Angelo’s appearance in front of two media figures who have so powerfully attacked the reputations and jobs of police officers comes just a few months after he made a spectacular announcement on the first floor of the criminal courts building at 26th and California.Read More
Framing Cops to Free Felons?Read More
In what might very well be a nail in the coffin of the Illinois criminal justice system, a controversial state commission ruling may initiate the release of perhaps the most depraved killer in the city’s modern history.Read More
An appeals court decision that prompted the release of yet another convicted killer two weeks ago could be a catastrophe for members of the Chicago police department.
Could the inmate in prison, Howard Morgan, who shot three police officers in 2005 during a traffic stop actually be set free by Governor Quinn right as the governor left office? And could the governor do so without even providing a piece of evidence in the case justifying his decision?Read More
It was an incident captured on video that devastated the image of the Chicago Police around the world, a drunken, irate, off-duty police officer, Anthony Abbate, brutally attacking a defenseless female bartender, Karolina Obrycka.
It took place in 2007. Abbate was charged and found guilty of Aggravated Battery, and sentenced to probation. He was also fired, the superintendent assailing Abbate’s conduct in media events.
A theory emerged in the lawsuit that was difficult for many Chicago cops to digest. It was the claim that the department somehow had gone to bat for the officer, that there was a coverup to try and protect him, a “code of silence.”
It was so difficult to digest because most cops were furious about the attack, as disgusted as any member of the public.
Nevertheless, the “code of silence” claim became central in the bartender’s federal lawsuit against not only Abbate, but also against the City of Chicago. Obrycka’s lawyer, Terry Ekl, went after the city as well as Abbate based on the argument that Abbate attacked Obrycka because he enjoyed “an air of impunity” because he was a cop.
From the Tribune:
At the center of the trial was the allegation that a long-standing code of silence protects officers who use excessive force or engage in other misconduct. As a result, Obrycka's lawyers maintained that Abbate acted with impunity in the bar because he was unafraid of consequences.
For such a legal claim against the city to go to trial is rare. Obrycka's lawyers waged a five-year legal fight. The city at no point offered her a settlement, calling the case a matter of "principle" in part because Abbate was off-duty at the time of the beating.
"She's been through a lot, and a lot of people would have caved in under the pressure of what she had to go through," said her attorney Terry Ekl, who embraced his client after the verdict was announced.
With the jury's favorable verdict, Ekl said, the city also will have to pay substantial legal fees racked up by Obrycka's lawyers over the legal fight, but he maintained far more was at stake than money. The verdict sent a strong message about how the Police Department is run, he said.
"This is putting the Chicago Police Department right on the front burner for everyone to take a look at," he said. "But for that (video), Anthony Abbate would still be a police officer today. If it became Karolina's word against Anthony Abbate ... this case would have gone nowhere."
Would it? Would the agencies that investigate police misconduct have given Abbate a pass without the video? Would the police department have backed Abbate up if they believed he had in fact brutalized the bartender just because he was a cop? That’s a powerful prediction by Ekl, and a stunning condemnation of the police department.
As it is, a jury clearly bought Ekl’s arguments about the police “code of silence,” awarding his client a large settlement. It’s a case cops talk about among themselves to this day.
Times have changed.
Another high-profile case now asks some of the same questions about a “code of silence” among attorneys, especially prosecutors and former prosecutors, including Ekl. Only this case is more than a shocking, despicable battery against a woman by an off-duty cop in a bar.
This one involves a brutal double murder and the complete breakdown of the entire criminal justice system in the state of Illinois.
At the very time Ekl was working the Abbate case, he was representing Alstory Simon, a man coerced into confessing to a double murder he did not commit. Simon’s confession, obtained by a private investigator, Paul Ciolino, working with Northwestern University professor David Protess and several students, paved the way for Anthony Porter to be released from prison in 1999. Simon’s confession was the key piece of evidence that allowed Porter to go free.
Porter’s exoneration was central to the wrongful conviction movement in Chicago and initiated several other equally suspicious exonerations. It also compelled then governor George Ryan to end the death penalty.
After Simon was sent to prison, he began claiming he made the confession because Ciolino threatened him with violence. Ciolino, Simon claimed, offered two choices: conviction for the murders and a possible death penalty, or go along with Coliolino’s plan, confess, and get out in a few years. Furthermore, if Simon played ball, he would also make money through movie and book deals. Boxed in, Simon grudgingly made the confession because of Ciolino’s threats against him.
But then something unforeseen took place. A top prosecutor, Thomas Epach, knew the evidence in the original Porter murders backward and forward. He was certain Porter was guilty and he didn’t believe Simon’s confession. He told his boss, Dick Devine, as much, but Devine went ahead and let Porter out of prison. Devine also took Simon into custody.
Furious, Epach initiated a grand jury investigation into the murders. He sent underling Thomas Gainer into this grand jury with instructions to get to the bottom of the case. Gainer did so.
One after another, Gainer called Protess, Ciolino, and the students to the stand, reviewing in detail their “investigation” into the murders. From the outset, their “investigation” fell apart, an image emerged of students being blindly led around by a professor and private investigator whose conduct and motives, were, at best, questionable, at worst, criminal.
As one example of how ludicrous the Northwestern “investigation” was, Protess and his students admitted they hadn’t even talked to four of six witnesses in the case.
And why not, the prosecutor asked.
Well, we were too busy with our other classes, one of the students said.
With all this testimony and evidence that the Northwestern case was a fraud, Epach tried to get Devine to retry Porter and not proceed with a criminal case against Simon. But even with the grand jury evidence, Devine wouldn’t budge. The reason is that Devine was facing a media deluge in support of Northwestern’s claims by reporters willing to parrot Northwestern’s claims without checking any facts.
Devine told Gainer, the same prosecutor who led the grand jury, to go into court and accept a confession from Simon. Simon did not know about the grand jury evidence that exonerated him or the fact that a top prosecutor was arguing for his innocence.
Gainer went ahead and took the confession, even though there was a mountain of evidence exculpating Simon.
It was a complete breakdown of the justice system and the worst betrayal of ethics by a prosecutor imaginable.
Another group victimized by Devine and Gainer’s refusal to adhere to the evidence was the Chicago Police Department. The Northwestern theory claiming Porter was innocent was based in large part on the fraudulent claim that the detectives framed Porter.
This theory became the foundation of Porter’s lawsuit against the detectives after he was set free. A six-year campaign by Porter’s lawyers vilified these detectives in the media and the courtroom. The detectives won the case in court, and Porter got nothing. But the damage had already been done. The Porter exoneration spurred other fraudulent exonerations that also falsely vilified the police. In most of those cases, the city settled, the lawyers become rich on false exonerations.
Only in the Crooked City.
In fact, the machinations of Northwestern in the Porter case spurred much of the anti-police hysteria now sweeping the country.
As it was, Simon languished in prison for more than a decade. A group of people looking closely at the evidence began fighting for Simon to be released from prison. They pressed their case with the current prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, who took over the office after Devine left.
Faced with so much evidence of corruption in the case, Alvarez released Simon from prison last year, the central case in the wrongful conviction mythology now completely obliterated.
But, tellingly, Alvarez would not declare Simon innocent. She only pointed to the corrupt tactics of Protess and Ciolino in getting a confession from Simon as justification for Simon’s release. It was an incredible turn of events that the chief prosecutor in the county, after a yearlong review of the case, held up her hands in confusion and said she couldn’t be sure who truly committed the murders.
The reason becomes painfully clear. If Alvarez did admit Simon was innocent, it would point a finger at her predecessor, Dick Devine, and admit that the prosecutor’s office was involved in a major scandal. It would also point an ominous finger at her own administration for not delving into the corruption of the Simon case years earlier.
So Alvarez got up in front of the media on the day she released Simon and made the incredible claim that her office could find no wrongdoing on the part of Devine’s office.
Alvarez’s declaration that Gainer and Devine did nothing wrong was an incredible favor to the two men.
Alvarez wasn’t the only one. Right after Alvarez let Simon out of prison, Ekl and his colleagues on the case immediately filed a $40 million lawsuit against Northwestern, Protess, Ciolino, and an attorney Ciolino and Protess had obtained to represent Simon when he confessed.
But Ekl did not name in the lawsuit the prosecutors in the case, Devine and Gainer.
In short, Ekl ignored the overwhelming evidence that Devine and Gainer were co-conspirators in the framing of Simon, along with Protess, Ciolino, and Northwestern.
To this day, Ekl refuses to acknowledge the prosecutor’s central role in the Simon travesty, not only in his lawsuit, but in his frequent statements to the media. Instead, he focuses only on the Northwestern investigators. Furthermore, Ekl refuses to acknowledge the clearly suspicious claims by Alvarez that her predecessors Devine and Gainer were innocent of any wrongdoing.
Ekl, himself a former prosecutor, gives not only Devine and Gainer an incredible pass, but also Anita Alvarez, when he doesn’t attack her suspicious claims that she still can’t decide who committed the original murders.
Some of Ekl’s claims about the police department now haunt his own “representation” of his client Alstory Simon.
"Officers routinely cover up the misconduct of other officers," Ekl told the Chicago courtroom. "We call it a `code of silence. ... Misconduct without consequences."
Rather than condemn the prosecutors’ role in destroying the life of his client (and the lives of all the detectives who originally fingered Porter) Ekl raises none of these issues in either his lawsuit or in his media statements. He also lets Alvarez get away with claiming there was no wrongdoing in the prosecutors’ administration.
But how can that be?
How could Alvarez find corruption in the manner by which Protess and Ciolino obtained a confession from Simon in the 1999, but not in the conduct of the prosecutors at the time? Simon was in the county jail for six months waiting for his trial. How come Devine and Gainer could not find the evidence that Alvarez found more than a decade later? It was all right there. After all, there was a prosecutor right in Devine’s office telling him that the case was crooked as hell.
Ekl ignores all of this evidence that Alvarez is playing politics in the case. When Alvarez finally released his client, Alstory Simon, from prison last year, Ekl, incredibly, gushes over Alvarez’s decision:
“We’ve been working for Alstory Simon for 10 years, and for a while, I never thought this day would come,” he said. “But we were increasingly encouraged over the last year, where Anita Alvarez and her staff conducted the reinvestigation of the case; and I just can’t say enough good things about the way her office handled this case, the thoroughness of their investigation. I always sensed they were trying to do the right thing, and come to the right result, and they did that today.”
Here’s what Ekl could have said.
After more than a decade of presenting our evidence to the prosecutor that our client was wrongful convicted, the state’s attorney finally acted. It is disappointing that it took so long and that Alvarez did so only when she was boxed in by so much evidence. Her refusal to declare my client, Alstory Simon, innocent and Anthony Porter guilty is troubling, given all the evidence of misconduct by Northwestern investigators in this case and others. Equally troubling is her refusal to point out the clear misconduct by her predecessor Dick Devine in this case, whose decision to arrest, indict, and convict my client is one of the greatest abuses of justice by a prosecutor in the state’s history. Alvarez’s refusal to point out Devine’s corruption is not only an abuse of my client’s rights, but a devastating blow to the entire criminal justice system, including the police.
But Ekl didn’t. He let two generations of prosecutors completely off the hook. There was no pontificating about reforms in the prosecutor’s office, no questions about how they conduct their investigations.
Talk about professional courtesy. Talk about a code of silence.
This case involved a double homicide. After the Porter case, prosecutors began rolling over on one wrongful conviction case after another. One wonders, would they have done so if Devine and Gainer had stood firm on the Porter case, if they had allowed the case to be guided by the evidence?
If they had, the wrongful conviction movement might have been dead on its feet all the way back in 1999, and hundreds of cops would not have faced fraudulent accusations of coercing confessions from so-called “innocent” men.
All of this brings us back to Alstory Simon, Ekl’s client. Is Ekl’s unwillingness to point out the magnitude of the corruption in the prosecutor’s office influencing his representation of Simon?
Well, let’s take a look.
Whenever an inmate is released from prison on a wrongful conviction claim, his attorneys immediately file a petition for a certificate of innocence (COI). The COI is a declaration by a judge that the individual is innocent of the crime.
The COI is crucial because it compels the state to pay the former inmate for his wrongful incarceration. For Alstory Simon, this would have amounted to around $200,000.
Granting the COI also paves the way for the former inmate’s lawsuit, for who could challenge a former inmate’s lawsuit when a judge has declared that former inmate innocent?
Simon’s petition for a COI seemed a mere formality.
Ekl appeared at 26th and California in front of Judge Thomas Byrne. In both his petition and his presentation to Byrne, Ekl did not name the misconduct by either Devine or Gainer when they took his client into custody in 1999. Instead, Ekl, just as he had in his lawsuit, focused his entire petition on the misconduct of Northwestern investigators.
In an incredible ruling, Judge Byrne admitted that Simon was innocent of the murders, but he wasn’t getting the certificate of innocence. Downplaying the threats of violence, the death penalty, and the trumped-up evidence Ciolino used against Simon to get him to confess, Byrne argued that Simon’s willingness to go along with the confession because Ciolino also promised him wealth and money through movie and book deals made Simon a kind of co-conspirator.
But the fact that Ekl failed to mention the role of the prosecutors in Simon’s wrongful conviction also seemed to factor into Byrne’s decision:
…Petitioner’s attempt to recover the from the Court of Claims is not appropriate when his allegation of wrongdoing occurred at the hands of David Protess, Paul Ciolino and the Northwestern School of Journalism. He alleges no wrongdoing on the part of the state.
Did Ekl’s unwillingness to finger the prosecutors cost his client the $200,000 from the loss of the COI? Did it hurt his civil lawsuit?
Ekl’s statement about police corruption in the Abbate case comes to the forefront again:
"This is putting the Chicago Police Department right on the front burner for everyone to take a look at," he said.
Now it’s Ekl who’s on the front burner for everyone to take a look at. Now it’s a code of silence that seems to be emerging among attorneys, particularly prosecutors and former prosecutors in a double homicide case, one that devastated the justice system, in particular the police.
It’s not a pretty picture.
It forces one to trace many lines of evidence from the Porter murder victims all the way to the highest reaches of the city’s most powerful offices, lines that, taken together form a kind of outline of the 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 an arson in 1987, titled Burn Patterns.
In the Chicago Police Department, there is a strict policy against lying under oath or on reports, called “a rule 14 violation.”
It prohibits a cop from “making a false report, written or oral.”
If a cop is caught doing so, he or she is subject to termination.
A key reason for firing a cop for a rule 14 violation is the argument that when a cop has been caught lying once, nothing he or she says on the stand can ever be believed again.
All a defense attorney has to do is produce the evidence of this lying and the officer is discredited.
Among Chicago journalists, no such penalty exists. There is no investigative agency that monitors their conduct, and, when confronted with evidence that they are willfully not telling the truth, they do not have to explain. There is no penalty.
Journalists in Chicago, therefore, have an unbridled freedom to twist the facts into the service of their own private designs.
This freedom to deceive by the media is at the core of the wrongful conviction movement. The Chicago Reader’s record of deception on several key wrongful conviction cases goes back decades, but perhaps the most glaring example was published just last week, in an article by Reader veteran writer Mick Dumke, entitled The Trials of Anita Alvarez, an article about the upcoming election for Cook County State’s Attorney. Dumke and the Reader are clearly lobbying heavily for Alvarez to be voted out of office and for their preferred candidate, Kimberly Foxx, to take over.
Dumke recently switched from the Reader to the Sun Times, but for some reason he wrote this latest article for the Reader. Several reporters from the Better Government Association also worked on the article with him, almost as if Dumke’s article is the concerted effort of many journalists throughout the city.
In his latest article, Dumke trots out the tired leftist cliches about racism in the criminal justice system and disproportionate rates of incarcerations of blacks.
But taking a close look at Dumke’s article reveals something else is going on. There is a desperation behind the desire for Dumke and the Reader to get Alvarez out of office, apart from the fact that her policies offend the paper’s political philosophy.
Dumke and the Chicago Reader’s candidate, Kimberly Foxx, is backed by Cook County Board member Toni Preckwinkle.
Taking a close look at Dumke’s article reveals the real reason why so many journalists want Alvarez out of office and Foxx in.
Chicago journalists are facing a crisis over their coverage of the wrongful conviction movement. Their reports going back decades, in which they argued that murderers supposedly innocent were being released from prison, are slowly falling apart under renewed scrutiny.
The crisis is so deep that Chicago media outlets are engaged in a coverup over their coverage of these stories, refusing to publish evidence of key developments that undermine their reporting and actively vilifying anyone who comes forward to point out their record of getting the stories completely wrong.
Dumke’s shocking article about Alvarez bears all the hallmarks of this coverup, not the least of which is Dumke’s willingness to publish out-and-out falsehoods on a grand scale.
Here is why.
In the past few years, Alvarez has grudgingly revealed the corruption at the heart of the wrongful conviction movement. It’s a window into the movement that reveals the greatest corruption in these cases was not the conduct of Chicago Police detectives, as Dumke and his colleagues have alleged for decades. Rather, the real corruption lies with the wrongful conviction zealots and the Chicago media, the two working hand in hand.
Dumke and the Reader want a prosecutor who will maintain their narrative about the wrongful conviction cases. That candidate would be Preckwinkle’s Kimberly Foxx, for Preckwinkle has unquestioningly supported the anti-police narrative of the wrongful conviction movement.
To see Dumke’s service in the media coverup of the wrongful conviction scandal, one only has to take a close look at his article about Alvarez.
