IL State Sen. Donne Trotter speaks out for the first time since arrest, says he will stay in race

December 6, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Trotter is back with his family tonight and discussed his political intentions.

"I intend on staying in the race at this time and will continue to campaign for the people of the Second District," he said.

"On advice of my attorney, I can't respond to any questions addressing what's going through the court system at this time," Trotter said.

He was arrested Wednesday at O'Hare, where security discovered a gun in Trotter's carry-on bag.

Trotter, a Democrat who has served in the state legislature since 1988, spent Wednesday night in police lockup. Thursday, the judge set Trotter's bond at $25,000.

Only days ago, Democratic party insiders told ABC7 that Senator Trotter was the odds-on favorite to win the party's endorsement to be the replacement for Jesse Jackson Jr. Now that Trotter faces a felony weapons charge, that has clouded his political future.

Trotter appeared in court Thursday wearing the same clothing that he wore Wednesday when arrested at O'Hare. Senator Trotter left the Leighton Criminal Court Building saying virtually nothing to the moving pack of reporters.

Earlier, the 24-year veteran lawmaker appeared before Judge Israel Desierto as a prosecutor alleged that Trotter had an unloaded .25-caliber pistol and an ammunition clip containing five bullets in a carry-on bag searched at an airport security checkpoint.

The Illinois Senate appropriations committee chairman was in the terminal en route to board a Wednesday morning flight to Washington, D.C. He was arrested by Chicago police, charged and held overnight before posting 10 percent of his bail Thursday afternoon.

"Our No. 1 goal right now is to get Mr. Trotter back with his family, and right now that's all I'm prepared to say right now," said Trotter defense attorney Josh Herman.

Assistant state's attorney Lorraine Scaduto said Trotter told police he left his job as a security guard late Tuesday and forgot the gun and ammunition were in his garment bag.

The senator has a FOID card and was licensed to carry the weapon on his job. However, Scaduto told the court the gun was not registered in the City of Chicago.

"You have to have a judicial process, and that's what's going on now, and I think that's the only way to go," said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

Quinn and other politicians ABC7 contacted reserved judgment on Trotter, who as recently as last week was mentioned as a candidate favored by Democratic party leaders to replace the resigned 2nd District Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

"Until there is something that points to him being guilty, people made promises to him so they are not going to cut and run," U of I Institute of Government & Public Affairs Professor Cedric Herring said. "They are going to support someone who has the political power."

Before the arrest Wednesday, Trotter had a virtually unblemished political and personal record.

"Almost a lifetime of Mr. Trotter's dedication to service in the House and the Senate. It's over 20 years," said Herman. "I spoke also of his dedication to his family: 26 years married he has four kids, six grandkids."

Politically speaking, Trotter's problem is timing. His next court appearance is Wednesday, December 12. The Democrats meet to decide which candidate they will endorse on December 15.

If Trotter continues to seek the endorsement, he'll do it for the time being as an accused felon.

Late Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for Frank Zucarelli, the committeeman for Thornton Township, says Zucarelli still backs Senator Trotter's candidacy for Congress and will vote that way when party leaders meet on December 15.

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