Illinois Judge Charged After Appears to Drop Gun in Courthouse Lobby

By Allen Zhong

A judge in Illinois was placed on “nonjudicial duty” and charged with a misdemeanor after allegedly dropped a handgun in the courthouse lobby by accident.

Seventy-year-old Joseph Claps had been a judge in Cook County for more than two decades and at least 15 of those years in the criminal division. He had been presiding over a felony criminal case at the Leighton Criminal Court Building before the incident, Chicago Tribue reported.

He also had previously worked as the top assistant to the state attorney general and as Cook County prosecutor.

Security cameras footage released by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office shows he was walking in the lobby of the courthouse when a handgun appears to fall out of the jacket hung over his arm.

The cameras also captured Claps picking up the alleged silver pistol, putting it in his pants pocket, and walking away.

Authorities said two sheriff’s deputies noticed this incident, though not shown in the video, but did not search or detain Claps. One of the deputies who witnessed the incident notified superiors, WGN-TV said.

The reason the deputies do not detain or search him may have been because they thought Claps, as a judge, could lawfully carry a weapon in the courthouse, Cara Smith, chief policy officer for the sheriff Tom Dart, told Chicago Tribune.

Smith, who also believed the handgun was loaded, told Chicago Tribune that Claps is licensed to carry a concealed weapon and has a firearm owner’s identification card, but weapons are prohibited in the courthouse even for those with a concealed carry permit.

Claps was charged with a Class B misdemeanor offense of carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited area. He was released on his own recognizance.

His next appearance will be during the week of July 16.

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