Evidence mounted that, in its push to put away criminals during the rising violence of the 80s and 90s, some county prosecutors took politically expedient shortcuts. After a number of flawed murder convictions came to light, then-governor George Ryan put a halt to executions in Illinois. Meanwhile, Daley's lieutenant and successor, Richard Devine, was battered with allegations that his office had failed to investigate evidence of police torture under former commander Jon Burge…
This is perhaps one of the most incredible paragraphs ever written by a Chicago journalist, featuring a jaw-dropping sentence that flies in the face of more than ten years of evidence indicating just the opposite.
After a number of flawed murder convictions came to light, then-governor George Ryan put a halt to executions in Illinois.
Every journalist in Chicago knows that this claim no longer holds water. Each week, more evidence arises that these convictions were not flawed at all and that these convicted killers should never have been let out of prison. Dumke and his fellow writers at the Reader have been confronted with this evidence for years. They have chosen to ignore it.
The most compelling evidence lies in the Anthony Porter exoneration in 1999, the most influential wrongful conviction case in the state’s history and the core case in the wrongful conviction mythology.
Porter was exonerated in 1999 through the efforts of former Northwestern Professor David Protess and his private investigator Paul Ciolino. The men, along with students at Northwestern, came forward with what were later proven fraudulent claims about Porter being innocent of a 1982 double murder. Dumke and his rag, the Chicago Reader, published these claims without checking the facts. In an effort to free Porter, evidence indicates wrongful conviction activists went so far as to bribe witnesses and coerce an innocent man, Alstory Simon, into confessing to the crime.
Alvarez was the state’s attorney who finally admitted that Northwestern’s “investigation” in the Porter exoneration was crooked. Just last year Alvarez released Alstory Simon from prison, admitting more than a decade after he was imprisoned that Simon’s constitutional rights had been violated by Protess and Ciolino when they fingered Simon—who was not identified by one single witness at the scene of the crime—and that they had coerced him into confessing.
Earlier this year, a judge also reviewed the case and declared that Simon was innocent of the murders.
So what is Dumke talking aboutwhen he cites “flawed murder convictions” as if it is a statement of fact? Simon’s release from prison is proof positive that this most central exoneration in the wrongful conviction mythology was anything but a “flawed murder conviction.”
The clear intent of Dumke’s article is revealed as much in what he writes as what he avoids. Despite the fact that the Porter exoneration is the crucial exoneration in the wrongful conviction mythology and it has now been rejected yet again under the weight of new investigations, Dumke does not give the case one word in his article. He completely ignores it. This would be akin to writing a defense of the Richard Nixon administration by simply ignoring the Watergate burglaries.
It gets worse.
Dumke mentions Governor Ryan’s decision to end the death penalty in the face of these “flawed murder convictions.”
Whoa. Wait a minute.
That’s not exactly accurate. That’s a statement that might have a tough time in a Rule 14 hearing.
Ryan acknowledged that the motive for this moratorium on the death penalty was rooted in the Porter exoneration, an exoneration now thoroughly discredited by Alvarez, a judge, a grand jury, a civil trial, a criminal trial, witnesses old and new, detectives, private investigators, and attorneys.
Dumke is asserting an argument about “flawed murder convictions” when Ryan himself admitted he was basing his decision on an exoneration that has now been revealed as little more than a criminal conspiracy. The Porter exoneration reveals itself to be a legitimate conviction more and more each day.
This is the kind of duplicity, deception, and downright fraud all too common in Chicago journalism.
Perhaps the reader would be interested to know that the exoneration, upon which Ryan ended the death penalty, has been thoroughly discredited. Perhaps Dumke would do at least this slight service to the truth in his article, just one sentence.
As it is, Dumke’s claim about“flawed murder convictions” is a measure of just how far Chicago journalists will go to maintain their mythology about these cases, no matter how powerful the evidence to the contrary. They will do so even if it means fighting to get people elected to crucial positions in the criminal justice system as a means of preserving this false narrative.
That’s particularly bad news for Chicago police officers, already facing the daily threats of working in one of the most violent, gang-infested cities in the country. Dumke’s article is a sign that the media will never give them a fair shake, will never be reasonable in their coverage.
“I got accused of certain things I didn’t do,” says Charles Salvatore, a lead detective in the Porter case. “I got accused of being this ringleader in a great conspiracy to frame Anthony Porter. I got accused of not having probable cause. I got accused of intimidating witnesses and I got accused of physical abuse, and I didn’t do any of this. And I have to ask. If they were making this up in my case, in how many others were they doing it?”
Perhaps Dumke should have sat down with Salvatore for a little while before Dumke published his fantasy claim about “flawed murder convictions” from Salvatore’s era on the job. Certainly Salvatore could enlighten him about such a claim. But that’s not likely. Since Salvatore successfully defended his investigation of Porter and proved in both a criminal and civil trial that Porter was guilty, not one journalist has ever sat down and asked him about the Porter case, including Dumke.
That Dumke’s article and his advocacy in favor of Foxx for prosecutor is aimed at covering up corruption by the media in the wrongful conviction movement is also revealed in his refusal to address the most obvious questions arising from Ryan’s stated reasons for ending the death penalty.
Wouldn’t a legitimate journalist, for example, call Ryan up and ask him how he and his staff didn’t see all the evidence that Porter was guilty and Simon innocent in the face of the Porter exoneration imploding this year? Rather than writing articles insisting that convictions were flawed, wouldn’t a legitimate journalist ask Ryan why he let Porter out in the face of all the un-refuted evidence of Porter’s guilt that was on the record at the very time Ryan pardoned Porter, evidence that compelled Alvarez to release Simon and a judge to declare Simon innocent?
Once again, it gets worse.
In his public relations piece posing as journalism, Dumke does slightly mention some wrongdoing by Protess in his article, but in a manner and substance that only adds to what seems to be clearly calculated deceit.
Protess is now named by Alstory Simon’s attorneys in a $40-million lawsuit. In the lawsuit, Simon’s attorneys cite a pattern of potentially criminal conduct by Protess in his wrongful conviction crusade throughout several cases spanning many years.
Dumke, who ignored in his article Protess’ role as the architect of the Porter conspiracy, also wholly ignores this evidence of other misconduct, and all the while prattles on about “flawed murder cases” by police and prosecutors and suggests Alvarez has been too “skeptical” of these wrongful conviction cases.
Instead, Dumke refers to one small aspect of another scandal Protess was involved in, the case that led to Protess’ exit from Northwestern, the McKinney case.
McKinney was another convicted killer Protess was trying to spring from prison. Dumke’s writing on this subject is nothing less than chilling.
In the McKinney case, the misconduct by Protess was discovered after Anita Alvarez and her staff smelled a rat. Alvarez subpoened a wide array of evidence in this case, including the Northwestern records and emails of students working on the case with Protess.
Journalists were furious at Alvarez for demanding these records, saying it was a violation of their privacy and their rights as reporters. Dumke taps into this outrage in his article.
In a 2012 interview, Alvarez said, "We tore those cases apart to see if there was any truth to them. I think it was unfortunate that it was portrayed as me going after the students."
Well, there are a few telling details omitted by Dumke about this subpoena that cast even more suspicion on the substance and intent of his article.
Alvarez smelled a rat in Protess’ claims about the case because her investigation unearthed statements from witnesses that contradicted statements Northwestern was claiming these witnesses made. It was yet another sign that wrongful conviction activists may be manufacturing false narratives. When Alvarez subpoened the records, it was the first time in decades that a prosecutor stood up to Protess, Northwestern, and the wrongful conviction movement.
Sure enough, Alvarez hit pay dirt.
The lawyer for Northwestern—not Alvarez—discovered that Protess was committing some potentially serious misconduct in his investigation. The lawyer discovered that not only was Protess lying about the case, but that Protess had also altered evidence that he had submitted to the school in response to Alvarez’s subpoena. In other words, Alvarez’s subpoena, which Dumke implies is overaggressive, unearthed shocking evidence of corruption against Protess.
Rather than criticizing Alvarez for being too aggressive, too skeptical of wrongful conviction claims, shouldn’t Dumke and the Reader be patting Alvarez on the back for potentially preventing yet another killer returned to the streets, like Anthony Porter?
Don’t bet on it. In the sick, twisted world of wrongful conviction journalists, undermining a wrongful conviction case is, in and of itself, a sin by a prosecutor, even when the prosecutor uncovers corruption and imposes justice.
Here is what Dumke is truly arguing: How dare Alvarez question Northwestern, Protess, and the Reader…How dare a prosecutor question these self-appointed guardians of truth?
After the school’s lawyer rushed to a hearing and told the judge that he was unwittingly given false evidence by Protess, Northwestern was compelled to conduct an internal investigation of Protess. What the school found was rumored to be chilling and undeniable: There was a shocking level of dishonesty at the very heart of wrongful conviction claims, a dishonesty Dumke and his self-aggrandizing colleagues never once uncovered.
Consider this statement the school released, not Alvarez, not the cops, but Northwestern itself, when they fired Protess.
In sum, Protess knowingly misrepresented the facts and his actions to the University, its attorneys and the dean of Medill on many documented occasions. He also misrepresented facts about these matters to students, alumni, the media and the public. He caused the University to take on what turned out to be an unsupportable case and unwittingly misrepresent the situation both to the Court and to the State.
Despite this bombshell statement and turn of events that describes conduct that could have clearly resulted in criminal charges, Dumke gives voice in his article to none of this in his recounting of Protess and Northwestern. Rather, he writes thatProtess's methods were eventually discredited, that Protess left the school in the wake of the ensuing controversy.
Not exactly, Mick.
Clearly Dumke is obfuscating the real significance of Protess’ conduct in the McKinney case and what it means in the context of the larger wrongful conviction narrative.
Here is what actually happened: Caught red-handed manufacturing and hiding evidence once again, the school canned Protess and admitted he was a liar.
Northwestern’s bombshell admission about Protess and their firing of him was yet another indication that what Chicago detectives had been saying for years was true: Dumke’s so-called “flawed murder convictions” weren’t flawed at all.
It’s important to pause and consider what is at stake. These were cases of vicious murders with grieving families and cops whose lives were ruined by the claims of Protess and his media supporters. This is the criminal justice system being sacrificed by private and potentially malevolent factions.
Dumke’s article is a sordid look into the imagination of a wrongful conviction journalist in Chicago, a measure of the lengths to which they will go to preserve their wrongful conviction mythology.
In the wake of all this evidence, Dumke’s suspicious motives are revealed, once again, just as much by the questions he doesn’t address as those he does.
The reader might ask why, despite the wrongdoing that Northwestern itself admitted, neither Dumke nor any of his colleagues at the Reader ever asked the next logical question following Protess’ firing from Northwestern: In how many other cases was he employing his “discredited methods.” How many other cases is there evidence of lying, altering evidence, and bribing witnesses by Protess? Isn’t this exactly what the detectives have been begging the Chicago journalists to do for more than thirty years, but Dumke and his band of brothers steadfastly refused?
Salvatore’s statement seems like a plea from another world.
“I got accused of being this ringleader in a great conspiracy to frame Anthony Porter. I got accused of not having probable cause. I got accused of intimidating witnesses and I got accused of physical abuse, and I didn’t do any of this. And I have to ask. If they were making this up in my case, in how many others were they doing it?”
Something else is missing in Dumke’s article. Why hasn’t one journalist in Chicago, why hasn’t Dumke or anyone at the Reader, gotten hold of the internal investigation by Northwestern into Protess’ conduct? The report is rumored to contain other bombshell evidence about Protess misconduct. Wouldn’t any real journalist be drooling to get at such a report?
Imagine if such a report existed about a cop. You couldn’t shake Dumke and his wolf pack of journalists off the trail.
The likely answer as to why they won’t track down this report is rather simple. The list of misconduct at Northwestern is also the list of misconduct by journalists, who went along, like so many lap dogs, with whatever Protess and other wrongful conviction law firms claimed.
That’s it, right? That’s the end of the story?
No, it isn’t.
Amazingly, it gets even worse.
Remember Governor Ryan? Remember how Dumke had the gall to say that Ryan was reacting to “flawed murder convictions” when he ended the death penalty?Remember how Dumke ignored the evidence that these convictions were not flawed at all?
Well, maintaining this false party line about these cases also excuses Dumke and his cohorts from facing the most chilling exoneration of them all, that of Madison Hobley, and the role of Chicago journalists in it.
Hobley was pardoned along with four other men in the wake of the Porter exoneration. Ryan harkened back to the Porter case when he let all four men go.
That’s right. In letting four more killers out of prison, Ryan justified the decision in part by referring to the Porter exoneration, an exoneration that has now been completely undermined.
You wouldn’t know about any of this from reading Dumke’s article, but it’s all true, on the public record.
Ryan let these men out despite the fact that they had never been able to convince a jury or judge that they were innocent and despite the fact that they had never unearthed any new evidence pointing to their innocence, and he justified much of it based on the Porter case.
Madison Hobley had been convicted for an arson that killed seven people in 1987. Out of deference to the living family members of victims in the arson, Crooked City will not publish the morgue photos of the burned victims, including the two children who perished when Hobley poured a pool of gasoline outside his apartment door, then down a stairwell. Hobley did so knowing his wife and child were sleeping inside his apartment. Here, though, are pictures of the building after the fire.
Far be it for Dumke to take a second look at this arson, this so-called “suspicious murder conviction” and Ryan’s shocking decision to release Hobley for the crime, to take a second look at it in light of all the evidence of corruption in the wrongful conviction claims from this era.
The reason the Chicago media won’t take this second look do it is twofold.
The Hobley exoneration could not have taken place without the complicity of Dumke’s Chicago Reader. This complicity took the form of journalists ignoring central evidence of Hobley’s guilt in their coverage of the story, including the fact that Hobley threatened an arson against his wife and child several weeks before he set the fire that killed both of them. That’s right. The Reader ignored this threat, which was documented in a case report.
The second reason is that Hobley’s arson paved the way for the sole criminal conviction against Dumke’s poster child for police abuse, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. The Burge conviction is the foundation upon which Dumke and his cohorts have constructed their mythology about the Chicago Police and wrongful convictions for the last three decades. To face the truth about the Porter exoneration, then Hobley’s, would be a devastating revelation of media corruption spanning three decades.
And that just can’t happen.
Alvarez is the first prosecutor in more than a decade who actually challenged a wrongful conviction case. Alvarez did so grudgingly in the Porter case, only after she was confronted with a body of evidence she could not escape.
In doing so, Alvarez opened a window into the dark soul of the wrongful conviction movement and the journalists who have supported them.
Dumke’s article suggests that’s exactly why the Reader wants Alvarez out.
And they might pull it off. Alvarez is extremely weak.
And on top of that, there is no Rule 14 violation for journalists in Chicago. They can say whatever they want in the Crooked City.
Martin Preib is a Chicago Cop and writer. His second book, Crooked City, is available on Amazon. He is currently working on his third book, about Jon Burge and the Madison Hobley arson, called Burn Patterns.
People around the country are becoming anxious over the growing lawlessness and violence throughout the country.
They’ve even coined a phrase for it: The Ferguson Effect.
It’s one of the first times the national media acknowledged that the movement to vilify the police, as was the case in Ferguson, is having a dire effect on policing, particularly in large cities.
Conservative columnist Patrick Buchanan describes it as well as anyone:
This year, 24 cops have been gunned down. And the day after deputy Goforth’s execution, “Black Lives Matter!” showed up at the Minnesota state fair chanting, “Pigs in a blanket! Fry ’em like bacon!”
Last fall, when mobs blocked highways after the death of Eric Garner in an encounter with police on Staten Island, the hoodlum chant was: “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want ’em? Now!”
Soon after, two cops in Brooklyn were executed in their patrol car…
For some of the evils of the last century we thought we left behind seem to be returning, as is the old indulgence of lawlessness when done by those claiming some “grievance” against society.
Violent crime is rising again, a direct result, many believe, of a new police reluctance to be aggressive in enforcing the law, to avoid violent clashes with criminals and suspects, the so-called “Ferguson effect.”
The lead story in the Sept. 1 New York Times reported a surge in murders in the city after the Eric Garner incident, and even greater surges in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
A closer look at the Times figures reveals something more disturbing. Chicago, a city with not half the population of New York, exceeds New York in murders this year, 294 to 208.
Washington, a city not a tenth as populous as New York, had half as many murders, 105. Baltimore, where Freddie Gray died in police custody, and six officers have been charged in his death, has had more murders this year, 215, than New York, though New York has 14 times the population.
The intense media pressure to vilify the police in Ferguson might seem to be new to the rest of the country, but it is all too familiar to members of the law enforcement community in Chicago.
Here, city cops have been dealing with it for more than 40 years.
Older cops, now mostly retired, can trace its origins to the 1968 riots in Chicago. There has always been bitter contention over who was at fault for the violence in Chicago at the convention, the protestors or the police. Many of the narratives, written by “protesters,” placed the blame on the cops.
But the truth is that even by 1968, a radical, violent and often revolutionary collection of activists was taking shape in the city, and taking aim at the police. Initially, they threw rocks and bottles at the police, then shot them and set off bombs.
