We heard from one of the court advocates who went to court Tuesday regarding the gang member who tagged the building at Kenmore and Irving Park:
"We had a good group of court advocates there... representing Buena Park, Truman Square and Graceland West. A couple even took the morning off work to attend, which was much appreciated, particularly in view of the afternoon's weather!
The case involved Brian Michael Capodanno, a Latin Eagles gang member who was caught with black paint on his hands and a spray can. He was seen by the police on December 28th spray painting gang tags (upside down pitchforks, upside down crowns and the words "Almighty Latin Eagles") on the sides of the apartment building.
We thought the day's appearance would be a quick arraignment hearing, where the judge sees the defendant for the first time, reads the charges to him, and bail is either set or denied. We wanted there to be a noticeable community presence in the courtroom for this first part of the trial process, just to set the tone that this was something Uptowners felt strongly about. We thought we'd be there about a half hour. Mr. Capodanno had other ideas, though, and wanted to get things over with by pleading guilty and entering into a plea bargain. So whoops! Plan B!
The damage he caused was so expensive (more than $7000 to clean it up!) that it went from a misdemeanor to a felony charge, with a penalty of 1 - 3 years. Because of his past criminal history (2 felonies, 4 misdemeanors), he was eligible for up to 6 years in prison. When his attorney and the two Assistant States Attorneys got done bargaining, he accepted an offer of 30 months in prison, with 32 days credit for time served. Even if he only serves half his time, he'll be in jail for at least 15 months, pretty big price to pay for one night of property damage.
We found out during the evidence review that he painted one side of the building with tags that stretched for 90 feet, and another side of the building with tags for 70 feet. [I feel he did the other similar tagging on buildings all along Kenmore that same week, but of course there's no way to prove that.] He also was on probation at the time for a misdemeanor for domestic abuse. He told the cops when they arrested him that he was doing such a large tag because he was filming it to submit to a YouTube channel that showcases gang graffiti! What aspirations!!
Judge Catherine Haberkorn was really admirable. She gestured to us during the sentencing phase and told Mr. Capodanno that she felt he had endangered the people who live in that building by painting gang symbols on it, which could have led to retribution to the tenants. She also mentioned the cost to the building's owner to remove the tags, which Mr. Capodanno could not make restitution on. [He gave the court advocates a dirty look.] She also told him his actions were "ridiculous," especially since he did the crime just to be a "star" on YouTube. She ended up by telling him, "Well, now you can be a star in the Illinois Penal System." Go, Judge Haberkorn!
Afterwards, one of the ASAs told us that our presence was important in his plea bargain because when there's property damage, and no owner or neighbor comes to court, the judges tend to be more lenient and think that the neighborhood is in decline and no one cares. This owner didn't come to court Tuesday because it was supposed to be just an arraignment. So I'm really glad we were there. It was a much longer day than any of us thought it would be, and that was kind of draining, but the case is over and we all thought it was a happy resolution to the case. ASA Joy Nelson from the Northside Center for Justice was great and also very pleased with how it turned out.
Mr. Capodanno is 29 and lives on the South Side and came up to Uptown to perform his crimes. The cops in Beat 2322 did a stellar job of catching him in the act and arresting him. I hope that the word gets out that we've got good cops, that Uptowners care and show up in court, and a year and a half of your life will be spent in prison if you spray paint your stupid symbols in our neighborhood."