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The Agony of Victory
William Oscar Johnson
July 05, 1993
After three violent championship 'celebrations' in 1993, experts are pondering why people riot for the home team
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July 05, 1993

The Agony Of Victory

After three violent championship 'celebrations' in 1993, experts are pondering why people riot for the home team

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In contrast to its genteel image, Montreal is all too familiar with mob violence. When the Canadiens won the Cup in 1986, a frenzy of violence and looting occurred that has since become known as the Gucci riot because the city's most fashionable stores were the hardest hit. Merchants that year were also outraged by police timidity—which some observers said was the unintended result of criticism that the police had endured after they were accused of excessive brutality during a political riot in '80.

Two weeks after this spring's violence in Montreal only two people had been arraigned on criminal charges. The bulk of the suspects will be charged with "mischievous behavior," which carries a maximum sentence of six months.

This slap-on-the-wrist justice is in sharp contrast to the way Chicago prosecutors have been handling their cases. As of last week 164 suspects in this year's violence had been charged with some form of burglary, a felony punishable by a prison term of three to seven years, although probation is possible. There has been discussion among lawyers on both sides as to whether sentences will be harder or softer in light of the fact that the crimes occurred amid the heady atmosphere of a championship triumph.

John Eannace, chief of the criminal prosecutions bureau in the Cook County state's attorney's office, says, "We will argue that a burglary on the night of the Bulls' win cries out for a more severe sentence. The victory is an aggravating factor. The motive behind these crimes is the destruction of property. They should be treated accordingly."

On the other hand, Shelton Green, chief of felony and trial for the Cook County public defender, says, "We would explain to the judge that the Bulls did something that has not happened in 20 years. Our client maybe had a couple. He was there. Look at the circumstances, Judge, we would say. It just happened in the moment, and the sentence should be minimal, definitely probation."

If what happened to culprits caught breaking the law in Chicago during the riot of 1992 is any indication, Cook County judges are going to be harsh. In all, 391 people were charged with felonies, and in the 281 cases concluded so far, 76 individuals were sent to prison for more than a year, two for less than a year, 161 were placed on probation, and 42 were found not guilty—results that are tougher than those in the general run of burglary cases.

But justice moves slowly in Chicago, and last week, as the city was still tallying the costs of the riot of 1993, the fates of four young men who had been arrested in the '92 melee were being decided in a Cook County courtroom. Three of the rioters—Gregory Jackson, Michael Howard and Lloyd Harwood—were ready to be sentenced by Circuit Judge Thomas Durkin following their convictions on charges of being among a mob that looted a grocery store. Durkin noted that the trio had helped cause $40,000 in damage and that they had thrown bottles and cans at the officers who had arrived to arrest them even as they were grabbing merchandise off the shelves. All three had no previous convictions, and Durkin sentenced each of them to 21 days in jail, two years of felony probation and 120 hours of community service, which means picking up trash and helping stranded motorists along Chicago's busy expressways.

The fourth young man appearing in Durkin's courtroom was Bertrand Davis, 22, who was in the second and final day of a jury trial on the charge that he had been one of a gang of eight or 10 males who had beaten and robbed three Koreans on the night in question.

According to prosecutors Tom Lyons and David Styler, only one victim, Jong Kim, was willing to testify, but he offered a frightening account of what goes on during the wild hours of a championship celebration. According to Kim's testimony the gang, riding in three cars, cornered the auto of the victims, forcing them at gunpoint to pull into a side street. The gang demanded money. Kim and his friends refused, so the beating began, with punches, kicks and a beer bottle. They then turned over their cash—$38.

After that, the gang demanded the Bull T-shirts, emblazoned with the slogan REAL MEN WEAR RED, that all three victims were wearing, and the beating resumed until the T-shirts were surrendered. A man Kim identified as Davis then opened the victims' car trunk and found 33 more Bull T-shirts in a box, which he stole. The same man also found a windshield ice scraper and started beating Kim with it while demanding more money. By then Kim had suffered many cuts and a broken wrist.

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