A South Side man charged with torching a Chicago police vehicle during the downtown unrest over the weekend faces at least five years in federal prison if convicted, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.
Timothy O’Donnell, 31, was charged with arson in U.S. District Court on Tuesday. O’Donnell was allegedly wearing a “Joker” mask when he approached a police SUV parked in the 200 block of North State Street on Saturday and placed a lit object into the car’s gas tank, causing it to burst into flames.
During a court hearing Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Durkin told the judge O’Donnell faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years behind bars.
Prosecutors are seeking to have O’Donnell held without bond pending trial. His lawyer, Michael Leonard, said he will ask for O’Donnell’s release, arguing he poses no danger to the community and is “no flight risk whatsoever.”
O’Donnell’s mother is prepared to sign paperwork to act as her son’s custodian while his case is pending, Leonard said.
O’Donnell, who was listening in by telephone from jail, answered, “Yes, your honor” in a soft voice when the judge asked him if he understood the charges.
U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman set a detention hearing for 1 p.m. Friday.
The eight-page criminal complaint alleges O’Donnell was captured on a bystander’s video lighting the police SUV on fire. A photograph provided by a different witness showed O’Donnell then posing in front of the blaze, according to the charges.
Though his face was obscured by the grinning mask, O’Donnell’s distinctive neck tattoo reading “PRETTY” could clearly be seen in the photo, according to the complaint.
That image — as well as several others — were included in the charging document.
Police found the mask in O’Donnell’s bedroom when they searched his apartment in the 700 block of West 19th Street, according to the complaint.
O’Donnell later admitted in an interview with law enforcement that he was the one seen in the mask igniting the blaze, the charges allege.
O’Donnell is one of five people now charged with committing federal crimes in Chicago amid the chaos and looting that struck the city after the police-involved homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
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