholars and the media focus on the historic importance of whether the Supreme Court will extend the 2nd Amendment to municipalities. Gun control groups argue that a local community should have the right to pass gun laws without concern for the rights of individuals. Gun rights groups argue that the U.S. Constitution and Illinois Constitution guarantee an individual's right to bear arms.

What's missed in all this is the history of Chicago's handgun ban. Owning a handgun is an important check on tyranny. A critical figure in getting the Chicago ordinance passed had his own ties to the forces of corruption and tyranny.

A Chicago Tribune article from March 20,1982 described the passage of the handgun ban passage:

As Friday's council session began, [Mayor] Byrne feared the vote was too close to call. There was extensive backroom debate to determine if the matter should be brought up. But, Byrne allies, primarily Alderman Fred Roti (1st), Edward Burke (14th) and Wilson Frost (34th), moved through the council chambers, persuading wavering aldermen to back the mayor's proposals.

Still, some of Byrne's staunchest allies, including Alderman Robert Shaw (9th) and Richard Mell (33rd), deserted ranks and voted against the ordinance. Streets and Sanitation Commissioner John Donovan made a last-minute deal with at least three aldermen who threatened to walk out of the meeting to avoid voting for the proposal. Donovan promised to improve city services in their wards.

The Alderman leading the drive to disarm innocent Chicago residents was Alderman Fred Roti. A month earlier in February of 1982, the Chicago Tribune described Alderman Roti's control of Chicago's City Council:

Roti has placed nearly as many city employees on the payroll as the city personnel department, and many of them are his own family members. This is not a new trend under [Mayor] Byrne, however. Under former Mayors Richard Daley and Michael Bilandic, members of the Roti clan have always had spectacular success gaining public employment. Last fall it was disclosed that Roti family payrollers include his daughter, Rosemary, a press aide to Mayor Byrne at $25,992 a year; and Rosemary's husband, Ronald Marasso, who had been promoted from city painter to $34,000 a year general manager of maintenance at O'Hare International Airport. Fourteen other Roti clan members were on various other city payrolls. Because of his ward number, Roti's name is always called first during council roll calls, and he revels in that privilege. His initial response gives other administration aldermen their cue as to what Roti and, therefore, the mayor wants. It's often said that roll calls could stop after Roti votes-the outcome is already known. Roti, an affable fellow, controls the Chicago City Council with an iron fist.

The U.S. Attorney General, in 1991, identified Alderman Roti as a made member of the Chicago Mob. In 1999, the Justice Department again identified Alderman Roti as a made member:  with greater clarity:

Fred Roti was convicted of RICO conspiracy, bribery and extortion regarding the fixing of criminal cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County, including murder cases involving organized crime members or associates and was sentenced to 48 months' imprisonment. Roti was released from prison in 1997. As First Ward alderman, Roti was a key political patronage boss and, along with his co-defendant Pat Marcy, a fixer for the Chicago Outfit. Roti has directly participated in interfering with the rights of the members of LIUNA [Labors' International Union of North America] in the selection of their officers and officials in that he has improperly influenced the selection of officers of the CLDC [Chicago Laborers District Council] and has been responsible for the pervasive hiring of LaPietra crew members and associates at the Chicago streets and sanitation department. Roti is a made member of the Chicago Outfit.

Roti served on Chicago's City Council from 1968 through January of 1991. He was Chicago's longest serving Alderman at the time of his indictment. Was Roti one bad apple? No, 30 other Aldermen since 1973, went on to be convicted felons. Few professions have a higher felony conviction rate. These are the people that are elected to pass local ordinances in Chicago.

Union corruption was Alderman Roti's only legacy. Fred Roti was instrumental in placing the Chicago Mob's long-term plant William Hanhardt in the position of Chief of Detectives, a major achievement for the Chicago Mob because Hanhardt then controlled all criminal investigations. Hanhardt also loaded up the Chicago Police Department with corrupt police officers. Eventually, Hanhardt was indicted for running America's most successful jewelry theft ring. Here's a quote from a Department of Justice press release quoting U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar on Hanhardt's indictment:

"Hanhardt's organization surpasses in duration and sophistication -just about any other jewelry theft ring we've seen in federal law enforcement," said Mr. Lassar. "The defendants would determine the most opportune time to steal jewelry from places such as cars and hotel rooms by surveilling traveling salesmen and by keeping detailed records analyzing their routines, all with the purpose of providing income to themselves from the stolen property," he added.

