By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
A deal struck between Cook County prosecutors and the defense attorney for Jamaal Jackson means the college student from Alabama will not go to prison in a controversial gun case that angered gun rights activists calling for a unified national concealed carry law.
Jackson was originally charged with a Class 4 Felony in April. The charge against him was reduced to a misdemeanor unlawful use of a weapon charge; he also received two years of probation and 200 hours of community service last week in court. He will be required to attend anger management classes.
The Chicago Crusader reported exclusively in April that Jackson, a business major at Selma University in Selma, Alabama, was charged with felony possession of a handgun after Chicago police were called for a domestic disturbance at a home on the South Side. Jackson and the mother of his child, Jael Alexander, were arguing inside. Jackson and others believed he was legally in possession of his gun at the time, as he had permission from the homeowner, the grandmother of his children.
Jackson kept the gun on his person while inside the home so children could not get to it, he told the Crusader. Witnesses and Jackson say he never threatened anyone with the gun and it was only found after police came inside the house and searched him.
Alabama does not require permits to carry or own a handgun as Illinois does. Illinois law will allow a person driving through the state from another state to keep the weapon in their vehicle as long as it is in a locked case and not readily accessible. But once a person leaves the vehicle with the weapon, the person must have a valid Illinois Firearms Owner Identification card, a document unattainable if you are not an Illinois resident.
Illinois also does not recognize a concealed carry permit from any other state.
The confusion of the law gets people from out of state caught up all the time according to Rick Pere, a certified Illinois concealed carry instructor and former Cook County Sheriff’s deputy. Pere is one of several hundred thousand legal Illinois gun owners who would like to see one national law passed by the U.S. Congress.
“If you’re from another state you are not eligible for a FOID card, so people end up getting screwed,” Pere said. “It’s one of many areas of this state’s gun laws that I don’t like. There is an anti-gun culture here, especially in Chicago, even for legal gun owners.”
Jackson was visiting Chicago on his spring break so he could spend time with the two children he has with Alexander. After his arrest, he was forced to withdraw from school because he could not leave the state while his case was pending. His family has spent nearly $10,000 on legal fees and other costs and said the disruption of a Black college student’s life, one who is not a threat to anyone, on a technicality is “utterly ridiculous.”
“He really just wanted this whole thing to be over with, which is why he accepted the deal, because it’s not a great deal for something that shouldn’t even be illegal,” said Jamaal’s father, Terrence Jackson, via telephone from Alabama. “Because the state of Alabama would not even accept his probation he will have to do his two years of probation there along with the community service. What he did in Illinois is not even a crime here. He will have to pay $50 a month for probation so that is more money he is losing. This has been a financial nightmare for our family.”
Jackson, who was born and raised in Chicago for most of his life, is staying with his grandmother in Chicago. He cannot afford to enroll in school right now, so his father said he is looking for a steady job because he is currently working for a temp agency in Carol Stream. But the young Jackson might get some luck next week as he is expected to interview for a full-time position at Labriola Bakery in suburban Alsip, a company that has a great track record of hiring people who’ve had brushes with the law.
“The good thing is that after he completes all of the requirements of his probation, he can get this case expunged from his record,” the older Jackson said. “Of course it’s going to mean he’s got to spend more money down the road. This has been a disruption in his life but he is keeping his head up and just trying to get through all of this and perhaps when it is over, he can become a more vocal proponent of changing the laws for legal gun owners based on this terrible experience.”
Before this case, Jackson had only one other minor brush with the law, a misdemeanor possession of a marijuana cigarette, something that if he was caught with today, he would only receive a citation.
Jackson’s gun has yet to be returned to him. His father said at this point they do not want it back seeing all the problems it has caused, although his son only took it with him to Chicago because he drove up from Alabama and wanted to be safe on the road.
Pere is outraged at the whole process and hopes the Jackson family will appeal but understands the financial strain the case has put on the family. He said the economic impact of criminal cases is what causes many young Black men to accept deals that in the long term many not be in their best interests. “I wish he could have fought it more and gotten it down to court supervision, where the entire case would have dropped off his record after a matter of time,” Pere said. “He doesn’t need to be in Illinois for two more years doing community service and probation. It’s a waste of time in his life.”
Jamaal Jackson thanked the Crusader for reporting the story of his case. He said this case has turned his life upside down but he is not going to let it ruin him. He sees it as a bump in the road and looks forward to the day he can return to college and obtain his degree.
Jackson remarked, “ … a lot of people’s cases are never made public, a lot of other people who got caught up in confusing laws. I’m just looking to move forward and put this behind me and I’m grateful to my family and all of those who will continue to support me financially and mentally through this tough time.”