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Chicago rapper held on federal gun charge three years after charges in quadruple murder dropped

A Chicago drill rapper previously charged in a high-profile 2017 quadruple murder case that was eventually dropped has been ordered held without bond on new federal gun charges alleging he threw a loaded, fully automatic pistol out a window during a police raid on Friday.

Maurice Harris, 26, who goes by the moniker “Drench,” was charged in a criminal complaint made public Monday with possession of a machine gun.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes ordered him held pending trial Wednesday, saying prosecutors had made a showing that Harris was a danger to the community despite no felony criminal convictions on his record.

Harris was charged in 2017 with killing four people at Nadia Fish and Chicken restaurant at 75th Street and Coles Avenue, part of a one-day spate of gun violence in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood that left seven people dead.

A day before the shooting, Harris’ father, 37-year-old Jerry Jacobs, was shot and killed at 79th Street and South Phillips Avenue, and police at the time said the restaurant shooting was believed to be in retaliation for Jacobs’ slaying.

When Harris was charged, prosecutors said at least two witnesses identified him as the shooter. Three years later, however, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped all charges, saying the “totality of the evidence, including eyewitness accounts, was insufficient to meet our burden of proof and we are unable to move forward with the prosecution of this case.”

In court Wednesday, Harris’ attorney, Michael Clancy, told the judge the murder case was dropped because the witnesses proved to be unreliable and it became clear the shooter may have been “a completely different person.”

Harris spent about three years in jail awaiting trial before his release in July 2020, records show. He has since gained popularity on social media as a gangster rapper, with songs like 2023′s “Murda Man” talking specifically about shooting people with pistols converted to automatic weapons using Glock “switches.”

“Two switch in my hand, for my AP, two opps they dead they hate me,” Harris raps on the song.

On Friday, federal agents were executing a search warrant at an apartment building in the 700 block of West 47th Street when they saw Harris “lean out of a window” with a firearm in his hand and then throw it onto the roof of the building, according to the 10-page criminal complaint.

The gun recovered from the roof was a Glock pistol with a fully automatic “switch” loaded with 17 live rounds, according to the complaint, which included a photo of the alleged weapon sitting on top of a pile of snow.

It’s unclear what the reason for the raid was, since the warrant remains under seal. Clancy said in court that Harris had just returned from doing a show in Detroit and was staying with a girlfriend.

The charge of possessing a machine gun carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

In asking that Harris be held without bond, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Vermylen played clips of his rap videos for the judge, arguing that by flaunting his familiarity with guns and bragging about shooting people with automatic weapons, he showed his dangerousness was a “reality” not merely part of his art.

“The reality was very much consistent with his social media personality,” Vermylen said.

Clancy, meanwhile, argued that Harris, who reported making about $15,000 a month as a rapper, was talking about gun violence in his videos “because unfortunately in society that is what sells.”

In some ways, Clancy said, Harris is “no different than Johnny Cash,” who famously sang about shooting a man in Reno “just to watch him die,” when he obviously had never really done so.

“Johnny Cash, he was never armed with a firearm as far as you know,” Fuentes asked Clancy.

“He wasn’t as far as I know, judge,” Clancy conceded.

Clancy’s argument was similar to those made by defendants in the recent racketeering trial of six reputed gang members charged with participating in the killing of rapper FBG Duck.

Prosecutors alleged the high-profile slaying of Duck, whose real name was Carlton Weekly, was part of a deadly, yearslong conflict between two South Side gang factions who boasted about their exploits and killing rivals through drill rap tracks that often name-dropped specific victims.

All six defendants were convicted last week of murder in furtherance of racketeering.

In ordering Harris held in custody, Fuentes said he was most concerned about the weapon Harris was charged with possessing, given the city’s ongoing issues with gun violence and the Glock’s capacity to “spray” bullets with a single pull of the trigger.

“Why would someone be in a position where they had to squeeze off 17 rounds in a community beset by violence?” Fuentes said.

Fuentes set a preliminary hearing in Harris’ case for Feb. 5.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com