The key word in this case is "knowingly." Illinois law says you are guilty if you "knowingly" try to board an aircraft with a handgun as the state senator is accused of trying to do Wednesday morning.
During hours of police questioning, the 62-year-old State Senate Appropriations Committee chairman repeated his claim that he forgot the .25-caliber pistol and detached ammo clip was in his carry-on as he passed through the TSA checkpoint in the United Airlines terminal.
While Federal authorities did not charge Trotter, the Cook County State Attorney's office took the case, according to spokeswoman Sally Daly, "based on statements he gave police about packing the weapon in his garment bag."
Asked if State's Attorney Anita Alvarez had any direct involvement in approving the felony charge, Daley said, "The charges were approved before Anita knew about it."
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) appeared to side with Alvarez for filing the state charge against another elected official.
"What happens in this case, I can't say," Durbin said. "But we can't make exceptions because someone is an elected official."
Thursday night Trotter said despite the allegation, he had not given up his candidacy in next year's special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr.
"I do intend on staying in the race at this time and I'm going to continue to campaign for the people in the 2nd Congressional District," Trotter said.
Trotter was licensed to carry the pistol by the Allpoints Security Company, where he claimed to work as a security guard, but never listed the job on his general assembly financial disclosures. Also, the gun in question was not registered in the city of Chicago.
The 24-year veteran has been considered the favorite to win the Democratic Party's endorsement to replace Jackson, but will the felony gun charge make a difference to party leaders?
"I don't think they care about how they look," said Professor Robert T. Stark of Northeastern Illinois University. "I mean, Chicago politics is unique among politics of any city in this country and it's known as the politics of Chicago."
The next key date in the Trotter case is December 12, next Wednesday.
The senator has a court appearance three days before Democratic Party leaders meet to endorse a candidate the following Saturday.
Enough 2nd District party leaders are still backing Trotter despite the pending charges.