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CrimeEx-U.S. marshal in Chicago found to have inappropriately commented about shooting a federal judge

15:11  06 june  2019
15:11  06 june  2019 Source:   chicagotribune.com

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Ex-U.S. marshal in Chicago found to have inappropriately commented about shooting a federal judge© Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune

The former head of the U.S. Marshals Service in Chicago who abruptly resigned last year was found to have made an "inappropriate comment about shooting a judge" during firearms training, according to a report issued Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Justice Department's inspector general does not name Edward Gilmore in its report, but U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo and several other court officials have confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that the report refers to Gilmore.

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It also does not mention which judge was threatened, but Castillo told the Tribune in an interview Wednesday that the comment was directed at him.

Castillo said he and Gilmore had "some tough exchanges" over courthouse security after Gilmore took over his post and that the threat - while apparently just a joke - was "unfortunate."

"This is a guy who could walk into my chambers with a weapon at any time, no problem," Castillo said. "What if it wasn't a joke?"

Gilmore, 65, the former chief of police in south suburban Calumet City, was nominated to head the Marshals Service's office in Chicago in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama. He abruptly stepped down from the prestigious federal law enforcement post without explanation in May 2018, a little more than halfway through his four-year term.

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Among other duties, the Marshals Service is tasked with protecting federal judges in addition to apprehending fugitives, transporting federal prisoners, selling seized assets and operating the federal Witness Security Program.

According to the inspector general's investigative summary released Wednesday, Gilmore committed "administrative misconduct" when he made the comment about shooting a judge during a firearms training exercise on use of force.

The marshal told investigators the comment was made in jest but he "admitted it was inappropriate," according to the one-page summary of the investigation. Witnesses who heard the comment also told the inspector general that Gilmore seemed to be joking.

Investigators also found that Gilmore "lacked candor" when he denied making another off-color statement about a judge during a meeting with Castillo, according to the report.

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No other details about that alleged remark were provided in the summary. Castillo said he wasn't sure what specific comment the report was referencing.

According to the report, prosecutors declined to file charges against Gilmore, who had resigned prior to the inspector general's investigation.

Castillo said he believed Gilmore's approach to the enormously serious task of courthouse and judicial security was "problematic" from the beginning.

"Since I became chief judge, toughening up security of (the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse) has been a big part of my responsibility," Castillo said. "All you have to do is walk around the courthouse and see some of the changes we've implemented."

Castillo, who said Gilmore was told he had to resign or face discipline, said he believed it was "unprecedented" for such action to be taken against a U.S. marshal for making such a joke about a judge he was sworn to protect.

"It's just really disappointing," he said.

The inspector general's report advised the Marshals Service to "review policy directives to consider when and how the judiciary is notified of threat allegations against judges, even when those threats are not deemed credible."

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The inspector general "found it concerning" that no one at the U.S. Marshals Service who heard or learned about Gilmore's comment "believed it warranted immediate notification" of the chief judge, the report said.

Gilmore could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Calls to the U.S. Marshals Service's office in Chicago were not returned.

Gilmore was a Chicago police officer from 1977 to 1987. He then worked for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency from 1987 to 2008, holding managerial posts including deputy chief inspector and assistant special agent in charge. He served as the chief in Calumet City from 2008 until his confirmation as U.S. marshal.

John O'Malley, the former No. 2 in the U.S. Marshals Service in Chicago who was assigned to oversee judicial security, said in a statement Thursday that Gilmore's comment was akin to a Secret Service boss joking about shooting the U.S. president.

"These statements are so off-color and have no place in law enforcement conversations, let alone in a group setting while conducting firearms training," said O'Malley, who retired in 2015 before Gilmore's appointment.

Through the years, Chicago's federal courthouse at 219 S. Dearborn St. has seen its share of security issues, including one involving Castillo himself. In 1987, after Castillo, then a federal prosecutor, won a conviction on cocaine charges, a Colombian drug kingpin plotted from jail to have him killed, resulting in around-the-clock protection.

But it was a tragedy that unfolded in 2005 that has put judicial security at the forefront in Chicago perhaps more than other federal districts in the country. That February, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow returned to her North Side home to find her husband, Michael Lefkow, 64, and her mother, Donna Grace Humphrey, 90, dead from gunshots to the head.

Police later said Bart Ross, an electrician who had filed a medical malpractice lawsuit that Lefkow had dismissed, was behind the murders. Ross killed himself a few months later during a traffic stop in Wisconsin. He confessed to the killings in a suicide note.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @jmetr22b

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