From City Journal:
Numerous histories from participant-memoirists unsurprisingly second the “police riot” verdict. Cathy Wilkerson, whose cadre unleashed stink bombs and phoned bomb threats to local hotels, notes in her recent memoir that the “rampant brutality” of Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley “was exposed for all the world to see.” For Tom Hayden, the coordinator of the Chicago protests who was arrested for deflating a police car’s tire, “rioting police” exhibited “brutal behavior” and “mindless sadism.” Bill Ayers, who brags of pelting Chicago cops with marbles fired from a slingshot, decries the “violent police assaults” and police “rioting.” But far from political innocents clubbed into reality by sadistic policemen, the activists who squared off with cops were generally movement veterans who went to Chicago looking for a fight. As Jeff Jones and Mike Spiegel of New Left Notes wrote six months before the convention, “to envision non-violent demonstrations at the Convention is to indulge in pleasant fantasying.” By 1968, the movement had moved from mere protest to open confrontation. Leaving for Chicago, Terry Robbins—who, 18 months later, would blow himself up while constructing a bomb intended for a soldiers’ dance—told comrades: “Let’s go kick some ass.”
The figure most closely associated with the Chicago protests is Tom Hayden, now point man for Progressives for Obama. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) activist Gerry Long recalled to David Horowitz that Hayden noted the benefits of firebombing Chicago police cruisers. “I heard Tom Hayden speak, in chillingly cavalier tones, about street actions which would run the risk of getting people killed,” Todd Gitlin remembered in The Sixties. In a conversation with me, Mike Klonsky, SDS’s national secretary during the convention riots, described how Hayden plotted to scatter nails over a nearby highway…
The behind-closed-doors Hayden occasionally ventured into public view. In Chicago, he called on activists to “avenge” the injuries of co- organizer, Rennie Davis, who had suffered a concussion battling the police. Hayden exhorted the throngs: “Make sure that if blood is going to flow, it will flow all over this city.” Hayden wasn’t alone among future Chicago Eight defendants in his violent rhetoric. “If a pig comes up to us and starts swinging a billy club,” Black Panther Bobby Seale counseled, “and you check around and you got your piece, you got to down that pig in defense of yourself! We’re going to barbecue us some pork!” Abbie Hoffman called for “a huge orgasm of destruction,” and (along with sidekick Jerry Rubin) daydreamed of poisoning Chicago’s water supply with LSD. Hearing the reckless pronouncements of the riot’s ringleaders, Americans—already weary from several years of deadly urban rioting across the country—supported the Chicago police by greater than 2–1 margins. “The whole world is watching!” the protestors chanted, but polls showed that not everyone saw events their way.
But over the course of several decades their war on the police and criminal justice became more sophisticated.
To understand this evolution, one must look at a crucial event in Chicago more than a decade after the 1968 riots.
It was 1992. Mayor Richard Daley, the leader of perhaps the country’s most formidable political machine, faced an ominous decision. The same group of lawyers and activists who had rioted or supported the rioting at the 1968 Democratic Convention claimed that a Chicago Police Commander, Jon Burge, had tortured murder suspects.
The claim by these lawyers was based primarily on the case of Andrew Wilson, a career thug who gunned down two police officers during a traffic stop in February of 1982. The murder of the police officers took place during a period of unprecedented violence against police—the kind of violence against the police many of these radicals had called for in the 1960s. In one month of 1982, five cops were gunned down, four fatally, in the same year in which the city logged some 900 murders.
Wilson was captured several days after he murdered the two officers and was interrogated by Burge and his men in Area 2 on the far south side of Chicago. Up until this case, Burge was considered one of the best cops in the city, with one of the best homicide resolution rates. Tough cases, like the Wilson murders, were often given to him.
After Burge and his men interviewed Wilson and got a confession from him, Wilson was transported by a police wagon to central detention downtown. When he arrived, he was badly beaten. The lockup keeper would not accept the badly bruised Wilson, so the two wagon men took him to the hospital, where a doctor and nurses watched one of the wagon men become unhinged in dealing with Wilson, calling him names, pulling out his gun and threatening him.
It was never clear who abused Wilson. Many believed it was the wagon men. But the fact that four cops had been killed was clearly more than some cops could handle.
There was really never much evidence against Burge and his men, despite the claims by Andrew Wilson, claims that were his last, desperate hope of avoiding an almost certain death penalty, which he did. Wilson got off death row in large part because he had been beaten.
Nevertheless, it made little sense that detectives would leave marks all over Wilson, giving him an instant defense when they were trying desperately to build a case that would get him executed.
Based in large part on Wilson’s wounds, a group of lawyers and activists, spearheaded by the People’s Law Office (PLO), began pressing their claims that Burge and his men were racist monsters that tortured confessions out of suspects.
The PLO tried twice to sue Burge and his men over the abuse against Wilson.
Twice they failed.
“We’re sure something happened to him [Wilson], but maybe he inflicted it on himself,” one juror said after the first trial.
“We never would have given him money,” said another.
Despite these losses in the courtroom, a courtroom in which lead PLO attorney G. Flint Taylor would be held in contempt several times, turning the trial into a kind of circus, much as ultra-left attorney William Kunstler had done in his defense of the Chicago seven after the 1968 riots, the PLO pressed its case.
In doing so, Taylor and the PLO claimed they were fighting for justice and human rights, something that struck many people in the criminal justice system as ludicrous, since the PLO and many of their associates were comprised of self proclaimed revolutionary Marxists with a long history of supporting domestic terrorists, including the FALN bombers and the Weather Underground. These groups were extraordinarily violent. Later, they would be tied to black revolutionary groups that also committed many murders, including the murder of police officers.
In fact, the PLO got its start representing family members of the Black Panthers, who also called themselves revolutionary Marxists, and spoke endlessly about “killing the pigs.” Two of their members, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, had been killed during a shootout with police in 1969, when a joint Chicago Police and FBI group tried to serve a warrant on a west side apartment that contained a weapons cache by the group.
The PLO’s formation to represent the Panthers typified the bridge-building between the upper middle class terrorist organizations like the Weather Underground and the urban black militants like the Panthers in the late 1960s, all of whom shared a philosophy calling for violence against the police, all of it shallowly disguised in the rhetoric of human rights.
A chief BPP [Black Panther Party] priority was to harass police officers under the mask of a “political” program. The “self defense” part of that program involved Panther members appearing in public places heavily armed, as a means of standing up defiantly to “police brutality” and America’s allegedly racist power structure. This—coupled with the Party's anti-police (“pig”) rhetoric—caught the political fancy of Sixties radicals who considered themselves to be at war with the United States and were beginning to flirt with “revolutionary violence.”
To be sure, BPP was engaged in veritable warfare against the police, not merely “defending the people” against them. As BPP leader Eldridge Cleaver told Reason magazine years later (in 1986): "We [Panthers] would go out and ambush cops, but if we got caught we would blame it on them and claim innocence."
Whenever possible, BPP actively sought out opportunities to spark confrontations with police. On February 21, 1967, for instance, Huey Newton provided an armed escort for Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X, during a Bay Area speaking engagement. When newsmen tried to get closer to Shabazz than the Panthers wished to allow, police tried to enforce order with their nightsticks. In response, Newton and his fellow Panthers promptly loaded shells into their shotguns. After a tense standoff of several minutes, both sides backed off. Newton, however, boasted that the Panthers had “won” as a result of their “superior firepower.” The incident propelled Newton and the Panthers to national prominence.
The Black Panthers would lie about police violence in an effort to cast the police as the villains, distracting the gullible left from seeing the groups own growing criminal undertakings and violence.
But radical mythmakers tried to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. They portrayed the Panthers killed in the conflict as not merely dead, but as victims of "genocide." Thus, in 1969, Newton attorney Charles Garry claimed that 31 (or 29 or 28, depending on what day he was being interviewed) Panthers had been "assassinated" by law-enforcement authorities in the preceding two years. While it was true that approximately that many Panthers had indeed been killed since the group's inception, almost all of them had died in the course of criminal activities or in conflicts with other black militants. Of those Panthers who did die at the hands of police, all had provoked the shootouts.
The PLO represented the family members of Hampton and Clark by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The PLO claim—big surprise here—that the deaths of Hampton and Clark were executions by the police. The PLO engaged a strategy they have been using ever since: making their clients the victims and the police the criminals.
The tenuousness of Panther martyrdom was seen even in the most celebrated claim of innocent victimhood—the death of Chicago Panther Fred Hampton. According to Garry and other Panther supporters, Hampton had been wantonly murdered in his sleep as part of a police-FBI conspiracy. While it was true that Hampton was killed in a crossfire of bullets while sleeping off a drug binge, it was also true that when the police knocked on the door of the apartment, which served as a storage facility for all manner of BPP weaponry, they were greeted by a blast from Panther Mark Clark's shotgun, which initiated the shootout.
A decade after the PLO had formed to represent the Panthers, Andrew Wilson’s wounds provided a prime opportunity for the law firm to push their anti-police agenda once again.
The fact that Burge was also a decorated Vietnam veteran tied into the firm’s fervent anti-war platform as well. The lawyers at the PLO made the giant leap that Burge learned how to torture confessions while in Vietnam, then came back to the states and employed the tactics as a police commander. The assumption in the claims by the PLO was that the police department was in sympathy with Burge’s racist crimes, because he was quickly promoted through the department and never disciplined for any torture, so the entire police department was painted with a veneer or racism, torture, and abuse.
Even though the PLO was shut down in court in their crusade against Burge and his men, they pressed their claims with a fervency and aggression only the most radicalized activists can muster. Talk to a PLO founding member today and he may refer to the mission not in legal terms, but in revolutionary ones, calling their crusade against Burge as part of “the movement.”
As it was, the campaign against Burge by the PLO at first failed miserably, including the two civil trials, where the trial antics of PLO attorney G. Flint Taylor earned the scorn of lawyers and reporters alike.
But in time, the PLO prevailed, based in large part because Chicago was governed by a crooked political machine that acquiesced to emerging political factions, regardless of their legitimacy.
One inroad was through higher education. In their transformation from terrorists or terrorist supporters to mainstream lawyers, academics, and journalists, many of the surviving 1960s revolutionaries in “the movement” would end up in some of Chicago’s most prestigious universities, where they set up law and journalism departments aimed at attacking the criminal justice system. Former Weather Underground (WU) bomber Bernadine Dohrn, for example, ended up at Northwestern University working on wrongful conviction cases. Her husband, former WU bomber Bill Ayers, got a job at the University of Illinois.
In Chicago, crime not only pays, it grants tenure.
A second inroad was into the local media. The PLO and other “movement” activists held relationships with key journalists in the city who acted as their personal PR agents, rarely reviewing the full record of evidence in murder cases. Instead, they merely parroted the claims of law firms like the PLO and of the Innocence Project at Northwestern University.
Try finding, for example, one single article by a Chicago media outlet about the PLO detailing their long history supporting the Weather Underground when Weather Underground members were on the FBI’s most wanted list and living underground.
Furthermore, these journalists would use their positions to vilify anyone who questioned wrongful conviction myths. Chief among them was Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn. Even if a trial proved one again that a wrongful conviction case was a complete falsehood, as it did in 2005, Zorn was willing to assail the claims, and the lawyer who made them, in his columns.
A third inroad was into the black caucuses in the inner cities. From the earliest days representing the Black Panthers, the PLO had established ties to African American political leaders. When Black Panthers like Bobby Rush—who had been at the Panther apartment shortly before the shoot out in 1969—moved into the political establishment, much as former WU members had moved into academia, these ties became invaluable.
All of brings us back to the dilemma Mayor Daley faced in 1992.
Here is why.
In 1982, when Andrew Wilson was arrested for murdering the two police officers and then showed up at central detention badly beaten, Daley was the chief prosecutor in the city. Two doctors had documented Wilson’s abuse, but Daley had never done anything about it.
Now, as the mayor, he was being confronted by leaders in the African American community asking him why he didn’t do anything about it back then and why he wasn’t doing anything about Jon Burge now.
Organizations had formed demanding action, just as they had in the 1960s. They marched, protested, shouted.
And there is one political reality every mayor in Chicago had to face: It is virtually impossible to maintain the position of Mayor in Chicago without the black vote.
So Daley did what many leaders of political machines do—and what he did dozens of times in the decades he ran the city with an iron fist: He threw an underling under the bus and let that underling take the fall.
Daley appointed a new director of the agency that oversees police misconduct, the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), to look once again into the allegations against Burge and his men. Her name was Gayle Shines.
It is important to remember that this decision from Daley came after the PLO lost two trials in their attempt to pin torture allegations on Burge and after previous OPS investigations nearly ten years earlier had not sustained any complaints against Burge in connection with Andrew Wilson.
Sure enough, this second OPS investigation concluded there was widespread abuse in the police department and recommended that Burge should be fired.
Cops and the cop union were furious, as were attorneys representing them.
Then FOP President John Dineen in the Tribune:
Dineen said it was unfair for the Office of Professional Standards to file charges nine and a half years later while the agency was “into its third director. Francis Nolan [a former director] couldn’t find anything wrong. David Fogel [who succeeded Nolan] couldn’t find anything wrong.
“Suddenly, Gayle Shines, finds something wrong. Was there something wrong, or was the political atmosphere such that they had to find something wrong?”
William Kunkle, Burge’s attorney:
“I think it is atrocious that OPS would reinstate these charges after nine and a half years, when Andrew Wilson has never made himself available to any prosecutorial agency or the OPS to be interviewed with respect to these charges.
Police Board hearings were convened to determine whether Burge would be fired in light of this last OPS investigation.
The family members of the two police officers gunned down by Andrew Wilson had already relived the murders through two criminal trials and two civil trials. Now they were forced once again to relive them and endure Wilson’s claims in another proceeding, one more resembling a kangaroo court than a legitimate trial proceeding.
This was, after all, a man who was supposed to have been executed.
It didn’t matter. It was all part of a process by the PLO to transform killers and other violent criminals into victims and make the police the offenders.
And if it meant making the family members of the victims reliving time and again the horrible murder of their loved ones, well, then, so be it.
As it was, Daley turning OPS into a kind of instrument of the PLO was perhaps the most crucial moment in the entire history of “the movement,” when the most radical, lawless groups on the left coalesced and compelled a city’s institution, OPS, to bend to their will, even after they had utterly failed to push their cause in the courts.
From the moment the PLO compelled Daley to fire Burge, “the movement” had its foot in the door, and the “Ferguson Effect” was taking shape.
Bit by bit, these radicals were able to undermine city institutions, compelling them to betray the obligations of their office, just as Daley had perverted the office OPS to go after Burge and his men.
While their advocates celebrated the firing of Burge as a grand achievement for justice and human rights, in reality it was a fundamental breakdown of the democratic process, one that took shape, ironically, through the city’s Democratic Party.
The emergence of “the movement” pushed the Democratic Party far to the left, away from the traditional power bases of representing the working class and fighting for reform within the system by using the government as an instrument to help the poor, unfortunate and the weak. Instead, the party morphed into a kind of schizophrenic state, in which, on the one hand, it was supposed to bolster the democratic system, but, on the other, gave itself over to factions who did not like democracy at all—whether it was the upper class Marxists from the 1960s who became terrorists or terrorist supporters, like the PLO and WU, or black militant organizations like the Black Panthers, or even starry-eyed students spellbound by the possibility that they might release an “innocent” man from prison.
Soon after the PLO got Burge fired they began a larger offensive against the police. They and their allies began claiming that the police, even ones who had never worked with Burge, had also framed innocent men for killings. Dozens of killers were set free, even some from death row.
It didn’t matter that even a cursory review of key wrongful conviction claims showed them to be not only false, but completely absurd.
Consider the most influential wrongful conviction case, Anthony Porter—sent to death row after being convicted of killing a couple in a park in 1982—maintained that the detectives had attempted to torture him into confessing, but he would not give in.
That would be quite a strange event, since the detectives never encountered Porter in the course of their investigation. How, then, could they have tortured him?
This simple fact was never even acknowledged by the Chicago media as they ran one story after another about the detectives framing Porter, in strict obedience to the party line of activists like the PLO, now the emerging power brokers in the city’s political machine.
Then there was the fact that detectives found two groups of witnesses in the Porter case who all came up with the same description of Porter murdering a couple in a park. The two groups had never met each other, and made their statements in front of several people, not just detectives. So how could detectives have conspired to make up a false story?
And if two groups of witnesses came up with the same story— how could their accounts that Porter was the offender be false?
It was impossible and a key reason why the jury in 2005 refused to give Anthony Porter a dime in his civil lawsuit against the detectives in the case. The jury realized Porter was the killer, despite the fact that wrongful conviction activists had conspired to get him out.
Time and again, one pulls back the cover of these wrongful conviction theories and their claims collapse under the barest scrutiny.
It’s not just that OPS, now called IPRA, has succumbed to the anti-police hysteria generated by the city’s wrongful conviction advocates. These advocates have made far greater inroads.
One of the crowning achievements of “the movement” is their undermining of the prosecutor’s office.
There is ample evidence, for example, that prosecutors in the Porter case violated the oaths of their office when they took a confession from another man they knew to be false, a confession that allowed Anthony Porter to get out.
It was 1999 when Northwestern University Professor David Protess and his private investigator Paul Ciolino, strong allies of the PLO, came forward with a recorded confession to the murders Anthony Porter had been convicted of, a confession made by Alstory Simon.
Not everyone in the prosecutor’s office bought the confession. The second in command at the office, Thomas Epach, advised Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine not to let Porter out of prison and not to indict Simon. But Devine, facing the unrelenting pressure of PLO allies of Protess and Northwestern and their media allies, went ahead anyway.
