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MARVEL THOMPSON

In his own mind, Marvel Thompson was the self-styled Robin Hood of Englewood, feeding the poor and encouraging kids on the South Side to stay in school.


To federal authorities, though, he was the king of a violent gang involved in selling drugs and mortgage fraud.

The FBI arrested Thompson in 2004. When he pleaded guilty the next year, he admitted only that he’d sold drugs: “As far as the ‘king’ and all that, I’ve told them a thousand times that’s not me.”

Still, Thompson got 45 years in prison. Now he’s trying to get out — 22 years early. And he has written a letter to the judge who’ll decide whether to free him, saying he’s sorry for his “illegal misdeeds” — and for using drug profits to try to do some good.

“In my mind at the time, my criminal undertakings, and fruits thereof, were legitimately used to pay rent for poorer families, pay for cloths [sic] for poorer children, and buy them school supplies and otherwise aid, financially, those in need in the community,” Thompson wrote.


“You cannot simultaneously build up and destroy that which you purport to love.

“I embarked on a path of illegal misdeeds that would eventually completely destroy not only my life, but the lives of every person I ever loved or cared about — including those in my community I most identified [with] based upon our common experience of living poor.”

Thompson never admits in the letter that he was the leader of the Black Disciples.

The nine-page, handwritten letter to U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo is part of a recent court filing seeking Thompson’s release under the 2018 First Step Act, which allows prisoners to seek sentence reductions based on changes in federal drug laws that came after they went to prison.

Prosecutors oppose his bid to halve his sentence, writing: “Thompson led one of the largest and most violent gangs in the city. Gang activity and the gang lifestyle he championed continues to plague the communities he victimized.”


Three of his co-defendants have been freed. And another top Black Disciples leader, Donnell Jehan, 52, got his 25-year sentence reduced to 20 years and is set to be released in 2025.




Prosecutors routinely object to early-release requests made under the First Step Act, which was passed with broad support that included Republicans, Democrats, Kanye West and the ACLU. Despite that, federal judges in Chicago have approved more than 60% of the requests they have ruled on under that law.




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