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Judge moves weapons case against Sen. Trotter to next stage

State Senator Donne Trotter (left) leaves court GrCentral Thursday morning. | Stefano Esposito~Sun-Times Media

State Senator Donne Trotter (left) leaves court at Grand and Central Thursday morning. | Stefano Esposito~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 17, 2013 6:09PM

A Cook County judge found enough evidence Thursday to push forward the felony case against State Sen. Donne Trotter, who is accused of attempting to bring a firearm onto an airplane at O’Hare International Airport in December.

Looking distinctly out of place with his professorial bow tie and silver goatee, the Chicago legislator didn’t speak as he appeared in a drab Humboldt Park courtroom, where accused petty thieves and drug buyers are the norm.

Despite Cook County Judge Ann O’Donnell’s ruling, Trotter’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, dismissed it as a minor setback.

“At this level, it’s almost impossible not to find probable cause,” Durkin told reporters after the hearing, calling the evidence required “a very low standard under the law.”

“This is not a shock,” Durkin said.

The brief hearing shed little new light on the case against Trotter, who’d been considered one of the front-runners in the race for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacant U.S. House seat until dropping out Dec. 29.

Chicago Police Officer Vince Bielicki testified that he responded to a report of a handgun in some luggage at an O’Hare security checkpoint Dec. 5. Bielicki said the gun and ammunition was inside a black leather suit bag, and that Trotter explained he’d worked a security job the night before and had forgotten the gun and ammunition was in his bag.

Durkin, in his questioning of Bielicki, pointed out that the gun was small, that Trotter wasn’t trying to “sneak” the gun through security in a special container and that the legislator cooperated fully with police.

Bielicki didn’t appear to disagree with Durkin’s view of the events leading up to Trotter’s arrest.

At the end of the hearing, Durkin – citing case law — argued briefly that Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Delaney hadn’t done enough to move the case forward. O’Donnell disagreed.

“I’m aware of the case law,” O’Donnell said, before setting a March 12 arraignment date at the 26th and California courthouse.“This is just the next step in the case,” Durkin said, as he and his client left the courthouse. “We’re not horribly concerned.”

Trotter refused to answer reporters’ questions.

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