In doing so, the prosecutor betrayed not only Alstory Simon, an innocent man, but also the cops involved in the Porter case, and the entire police department, as the Porter exoneration initiated a flood of equally dubious cases.
It gets worse.
Furious at the turn of events, Epach stayed true to the oaths of his office and initiated a grand jury investigation into the Porter exoneration. Sure enough, the Northwestern case fell apart under scrutiny. A vast body of evidence showed Porter was in fact guilty.
Nevertheless, Devine pressed forward with the exoneration of Porter and taking the confession of Simon. His underling, Thomas Gainer, marched into court and took a confession from Simon when he, Gainer, knew full well there was vast exculpating evidence.
Prosecutorial misconduct doesn’t get much worse than this, perhaps the greatest prosecutorial corruption in modern history, and it was prosecutorial misconduct in the service of the wrongful conviction movement, no different than when Daley turned OPS into a tool of the PLO seven years earlier.
Even fifteen years after Porter was let out, when the next head of the prosecutors office, Anita Alvarez, was finally forced to confront Simon’s wrongful conviction, Alvarez let Simon out of prison, but refused to acknowledge the clear corruption by her predecessor. Once again, the prosecutor’s office was protecting wrongful conviction activists, covering up their corruption that gave them power.
These are examples of how the PLO’s movement infiltrated OPS and the prosecutor’s office. But it is not the end of the story.
A few years after “the movement” sprang Porter from prison, they compelled one of the most corrupt governors in the history of the state, George Ryan, into freeing four other convicted killers, one of them, Madison Hobley, who was convicted of setting a fire that killed seven people on the south side in 1987.
Governor George Ryan liberated these men from prison despite the fact that no legal proceeding had ever suggested they were innocent. It was the kind of end around the criminal justice system typical of “the movement.” Remember, the PLO utterly failed to win a case in court against Burge and his men, so they turned to a kind of arm twisting of the Mayor and the political machine. Both instances were examples of democracy undermined through intimidation and manipulation.
Never mind that the evidence of Hobley’s guilt is overwhelming, that he confessed several times. Never mind that some of the same players involved in the Porter scandal were also involved in the Hobley case, accused of making the same bribes to witnesses in the Hobley case that they have been accused of in the Porter case, and others.
Hobley set the fire that killed seven people, but he got out of prison and was given $6 million as a settlement for his “wrongful conviction,” a complete compitulation of the entire city and state to the movement through a backroom deal with one of the most corrupt governor in the state’s history.
And from this travesty something else took shape. It was through the Hobley case that the PLO and the wrongful conviction lawyers finally obtained their trophy: the criminal conviction of Jon Burge in 2011. Through the course of a civil lawsuit filed by Burge’s attorneys, Burge denied ever abusing anyone.
Based on this statement, federal prosecutors indicted Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice and he was convicted. Burge was convicted in a case arising from a man who got away with incinerating his own family, a staggering indication of just how deeply “the movement” had penetrated the country’s legal system.
Now the entire political system in Illinois seems to be working on behalf of the PLO and other wrongful conviction law firms and university departments.
In the waning moments of his doomed administration, Governor Patrick Quinn early this year released prisoners without explanation or justifying why they should be released. These were prisoners who had been supported by wrongful conviction law firms. One of the offenders had shot three police officers and been convicted on four counts of attempted murder.
That’s right. Chicago cops watched a man who had tried to murder four of their own during a traffic stop walk right out of prison without explanation, in defiance of the courts.
Since that decision, Quinn is nowhere to be seen, unable to be questioned as to why he would betray the legal system and the police in particular.
Another man released by Quinn at the same time had been convicted of perjury in a wrongful conviction case where lawyers were trying to secure the freedom of two men convicted of two grisly gang murders.
The earlier this year, Flint Taylor at the PLO bagged perhaps his greatest trophy of all. The Chicago City Council voted unanimously to grant “reparations” to supposed victims of Burge torture. Inmates from the 1970s, some convicted of murder, might now be able to garner millions from the taxpayers merely by claiming they were tortured by Burge, even when there was no evidence of abuse.
The vote compelled Burge to break his long silence with the Chicago media and make a comment to Crooked City:
This entire scenario is being manipulated by lawyers like G. Flint Taylor and his ilk. They have been getting rich for years filing specious lawsuits against Chicago Police Officers, the City of Chicago and other government entities. They know that 99% of the time the City will settle the lawsuit rather than go to trial because it’s cheaper. The City never admits wrongdoing on their part or the part of the individual defendants (police officers) when they settle.
Evidence is slowly emerging that clearly shows what happened to the dedicated Chicago Police Detectives who fought, as best we could, the worst, most violent predators on the South side of Chicago. To understand, all one has to do is review the long record of unethical criminal activity exhibited by academics and students at Northwestern University, particularly in the case of Anthony Porter, a man obviously guilty of two murders, but released from custody after an "investigation" conducted by NU professor David Protess and his students. There has never been a case with more blatant Subornation of Perjury than when they framed an innocent man, Alstory Simon, for the crime committed by Porter.
States Attorney Alvarez admitted the criminal behavior on the part of the crew from Northwestern when she announced she was dropping the case against Alstory Simon and petitioning for his release. This is not an unusual instance on the part of the Northwestern crew and slowly emerging evidence will condemn their participation in helping free other guilty criminals.
Working to free guilty, vicious criminals by the likes of G. Flint Taylor and others like him, as well as the Northwestern cabal, all with a radical political agenda, has created a thriving cottage industry in Chicago. These private attorneys grow rich because the City of Chicago is afraid to defend the lawsuits filed by these human vultures. Ask the mayor and City Counsel members how many relatives of the victims of these crimes they spoke with before deciding on their "Reparations.”
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.
Anthony Holmes also had a long career. During one of his first visits to prison he was the "Barn Boss" at Statesville, when Statesville was the toughest prison in Illinois. That means he ran the prison. He was on Chicago's "10 Most Wanted" list when he was arrested for Murder. He subsequently gave a court reported confession to the crime. There was NO MOTION TO SUPRESS the confession. In fact there was no mention in public by Holmes that he was "tortured" until over a decade later, after he met G. Flint Taylor.
By the way, he claims he did 30 years for the murder. The truth is he was paroled after 11 years and got busted making a hand-to-hand dope buy from an undercover agent shortly after he was released. He went back to the joint for the Parole Violation and served a few more years. Holmes was one of the leaders of a group called "The Royal Family" which consisted of 31 ex-cons who patterned their operations after the mafia. They committed a string of commercial armed robberies unheard of at the time, and, if one of their crews got caught, they simply murdered the witnesses. I find it hard to believe that the City's political leadership could even contemplate giving "Reparations" to human vermin like them.
The media's long silence on these activities makes them complicit in the fraud being perpetrated on Chicago and the citizenry. When the true evidence finally rules the day and the record is set straight, the people who conspired to free a man like Madison Hobley, who was awarded six million dollars by the City after he burned seven people to death, including his wife and infant son, will have to pay the piper.
At that time I believe I and all the outstanding men and women I had the privilege of working with, as well as the Chicago Police Department itself, will be vindicated.
OPS, the city council, prosecutors, a governor, federal prosecutors…where does it end?
The larger, national media is only just beginning to understand exactly what the Ferguson Effect is and how deep are its roots. It will take a long time before they realize that this movement is actually an extension of a revolutionary movement that began in Chicago among the Left in the late 1960s.
It gained in power by moving into the Democratic machine that ruled the city, and then radicalized it, and now wields power on a national scale. The players and strategies honed in Chicago have now been employed throughout the country.
That is what the Ferguson Effect truly is.
Remember “Hands up, don’t shoot?”
It never happened. At least that’s what witnesses at the scene of the shooting, witnesses deemed reliable by authorities, said in their statements, if such evidence even matters anymore.
Nevertheless, the slogan “Hands up, don’t shoot” is now chanted time and time again, a dangerous ascendance of radical ideology over the rules of evidence and democratic process.
The attendant chaos in this Ferguson Effect is exactly the kind of chaos cherished by groups trying to undermine the system, not correct it.
The national media has not yet realized what is at stake in the Ferguson Effect, nor its origins.
It's a long, dark story, one that begins, and possibly ends, in the Crooked City.
Martin Preib is an awarding-winning writer and Chicago Police Officer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, chronicles his investigation into Chicago's wrongful conviction movement and played a pivotal role in the release of Alstory Simon from prison last year. Told in the gripping tension of a crime novel, Crooked City paints a dire picture of the movement to release convicted killers from prison. Preib is currently working on a third book about an arson from 1987 on Chicago's south side that killed seven people.
A silence is taking shape in Chicago.
This silence requires a little history.
In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, several groups radicalized by the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights movement and a profound sympathy with Marxist philosophy, turned to terrorism as a means of initiating a revolution.
Of these groups, the Weather Underground was the most prolific. They set off bombs throughout the country, hoping that these acts of terrorism would spur the domestic chaos they believed necessary to initiate this revolution. They were placed on the FBI’s most wanted list. Members were forced to live underground, using fake names and keeping constantly on the move.
They counted on sympathizers living above ground to fund them and provide assistance.
One of their greatest supporters was the People’s Law Office, a collection of radical attorneys in Chicago, who got their start representing the families of Black Panthers killed in a shootout with police in 1969.
The intimate connection between the Weather Underground and the People’s Law Office comes as quite a surprise to many people in Chicago. Though the PLO is quoted on an almost weekly basis by a collection of journalists in the city, one would have a difficult time finding one article in Chicago’s media chronicling the law firm’s ties to one of the country’s most infamous terrorist organizations, a terrorist organization whose mantra was all about “killing the pigs.”
Despite their high-profile bombings and incendiary rhetoric, few people in the mainstream gave the Weather Underground much legitimacy. As a result, the group faced a sad realization common to many revolutionary groups, particularly Marxist groups.
“The people,” for the most part, wanted nothing to do with them.
This is eventually what happened to the Weather Underground. People became fed up with their bombing and their violence, as well as their philosophy, particularly when people caught a glimpse of just how violent and lawless the group could be. Even many on the political left became disgusted with them.
Todd Gitlin, former president of the Students for Democratic Society and writer:
“They were ready to be mass murderers. This is mass murder we are talking about. They came to this conclusion, which is the conclusion that was come to by all the great killers, whether Hitler or Stalin or Mao, that they have a grand project for the transformation and purification for the world, and in the face of that project ordinary life is dispensable. They joined that tradition. ”
The entire movement seemed to fade away; but the members who didn’t get killed, flee to Cuba, or get life sentences for other crimes, members like founding members Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn who beat their criminal charges on legal technicalities, quietly moved into academia, the law, and the media.
And so they didn’t fade away at all. Rather, they transformed the strategy of their “any means justified” attacks on the system. Specifically, they mastered the arts of public relations and media manipulation and reinvented themselves. They began a thirty-year assault on the criminal justice system, in particular the Chicago Police, lobbing one media and legal bomb after another that claimed the police were a collection of racist torturers who routinely and indifferently framed innocent men.
Bernadine Dorhn ended up at Northwestern University’s Law School, working on wrongful conviction cases.
Once frothing revolutionaries who bombed the home of a judge, nearly killing the judge, his wife, and his son, the former terrorists were now mainstream educators—even buddies with the president, disguising their revolutionary aims in the guise of what they called “civil rights.”
Here is a passage written by a man who experienced as a child their civil rights crusade first hand.
In February 1970, my father, a New York State Supreme Court justice, was presiding over the trial of the so-called “Panther 21,” members of the Black Panther Party indicted in a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department stores. Early on the morning of February 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. (Today, of course, we’d call that a car bomb.) A neighbor heard the first two blasts and, with the remains of a snowman I had built a few days earlier, managed to douse the flames beneath the car. That was an act whose courage I fully appreciated only as an adult, an act that doubtless saved multiple lives that night…
For the next 18 months, I went to school in an unmarked police car. My mother, a schoolteacher, had plainclothes detectives waiting in the faculty lounge all day. My brother saved a few bucks because he didn’t have to rent a limo for the senior prom: the NYPD did the driving. We all made the best of the odd new life that had been thrust upon us, but for years, the sound of a fire truck’s siren made my stomach knot and my heart race. In many ways, the enormity of the attempt to kill my entire family didn’t fully hit me until years later, when, a father myself, I was tucking my own nine-year-old John Murtagh into bed.
Wrongful conviction activists have modified their strategies. Now they toss legal and media bombs at one murder case after another, with the same unrelenting aggression their allies once firebombed the homes of judges.
It has worked. Law firms like the PLO have made millions. With that money, they have secured vast political power and celebrity status.
But now a newfound silence has enveloped their movement, a silence taking shape among their key foot soldiers in the media, the ones who played a crucial role in supporting the wrongful conviction theories.
It is a silence emerging from one key mass murder case, the Madison Hobley arson.
The reason these journalists, John Conroy, Eric Zorn, and Steve Mills, are silent is that the Hobley case undermines every tenet of the wrongful conviction movement and shows exactly the malevolence and evil at its core, stripping away the veneer of humanity and higher principle the activists claimed and revealing a sordid willingness to release the most cruel and sociopathic offenders back on society.
It was a strategy that could do more damage, in the long run, than any pipe bombs.
The Madison Hobley murders took place on January 6, 1987. Hobley, angry that his wife would not let him remain with his mistress, decided to start a fire outside his apartment, where his wife and child were sleeping.
Creating what fire investigators called a chimney effect, the fire raged swiftly and intensely throughout the building. Seven people died, including Hobley’s wife and child. Many others were injured jumping from the third floor.
At first, detectives approached Hobley as a witness, wondering how he got out of the fire, but not his family. Hobley’s account did not make much sense, so they asked him to take a lie detector test. He failed it and confessed to the cop giving the test.
He was charged, convicted, and sentenced to death.
Even though Hobley was sent to death row, one of his attorneys, De Paul University Law Professor Andrea Lyon, fought to get Hobley out, creating a narrative that Hobley was tortured into confessing to the crimes. It might seem strange that an attorney would take up such an open-and-shut murder case, but at the time Lyon began fighting for Hobley, the movement to free convicted killers—by any means necessary—was already well under way.
In fact, almost all that was required was that the detectives who worked a case had at one time worked with or under the supervision of police commander Jon Burge, the police official who became the symbol for torture in the Chicago Police Department. One of the tenets of Lyon’s claim, repeated over and over, was that the detectives in the Hobley case had worked with Burge.
Beyond these vague associations to Burge, Lyon and her supporters never truly explained the details of their theory that Hobley was framed by detectives. They never explained how detectives somehow decided to pin the murders on an innocent man, a man who had just lost his wife and child, including such elemental facts as how the detectives communicated their conspiracy amongst themselves when they were scattered all around the city, and how they could be sure their false narrative would stand up to the forensic evidence and witness accounts.
Lyon—who established a reputation among police officers in her years as a public defender for her brashness and strong anti-police bias—was never able to get her claims about Hobley to fly in a court room. Hobley lost all his appeals.
Case closed, right?
No. In Chicago, under the pressure of the wrongful conviction movement, no murder case is ever finished.
In one of the most puzzling and disturbing chapters in Chicago history, Lyon was somehow able to get then Governor George Ryan to pardon Hobley in 2003. Ryan pardoned three other men at the same time, one of whom was represented by the People’s Law Office.
Hobley’s pardon marked the first time convicted killers were exonerated by a governor without any new evidence.
New York Times:
Mr. Hobley, who was convicted of killing his wife, infant child and five others in a 1987 arson, walked out of Pontiac Correctional Center this afternoon, one of four death row inmates that Governor Ryan pardoned three days before the end of his term. Experts said it was the first time in memory that condemned men had been directly pardoned, as opposed to being released through a court proceeding, an extraordinary step Governor Ryan took because, he said, he is convinced of their innocence.
It was a decision that placed the governor in direct conflict with the entire criminal justice system that convicted Hobley.
Governor Ryan’s decision came in the wake of an investigation of Ryan’s administration when he was Secretary of the State for illegally selling licenses, contracts, and leases in a corruption scam that resulted in an 18-count indictment against him under a scandal that became known as Operation Safe Road. Ryan was indicted in 2003 in federal court.
In a bitter, cruel irony, one of the cases tied to his indictment also involved a fire that took the lives of children. It was a traffic accident tied to a motorist who had illegally bought his drivers’ license. The Willis family was driving to Wisconsin in 1994 when their vehicle struck debris that had fallen from a vehicle driven by Ricardo Guzman. The debris punctured the gas tank of the Willis’ vehicle, causing it to catch fire. Six Willis children burned to death.
The image of the Willis’ car set on fire became the symbol for Ryan’s corrupt administration.
In light of the pending criminal case against Ryan, many people wondered aloud about Ryan’s motivation to set Hobley, and other convicted killers, free from prison. They wondered if his newfound passion about the injustice of the death penalty wasn’t aimed at winning political and public support in the wake of his own trial for corruption.
The question burned even brighter when it was announced that Lyon, Hobley’s attorney who had convinced Ryan to free Hobley, would represent Ryan in his own criminal trial.
Even the most stalwart wrongful conviction disciples could not ignore the overwhelming signs of quid pro quo between Lyon and Ryan.
Even Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune:
Lyon bristled at the suggestion of payback and, as I reported, said this was "absolutely not" the case…Appearances, however, remain troubling.
John Conroy, a journalist who worked at the Chicago Reader, wrote extensively about the Hobley case, alleging all kinds of criminal conduct against the investigating detectives, despite the fact that one legal proceeding after another bolstered Hobley’s conviction.
