Gregory Kane: Just when you think you've heard it all 

Chicago gang members -- some current, some former -- held a press conference Thursday. During that press conference, these tough guys whined that police were unfairly targeting them.

Now don't that just leave ya prostrate with grief?

Here's the background in a nutshell, according to the Associated Press:

"Representatives of the Traveling Vice Lords, Four Corner Hustlers and other gangs gathered before TV cameras ... and bemoaned a recent message police Superintendent Jody Weis gave to reputed gang leaders - that if gangs don't stop the killings, police will go after their leaders.

"Weis has said prosecutors at the Aug. 17 meeting ... threatened attendees that they could be charged under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act if killings were traced back to gangs with members attending the meeting. The federal law, commonly known as RICO, provides stiffer penalties for acts performed as part of a criminal organization."

The gangsters cried, "Foul!" One of them, Jim Allen, is a member of the Vice Lords gang, according to the AP story. "Is it possible for one person to micromanage a group?" Allen asked reporters. "We will not be responsible for anyone's actions but our own."

There was only one problem -- and a huge one -- with Allen's display of indignant dudgeon: He was sporting, according to the AP, a black baseball cap that read, "Mess with the Best, Die like the Rest."

Isn't that just part of the problem and the attitude that Weis said he's trying to fight? A word of advice to Allen: Next time you participate in a news conference, pal, you might want to lose the baseball cap.

So there you have it: Leaders of street gangs in Chicago don't want to be prosecuted under the RICO statute because, well, they just don't want to be prosecuted under the RICO statute. Gang leaders want to be held accountable for their "own actions" and no one else's. There's a problem with that viewpoint, too. In fact, two problems.

Problem No. 1: RICO statutes were passed to bring down as many miscreants in a criminal organization as possible.

Problem No. 2: the big mouths of Chicago's gang leaders and members. I don't know whether Weis and federal prosecutors in the Chicago area watch the History Channel show "Gangland," but some of us do. In fact, one recent show aired just about the time Weis was reading his riot act to Chicago gang leaders. It was about those sweethearts named the Traveling Vice Lords.

The Traveling Vice Lords depicted on Gangland were in Memphis, but the Chicago roots were made clear. And for one hour, viewers got to hear members of the Traveling Vice Lords brag about how big, bad and vicious they were.

That is a theme of almost every Gangland show: Gang members in several cities boast of their criminality and about how they, not police or anyone else, control the streets. Now that Weis has called Chicago gang leaders on that boast, they whine that they don't control the streets after all.

Too late, guys. Your feet are already several yards down your throats. It seems you now have three alternatives:

¥ Straighten up and fly right. Not likely, given the message on the esteemed Mr. Allen's baseball cap.

¥ Bolt Chicago for an American city that's crime-friendly. Good luck with that one.

¥ Get used to the idea of doing a 40-to-50-year stretch in one of the nation's federal prisons. But if that happens, don't fret. 

Maybe you guys can find someone to bake you a cake with a file in it.

Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

About The Author

Gregory Kane

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Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is an award-winning journalist who lives in Baltimore.

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