Chicago's political establishment was quite proud of Alderman Roti's legacy. Shortly after he died in September of 1999, Chicago's City Council   passed a resolution in honor of his legacy:

WHEREAS, Fred B. Roti, a committed public servant, a cherished friend of many and good neighbor to all, will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by his many family members, friends and associates....

Chicago Democrats also had the Illinois General Assembly enter a resolution honoring Alderman Roti. Congressman Danny Davis also entered a resolution honoring Roti in the Congressional Record.

On April 25, 2005, the Justice Department unveiled one their biggest   organized crime cases in U.S. history. The case was titled Operation Family Secrets, and was no ordinary investigation, according to the press release:

Eighteen previously unsolved murders and one attempted murder - all between 1970 and 1986 in the Chicago area, except one slaying in Arizona - form the core of a racketeering conspiracy indictment spanning four decades that was unsealed today against 14 defendants. After a lengthy FBI-led investigation code-named Operation Family Secrets, FBI and IRS agents began arresting the defendants this morning in Illinois, Arizona and Florida.

This was historic because according to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, "It is remarkable for both the breadth of the murders charged and for naming the entire Chicago Outfit as a criminal enterprise under the anti-racketeering law." Even though Roti was dead his name was brought up at the trial.

An informed public, vigilant press, periodic elections didn't stop Chicago voters from electing a high ranking made member of the Chicago Mob for 23 years to elected office. The Founding Fathers knew an armed populace was a deterrent against corruption and tyranny. When the Supreme Court meets today they are going to determine whether the check of gun ownership can attempt to balance the   sleazy Chicago voters that send mobsters to Chicago's City Council. Is it in the public interest to have honest citizens disarmed with corrupt politicians and corrupt police officers making it to the top?
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments concerning the challenge to Chicago ‘s handgun ban ordinance.  Legal scholars and the media focus on the historic importance of whether the Supreme Court will extend the 2nd Amendment to municipalities. Gun control groups argue that a local community should have the right to pass gun laws without concern for the rights of individuals. Gun rights groups argue that the U.S. Constitution and Illinois Constitution guarantee an individual's right to bear arms.

What's missed in all this is the history of Chicago's handgun ban. Owning a handgun is an important check on tyranny. A critical figure in getting the Chicago ordinance passed had his own ties to the forces of corruption and tyranny.

A Chicago Tribune article from March 20,1982 described the passage of the handgun ban passage:

As Friday's council session began, [Mayor] Byrne feared the vote was too close to call. There was extensive backroom debate to determine if the matter should be brought up. But, Byrne allies, primarily Alderman Fred Roti (1st), Edward Burke (14th) and Wilson Frost (34th), moved through the council chambers, persuading wavering aldermen to back the mayor's proposals.

Still, some of Byrne's staunchest allies, including Alderman Robert Shaw (9th) and Richard Mell (33rd), deserted ranks and voted against the ordinance. Streets and Sanitation Commissioner John Donovan made a last-minute deal with at least three aldermen who threatened to walk out of the meeting to avoid voting for the proposal. Donovan promised to improve city services in their wards.

The Alderman leading the drive to disarm innocent Chicago residents was Alderman Fred Roti. A month earlier in February of 1982, the Chicago Tribune described Alderman Roti's control of Chicago's City Council:

Roti has placed nearly as many city employees on the payroll as the city personnel department, and many of them are his own family members. This is not a new trend under [Mayor] Byrne, however. Under former Mayors Richard Daley and Michael Bilandic, members of the Roti clan have always had spectacular success gaining public employment. Last fall it was disclosed that Roti family payrollers include his daughter, Rosemary, a press aide to Mayor Byrne at $25,992 a year; and Rosemary's husband, Ronald Marasso, who had been promoted from city painter to $34,000 a year general manager of maintenance at O'Hare International Airport. Fourteen other Roti clan members were on various other city payrolls. Because of his ward number, Roti's name is always called first during council roll calls, and he revels in that privilege. His initial response gives other administration aldermen their cue as to what Roti and, therefore, the mayor wants. It's often said that roll calls could stop after Roti votes-the outcome is already known. Roti, an affable fellow, controls the Chicago City Council with an iron fist.

