CHICAGO - Federal prosecutors are seeking a stiff five-year prison sentence for the so-called straw purchaser of the gun used to kill Chicago Police Officer Ella French and seriously wound her partner — insisting that the man "shares blame for what happened to those officers."
Jamel Danzy of Indiana pleaded guilty in July to a conspiracy to commit federal firearm offenses. He remains the only person convicted in connection with French’s August 2021 death. He is set to be sentenced Dec. 14 by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman.
In a court memo filed this week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Prashant Kolluri wrote that federal sentencing guidelines call for only up to two years in prison for Danzy. However, the prosecutor argued the case "falls well outside the heartland of straw-purchaser cases" and calls for a tougher sentence.
"The tragic shooting of Officers French and [Carlos] Yanez on August 7, 2021, during an otherwise routine traffic stop provides a vivid example of the deadly consequences of such offenses," Kolluri wrote.
Danzy’s defense attorney, Holly Blaine, filed a sentencing memo on his behalf under seal.
French, Yanez and Officer Joshua Blas stopped a Honda CR-V driven by Eric Morgan on Aug. 7, 2021, around 63rd Street and Bell Avenue. Morgan’s brother, Emonte, was also in the car along with a gun purchased by Danzy, Kolluri wrote.
During that stop, Emonte Morgan opened fire with the gun, killing French and shooting Yanez in the head multiple times, according to the prosecutor. Eric Morgan then allegedly fled with the .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol and still had it when he was later arrested.
A litany of felonies has been filed in state court against the Morgans, including murder charges against Emonte Morgan. The brothers have pleaded not guilty.
When Danzy pleaded guilty this summer, he admitted that Eric Morgan had asked him to buy a gun in March 2021. He agreed to do so, even though he knew Eric Morgan was a convicted felon. Danzy bought the pistol, a Glock Model 44, from a federally licensed firearms dealer in Hammond, Indiana.
Danzy also filled out a form falsely certifying that he was buying the gun for himself.
Kolluri wrote that Danzy knew Eric Morgan often took the gun back and forth between Danzy’s home in Hammond and Chicago. Danzy last saw the gun under his bed a few days before French’s death, according to Kolluri’s memo.
Danzy also admitted in July that he purchased another semiautomatic pistol for his cousin, who was also a convicted felon.
French was killed just a few weeks after Attorney General Merrick Garland came to Chicago to launch an initiative meant to curb gun violence, in part, by targeting straw purchasers.
Straw purchasing cases present special challenges to prosecutors. They have been characterized as "paperwork" crimes that simply involve lying on a form, as Danzy did. Straw purchasers also have naturally clean criminal records, which help them buy firearms but can also aid them at sentencing.
Prosecutors argue that straw purchasers essentially weaponize their clean records, though. And in Danzy’s case, Kolluri wrote that "the same characteristics that might otherwise serve as mitigating factors enabled Danzy to commit the very crime for which he was convicted."
"Without a clean record, he could not have purchased the firearms in the first place," Kolluri wrote.