In Conroy’s long-winded analysis of largely irrelevant details about the case—details that had been brought up, and rejected, during Hobley’s trial and his appeals—Conroy ignored one central, unequivocal event in his major, breakthrough article about the arson.
Weeks before the actual arson that took the lives of seven people, two police officers responded to a call of criminal damage to property at a residence. The complainant had taken in Hobley’s wife and child after the wife left Hobley when she learned he was having an affair.
The complainant stated that Hobley had thrown a brick through the window of the residence. While she was talking to the cops, the phone rang. She told the officers that it was likely Hobley calling to make threats again. She asked one of the cops, Glenn Evans, to listen on another phone. Evans did. He heard Hobley threaten to set the woman’s residence on fire.
Conroy’s refusal to mention this arson threat weeks before Hobley actually committed an arson less than a mile away is perhaps one of the most sickening displays of the allegiance between Chicago journalists and the wrongful conviction activists.
The arson threat was a key event that convinced detectives and prosecutors of Hobley’s guilt.
Hobley’s arson threat remained in relative media obscurity, even after he was pardoned by Ryan. De Paul University went on to earn high praise and prestige for exonerating an “innocent” mass murderer.
Well, guess what happened to Conroy after he wrote these articles? Eventually he was laid off from the Chicago Reader. Then he was hired by the Better Government Association where he wrote about the Hobley case some more.
Then he ended up at—lo and behold—DePaul University, teaching investigative reporting at the same university where Andrea Lyon worked when she convinced Ryan to pardon Hobley, the same university where Ryan announced his groundbreaking decision to end the death penalty, the same university that garnered vast praise and celebrity for getting Hobley, a “wrongfully convicted” murderer out of prison, in large part through Conroy’s articles.
What a coincidence.
One wonders what exactly Conroy teaches his students. How to ignore crucial evidence for decades? How not to let any facts get in the way of your story? How to vilify the police? How to build your career by destroying the lives of others, including the family members of murder victims?
It wasn’t just a job at De Paul that Conroy gained from his years of writing wrongful conviction articles, including the ones on Jon Burge and Madison Hobley. He wrote a play based on these cases, My Kind of Town.
A main character in the play is an African American victim of police torture.
What is this character accused of in the play?
An arson that killed several people.
One wonders how many people watching Conroy’s play, which earned widespread praise in reviews, had any idea about what really happened in the Hobley case. One wonders what the public would think of Conroy’s artistic ambitions if they knew his articles helped free a mass murderer.
There is a crucial, deeper question in the Hobley case that goes to the core of the silence now surrounding it.
How did Lyon know Governor Ryan would play ball on the Hobley pardon? How did her office know to even approach Ryan? Where would such a plan to use crooked politicians in such a macabre plan come from?
Well, this is the $64,000 question.
Chicago’s corruption is such that it does not generally allow highly principled public servants to rise to the tops of its institutions. Leaders of Chicago’s institutions are powerbrokers, not public servants. They are not guided primarily by the obligations of their offices. The consequence is that the city has generally played ball with wrongful conviction activists, despite their sordid associations with the likes of the Weather Underground.
To understand how this political backscratching works, one has to look closely at another wrongful conviction exoneration a few years earlier, one that gave life to the Hobley pardon.
Investigations by Crooked City writer Martin Preib and journalist William Crawford, as well as private investigators John Delorto and John Mazzola, into the seminal Anthony Porter exoneration in 1999 for a double murder revealed that the entire basis for Porter’s exoneration was a complete fraud.
Claims that Anthony Porter, convicted of a 1982 double murder, was innocent emerged from Northwestern Professor David Protess and his private investigator Paul Ciolino.
They came forward with a confession by another man, Alstory Simon. With this confession, prosecutors set Porter free from prison and took Simon into custody. Later, Ryan pardoned Porter, amidst a media frenzy. Ryan sang the praises of Protess and Ciolino, saying he was so moved by their “investigation” that it compelled him to end the death penalty.
It also precipitated his decision to then pardon Hobley, and others.
Anthony Porter’s exoneration in 1999 for a double homicide has now been shown by prosecutors, the courts, and the evidence to be a fraud, just as Preib and Crawford had argued.
Last year, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez released Alstory Simon from prison, saying his constitutional rights had been violated by Protess and Ciolino when they coerced a confession from Simon. Then, earlier this year, a judge declared that Simon was innocent.
It was a bombshell announcement, undermining the central case that formed the basis of the wrongful conviction mythology in Chicago.
Governor Ryan, shortly before he himself would go to prison, described the influence of the Porter case in 2003 when he ended the death penalty, citing in particular the work of Tribune reporter Steve Mills:
I never intended to be an activist on this issue. I watched in surprise as freed death row inmate Anthony Porter was released from jail. A free man, he ran into the arms of Northwestern University Professor Dave Protess who poured his heart and soul into proving Porter's innocence with his journalism students.
He was 48 hours away from being wheeled into the execution chamber where the state would kill him.
It would all be so antiseptic and most of us would not have even paused, except that Anthony Porter was innocent of the double murder for which he had been condemned to die.
After Mr. Porter's case there was the report by Chicago Tribune reporters Steve Mills and Ken Armstrong documenting the systemic failures of our capital punishment system. Half of the nearly 300 capital cases in Illinois had been reversed for a new trial or resentencing.
Now that the Porter case has fallen apart, one wonders how it was that Governor Ryan, with all the staff and resources available to him, did not observe the overwhelming evidence of Porter’s guilt and Simon’s innocence and the corruption permeating Northwestern’s investigation into the case.
Equally so, how did Ryan not see it in other cases, like Hobley’s?
And most importantly, one wonders how journalists like Steve Mills “missed” this evidence.
Well, the key to understanding how wrongful conviction attorneys like Lyon could get public officials to do their bidding, despite abundant evidence, in defiance of the law, is rooted in the Porter case as well.
One has to go back to one crucial moment in 1999 when former Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine was approached with the “evidence” of Porter’s guilt and Simon’s innocence.
At that time, a fight broke out at the prosecutor’s office over the case. The Chief of the Criminal Division, Thomas Epach, argued to the head of the prosecutor’s office, Dick Devine, that Porter was guilty and should not be released. Epach’s arguments were futile. Devine, bowing to the media pressure, let Porter out and indicted Alstory Simon.
One reason Devine gave in to Northwestern investigators was the constant barrage of articles in the Chicago Tribune, many of them authored by Steve Mills and Eric Zorn, pounding the Porter innocence story.
While it is no excuse for a prosecutor to base his decisions on media pressure, it is also no excuse that reporters and columnists should wield their positions in such an underhanded, duplicitous manner.
But the fact remains that from the moment Devine bowed to the will of wrongful conviction activists like Protess and his Northwestern allies, wrongful conviction attorneys knew three things: They knew they had a collection of journalists willing to go along with their theories without questioning their claims; they knew these journalists would hammer public officials until these officials relented; and they knew that once public officials gave in to their demands, they in effect “owned” these officials, and they could push their demands even further.
When Dick Devine let Porter go free and took Alstory Simon into custody, wrongful conviction attorneys had essentially turned the prosecutor’s office into a co-conspirator, because the prosecutor had heard and chose to ignore strong arguments from the Chief of the Criminal Division that Porter was guilty and Simon was innocent.
It was more than just a crime.
It was the beginning of a revolution.
Turning the prosecutor’s office was nothing less than a coup for the wrongful conviction movement. It was a newfound manner of destroying the legal system, far more effective than crude explosive devices their ideological allies and colleagues set off at police stations and the homes of judges thirty years earlier. And it was a kind of legal bombing that would make them wealthy through the subsequent civil lawsuits against the city, the once near poverty stricken Marxists from the 1970s now making millions through undermining the establishment.
There was also another crucial benefit for the wrongful conviction activists and the journalists in turning the prosecutors. They now had a legal and moral “out” card.
They could blame the prosecutor for freeing the inmates, saying it was the prosecutor’s decision in the end, not the journalists.
That’s exactly what Eric Zorn is doing now:
But advocates and journalists don't convene grand juries to weigh evidence and don't appear in front of judges to recommend sentences. Advocates and journalists didn't put Alstory Simon behind bars and fling open the doors to Anthony Porter's cell, Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine did.
The wrongful conviction zealots like David Protess played the Cook County Prosecutor like a fiddle.
The whole thing worked like clockwork until Simon was set free last year and the evidence of the criminal conduct by Protess and Ciolino came to light.
Now the three journalists—Conroy, Mills, and Zorn— will never, in any way, follow the evidence of corruption in the Porter case to Hobley’s. It just won’t happen, even though it is the only logical course of inquiry for any legitimate journalist.
The central point is that from the Porter exoneration in 1999 until today, the wrongful conviction activists have steadily and insidiously infiltrated the political system, starting when they manipulated State’s Attorney Dick Devine’s office into releasing Porter.
That infiltration extended into the Governor’s office and beyond, beginning with Ryan and culminating in his decision to free Hobley.
Consider the following:
In the waning moments of his scandal-plagued administration, former Governor Patrick Quinn commuted the 40-year sentence of Howard Morgan, a man convicted on four counts of attempted murder against four police officers. Three of the officers were wounded in a shootout with Morgan in 2005 during a traffic stop. Morgan’s release left prosecutors and police dumbfounded, as they had fought for nine years to see him convicted. His case had been championed by wrongful conviction activists, including David Protess, the same David Protess who had conspired to free Anthony Porter. Like Ryan’s decision to pardon Hobley, Quinn’s decision contradicted the vast evidence of guilt established through two trials of Morgan.
Former Governor Quinn also commuted the sentence of another man, Willie Johnson, convicted of perjury in another wrongful conviction bid. Johnson was represented by wrongful conviction heavyweight Loevy and Loevy. Northwestern University’s Law School was also involved in the case. Johnson came before a judge and recanted his testimony from decades earlier that put two gang members in prison for a double murder. A judge said he didn’t buy Johnson’s recantation. The prosecutor also didn’t believe Johnson, so she charged him with perjury, initiating an uproar among wrongful conviction activists. Nevertheless, Johnson pled guilty and was sentenced to four and half years, but only served a few months when Quinn inexplicably let him out.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of corruption among wrongful conviction law firms, the City of Chicago recently voted unanimously to grant “reparations” to inmates who claimed they were tortured at the hands of Jon Burge and his men as long as four decades ago. This legislation came at the hands of G. Flint Taylor, founding member of the People’s Law Office, the law firm that was aiding Weather Underground terrorists in the 1970s.
Despite clear evidence of illegal conduct while David Protess was a professor at Northwestern, current Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez refused to indict Protess, letting the statute of limitations expire before ever taking action in his cases. This refusal to indict Protess, even though the university itself admitted he lied about his cases, is a clear sign that prosecutors are afraid to go after criminal conduct in the wrongful conviction movement.
The wrongful conviction movement and its sycophant “journalists” may be able to weather the storm in the wake of Alstory Simon being declared innocent and the Porter case imploding. But they cannot weather the Hobley case.
Conroy, Mills, and Zorn are in a tight spot. If the three men continue to defend Hobley’s exoneration, they risk revealing even more their role in such a sick, twisted turn of events. If they finally acknowledge Hobley’s exoneration for the arson was false, like the Porter exoneration, they risk blowing the door wide open on their ties to the entire movement, spanning potentially dozens of cases.
The only choice now, a temporary fix, is silence.
For the cops and prosecutors who have been vilified by them, their silence is a step in the right direction. In it, one can sense a simmering fire in Chicago.
This fire has its own burn pattern, one tying seemingly disconnected events together, from an arson in 1987 to bombs set off in the 1970s.
Sometimes the burn patterns reveal fires so intense, so cruel, and so unjust one could mistake them as emerging right from some distant corner of hell.
But that would be mistake, for the origin of these fires is right here, in the heart of the Crooked City.
Martin Preib is an awarding-winning writer and Chicago Police Officer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, chronicles his investigation into Chicago's wrongful conviction movement and played a pivotal role in the release of Alstory Simon from prison last year. Told in the gripping tension of a crime novel, Crooked City paints a dire picture of the movement to release convicted killers from prison. Preib is currently working on a third book about the Madison Hobley case and Jon Burge.
False light is a legal theory that allows someone to file a lawsuit against a media outlet for publishing offensive and false facts.
Closely related to defamation, the false light theory claims that information released about an individual is wrong if it is misleading, unreasonable, and malicious.
The legal theory holds the following elements: a publication about someone, one made with actual malice, and one that places the individual in a perspective that would be considered highly offensive by a reasonable person.
More and more this false light legal theory seems to address the abuses Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans has endured by Chicago’s media machine.
Evans was indicted last year for allegedly sticking a gun in the mouth of gang member Ricky Williams after a chase in 2013.
A few days after Williams was arrested, Evans was called down to headquarters and ordered by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA)—the agency that investigates police misconduct—to submit his pistol for a DNA swab. A state police DNA report later indicated the swab showed Ricky Williams’ DNA was on Evans’ gun.
A media frenzy followed, describing the report as indicative of Evans’ guilt. Part of that frenzy included reporters requesting Evans’ work history and publishing complaints made against him over the course of his career.
But the criminal case against Evans has taken some heavy blows in the last few months, not the least of which is the emergence of possible exculpatory evidence. In June, the Cook County State’s Attorney announced that this evidence emerged from an inquiry by the city’s Inspector General (IG) into the IPRA, the agency that investigated Evans.
Exactly what that exculpatory evidence is, isn’t clear. Judge Diane Cannon has imposed a protective order in the case.
But a reporter for public radio station WBEZ, Chip Mitchell, has stated in his reports that one aspect of the investigation by the IG into IPRA is the release of the DNA report of Evans’ gun to the media. Mitchell and other media outlets have stated that this report was first released by Mitchell.
If IPRA released the report, it would be a significant violation of Evans’ due process and a serious blow in the case against him. It could be construed as an underhanded act to portray Evans in a negative light.
Did the reporter who allegedly first released the DNA report, Chip Mitchell, know that its release might be a violation of Evans’ due process? How did he get hold of it?
More so, is the report even indicative of Evans’ guilt at all?
Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask, has stated that the DNA could have gotten on the gun in various ways. Evans never denied, for example, that he was wrestling with Williams in the course of the arrest. So why then is the DNA report portrayed as such a bombshell piece of evidence against Evans?
It may be just as feasible that the state DNA report actually bolsters Evans’ account of what took place.
And what about the exculpatory evidence the prosecutor and IG have brought forth? Why didn’t the media discover it in the course of their investigation? If they were being reasonable in their reporting, wouldn’t they have discovered such evidence or learned that IPRA was itself the subject of an investigation?
Rather than discover this evidence, media reps like Mitchell at WBEZ and the Steve Schmadeke at the Chicago Tribune obtained the record of accusations made against Evans, records they obtained through Freedom of Information requests.
The reporters dug deeply into the allegations against Evans, but, it appears, not so deeply into other aspects of the case, such as potential misconduct by IPRA.
Then WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell took it a step further. He interviewed G. Flint Taylor from the People’s Law Office in an article in which Mitchell described the misconduct complaints against Evans.
Seeking a comment from Taylor is somewhat surprising.
The reason is that Taylor is the leading architect of the wrongful conviction movement in Chicago. His law firm has spent the last three decades vilifying Chicago Police Officers, claiming, among other things, that many are racist torturers. Taylor’s PLO is also infamous for its long client list and associations with native terrorist groups who have committed bombings and other violence throughout the country, many of them driven by an intensely anti-American, pro-Marxist ideology.
But in the last few years, Taylor’s claims about police corruption have taken their own body blows. Some of the seminal wrongful convictions Taylor and other wrongful conviction activists have cited as evidence of police wrongdoing have imploded, much as the Evans case now seems to be.
Chief among those is the Anthony Porter exoneration in 1999. Once the lynchpin wrongful conviction case in Illinois, the Porter exoneration is showing itself to be nothing more than a criminal conspiracy by wrongful conviction activists at Northwestern University, longtime allies of Taylor. The evidence of wrongdoing in the case was never difficult to find, but Taylor and his wrongful conviction cohorts ignored it for more than a decade.
Another key murder case, this time a mass murder in which seven people died in an arson, is also revealing itself to be every bit as corrupt as the Porter case. In this arson case, Madison Hobley was exonerated and released from prison. A key witness against Hobley was Evans, who maintains to this day—in defiance of the wrongful conviction mythology posited by Taylor—that Hobley was guilty of the arson.
The Evans connection to the Hobley arson in light of the indictment on charges that would undermine his credibility in any criminal case is a connection Mitchell, or any other reporter, will not draw.
Mitchell does not explain is just why he still considers Taylor a reliable source for commentary on Evans’ case.
The evidence of wrongdoing among wrongful conviction lawyers and activists, including freeing a mass murderer and making him rich, pales in comparison to the accusations against Evans.
But Mitchell, and the Chicago media in general, nevertheless insist on running to Taylor for an almost obligatory comment against the police.
And Taylor delivered:
“He’s [Evans’] one of the worst [excessive-force] repeater cops in the history of the city of Chicago,” Taylor said. “He should be fired.”
One of the worst in the history of Chicago?
A police officer who went to the upper ranks of the department and worked in the most violent, crime-ridden neighborhoods is one of the worst excessive force cops in the history of the department? A police commander beloved by many people in the community, who garnered the support the superintendent and the mayor?
