Courts & Crime

Tamms inmate: Dangerous gang member, or a man who is mentally ill?

Joseph Herman wore his black hair to his shoulders and dark beard down to his chest when he was led, handcuffed and shackled, into court within a ring of six deputies.

Observers said he certainly looked like what prison and police investigators called him -- a dangerous gang member.

At a sentencing on July 19, 2007, in Livingston County Circuit Court, the prosecutor said Herman's crimes of threatening public officials by letter, including the governor and his family and a judge, were carried out in "allegiance" to The Aryan Brotherhood, considered by experts to be one of the most-dangerous of prison gangs. Police reports show Herman told the Illinois State Police he was a member of the gang.

In one of his letters from prison, Herman threatened a female judge when he wrote, "I can't wait to get the chance to torture and kill you." In another letter, he demanded that Attorney General Lisa Madigan leave $1 million in a Chicago hospital emergency room or he would send his "Aryan brothers" to kill her.

At a bench trial, Judge Harold Frobish found Herman guilty and sentenced him to three consecutive terms totaling 43 years. Herman, who was already serving 10 years for arson and stabbing his girlfriend in the eye, will have to serve at least 47 years overall before being considered for parole.

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