Crooked City

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What Can The Caucus Do?

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?

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Prosecutors Get Pass in Key Wrongful Conviction Case?

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. 

Crooked Journalists Frantic over False Narratives...

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. 

Doubt it? 

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.

It can’t.

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. 

False Light Theory Illuminate Media Wrongs in Evans Case?

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. 

                                                   Click Here to Order a Print or Electronic Copy

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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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The Angel of Death Row and the Court Jester



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: Right. 

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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