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#Chicago_Chronicles : Feds won't seek death penalty against East Chicago councilor

HAMMOND, Ind. -- Federal prosecutors won't seek the death penalty against an East Chicago councilman facing drug charges.
They said in a notice filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Hammond that they won't seek the death penalty against Robert Battle. 

East Chicago City Councilman Robert Battle

Reimundo Camarillo jr,the victim
The Post-Tribune reports Battle now faces a possibility of life in prison if convicted of having a gun during a drug-trafficking crime in the Oct. 12 fatal shooting Reimundo Camarillo Jr. in East Chicago. He also faces other federal drug counts.

-------------------  POST TRIBUNE  REPORT ------------

East Chicago City Councilman Robert Battle was charged in Lake Superior Court with murder on Wednesday for a shooting in an alley behind his residence that left a man dead.

Battle, 42, was charged in the killing of Reimundo Camarillo Jr., 31, of East Chicago, who was found face down and bleeding from his nose at about 8:30 a.m. Monday in a rear alley in the 4200 block of Euclid Avenue. An autopsy by the Lake County Coroner's office found that Camarillo was shot once in the back.

Battle also faces federal marijuana trafficking charges filed Wednesday. Battle, who represents the city's 3rd District, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Five hours after police responded to the shooting scene, East Chicago police detectives traveled to the Crown Point office of attorney Walter Alvarez after learning that "the occupant of the residence located at 4228 Euclid Avenue in East Chicago" wanted to surrender for shooting the man found in the alley.

Alvarez told investigators that Battle would not give a statement, but Alvarez agreed to tell police what his client told him happened at the house. In that account, Alvarez said Battle told him he was speaking with "Rey" inside the Euclid Avenue residence, the probable cause affidavit states. The conversation between the two men moved to outside the home and into the alley. At some point, "Rey" patted down Battle and then pulled out a knife. In response to the knife being produced, Alvarez said Battle told him he shot Camarillo, court records state.

When Alvarez finished relating Battle's version of the events, the conference room door in Alvarez's office opened and police saw Battle in the lobby area. The interview then shifted to police asking Alvarez questions, him leaving the room to confer with Battle, and then returning to the conference room. The door to the conference room remained open, and police could clearly hear and understand what Alvarez and Battle were saying, as well as observe hand movements and shoulder shrugs, court records state.

Through that dialogue, Battle indicated there was no struggle between the two men, court documents said. Battle said he threw the gun, a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol, somewhere in the Euclid Avenue house, and that Battle wasn't sure where the knife was that he said Camarillo had, but it may be in the alley, the probable cause affidavit said.

Police found no knife or any weapon at the scene, court records state. No shell casings, bullet fragments or bullets were recovered at the scene or while executing a search warrant at the Euclid Avenue residence.

Camarillo, who lived in the 4300 block of Euclid in the city's Indiana Harbor section, was sentenced in March 2005 to eight years on a charge of unlawful possession of a handgun by a serious violent felon, followed by five years for battery. An attempted murder charge and other felony counts were dismissed.

In Battle's federal marijuana trafficking case filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents and the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force have been investigating Battle since April and received a search warrant to tap his phone, including tracking him through GPS, according to the federal affidavit.

That tap showed he traveled to Flint, Mich., on the morning of Sept. 18, and DEA and FBI agents tried to catch him on his way back to Indiana.

They couldn't find his car on the interstates, but GPS information from his phone finally showed him on Interstate 65 headed south. Agents went to a house Battle owns in Merrillville, saw him arrive at about 1:45 p.m. and ended the surveillance for the day, documents said.

They got another alert he was traveling to Flint on Sept. 23 and this time were able to track him to an address in the 2700 block of Winona Street where a known cocaine dealer lives, documents said.

Federal agents worked with the Indiana State Police to have troopers placed along the interstates, and law enforcement tracked a Pontiac Grand Am, which they say was driven by Battle, once it got on Interstate 94 in Michigan.

Trooper Christopher Eagles finally pulled the car over in Porter County just after 2 p.m. and a search of the car turned up 73 grams of marijuana in a brown paper bag and $100,700 in cash placed in a backpack in the trunk, documents said.

Police later searched the house in Flint they believed Battle went to and found 9 ounces of cocaine and three stolen guns, according to court documents.

It was unclear Wednesday afternoon when Battle's initial appearance would take place. It was also unclear who is representing him in the drug case.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland and the other members of the East Chicago City Council could not be reached for comment.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who also heads the county's Democratic Party, said he was shocked when he heard about the charges.

"We'll get through it, but it's another thing we have to deal with as a party," he said.

He noted that unless Battle voluntarily resigns or is convicted, he's allowed to continue to hold his seat, even if he's held without bond on the murder count.

"I would hope that the right thing is done so that the citizens of East Chicago and especially his district can be properly represented," he said. "...Let's hope the right decision is made by him."

He's also running unopposed in the General Election in November. Buncich said he needs to talk with East Chicago officials and find out more before seeing what steps, if any, the party can take.

"This is just a very strange situation," Buncich said.

Ruth Ann Krause is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

Battle has claimed Camarillo came at him with a knife and that he shot Camarillo in self-defense. Prosecutors say Camarillo was shot in the back and that no knife was found on Camarillo.
Battle has remained incarcerated since last fall.
A message seeking comment was left for Battle's attorney.
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