He should be fired?
On what basis does Taylor make this claim? And on what journalistic criteria does Mitchell publish it?
Clearly Judge Cannon did not see the misconduct complaints as holding much import. Clearly she didn’t see Evans’ work history in such an extreme perspective as Taylor did. In fact, Cannon ruled these misconduct complaints won’t be allowed into trial:
But in terms of relevance and materiality, the court found there was nothing systematic, nothing alleged in the OPS [IPRA] records. There was no history of brutality. The vast majority were not sustained of the OPS [IPRA] records, unfounded. The defendant was actually exonerated. The petitions were withdrawn. And, again, a large portion, the defendant was not the arresting or primary officer.
So what exactly is Flint Taylor talking about?
It’s almost as if Flint Taylor is the go-to guy when the media wants to press a case against police officers, when they want to hang them out to dry, as the media did to the detectives in the Porter case, and then in the Hobley case.
And then again, where is the coverage of Evans’ success? Where are the discussions of his awards, the breaking down of crime statistics before and after he came to a district?
What about his medal of valor?
In fact, isn’t fighting crime exactly what he was doing the night he chased Ricky Williams after observing Williams with a gun? Isn’t this what the police are supposed to be doing?
If the criminal case against Evans falls apart, how can all this blatantly biased reporting not be construed as malicious, a key element in proving the “false light” legal theory?
There is one more telling development in the case.
If Evans were truly guilty, wouldn’t he dread a trial? After all, he stands to lose everything: his pension, his job, his reputation, even his freedom. If he were guilty, there would likely be signs of a plea deal, but there is no evidence that Evans ever did anything but fight for a trial, as if he is chomping at the bit to get the evidence into court.
“I cannot comment directly on the case because of the protective order, but I am eager to go to trial and confident the evidence will absolutely show I am innocent,” Evans told Crooked City.
These are hardly the statements and actions of a guilty man.
It’s more like the conduct of a man guided by a singular vision, a vision that takes shape in the false light of the Crooked City.
Martin Preib is an awarding-winning writer and Chicago Police Officer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, chronicles his investigation into Chicago's wrongful conviction movement. Told in the gripping tension of a crime novel, Crooked City paints a dire picture of the movement to release convicted killers from prison.
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By William B. Crawford
Sometime in the year 2,000, a man and a woman paid a surprise visit to the southeast side Chicago home of Andre Council, a visit that can only be described as bizarre and brazen. Council had testified as the Cook County State’s Attorney’s star witness years before, in the 1990 arson/murder trial of Madison Hobley and now the two visitors wanted to talk to Council real bad about his 1990 testimony.
It was principally on the strength of Council’s testimony that a jury in the Cook County criminal courtroom of Judge Christy Berkos found Hobley guilty of setting fire to an apartment building in the 1100 block of East 82nd Street on January 6, 1987 that caused the death of seven of the buildings occupants, including Hobley’s wife, Anita, 21, and his fifteen-month old son, Philip. Following a post-conviction hearing, Berkos sentenced Hobley to death.
The woman half of the team that wanted to talk to Council during the 2000 visit to his home was Andrea D. Lyon, a graduate of Rutgers University who went on to obtain a law degree from Antioch School of Law. At the time of the Council visit, she was the director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at Chicago’s DePaul University College of Law in Chicago.
Fourteen years after her highly unusual 2000 chat with Council, she would be appointed Dean of Valparaiso Law School, becoming the first woman to head the century-plus old Hoosier law school. Upon landing at her new “Valpo Law” post in 2014, Lyon said, “Valparaiso Law is a community dedicated to excellence in legal education as well as social justice. In short, it is a special place and I am thrilled to be part of it.”
But Lyon is far more than a fighter for social justice. She also is an Angel. An Angel of a lawyer, that is. But don’t take our word for that characterization. The claim to Angel-ship comes from Lyon herself, in a 2014 book she authored bearing the title, “Angel of Death Row: MY LIFE AS A DEATH PENALTY DEFENSE ATTORNEY,” originally published by Kaplan Publishing, a division of Kaplan Inc.
Amazon’s web site, where the “Angel of Death Row” is available, introduces the potential reader with the following foreword on the author and her tome’s narrative:
“Nineteen times, death penalty defense lawyer Andrea D. Lyon has represented a client found guilty of capital murder. Nineteen times, she has argued for that individual’s life to be spared. Nineteen times, she has succeeded. Dubbed the ‘Angel of Death Row’ by the Chicago Tribune, Lyon was the first woman to serve as lead attorney in a death penalty case. Throughout her career, she has defended those accused of heinous acts and argued that, no matter their guilt or innocence (emphasis ours), they deserved a chance at redemption.”
At Lyon’s side during the 2000 visit to Council’s house was Paul Ciolino, in many ways a polar opposite of his female colleague. A 1974 graduate of Reavis High School in Burbank, Illinois, Ciolino attended nearly a dozen junior colleges before finally obtaining an associate degree from Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. Ciolino, who became a licensed Illinois private detective, also was saddled with a checkered past, which included his once having threatened to put a bullet in the head of a south suburban man who had been hassling one of Ciolino’s clients. In an earlier incident, he was fined $2,000 by state regulators for having acted as a private eye without an Illinois license and barred from working as a private eye for a year.
At the time of the visit to Council’s house, Ciolino was well known to Chicago’s newspaper and internet readerships. After all, it was Ciolino, who, acting on an illegal charade crafted and supervised by David Protess, a now disgraced former professor at Northwestern University’s Medill school of Journalism, extracted an illegal and sensational 1999 confession from Alstory Simon in which Simon admitted fatally shooting a young couple in the pool area of Chicago’s Washington Park in 1982.
As a consequence of the illegal confession, Simon was sentenced to 37 years in prison and the real killer, Anthony Porter, who had been sentenced to death for the 1982 double homicide, was summarily freed by State’s Attorney Dick Devine after spending 17 years on death row and ultimately pardoned by then Gov. George Ryan.
The overriding purpose of Lyon’s and Ciolino’s visit to Andre Council’s home? Real simple. To get Andre Council to alter the testimony he had given to a criminal court jury that led to Hobley’s conviction and sentence of death in 1994.
Their visit came in anticipation of a 2003 civil federal lawsuit Hobley would file against the City of Chicago and seven police officers: Commander Jon Burge, Detectives Robert Dwyer, James Lotito, Virgil Mikus, Daniel McWeeny, John Paladino and Sgt. Patrick Garrity. The suit was filed by Kurt H. Feuer of Leovy & Leovy after Gov. George Ryan, facing mounting legal troubles of his own, pardoned Hobley on Jan. 9, 2003, at the recommendation of the Illinois Prison Review Board based on new evidence brought to the board’s attention by Feuer and Lyon.
Specifically, Ciolino and Lyon wanted Council, who would be called as a key witness in the federal civil suit, to recant his trial testimony, which was so damming of Hobley, and change it so it would accord with their theory of the case--namely that Hobley was innocent--and thus pave the way for a handsome payout from the defendants to Hobley and Hobley’s legal team.
In anticipation of that federal suit, Andre Council was deposed in part on October 22, 2004 by James Sotos, an attorney who was representing the named defendants, that is John Burge et al. While the deposition is hundreds of pages, for the purposes set forth here, the focus is on Andre Council’s account of the Lyon/Ciolino visit to his home in 2000.
Council begins by telling Sotos that at some point in the year 2000, two persons show up at his house on East 147th Street, whom he identifies as Andrea Lyon, a woman with “black long hair….medium build, kind of heavyset,” and Paul Ciolino, whom Council describes as “a white guy....not heavyset, maybe medium.”
After Council inited his unanticipated guests into his house, Sotos asks the witness to describe the initial exchange between him and Ciolino and Lyon.
“Well, both of them was talking to me. I don’t remember little details. You know, they were telling me that, you know, he didn’t do it.”
Sotos: He meaning who?
Council: Madison Hobley. You know, that’s the way---they say Madison Hobley, he wasn’t the one who set the fire. The lady was telling me, you know, that I need to concentrate on looking at him as not being guilty, you know….he wasn’t guilty. So they was telling me, you know, that this is going to come up again, you know, and that I was going to have to go----that they was appealing this case.”
Council’s deposition testimony then takes a turn into an area where it appears that his guests are attempting to offer him something of value in return for his altered testimony, a tactic used time and again by Ciolino in the Alstory Simon/Anthony Porter saga.
Council: And they were both telling me that, you know, my…it was a mantle piece, something like this. My daughter’s picture was sitting up there right in front. They was asking me did I have kids.
Sotos: Asked if you had kids?
Council: Right….And so they was asking me what grade, what grade they were in, how old was my kids and was they going to college. I said, yeah my daughter is older and they was talking about what she going to college for. I told them I didn’t know what she was going to college for. I told them I didn’t know what she was she going to do. And they asked me, you know, how would I like to not work anymore. They said that they have ways they could do it. You know, she said she deal with colleges.
Council again: And he was telling me the same thing, basically, that they would send my daughter to college and I wouldn’t have to pay for it.
Sotos: What do you mean, if you changed our testimony?
Council: Exactly. They told me first of all, he’s not guilty I’m like, first of all, I’m saying this to myself, they didn’t know Madison Hobley before this case comes up. You know I could see if they live right next to him or they knew him, but they didn’t know anything about him at all.
Sotos then asks Council whether his guests told him what they wanted him to say.
“They wanted me to say that I didn’t….that I wasn’t sure. She was writing down, which I never said this before, but I’m going to say it now. She was writing on a sheet of paper the things that I should say.
Sotos: Andrea Lyon was?
Council concludes this portion of his deposition with the following:
“And then they was both telling me they could just help me….Just to go in there and tell the people, hey, you’re not sure. You know, after thinking about it, she was drinking a pop, and she was saying, you know, you’re not really sure…..And, so, she told me I wouldn’t have to work no more. I say, you know, you all got to go.”
On the way out the door, Council said his departing guests said, “If I wanted to change my mind, here’s the card and contact us and they’ll be back out to talk to me again.”
With that, the Angel of Death Row--or is it the Devil of Death Row---and Ciolino, the sometime gun-slinging private eye with the checkered past hit the road.
For the record, the Hobley case never went to trial, much to the unhappiness of the police defendants who urged that the case proceed. Under an unusual settlement, the City agreed to pay Hobley and his attorneys in excess of $7 million for his “wrongful conviction.”
William B. Crawford is a former writer, reporter and legal affairs columnist who won many major awards, including a Pulitzer, during a twenty-four-year career at the Chicago Tribune. After leaving the paper in the mid-'90s, he worked as a vice president in charge of communications for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange before co-founding a niche public relations/media strategy firm on Michigan Avenue. His latest book(below) is a non-fictional account of the how the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University put an innocent men behind bars for fifteen years. Crawford's work was instrumental in recently freeing this innocent man, Alstory Simon, from prison.
"It's only fitting that the man who was the driving force behind Alstory Simon's release wrote the definitive record of the case. Highly recommended!"
"This is a tale of a miscarriage of justice so grotesque that it may make you question every well-intentioned "justice" or "innocence" project in the country. But then it reminds you that this particular perversion of justice was largely the result of one seemingly amoral man's efforts. Best of all, it is an absolutely compelling read."
"Thank you Bill Crawford. It's regrettable the media outlets that were complicit in peddling all the BS the Innocence Project fed them refuse to acknowledge their lack of due diligence and responsibility in setting these murderers free, and the danger and financial expense this has put upon the taxpayers of Chicago."
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As lawyers for an indicted Chicago Police Commander pore over a large body of evidence that could undermine criminal charges against their client, the question arises whether this commander has been placed in the crosshairs of the city’s wrongful conviction machine.
Commander Glenn Evans was stripped of his police powers last year after he was indicted on charges that in 2013 he put a gun in the mouth of a suspect, gang banger Ricky Williams, and threatened Williams’ life. It was a narrative that took Evans out of the high regard he has enjoyed for cleaning up some of the worst neighborhoods in the city—including political support all the way up to the superintendent and mayor’s office—and put him in the sordid company of cops accused of the worst abuse, like former Commander Jon Burge and his men, cops accused of torturing suspects for decades.
The criminal case against Evans generated a frenzy by the media, particularly those with a history of supporting wrongful conviction claims, like public radio station WBEZ.
The main “evidence” against Evans was revealed by a reporter at the station, Chip Mitchell, who released a state police DNA report that stated Williams' DNA was on Evans’ gun. This report was announced as if it were a sign of Evans’ guilt.
WBEZ and other media outlets then filed Freedom of Information claims on Evans’ work record and listed the history of misconduct complaints against him.
Wrongful conviction lawyers jumped in to vilify Evans even further.
People’s Law Office Attorney G. Flint Taylor, from a WBEZ article:
“He’s one of the worst [excessive-force] repeater cops in the history of the city of Chicago,” Taylor said. “He should be fired.”
Evans, who has enjoyed widespread community support for cleaning up crime and taking a no-nonsense stand on gang members, apparently took no deal. Rather, he decided to go to trial. He then went on the offensive.
His attorney, Laura Morask, maintained that the state police DNA report signified nothing at all, except that Williams and Evans had come into contact with each other, something Evans never denied. There is no proof, she argued, that Evans put his gun in Williams’ mouth.
Then something incredible took place in the case.
As Evans stood his ground and fought the charges, the case began to unravel. Just before trial, the state’s attorney announced that potentially exculpatory evidence emerged from an investigation into the city agency that investigates police misconduct, Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).
Apparently, there may be misconduct on the part of IPRA investigators in the way they handled the Evans case. IPRA had led the investigation against Evans.
One aspect of the misconduct at IPRA may be the release of the state police DNA report to WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell. Citing reporter’s privilege, Mitchell has not revealed how he got the report. But if IPRA did release the report, it would be an egregious violation of Evans’ due process.
With the announcement of possible wrongdoing at IPRA and the existence of exculpatory evidence, the momentum in the case has shifted to Evans’ favor. There is a palpable sense that a lot of people are nervous about the case.
Now questions abound: What is the exculpatory evidence Evans’ lawyers are now sifting through? Why didn’t IPRA, the media or prosecutors discover it? What will it indicate about the charges against Evans? Are the charges legitimate?
And if there is exculpatory evidence against Evans, why did so many institutions in the city go after him with such a vengeance?
The answer to this question may be tied to more than just the accusations of gang member Ricky Williams, for Evans’ career in the police department is tied intimately to the wrongful conviction movement that took shape in the years he went from patrolman to police commander.
And more and more the case against Evans resembles the pattern of corrupt tactics the wrongful conviction movement employs against the police, tactics that have become known recently through the renewed pressure from journalists, retired detectives, and Crooked City.
It’s a modus operandi that seeks to vilify police, regardless of evidence.
A Little History
To understand why Evans would be targeted by this movement, one has to return to a pivotal year in the city, 1999. At that time, convicted killer Anthony Porter was let out of death row for a double murder after investigators at Northwestern University, including David Protess and his students, and Private Investigator Paul Ciolino framed an innocent man, Alstory Simon, for killings Porter was originally convicted of committing. With this fraudulent confession by Simon, Porter was set free.
Last year, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez set Simon free from prison, saying that Protess and Ciolino violated Simon’s constitutional rights, and earlier this year a judge declared Simon innocent. The entire media machine that once celebrated the release of Porter, the most influential wrongful conviction case in the state’s history, had backed a fraudulent case without ever bothering to look at the evidence.
Porter was the killer all along.
It was a chilling sign of the power the wrongful conviction movement has over the Chicago media, the same Chicago media now going after Evans.
The narrative conjured up by Protess and Ciolino in the Porter case was based on the claim that detectives intentionally framed Porter and ignored evidence against Simon. The media and the prosecutors in 1999 went along with this narrative, a sign of the vast alliance between Chicago’s media and the wrongful conviction activists, many of whom have ensconced themselves in the city’s most prestigious universities.
The problem with this claim about the detectives in the Porter case was that there was never a shred of evidence they framed anyone. The clear facts of the detectives’ investigation proved such a framing was impossible and that Porter was the killer. It didn’t matter. Northwestern could push the false narrative with the support of the media, and so they did, despite the fact that detectives desperately fought to show that Porter was the killer all along. The prosecutor caved in and Porter was set free, a murderer walking around free as a bird.
Then Governor Ryan, like some third act of Shakespeare play, claimed he was so moved by the Porter exoneration that he placed a moratorium on the death penalty. The family members of dozens of killers were shocked and lashed out at the governor.
Now that the Porter case has imploded, a dark shadow is cast over several other wrongful conviction cases that followed in its wake.
Among them is one so chilling, so evil in the possibility that the suspect was, like Porter, fraudulently released, that the wrongful conviction machine dare not let the spotlight fall on it.
And that case is intimately tied to the career of Evans, when Evans was in his first year as a cop in 1986, utterly unaware that a relatively routine criminal damage to property call would alter the course of his life.
Evans and his partner were called to the home of Patricia Phiefer on the south side.
Phiefer showed the officers that an offender had thrown a brick through her window. The woman told the officers she believed the offender was a man named Madison Hobley.
Hobley had thrown the brick through her window because Pheifer was housing Hobley’s wife and child. Hobley’s wife, Anita, had separated from Hobley after she learned Hobley was having an affair.
Hobley—who had no criminal history—was irate about his wife leaving. He demanded that she return home. He had been regularly calling Phiefer’s home and making threats.
Sure enough, while Evans and his partner were writing out their report, the phone rang. Pheifer told the two officers it was likely Hobley calling, making threats again.
