Student filmmaker hopes to clear record after drug arrest


By Carl Nadig

Joseph Gatheright, a Kishwaukee student filmmaker, is trying to get his name cleared after Chicago police accused him of possessing nearly $3 million worth of heroin.

In May, Chicago police stopped Gatheright and discovered 23 suspicious bags containing white powder along with a fake weapon and camera equipment in the trunk of his car. Police suspected the white powder was heroin, but Gatheright claimed the drugs were fake and used as props for his original web series, according to an article from

The Northern Star spoke to Gatheright about what happened and how it has affected his future.

Northern Star: If you were filming in a rough neighborhood, wasn’t there an alternative place to film?

Joseph Gatheright: Yeah, I’m sure there is … [but] the quality was great, the audio was great, and they’re talking about selling drugs in the suburbs of Chicago. It [doesn’t] work like that. [It has] to be real. You [have] to say, ‘hey, that’s the police station on 79th,’ or … ‘oh, they’re shooting where so-and-so got killed.’ It’s real and authentic. I figured it was the best way for people to say ‘man, this show is amazing.’

NS: Did you tell your lawyers and courtroom officials you went to NIU?

JG: Yeah, I told them I was currently at NIU. I was at Kishwaukee, which is associated with NIU, and I was working at NIU. I didn’t want to say Kishwaukee and have them not even know where that was.

NS: How has this affected your personal life?

JG: It affected it tremendously because [I’ve] always had a car since I was 16. I [have] to go back to court to get my car back. They’re charging me $5,000 to get the car out … . As for now, I’m trying to get this situation expunged off my record. My parents, at the moment, are trying to keep me close to home. So, I might have to miss a semester … in the fall.

NS: What were the bags of fake heroin made of?

JG: It was flour. A detective pulled us over first and because of the area … they called for backup.

Now because all the cops were there, they saw this and I guess they got happy that they got a big bust.

NS: What were you working on when this happened?

JG: “The Laws of Chi-raq.” It’s about a guy who went to college and when he got out, he couldn’t find a job. He was either too qualified or underqualified … he becomes a big time drug dealer without even trying … . The show shows you he never wanted to be in this environment.