Deshawn Danzler got one heck of a gift last February when a federal judge gave him a sentence of time served instead of twelve years in prison for refusing to testify to a grand jury about a gang-related shooting that killed an innocent bystander. U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman was apparently swayed by Danzler’s plea to have an opportunity to turn his life around, despite the judge calling Danzler’s refusal to cooperate “extremely upsetting and serious”.
Even though Danzler avoided federal prison, he was already locked up in a state penitentiary on his third felon-in-possession charge; a sentence that carried a nine-year term. Danzler served far less, however, and was back on the streets of Chicago just six months later. That’s when Chicago police caught him behind the wheel of an allegedly stolen car while carrying a handgun illegally modified to fire full auto.
Time after time the state courts had cut Danzler a break when he was caught illegally possessing a gun, but this time around the U.S. Attorney’s office took over. As the website CWB Chicago reports, last Friday Danzler’s luck finally ran out.
“You are out of chances,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin told Danzler as he handed down a 62-month sentence, the Tribune reported.
In a routine sentencing memorandum filed earlier this month, Danzler’s attorney asked Durkin to impose a sentence of fewer than four years, which was the punishment recommended by Danzler’s probation officer. The attorney cited Danzler’s “mental health and its impact on his conduct and the related need for treatment, the non-violent nature of the offense.”
“Since being shot, Mr. Danzler has lived in fear of losing his life, and without any counseling, guidance, or community assistance, he has attempted to protect himself by possessing guns. It was only after he was shot that Mr. Danzler accrued criminal convictions,” the attorney wrote.
Danzler has had, without a doubt, an incredibly rough life. As the Chicago Tribune detailed, by the time Danzler was 12-years-old he was already in a gang. A younger brother was murdered at 11-years-old, and in 2013 Danzler’s best friend was shot and killed. Danzler himself was shot in 2015 in that gang-related shooting he refused to testify about, and in his statement to Guzman in 2021 he claimed he’d been “jumped, shot, cut,” and backstabbed over the previous 15 years.
In that sense, I can understand why Danzler might have wanted to carry a firearm for protection, even though he was prohibited by law from doing so. But he told Guzman in 2021 that he wanted to “break the cycle,” and yet five months later he’s busted behind the wheel of an allegedly stolen car with a gun equipped with a Glock switch. That doesn’t seem like someone who’s trying to turn their life around would do, no matter how unfair the felon-in-possession law might be.
I guess if there’s good news for Danzler it’s that by the time he’s released from federal custody the courts may very well have decided that the current law is unconstitutional, and that a “dangerousness” determination is more suitable than a blanket prohibition on all felons possessing firearms. Danzler’s attorneys may even raise that argument themselves if he decides to appeal his sentence. But while Danzler may be able to regain his right to keep and bear arms one day, unless he’s successful in making a major course correction in his life I doubt his freedom will be long-lived. I’m honestly rooting for him, and I hope that the fourth time really will be the charm when it comes to breaking the cycle and changing for the better.