Crooked City

Chicago, Illinois





Tribune Editor Comes Up Short At Panel Discussion...

Question: If a tree falls in a Cook County forest, does anyone hear it?

Answer: Only if the Chicago media says it does.

The proof of this maxim took shape a few weeks ago in the courtrooms of 26th and California.

There were two criminal cases pending at the same time involving allegations against Chicago Police Officers. One involved the Laquan McDonald shooting and the other involved a retired detective accused of coercing statements from accused killers.

Which one should Chicago journalists cover? The answer is easy enough. Both. It would be irresponsible, scandalous even, if a Chicago reporter failed to cover any case in which a Chicago Police Officer is accused.

And so one could find “reporters” like Meagan Crepeau from the Tribune and Chip Mitchell from WBEZ Radio shuttling between both courtrooms, and later dutifully “reporting” on them. Certainly many of their brethren reporters were with them in spirit.

Twenty-Sixth and California is a long way from Tribune Tower. Also, it’s a long walk from the parking lot to the courts themselves. But these are mere inconveniences when it comes to covering allegations of police misconduct.

It’s ironic to watch these journalists shuttle back and forth from two courtrooms with such energy while they and their brethren avoid the compelling cases in federal courtrooms much closer and more convenient to their Streeterville newsrooms.

But these cases don’t allege police misconduct. On the contrary, they allege corruption against those who have made allegations of police corruption. The evidence unfolding in these federal cases paints a chilling picture going on for three decades, including evidence of bribed testimony, false affidavits, and obstruction of justice.

That is why you will often not find a single reporter in the gallery of these trials, whereas in the courtrooms at 26th and California, the galleries were filled with hungry media members shuttling back and forth between courtrooms.

The disparity reveals a great truth about the Chicago media. These reporters work from a predetermined narrative, then pick and choose what events or documents they want to preserve to promote this narrative.

The media ludicrously believes it can say whether the falling tree makes a sound. Not only that, but reporters are self-righteous about their right to do so, and react strongly against those who question them.

So it was at a bizarre panel discussion held at DePaul University on Oct. 23 entitled “News, Who’s Your Source.” The discussion was hosted by conservative media executive Dan Proft and featured three panelists, one of whom was Tribune Editorial Board Member Kristen McQueary.

Much of the discussion was a rehashing of the tired clichés that comprise so many discussions about the media by the media itself, the usual self-congratulations and the typical analysis between print and electronic.

But Proft asked important questions about media bias and integrity, including whether the media reports stories according to a predetermined narrative.

Heavens no, McQueary responded, in one form another. Not at all, she contended, somehow oblivious to the evidence that her newspaper has gotten so many stories of police misconduct completely wrong, that it may have played a seminal role in releasing bona fide killers on false narratives and clearly oblivious to the disparity between media coverage at 26th and California and that at the federal courthouse.

When confronted, here is what McQueary had to say:

McQueary’s comments are laughable, including her claim that she doesn’t know about these cases. How can she not?

The truth is that the Tribune has been constructing a predetermined narrative for three decades, a narrative built on the backs of police officers, for whom McQueary’s statements are a bitter falsehood.

Crooked City
By Martin Preib

The truth is that a falling tree does make a sound in Cook County, whether the media says so or not.

Infamous Police Killer To Get New Trial?

Could one of Chicago’s most notorious cop killers be getting a new trial thanks to the workings of an obscure state agency?

Jackie Wilson’s guilt for his role in the murders of Chicago Police Officers Richard O’Brien and William Fahey in 1982, is assured. He was twice convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole, with all appeals exhausted.

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Police Report Key In Exoneration Scandal?

What is also mind boggling about the Porter saga is the fact that the Chicago Tribune, which publishes on an almost daily basis an article alleging police misconduct and a “code of silence,” has refused to review its own reporting on the Porter saga, including the writings of Eric Zorn and Tribune reporter Steve Mills, in the face of ever-growing evidence that the paper got the story dead wrong.  

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Another Violent Weekend In Chicago, Another Call For Police Oversight...

Rehashing the tired trope of an out of control, racist police department, the Sun Times ignored what the lawsuit truly is, a move by Futterman and his fellow plaintiffs to conduct an end around Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rejected the demands of a federal monitor in a DOJ report that had been authored under the Obama administration.

