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Trump-era U.S. prosecutor called out for not prosecuting Jason Van Dyke

The family of Laquan McDonald is blasting the U.S. Justice Department after U.S. Attorney John Lausch, who served under President Donald Trump, announced his office will not prosecute convicted murderer Jason Van Dyke for alleged civil rights violations for fatally shooting the teen 16 times in 2014.

The decision drew outrage in Chicago’s Black community as residents called WVON to blast the decision as questions swirled about the transparency of the U.S. Justice Department investigation.

Van Dyke was released in February after serving just three years in prison for killing McDonald. Van Dyke’s early release from a short sentence led activists to call on the U.S. Justice Department to bring federal charges against Van Dyke after the federal prosecutors brought charges against convicted Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd in 2020.

Lausch said Van Dyke’s case present “a very high bar,” that’s “more stringent than the state charges on which Mr. Van Dyke was convicted.”

In the surprise announcement April 18, Lausch also said “prosecutors would have to prove not only that Mr. Van Dyke acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids, but also that his actions were not the result of mistake, fear, negligence, or bad judgment. It requires federal prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what Mr. Van Dyke was thinking when he used deadly force, and that he knew such force was excessive.”

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Laquan McDonald

But Lausch raised questions in his announcement when he said, “The decision not to pursue a federal prosecution is consistent with Department of Justice policy and was made in consultation with Mr. McDonald’s family. U.S. Attorney Lausch has spoken with a representative of Mr. McDonald’s family on multiple occasions over the past three years, including recently, to discuss the factors the Department of Justice considers when deciding to bring a second prosecution. The family was in agreement not to pursue a second prosecution, and the Office respects their position.”

Relatives of the Black teenager were confused and said they had not spoken to Lausch or anyone from the Justice Department.  McDonald’s aunt, Tanisha Hunter, reportedly learned the news from a Chicago Sun-Times reporter.

“We were not aware of any of that. I just talked to my sister, and she didn’t say anything about it,” Tanisha Hunter told the Sun Times.

“I’m upset. That’s all I can say. How could they say that? We’re the ones who should make that decision, not someone else. We’re talking about his momma, his grandma. That’s crazy.”

Tracie Hunter, McDonald’s grandmother, told the Sun Times that she was not aware of her daughter talking to federal investigators recently and said she believed her daughter would have wanted Van Dyke to face federal charges.

“If the feds asked her, she didn’t tell me,” Tracie Hunter said in the report.

Jeffrey Neslund, an attorney for McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, told the Sun Times that he was unaware of investigators speaking with her.

Many suspect the feds spoke to Marvin Hunter, who claims to be the teen’s great uncle. Throughout the case, Marvin Hunter served as unofficial spokesperson for the McDonald family.

His credibility came into question after he wrote a letter to Congress in support of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ambassadorship to Japan. His letter clinched Emanuel’s nomination, but Marvin Hunter was largely discredited as a trusted leader in the Black community and member of the Hunter family. After his letter to the mayor, Marvin Hunter’s security barred a Crusader journalist from his press conference at his church on the West Side.

During a press conference in February, Tracie Hunter, McDonald’s grandmother, demanded Marvin Hunter to stop representing the family after he publicly opposed federal charges against Van Dyke in an interview with WTTW Channel 11.

Marvin Hunter has kept a low profile in the Black community since then. WVON invited him on the Perri Small Show Tuesday morning, but the radio station said he did not respond to their request. Acaller told WVON that a press conference was to be held Thursday that would shed light on Marvin Hunter’s true identity as a family member.

Jason Vand Dyke Mug Cook County Sheriffs Office
Jason Van Dyke

Meanwhile, questions remain about the feds’ decision not to prosecute Van Dyke. In February, Reverend Jesse Jackson personally delivered a letter urging Lausch to bring charges against the disgraced officer. Lausch was reportedly out of town that morning.  A week later, the Crusader reported that Lausch had agreed to meet with Jackson and Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Dozens of people protested in front of the Dirksen federal building when Van Dyke was released February 3 as the Illinois Department of Corrections remained mum about his location and the conditions of his jail cell. Nine protestors, including activist William Calloway were arrested and dubbed themselves the “The Laquan Nine” after they were released for disorderly conduct. Tracie Hunter was reportedly detained for a short time before being released.

One of the activists who was arrested, Kina Collins, a candidate for Illinois’ 7th Congressional District said in response to Lausch’s decision, “This is disgusting. It is a dereliction of duty from the U.S. Attorney and the federal government he represents. It is a slap in the face to Black Chicagoans and all Americans.

“For years, the Black community here in Chicago has protested and cried out for accountability. And for months, we have pleaded with our broken system to bring federal charges against Van Dyke—the same charges that Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to in December. We’ve even gotten arrested while trying to ensure that this message gets across.”

There are also questions about Lausch, who served during the Trump administration and remains employed at the U.S. Justice Department under U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, a moderate Democrat who has been criticized for being tough on the rising number of police shootings, hate crimes and bomb threats at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

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Kina Collins

Lausch is the only one of 55 Trump-era attorneys who remains in the Justice Department. Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth asked President Biden to keep Lausch in the department because of his involvement in sensitive ongoing investigations. During President Trump’s term, the Justice Department was criticized as a department that was heavily pro-police in cases involving civilians who had been shot.

Senators Durbin and Duckworth both supported Emanuel’s nomination for the ambassadorship to Japan the same day President Biden nominated the disgraced mayor for the post. Sources told the Crusader that activists had to pressure Durbin and Duckworth into urging the Justice Department to look into prosecuting Van Dyke on federal charges.

Senator Duckworth, during her six-year freshman term in office, has rarely visited Chicago’s Black community. With her reelection coming up in June, she appeared in last year’s Bud Billiken parade one week before giving her support to Emanuel’s ambassadorship. She is expected to easily win the Democratic Primary June 28 and the General Election in November.

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