Evans picked up a second phone and listened in on the call. He heard Hobley make threats. Evans heard Hobley say he was going to burn down Phiefer’s apartment.
Evans, struck by the intensity of Hobley’s threats, became concerned. He documented the threat of arson in his case report. He also took the trouble to write out a report to his supervisors, letting them know he was concerned that Hobley’s threats of arson were sincere.
The Hobley Arson
Then Evans’ suspicion turned into a living nightmare. Weeks later, in January of 1987, Hobley fulfilled his arson threat by setting fire to the apartment building where he, his wife, and child lived.
Creating what investigators said was a chimney effect, the fire raged quickly and burned Hobley’s wife and his child to death. Five others also died. Some seventeen others were also injured, some with severe burns that required long stays in burn centers and skin grafts, others who suffered with mangled bones and backs from jumping from the third floor of the building to escape the flames.
Evans worked the night of the fire. He saw crime-scene photos of Hobley’s son, Philip, a boy he had met when he completed the case report for criminal damage weeks earlier. The image of Philip’s burned body never left Evans. The threat of arson weeks earlier haunted him.
“I had sons that were approximately his age at that time. After watching what was once a little boy burnt up beyond belief profoundly affected me. It affected me because it could have been my own sons that could have been victimized that way. Any child’s murder profoundly affects me.”
Hobley was convicted and sentenced to death. Then he began hanging out with a group of men on death row who were also arrested in Area 2 on the south side of Chicago, men who began encouraging each other to claim they were tortured by Jon Burge and his men. Hobley joined in, despite the absence of any evidence that he was coerced into confessing.
Harkening back to the Porter case, Hobley was pardoned by former Governor Ryan, pardoned despite the fact that no new evidence emerged indicating Hobley’s innocence. Every legal proceeding bolstered his conviction.
Just as the Porter case revealed the collusion between the wrongful conviction activists and the local media, Ryan’s pardon of Hobley with no new evidence, announced at DePaul University, signaled that the movement also had deep influence over the centers of the state’s political system.
Evans never for a moment believed Hobley was innocent.
“In my opinion Hobley is absolutely guilty, without a doubt. He made a very specific arson threat about his wife and child over a land line with a witness who also heard it. After he made the threat, approximately two months later, less than a mile away, a fire was set that killed his wife and child along with five other people,” Evans said to Crooked City.
Since his experience in the Hobley case, Evans has always been suspicious of the wrongful conviction movement and openly said so. He has long been a critic of law firms like the People’s Law Office, who have made claims of torture and coercion against the cops.
That wasn’t the end of it. Evans stated that he came forward to federal prosecutors and volunteered to testify against Hobley if they pressed charges against him. Those charges never materialized, though they should have, Evans said.
“It was my willingness to testify that engendered the ire and animosity of the anti-conviction crowd supporting Hobley,” Evans said.
When the Myths Fail
Dealing with the possibility that this central wrongful conviction case is a sham, much like Porter’s, is almost unimaginable for the entire city. How can Chicago admit that the entire city facilitated the release of a mass murderer on trumped-up theories of his innocence?
This question causes one to wonder what the real motive is behind Evans’ vilification.
Remember Alstory Simon, the guy Protess and Ciolino framed for the murders that Porter had been convicted of? Remember that Simon was let out of prison last year? Well, his lawyers filed a $40 million lawsuit against Northwestern, Protess, and Ciolino.
That lawsuit could force the city back to the Hobley case.
A central witness in the Hobley case testified under oath that Private Investigator Paul Ciolino, the same Ciolino who framed Simon for the murders, attempted to bribe this witness into changing his testimony against Hobley.
One particularly troubling aspect of this witness’s statement is that it matches the description by witnesses in the Porter case who also said they were bribed by Ciolino.
In short, Simon’s lawsuit threatens to reveal the dark modus operandi at the center of the wrongful conviction movement, leading to other cases, like Hobley’s.
In fact, that modus operandi is becoming clearer every day, even without Simon’s lawsuit taking shape.
One wonders, then, if the intense campaign to charge Evans with crimes, to accuse him of the sort of vicious, hateful treatment of suspects that is employed in most wrongful conviction cases, might not be part of a larger campaign to discredit him, to vilify him.
Absent from the media reports about Evans are his awards for crime fighting, his rescue of officers under fire that won him a Medal of Valor award.
The frenzy with which the entire city went after Evans on such insubstantial evidence, initiated by a gang member, seems to hold a kind desperation. There is also the sense that the entire alliance of players going after Evans, from the media to the wrongful conviction attorneys, to the prosecutor himself, all seemed to assume he would fold.
Perhaps there is a lesson in Evans’ strategy.
In any case, discrediting Evans would be crucial for the wrongful conviction machine.
The Hobley case is no murder in the park, like the Porter case. It is a mass murder involving children and many innocent people. It was a crime scene no responding cop could ever forget and it was a long brutal night going to the morgue, seeing the bodies, interviewing the family members. Detectives had to go to the hospitals. Some of them even watched the firemen carry out the bodies from the building.
Hobley’s innocence is maintained despite the chaos and horror of this crime scene, an almost impossible thing to imagine. It is built on a wrongful conviction narrative even more fragile than the narrative for Anthony Porter’s exoneration, a witless scenario that a group of detectives in the midst of such human suffering were so calloused, so evil that they concocted a fraudulent story against an innocent man. They did so while other detectives were scattered around the city gathering evidence that could easily undermine their trumped up theory. Somehow in an era without cell phones they reached out to all these other detectives and supervisors to get them to join in on their conspiracy, and all of them, without one protesting or refusing, went along with it. The detectives did this against a man they did not know, who had just lost his own wife and child.
And why, why would they risk their reputations, their freedom, their pensions to frame Hobley, whom none of them had ever met before?
All because he was black?
In the end, what is most incredible about so many wrongful conviction claims is that anyone could possibly believe they are true.
Think about it.
What a coincidence for the detectives to learn as they were framing Hobley that he just happened to threaten an arson against his family weeks earlier, a threat documented in a case report.
Talk about dumb luck in a frame-up job.
Or wait a minute. Was Evans’ case report documenting the arson threats also concocted?
Did the detectives write up a false report, give it a false report number, distribute it to the various departments and sneak it into the files there? Did they somehow know about Phiefer housing Hobley’s wife, the exact dates and times, her address, all within hours of the fire?
Did they then get Evans to go along with the frame-up, an officer in his first year on the job, still being trained by his Field Training Officer?
That would be tricky, all based on the claim that the detectives were acting from some racial animus, because Evans is African American.
And how about other details that emerged bolstering the detectives’ frame-up job? Hobley admitted, for example, that after he escaped the fire, in which his child and wife had died, he went to his mother’s apartment.
And what did he do?
He took a bath.
One wonders if there was ever in the vast history of violent crime in Chicago another instance in which a man who had just learned his wife and child had been killed in a fire, went and took a bath.
The fact that a bath far more likely signified he was once again trying to get rid of evidence—like the smell of gasoline residue spilled on his skin—is hardly mentioned by the wrongful conviction activists who fought so hard to free him.
But it certainly must have been a telling detail to the detectives, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and all the appeals courts that agreed with the guilty verdict.
It’s important to pause a minute and observe one key theme in both the Porter and Hobley cases. Both men based their exoneration claims on false claims of coercion, a sign that already in the 1980s making false claims against the police was common.
Yet the local media, and in particular WBEZ’s coverage of Evans, immediately ran to the record of complaints against Evans in his work history without acknowledging something all cops already know: Offenders routinely make false allegations against the police.
Why wouldn’t they? They’ve gotten out of prison for murders and then been made multi-millionaires for doing so.
Evans was never convicted on any misconduct charges and he enjoyed widespread support from the communities where he worked. But WBEZ and other media outlets jumped right on these complaints in every one of their pieces, never mentioning the vast body of evidence indicating that false accusations against the police are routine.
It Gets Worse
So the Hobley case was bad enough, right? Letting him out was bad enough, but that was the end of it, right?
One of the attorneys who represented Hobley and got him out was a law professor at DePaul University, Andrea Lyon.
After Northwestern freed Porter and other inmates and the school’s narratives of wrongful conviction won massive settlements in civil lawsuits, many other attorneys wanted a piece of the action. Wrongful conviction departments sprang up all over the city. Lyon was a faculty member in one of them. She had fought desperately to get Hobley out of prison, but she had lost every one of her appeals.
A measure of her unbridled zeal to get Hobley out, no matter how insubstantial her arguments were, was Lyon’s attempt to use a gas can police discovered at the scene the day after the fire as if it somehow signified police corruption. Lyon posited one theory after another that the police planted the gas can in an effort to frame Hobley. This claim initiated two years of evidentiary hearings before a judge, who vociferously rejected the claims, with rejections bordering on ridicule.
But it didn’t matter. Riding the hysteria of wrongful conviction that began with the fraudulent Porter exoneration, Lyon met with Governor George Ryan.
In an impassioned speech at Lyon’s DePaul University, Ryan announced he was pardoning Hobley and three other men.
Family members of the victims and the prosecutor, Dick Devine, were shocked. Equally shocked were Evans and every detective who had worked on the case.
From the New York Times:
Watching the live broadcast from her home on Chicago's South Side was Ollie Dodds, whose 34-year-old daughter, Johnnie, was among those killed in the 1987 fire for which Mr. Hobley was convicted.
''I just sat there and cried, I couldn't believe what he was saying,'' Ms. Dodds said, adding that if the governor had lost a daughter in the fire he would not have let Mr. Hobley go free.
Then there was a development so clearly corrupt that even in Chicago it was impossible to ignore.
Andrea Lyon, the attorney who talked Ryan into pardoning Hobley, became an attorney on George Ryan’s own defense team.
That’s right. After Ryan pardoned a mass murderer without any new evidence of this murderer’s innocence, and after the entire criminal justice system bolstered his guilt, Lyon then joined Ryan’s defense team, trying to keep out of prison the governor who sold his office for bribes.
Oh, yeah, she represented Ryan pro bono.
The fact that Lyon represented Ryan for free was a sign of such quid pro quo in a case involving a mass murder that even Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, the virtual public relations spokesman for the wrongful conviction movement, had to point it out:
My [Eric Zorn’s] take, which I explained to her, was that no matter what was in her [Attorney Andrea Lyon’s] heart, her membership on Ryan's pro bono legal team looked like payback-- a return favor, a quid pro quo (my last Latinate phrase today, I promise)-- which in turn made Ryan's actions on the death penalty look like a favor…
Lyon bristled at the suggestion of payback and, as I reported, said this was "absolutely not" the case…
Appearances, however, remain troubling.
The Jon Burge Conviction
Well, that’s the end of the story, right?
That’s the end of the outrages in the Hobley case?
Don’t bet on it.
There’s another sordid chapter. There is always another chapter in Chicago.
The crowning achievement in the wrongful conviction movement was the conviction of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, the poster boy by activists in their incessant claims that police are racist torturers. For years and years wrongful conviction advocates, led by the G. Flint Taylor at the People’s Law Office, had been fighting to nail Burge in a criminal case.
Taylor sued Burge twice over allegations of torture and lost both times. The juries didn’t buy his arguments about Burge and his men, just like the jury didn’t buy the claims of Hobley’s innocence.
Undaunted, Taylor pressed on with his claims.
He was able to generate an indictment against Burge on the claim that Burge lied during a civil case when Burge denied ever abusing anyone.
And the civil case in which Burge made this statement?
Jon Burge was convicted in connection with one of the greatest frauds ever perpetuated in Illinois’ history, one in which a mass killer was set free.
How devastating would it be for the wrongful conviction movement, for the entire city that has given it life, were it to be shown that, in order to convict Jon Burge, the city liberated an offender who incinerated his own family?
Things are getting a little anxious these days in Chicago.
The image of a no-nonsense, plain spoken Commander Glenn Evans, whose career is intimately tied to the Hobley arson and all its fallout, telling the truth about the Hobley arson is chilling for the wrongful conviction activists.
Best if he were discredited. Best if he were vilified, lest the truth ever come out in the Crooked City.
For more information about corruption in the wrongful conviction movement, check out the following books…
Martin Preib is a Chicago Police Officer and an award winning writer.
William Crawford is a retired Chicago Tribune journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Crawford and Preib have presented their findings about the wrongful conviction movement at universities, libraries, book readings, and literary gatherings, where they garnered excellent reviews. If you are interested in having them speak, please email CrookedCity24@hotmail.com.
Is the Cook County State’s Attorney intentionally delaying a problematic criminal case against a Chicago Police Commander until after an election?
The question moves to the forefront as the criminal case against Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans stumbles to its trial date this August.
Evans, who was indicted for allegedly putting his pistol in a suspect’s mouth after a foot chase in 2013 on Chicago’s south side, has seen the case go from a slam dunk against him to one that may fall apart at trial, or before.
The reason is that just before the case was set for trial in June, the state’s attorney announced to Judge Diane Cannon that potentially exculpatory evidence had come to light.
The state’s attorney stated that the city’s Inspector General (IG) had been investigating the conduct of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct. This review by the IG of IPRA included potential misconduct by the agency against Evans. After reviewing the evidence, Judge Cannon released it to Evans and his attorney, another sign that the IG investigation may benefit Evans’ defense.
The emergence of potentially exculpatory evidence for Evans was a bombshell in the case. If true, it would be a devastating blow to Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez, whose indictment of Evans initiated a media frenzy, particularly among the anti-police media faction in the city. Now, if the case were to implode before her upcoming re-election bid in March, it could be a heavy blow to her re-election bid as well.
In response, the Evans case seems to limp along, one hearing after another, but with the trial constantly delayed.
One begins to wonder if this isn’t intentional by Alvarez, as if she is delaying the trial—and the troubling evidence that might come from it—until after it can no longer hurt her at the polls.
For the police, the allegations of corruption in the Evans investigation are particularly troubling. If the state’s attorney and IPRA are willing to go after a Chicago Police Commander based on corrupted investigations, they wonder, what would they be willing to do to a blue shirt or a detective?
The falling apart of the Evans case comes in the wake of other scandals in which the police have been the victims of fraudulent allegations of wrongdoing in high-profile murder cases, most notably the Anthony Porter case. In that case, wrongful conviction advocates trumped up false allegations against Chicago Police detectives, accusing them of framing convicted killer and gang enforcer Anthony Porter.
In order to free Porter, activists at Northwestern University obtained a coerced confession from another man, Alstory Simon.
Simon wasted away in prison for 17 years before prosecutors sprang him from jail after the evidence of corruption by Northwestern could no longer be denied.
Other cases are now appearing as equally dubious as the Porter case. This corruption appears to go back decades in Chicago. So the allegations of corruption against IPRA in the Evans case are of particular concern to cops.
If true, how deep is the corruption? How long has it been going on?
In the Evans case in particular, there are many unanswered questions:
Why did the state’s attorney wait all the way until the trial was supposed to start in June before announcing that there was new evidence in the case by the IG?
Why was it the state’s attorney that came forward with the evidence, and not the IG? Shouldn’t the IG have reported it themselves as soon as the case against Evans took shape?
There may be quite a body of evidence in the IG investigation that paints a dark picture of Alvarez’s willingness to charge Evans to begin with. For example, how did the IG find evidence of misconduct in IPRA, but the state’s attorney did not?
After all, it was an investigation by IPRA that initiated the criminal charges against Evans. Why was Alvarez basing her charges on an investigation that now appears to be falling apart?
If Alvarez is going to indict a cop on charges like this, wouldn’t her office have done a thorough review of the investigation to make sure it was sound?
And just what happened at IPRA that is now causing the case against Evans to go south?
What appears to be moving centerstage is the release of key evidence in the case to the media, specifically public radio station WBEZ. A reporter there, Chip Mitchell, somehow obtained a crucial state police DNA report that confirmed the DNA of Ricky Williams—the man Evans allegedly assaulted with his pistol—was on Evans’ pistol.
In a recent WBEZ broadcast, Mitchell admitted that one focus of the city’s IG investigation was the release of information from IPRA to the media.
Such a release, if it came from IPRA, could have a devastating impact on the criminal case against Evans, generating a host of legal problems for the city, including the potential claim that IPRA violated Evans’ due process.
IPRA is strictly forbidden from releasing evidence gathered in their investigations.
But the question remains:
Where and how did Mitchell get the DNA report?
Other questions loom over the subsequent release of the evidence by WBEZ. If IPRA violated Evans’ due process by leaking the report, is WBEZ also in trouble? Such a development would move the WBEZ coverage on the case away from journalism into a kind of media witch-hunt against Evans.
Perhaps these are issues that will be sorted out in other legal venues. As it is, Crooked City has learned that WBEZ reportedly hired high-powered law firm Jenner and Block in connection with Mitchell’s stories on Evans.
And then what about this DNA report itself? Is it the smoking gun WBEZ, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets say it is?
Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask, has repeatedly dismissed the state police DNA report, saying it is not proof that Evans stuck his gun in Williams’ mouth. It only proves what is called “multiple modes” of transmission, signifying only that the two men somehow came into contact, which is something that has never been denied. Evans was, after all, chasing an allegedly armed suspect—exactly what a cop should be doing.
If true—if the DNA on Evans’ gun does not conclusively prove that Evans stuck it in Williams’ mouth— it would be another devastating blow to the criminal charges against Evans and to the media coverage in general, which ran with the claims against Evans with an aggressiveness bordering on hysteria.