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Attention, Please: Eric Zorn Has A Memo

But this wasn’t a crowd of starry-eyed suburban Northwestern students filled with the romance of freeing a wrongfully convicted killer. Rather, it was comprised of many police officers and detectives, active and retired, who knew their way around a crime scene and a murder case. They had endured for years Zorn’s columns arguing police misconduct and corruption.

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CBS Reporter Dave Savini Unleashes Media Hit Job On Injured Officer

A local “investigative reporter” employing a largely discredited method of activist journalism has set his sites on a Chicago Police Officer injured in the course of doing her job.  

CBS reporter Dave Savini has been running a steady stream of media “hit pieces” against Chicago Police Officer Michelle Murphy, a south side cop who was nearly killed in the course of a traffic stop.  

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Zorn Bias A Heavy Burden For City

Poor Eric Zorn. 

He suffers from a malady common in Chicago. It’s called Conspiracy Bias Syndrome. 

It is an incurable condition among Chicago journalists, academics, and activists, one in which the afflicted sees conspiracy in one select subject or group, even if it is not real, but is wholly unable to see conspiracies in other places, even ones with mountains of evidence.  

Zorn’s Conspiracy Bias Syndrome revealed itself again last week in the wake of a reported $25 million counterlawsuit against a collection of people trying to right one of the greatest wrongs in the history of the city’s criminal justice system, the exoneration of a convicted killer Anthony Porter and the conviction of Alstory Simon in 1999.  

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A Toast, Of Sorts, To The Real Warriors...

About four years ago seven men gathered at a near west side restaurant to discuss strategies by which they might combat the wrongful conviction movement in Chicago.

It was a monumental undertaking, as the myth that Chicago cops are a bunch of racist thugs willing to frame innocent people had burrowed itself deep into the city’s institutions. 

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Chaos Coming To Chicago?

Few cases illustrate the power of a select group of law firms in Chicago that comprise the wrongful conviction movement more than the perjury conviction of Willie Johnson in 2015. 

Willie Johnson was shot nine times outside his home in 1992. But Johnson was actually lucky. His two friends were killed in the same shooting. 

By the time Johnson was rushed to the hospital, detectives had already been given the name of the offenders by Johnson’s family. 

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Chicago Media Takes The Fifth...

Wrongful conviction activists and lawyers and their media lap dogs often point out that many detectives take the fifth when facing accusations of abuse against a suspect in criminal investigations. 

This taking of the fifth is, they claim, a suspicious sign of the cops’ guilt. Why else wouldn’t they testify? 

The answer to that question is fairly simple. Cops have watched law firms like the People’s Law Office, headed by G. Flint Taylor, chip away at the criminal justice system for four decades, so much so that no cop can be sure he will get a fair deal in the justice system. So a lot of cops follow the advice of their attorneys and remain silent. 

Not all do. Taylor and his ilk never mention some key cases, like the Anthony Porter and Madison Hobley, in which the detectives fought to go to civil trial in the hopes of proving to the public once again that a vicious killer set free from prison was truly guilty. In the Porter case, the detectives won. In the Hobley case, the city settled before going to trial, infuriating the detectives. It was a devastating blow to the reputation of the police department that lingers to this day.  

But it’s not just the cops who are electing to remain silent. Now it’s the Chicago media machine, and, in many ways, their silence says a lot more than the cops’.

Let’s go back to the winter of 1970. 

A married couple owned a toy shop called Wee Folks on the 1700 block of East 79th Street. A man named Darrell Cannon entered the store. Outside, a friend of his was waiting in a car. The woman answered a few questions by Cannon, who said he was looking for a toy for his nephew. But when he asked to look around some more, the woman became suspicious and pushed the holdup alarm. The husband, Emanuel Lazar, came out and approached Cannon. Cannon raised his pistol and fired five rounds, then ran out of the store into a Cadillac being driven by Cannon’s accomplice. 

Cannon was caught five days later. It was a solid case, with numerous witnesses and corroborating evidence. Cannon was convicted and sentenced to between 100 to 200 years in prison. 

Cannon appealed the conviction for a host of reasons, one of them being his claim that his sentence was excessive. He lost the appeal. Here is what the court ruled about his lengthy sentence. 