The U.S. Attorney General, in 1991, identified Alderman Roti as a made member of the Chicago Mob. In 1999, the Justice Department again identified Alderman Roti as a made member:  with greater clarity:

Fred Roti was convicted of RICO conspiracy, bribery and extortion regarding the fixing of criminal cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County, including murder cases involving organized crime members or associates and was sentenced to 48 months' imprisonment. Roti was released from prison in 1997. As First Ward alderman, Roti was a key political patronage boss and, along with his co-defendant Pat Marcy, a fixer for the Chicago Outfit. Roti has directly participated in interfering with the rights of the members of LIUNA [Labors' International Union of North America] in the selection of their officers and officials in that he has improperly influenced the selection of officers of the CLDC [Chicago Laborers District Council] and has been responsible for the pervasive hiring of LaPietra crew members and associates at the Chicago streets and sanitation department. Roti is a made member of the Chicago Outfit.

Roti served on Chicago's City Council from 1968 through January of 1991. He was Chicago's longest serving Alderman at the time of his indictment. Was Roti one bad apple? No, 30 other Aldermen since 1973, went on to be convicted felons. Few professions have a higher felony conviction rate. These are the people that are elected to pass local ordinances in Chicago.

Union corruption was Alderman Roti's only legacy. Fred Roti was instrumental in placing the Chicago Mob's long-term plant William Hanhardt in the position of Chief of Detectives, a major achievement for the Chicago Mob because Hanhardt then controlled all criminal investigations. Hanhardt also loaded up the Chicago Police Department with corrupt police officers. Eventually, Hanhardt was indicted for running America's most successful jewelry theft ring. Here's a quote from a Department of Justice press release quoting U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar on Hanhardt's indictment:

"Hanhardt's organization surpasses in duration and sophistication -just about any other jewelry theft ring we've seen in federal law enforcement," said Mr. Lassar. "The defendants would determine the most opportune time to steal jewelry from places such as cars and hotel rooms by surveilling traveling salesmen and by keeping detailed records analyzing their routines, all with the purpose of providing income to themselves from the stolen property," he added.

Chicago's political establishment was quite proud of Alderman Roti's legacy. Shortly after he died in September of 1999, Chicago's City Council   passed a resolution in honor of his legacy:

WHEREAS, Fred B. Roti, a committed public servant, a cherished friend of many and good neighbor to all, will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by his many family members, friends and associates....

Chicago Democrats also had the Illinois General Assembly enter a resolution honoring Alderman Roti. Congressman Danny Davis also entered a resolution honoring Roti in the Congressional Record.

On April 25, 2005, the Justice Department unveiled one their biggest   organized crime cases in U.S. history. The case was titled Operation Family Secrets, and was no ordinary investigation, according to the press release:

Eighteen previously unsolved murders and one attempted murder - all between 1970 and 1986 in the Chicago area, except one slaying in Arizona - form the core of a racketeering conspiracy indictment spanning four decades that was unsealed today against 14 defendants. After a lengthy FBI-led investigation code-named Operation Family Secrets, FBI and IRS agents began arresting the defendants this morning in Illinois, Arizona and Florida.

This was historic because according to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, "It is remarkable for both the breadth of the murders charged and for naming the entire Chicago Outfit as a criminal enterprise under the anti-racketeering law." Even though Roti was dead his name was brought up at the trial.

An informed public, vigilant press, periodic elections didn't stop Chicago voters from electing a high ranking made member of the Chicago Mob for 23 years to elected office. The Founding Fathers knew an armed populace was a deterrent against corruption and tyranny. When the Supreme Court meets today they are going to determine whether the check of gun ownership can attempt to balance the   sleazy Chicago voters that send mobsters to Chicago's City Council. Is it in the public interest to have honest citizens disarmed with corrupt politicians and corrupt police officers making it to the top?