Like so many claims of police misconduct, the claims seem suspect when one considers the facts of the investigation against the accused officer. This is also true for Evans. Evans took a long drive to headquarters where he presented his weapon to investigators, who took a swab from it.
If he had stuck the gun in Williams’ mouth, wouldn’t he have had the sense to wipe it clean before going into headquarters?
Now that the IG has released potential evidence of corruption at IPRA, in particular potential corruption in the Evans case, WBEZ and other news agencies appear unwilling to look much deeper into the case.
And what about the other entities within the city that deal with allegations of corruption against the Chicago Police? What will they do if the case against Evans appears crooked? It will be interesting to see how the Chicago Police board—the civilian board that recommends the firing of officers in response to investigations against them— reacts to the Evans case. Will they start to look more skeptically at IPRA investigations? Will they call for further investigation?
Consider, for example, that the board has recently taken Lori Lightfoot on. Lightfoot was the former leader of IPRA, then called Office of Professional Standards. Will she speak out against corruption in the agency she once ran if it turns out to be true?
It will also be interesting to see how the Corporation Counsel, the city attorneys who represent police officers in civil trials, reacts to the Evans case and the other wrongful conviction scandals in which Chicago Police have been falsely accused. Will the Corporation Counsel become more aggressive in defending cops?
As it is now, Evans, who has enjoyed great support among politicians and members of the community where he has served, lives in a netherworld, waiting for his case to unfold.
It would be a terrible thing to delay dropping charges against a cop who has been through what Evans has in this case, a terrible playing of politics with a person’s career and reputation.
It also would add to a growing body of anti-police bias operating in Chicago’s media, including WBEZ. The radio station, for example, has consistently refused to cover other bombshell developments in cases based upon accusations of police misconduct, including the Anthony Porter exoneration.
More and more, it looks as if Commander Evans has joined a large community of Chicago cops who are the victim of the same bias, leaving them in a kind of legal limbo, a familiar place for any police officer in the Crooked City.
Sitting in the courtroom of Judge Erica Reddick at 26th and California, one comes to know clearly the cost of a legitimate imaginative life in Chicago.
The reason is that since the takeover of a vast part of the city by a collection of 1960s radicals through what has become known as the wrongful conviction movement, a vicious imaginative tyranny has imposed itself upon the city.
This tyranny is led by attorney G. Flint Taylor at the People’s Law Office, a law firm that got its start representing the families of Black Panthers Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, who died during a shoot-out with Chicago Police and federal agents in 1969.
Since then, the clients of the PLO are a virtual Who’s Who of America subversives and terrorists, many of them guilty of the most cruel and brutal crimes, including bombings. Included among them are the Weather Underground and FALN. Of the Weather Underground in particular, a common refrain in their political ideology was the call “to kill the pigs.”
But it is not representing terrorists that garnered G. Flint Taylor and the PLO their fame and fortune. It was their pursuit of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. Taylor spearheaded the claims that Burge and his men for decades on the south side tortured confessions out of African American suspects.
The long, twisted tale of how Flint Taylor and his supporters created the mythology around Jon Burge and his men is a narrative that takes years to master.
Throughout all of it, Taylor’s arguments against Burge hold a deep moral indignation, claiming that Burge and his men committed the worst atrocities for the worst reasons.
Wrongful conviction allies maintain their narratives with a strict political correctness. It is rare, indeed, to see one wrongful conviction law firm ever question the conclusions of another, and there is an unwavering willingness to attack their detractors with a “by any means necessary” strategy, even, it appears, when the detractors are right and there is overwhelming evidence of corruption in the wrongful conviction methods.
This group-think adherence in the movement is rooted in the political systems Taylor and his allies have openly supported for decades, the Marxist regimes that drew the romantic sympathies of the America left from the 1960s onward. These regimes maintained their power through a demanding and strict allegiance to the party line, no matter how corrupt. Like Castro’s Cuba—a tryanny that still garners the adulation of the left—every institution is subordinated to whims of the ruling party.
An example of making the group-think more important than the individual is described in a new, detailed history of the Weather Underground (WU). It was the 1970s. The Weather Underground went around setting off bombs throughout the 1970s, calling for a Marxist revolution in America.
According to author Bryan Burroughs in his latest book, Days of Rage, WU members lived in what they called collectives in different cities. They would often gather together in these collectives and take turns criticizing each member, attacking each other’s actions, thought patterns, their manners—anything, really—for signs of anti-revolutionary, bourgeois sensibilities. These attacks were reportedly quite vicious and were aimed at undermining the members’ individuality in favor of the group party line. Some members could not endure these vicious attacks and left the movement, according to Burroughs. That meant that only the most ideologically driven members remained.
Taylor’s methods have worked. Banding together with their narratives, Taylor and his supporters have freed one inmate after another and accumulated millions in legal settlements from the taxpayers, from which they, in turn, increase their power over judges, prosecutors, aldermen, activists, intellectuals, and, most of all, the media. They have also entrenched themselves in university departments, selling themselves to students as committed activists and crusaders for civil rights.
The reason they have been able to do so is the fact that Chicago’s corruption is such that its institutions are not driven by principle. Instead, they are guided solely by the currents of power. As Taylor and the wrongful conviction movement gained in power in the city, the city acceded to them, despite the fact that Taylor achieves these victories while many attorneys, police officers, journalists, and citizens reject both his claims and tactics.
All of this brings us back to the criminal courts at 26th and California, in particular the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Erica Reddick.
This is where you will find Taylor and PLO partner Joey Mogul these days, as they prepare for a hearing in which they hope to exonerate yet another convicted killer, this time Alonzo Smith. The claim for exoneration is—drum roll, please—the claim that Burge and his men dragged Smith down to the basement and tortured him into confessing.
From the PLO website:
…in an important ruling, Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Erica L. Reddick granted Alonzo Smith a new hearing to present evidence that he was tortured by Chicago Police and forced to confess to a crime he did not commit. The night he was tortured, Mr. Smith was left bloodied on the floor, fearing for his life. He eventually relented to the abuse and falsely confessed to the murder and robbery of James Fullilove.
This tortured confession led to his wrongful conviction and incarceration for 20 years. Mr. Smith has steadfastly maintained his innocence and has persistently alleged that he was tortured by Sergeant John Byrne and Detective Peter Dignan, members of the now convicted, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s notorious Midnight crew.
The wrongful conviction movement has become so powerful in Chicago—in large part because of Taylor’s PLO— that convicted killers can get out of prison just by claiming torture.
But Reddick’s courtroom is also where once can observe the willingness of Taylor to silence any opposition to his claims.
Recently, Taylor subpoenaed the email records of Chicago cop and author Martin Preib.
Preib, the author of two books and several magazine articles, is a vocal critic of Taylor and his wrongful conviction claims. He, along with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bill Crawford and two retired ATF investigators, now private detectives, Jim Delorto and John Mazzola, successfully fought to get Alstory Simon freed from prison.
Simon had been incarcerated through the actions of Professor David Protess and his students at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, longtime allies of Taylor and PLO. Simon’s 1999 conviction for a double homicide paved the way for the release of Anthony Porter for the same murders.
The four men argued that Protess, his private investigator Paul Ciolino, and Northwestern students framed Simon as part of a plan to exonerate Anthony Porter in 1999.
Preib’s book, Crooked City, is a step-by-step account of his investigation into the Simon case and the fight to free Simon. Crawford has also recently published another book about the Porter case, Justice Perverted: How the Innocence Project at Northwestern’s School of Journalism Sent an Innocent Man to Prison
Last year, in response to the work by Preib, Crawford, Delorto and Mazzola, Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez released Simon from prison, saying wrongful conviction activists at Northwestern University violated Simon’s rights when they obtained a confession from him.
Then, a few months ago, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Byrne declared that Simon was innocent.
It was the obliteration of the key wrongful conviction case in the state’s history, the one upon which the mythology of the movement had been built. In the Porter exoneration, the claim was that—just like in so many of Taylor’s cases—the detectives framed Porter. It was eventually claimed that they even tortured Porter. But even a cursory review of the case rejects such torture claims as ridiculous. It was physically impossible, for the detectives never met Porter; they only obtained a warrant for his arrest based on witness statements.
The fact that not one wrongful conviction activist ever acknowledged the corruption in the Porter case is a chilling sign of their party-line adherence, a solidarity that achieves absurd heights, for the claim that detectives could be accused of torturing someone they never even met in the course of their investigation was never acknowledged by one single wrongful conviction activist or journalist who supported them.
In the face of this ideological tyranny the wrongful conviction movement holds over the city, of which Taylor is a kind of godfather, Preib, Crawford, Delorto and Mazzolla nevertheless were able to free Simon.
One would think that the advocates of this so called “wrongful conviction” movement and their supporters in the media would be interested in what Preib, Delorto, Crawford, and Mazzola have to say. One would think that they would want to know more about their arguments on key wrongful conviction cases, especially as their claims have been tested in the courts, and won. Especially since their arguments have sprung an innocent man from prison.
But that’s not the way it works in Flint Taylor’s Chicago.
In fact, Preib’s investigation and willingness to reveal the corruption at the heart of the wrongful conviction movement only intensifies Taylor’s ideological rage.
So Taylor demands Preib’s personal emails.
In perhaps any other city but Chicago, the request by the PLO to demand the records of a published author would be laughed out of court. In any other city but Chicago an attempt to harass a writer in such a manner would elicit anger over the violation of free speech. They are records that clearly should be subject to the statues protecting journalists. These emails should be protected by the first amendment, by the rights of privacy.
But not Chicago, where the party line—like some Soviet outpost—rules above all else, even the basic tenants of the Constitution.
So Judge Reddick rejected Preib’s motion—with little explanation or legal justification—that his personal emails should be protected. She passed them over to Taylor and Mogul, who gleefully took them.
What Taylor and Mogul will do by getting the emails is not clear, save that there is no doubt they will be used in some way to maintain their party line about Burge and the wrongful conviction movement.
None of this is any surprise to Preib and Crawford. They’ve learned one essential truth in their crusade to free Alstory Simon: The closer one gets to undermining a wrongful conviction narrative, the more vicious the response from guys like Flint Taylor and their supporters.
Here is the rub for Taylor and his allies: Follow the evidence of corruption in the Porter case, and much of entire wrongful conviction mythology—the one Taylor largely built—collapses.
Consider, for example, what happened in the years after Porter was exonerated and Alstory Simon was sent to prison.
Porter’s exoneration initiated a flood of similar claims that resulted in inmates being set free.
Former Governor George Ryan played a crucial role. Ryan claimed he was so moved by the Porter exoneration, it compelled him to place a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. Later, he harkened back to the Porter case as he freed several other convicted killers from death row.
What made these later exonerations so unusual was the fact that no new evidence arose that pointed to the inmates’ innocence. In other words, the entire criminal justice system bolstered their convictions, but a governor, one who would eventually be sent to prison himself, nevertheless pardoned the four men, Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Stanley Howard, and Leroy Orange. The pardon of the four men infuriated prosecutors and police alike.
From the New York Times:
Richard A. Devine, the Cook County state's attorney, issued a statement this afternoon calling the pardons ''outrageous and unconscionable.''
''These cases against these men are still before our courts, and it is the courts that should decide the issues in these cases,'' Mr. Devine said, referring to pending appeals. ''By his actions today the governor has breached faith with the memory of the dead victims, their families and the people he was elected to serve.''
Though 102 condemned inmates have been exonerated nationwide since the death penalty was re-instituted in the mid-1970's, several experts said they knew of no other case of an inmate being pardoned directly off death row…
Governor Ryan's action today is also different because Mr. Hobley and the others -- Stanley Howard, Leroy Orange and Aaron Patterson -- have been unable to convince judges or prosecutors that they were wrongly convicted.
These men were “…never been able to convince judges or prosecutors that they were wrongly convicted”?
In any city not caught in the web of Taylor’s party-line propaganda, such an egregious violation of the entire criminal justice system would have initiated howls of protest.
Especially when one takes a close look at the cases, particularly the Hobley case.
Hobley was convicted of setting a 1987 fire that killed seven people, including his own wife and child. It was a legendary crime scene in Chicago, the fire department pulling out horribly burned bodies, and more than 17 people injured, often grotesquely, from jumping out the third floor window to escape the flames.
The evidence was overwhelming, including multiple confessions by Hobley in front of different investigators.
The detectives who worked the case and saw Hobley go free were furious. They prepared long and hard to defend their investigation in Hobley’s civil trial, the one where he was attempting to become a millionaire by suing the city.
The fact that the detectives fought desperately to take the case to trial is hardly the behavior of crooked cops. If they had actually abused Hobley, the last place they would want to go would be a civil trial in front of a frothing collection of wrongful conviction attorneys, who could gather more evidence against them.
In preparation for the civil trial, private investigators Jim Delorto and John Mazzola once again played a key role. They uncovered even more evidence that showed Hobley’s overwhelming guilt and the absurdity of his exoneration.
Part of their investigation, for example, included going to the residence of Hobley’s mother. It was here that police first encountered Hobley hours after the 1987 fire.
They met Hobley at his mother’s apartment. Suddenly, without any prompting, Hobley handed the detectives a bag with clothes in it, saying that the detectives would probably want it. The detectives had made no request for his clothes. In fact, they weren’t even thinking about it. To them, Hobley was just a witness.
This gesture by Hobley surprised the detectives. Who hands clothes to cops without them even asking? They took the bag and put it in the trunk of their car. This handing over of the clothes would become another piece of evidence pointing to Hobley’s guilt, because the clothes Hobley gave them did not match the description of the clothes he was seen wearing by several witnesses right after the fire at the crime scene.
Because of this discrepancy in the clothes, detectives later obtained a warrant to search the residence of Hobley’s mother to see if they could find the real clothes Hobley was wearing, and submit them for testing, for evidence such as gasoline spills.
But the detectives came up empty.
There was a good reason why.
Delorto and Mazzola found out years later when they returned to the apartment of Hobley’s mother, during their re-investigation for the civil case against them. When they got there, the Hobleys had moved away. Delorto and Mizzola met with the landlady.
She had quite a story to tell them.
She told Delorto and Mazzola that the night of the fire, Hobley’s mother came to her apartment and handed her some clothes and told her to keep them so the police would not find them. The mother threatened the landlady with harm if she didn’t comply. Terrified, the landlady did what she was told.
Now that the Hobleys had moved away, she was willing to tell the truth.
The new evidence Mazzola and Delorto dug up didn’t matter in the end. The detectives would never get their civil trial. The city settled with Hobley’s lawyers right before the trial was to start, shocking the entire police department. The detectives had prepared for months to show that the criminal justice system had worked when it convicted Hobley of the seven murders, and the city just caved in. A mass murderer walked right out of death row and became a multi-millionaire.
Bad enough, right?
Well, it gets worse. It always gets worse.
Hobley’s lawsuit also named Jon Burge, though there is scant evidence Burge had anything to do with the original criminal investigation.
In the course of the case, Jon Burge denied ever abusing anyone. This denial became the foundation for the long-coveted criminal conviction Taylor and his movement sought against Burge, for Burge was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for making these denials.
That’s how Burge ended up in prison.
But now that the narrative over the Porter case has been destroyed by Crawford, Preib, Mazzola and Delorto, there is a major problem for the wrongful conviction movement. The fraudulent Porter exoneration paved the way for Hobley’s exoneration, and now the Hobley exoneration appears every bit as dirty as Porter’s.
So one question rises up against Taylor and the wrongful conviction crowd: In order to get their long sought-after conviction against Jon Burge, did the wrongful conviction machine knowingly liberate a man who incinerated his own family?
It’s a question that can’t be asked, not as long as Taylor and his allies author the party line in Chicago.
Instead, the full weight of the wrongful conviction movement will be invoked to avoid this question and attack anyone who asks it, just as the full weight of the wrongful conviction movement went to work to vilify Bill Crawford in his crusade to liberate the wrongfully convicted Alstory Simon.
One reason the question cannot be asked is the fact that it undermines the moral sanctimony with which Taylor has unleashed his 30-year crusade against Burge and the Chicago Police Department. The question takes the first step in transforming Taylor from an icon of principled justice to another seedy player in a city that feeds on its own corruption.
Consider: Whatever moral indignation Taylor employs against Jon Burge pales in comparison to the mounting evidence of letting a mass murderer like Madison Hobley out of prison, making him rich, and using him as a means to indict Jon Burge.
Which brings us back to another compelling question:
What is the cost for someone, particularly a writer, of imagining the city outside the rigid dictates of Taylor’s political correctness?
The answer to that question resides on the second floor of the criminal courts building at 26th and California, room 206 to be specific, the courtroom of Cook County Judge Erica Reddick. There a writer might find himself coughing up emails to Taylor and Mogul by an order from Reddick.
This is the price you pay for an imaginative life outside the dictates of the most Crooked City.
- Alstory Simon
- Andrea Lyon
- Anita Alvarez
- Anthony Porter
- Central Park Five
- Charles Salvatore
- Chip Mitchell
- David Protess
- Dick Devine
- Eric Zorn
- Flint Taylor
- George Ryan
- Glenn Evans
- Innocence Project
- Jon Burge
- Larry Grathwohl
- Loyola University
- Madison Hobley
- Martin Preib
- Paul Ciolino
- Steve Mills
- Thomas Epach
- Thomas Gainer
- Weather Underground
- Wrongful Conviction
- wrongful conviction