Finally, defendant contends that his sentence is excessive. We note that he was convicted of ruthlessly shooting down the elderly owner of a toy shop. The record reveals that at the hearing in aggravation and mitigation defendant, when given the opportunity to speak on his own behalf, manifested absolutely no remorse for his actions. The trial court, which of course had the opportunity to study the conduct and demeanor of defendant throughout the trial and sentencing hearing, carefully weighed his potential for rehabilitation against such factors as the nature of the crime and his character and history. In light of this record we believe that the imposition of a sentence of from 100 to 200 years was neither violative of statute nor an abuse of the trial court's discretion, and consequently we hold that it should remain undisturbed.

Well, Cannon never did much of the 100 years. In fact, he only served about ten percent of it. After eleven years, he was paroled. And, well, you know the rest of the story. In 1983 he was arrested for the murder of a drug dealer. Only this time, he was convicted in an era when offenders were claiming they were tortured into confessing by corrupt Chicago cops, in particular former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his men. 

The claims were taken up by Taylor and his law firm.

Under these claims that he was tortured, Cannon’s lawyers got the courts to toss his conviction, and prosecutors declined to try him again. He went free, the vicious murder of Emanuel Lazar at the toy store all but forgotten in the magical transformation of a killer into a folk hero. 

He didn’t just get his freedom. Darrell Cannon became Flint Taylor’s poster child in Taylor’s crusade to get so-called torture victims reparations from the city, a crusade Taylor won recently when the city approved a total of $5.5 million to be paid out to fifty-seven convicted felons, often killers, claiming Burge and his men abused them.

Cannon reportedly received a part of that reparations settlement.

Taylor’s strong-arming of the city council for the reparations agreement came even amid a mounting body of evidence that there is as much corruption in the wrongful conviction movement as there ever was in any police district. But it is a mark of the political power Taylor has garnered in the city that he prevailed despite this evidence.  

Weather Underground, allies of the People's Law Office

In an exclusive interview with Crooked City, Jon Burge assailed the torture reparations to Cannon, claiming that Cannon had committed three murders, including the murder of Lazar, and that he was a high-ranking member of the El Rukns, one of the most vicious gangs ever formed in an American city.  

The chief spokesmen for G. Flint Taylor's reparations campaign are Darryl Cannon and Anthony Holmes. Cannon is a former El Rukn General who has been convicted of three separate murders in his long career, pleading guilty to the last one after cutting a deal for "time served." His first murder conviction was as a juvenile, so the police can't mention it, but I can. He still stands convicted of all three murders.

What does any of this this have to do with taking the fifth? Well, now another group is exercising their right to remain silent, the Chicago media, this time over the brutal murder of a 76-year-old man on the far south side. 

The man’s name was Claude Cannon.  According to news reports, he was shot numerous times in his home, gunned down, just like Emanuel Lazar was more than five decades ago. 

According to news reports, Claude Cannon has a brother and roommate, none other than Darrell Cannon. Darrell told the media he did not discover the body in his own house until the day after the murder. 

Cannon also made another interesting statement to the media. 

"To come in and see your brother laying there with a hole in his head in the fetal position as if he was praying... I never seen anything like that before in my life," Cannon said.

Cannon has never seen anything like that before in his life? What about the vicious murder of Emanuel Lazar in 1970? 

Such a story in any other city would initiate an intense media investigation. A man with murder convictions already under his belt getting a settlement from the city, and then his brother murdered just a few months later, well, that would be an irony, a twist of fate no decent journalist could resist looking into.  

But Chicago is not a city with a free press. Rather, the media is controlled by a collection of ideologically sympathetic editors, reporters, and columnists who dictate what the public will hear and what they won’t. 

The absolute silence by the media in the wake of the murder of Claude Cannon is a sign of this media machine. Guided by papers like the Tribune and journalists like Steve Mills, Eric Zorn, John Conroy, Carol Marin, and Mick Dumke, among others, they have carefully constructed a narrative about the police and criminals. Darrell Cannon is a central component of that narrative. 

Anything that could tarnish this narrative is strictly out of bounds.


What a contrast. Just a few months ago, when Cannon won his reparations, his story and his image were splashed across every newspaper. He was being interviewed everywhere. 

It is this silence by the media throughout the entire city that proves Chicago has no freedom of the press, that the imaginative life of the city follows tyrannical party lines more akin to a place like Cuba than a legitimate democracy. 

Else they would all be asking some fervent questions about the vicious execution of an old man on the far south side of the most Crooked City.

Martin Preib is a Chicago Police Officer and writer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, is available on Amazon. His articles have appeared in Playboy, The Chicagoan, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and New City. He is currently working on his third book about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and the Hobley arson, titled Burn Patterns.

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