Martin Preib

Award-winning Writer

Events:

 

 

 

Police Report Key In Exoneration Scandal?

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

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

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

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Attention, Please: Eric Zorn Has A Memo

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

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CBS Reporter Dave Savini Unleashes Media Hit Job On Injured Officer

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

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

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Zorn Bias A Heavy Burden For City

Poor Eric Zorn. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chaos Coming To Chicago?

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

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

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

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Chicago Media Takes The Fifth...

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go back to the winter of 1970. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cannon reportedly received a part of that reparations settlement.

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

Weather Underground, allies of the People's Law Office

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

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

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

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

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

Cannon also made another interesting statement to the media. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verboten.  

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

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

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

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

Journalist Ducks Evidence of Media Corruption In Mass Murder Case

“History is a set of lies agreed upon.” Napoleon

It had been a long, grueling day for the detectives investigating the Madison Hobley arson in January 1987. But finally, it seemed as if it were all over. Madison Hobley had confessed twice, once to the detective giving him a lie detector test and then again to detectives working the case. 

Throughout their interviews, the detectives had established a good rapport with Hobley. Originally, they met Hobley as a witness at his mother’s house earlier that day, the only member of his family to survive the fire that took, altogether, seven lives, injuring many more. One victim was left in the burn unit for weeks. But as the detectives heard Hobley’s story, then talked to the fire investigators and witnesses, they began to see his story didn’t hold up. 

They asked Hobley to take a lie detector test. He agreed. 

The detective administering the test confronted Hobley with the results, which indicated he had failed. Hobley broke down and admitted he set the fire because he had an affair with another woman and he wanted to remain with this woman, but he could not abide by another man being with his wife. 

The investigating detectives were summoned and advised of Hobley’s admission. They took him to an interview room where Hobley again confessed in detail, his account of purchasing the gas from a nearby gas station matching witness statements saying they saw him do so. 

The interview room where they spoke with Hobley had a one-way mirror, so that anyone outside could see inside without the detectives knowing they were being watched. After Hobley’s admission, the detectives suddenly heard a knock on the door. They went to see who it was.

It was an attorney named Steven Sterns, a relative of the Hobley family, who announced he was Hobley’s attorney. The detectives were surprised because attorneys are normally escorted back to their client after the detectives are notified, so having an attorney just pop up at the interview room caught the detectives off guard. 

In any case, they let him into the room to speak to Hobley after Hobley said Sterns was his attorney. When Sterns came out of his interview shortly thereafter, he announced that Hobley said he had been tortured. The detectives were furious and confronted Sterns with the fact that he had been standing outside the room and could see through the window that the two detectives and Hobley had been talking calmly. There was nothing to indicate they were or had been torturing Hobley a short time earlier. 

Given the contrast from Hobley’s behavior and statements before his attorney arrived and those just after, detectives wondered whether Hobley asserted the claim of torture on his own or if he was coaxed into doing so by his attorney. One minute Hobley is sitting at a table talking with the detectives, confessing to the crime, providing key details, and the next minute, after a brief interview with his attorney, he is claiming he was tortured. 

From that moment on, torture allegations against the detectives would become a mainstay of the legal crusade to free Hobley from death row after he was convicted of the seven murders. Ultimately, Hobley was set free not through the courts, but through a pardon from Governor George Ryan, shortly before Ryan was convicted on twenty-one counts of corruption. Throughout this crusade to free Hobley, the local media played a key role, pushing the torture narrative despite the total absence of any evidence that Hobley had been abused.

One publication that championed this narrative was the Chicago Reader. Despite the fact that Hobley’s torture claim never went anywhere in court, despite the fact that his attorneys could never sway any judge, jury, or prosecutor to buy into the claims that Hobley was innocent and that he had been forced to confess, the Reader pressed on with the narrative, pointing out in every article that the investigating detectives had once worked with Chicago Police Commander, Jon Burge, making them dreaded “Burge detectives.”

(Aside: If the detectives planned on framing Hobley for the murders, why would they offer a lie detector test? What if he passed? Where would there conspiracy be, then?)

In time, all that was required for the media to question the conviction of a killer, no matter how brutal the crime or how overwhelming the evidence, was to point out that at one time or another the investigating detectives worked with Jon Burge. 

The Reader did a lot more than that, though. In covering the Hobley saga, the paper ignored key evidence that showed Hobley’s guilt and key signs that the torture allegations were contrived. In ignoring all this evidence, the Reader denied its audience the opportunity to draw their own reasonable conclusions about the case and they helped pressure authorities into releasing Hobley, a common tactic in the wrongful conviction playbook. 

The wrongful conviction movement, after all, is less a legal review as it is an intense public relations campaign.   

One example of the Reader hiding evidence stands out above all others. 

In the course of their investigation, detectives received word from a patrolman who told them he had completed a case report several weeks before the arson. In this police report, the detectives learned that Hobley had been overheard in a phone conversation by this police officer and another witness making threats of arson against his wife. These threats were documented in a case report. 

This arson threat was crucial in convincing detectives and prosecutors that Hobley was guilty. Nevertheless, in their coverage of the Hobley saga, the Reader wholly ignored these arson threats witnessed by the police. There is no mention of them anywhere in their articles about the Hobley case. 

What are the chances that Hobley would make such threats against his wife weeks before she actually died in an arson, in a fire in which Hobley just happened to escape? What kind of newspaper ignores these threats in their lengthy “investigative” articles about the case? 

The Readers’ cover-up in the Hobley case is a chilling example of how media corruption led to the release of a man who burned seven people alive, two of them children. After Hobley got out, he got a settlement for $6 million. 

None of it would have taken place without the local media keeping the public in the dark about the real evidence in the arson and none of it would have taken place if the media wasn’t pounding their false claims about the case against the state’s already weak and corrupt politicians. 

And so all of this brings us to meeting in Chicago at a local bar on the North Side last Tuesday for a panel discussion by prominent journalists and their various guests. The meeting is called First Tuesdays and is run by former Chicago Reader journalist, Mick Dumke, now a reporter at the Sun Times. Also in attendance last Tuesday were journalists Carol Marin, Ben Joravsky and Mary Ann Ahern. Last Tuesday’s subject was a treasure trove by the Chicago media: police corruption. 

FirstTuesday2.aspx.jpg

More an intellectual mob action than a civilized discussion—for there were no cops on the panel, no members of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), no members of the law enforcement at all—the rabid anti-police perspective of the Reader kicked in. 

The accusation of Chicago cops being racist thugs was on full display, particularly in light of recent police shootings. Carol Marin launched one false claim after another about police procedures, and the crowd, all clearly disciples of the Reader’s anti-police agenda, shouted down the few cops in attendance who tried to correct her. 

Marin then launched into the tired cliches about the police: the code of silence, their racism and brutality. 

But then came an unexpected question clearly no one on the panel, and certainly no one in the crowd, wanted to hear: What about corruption in the media? What about the code of silence in the media? Dumke was confronted with a question about the Reader’s failure to mention Hobley’s arson threats in all of their reporting on the case spanning decades. 

Wasn’t this a chilling sign of corruption? 

Dumke danced around the question, but never answered it. How could he? How could he admit to his devoted followers that his paper helped free a mass murderer by ignoring central facts in the case like Hobley’s arson threats weeks before the deadly fire? 

Pressed even further about the Hobley case, Dumke retreated to the Reader’s tired party-line about the detectives. Dumke pointed out that the detectives had been accused of torturing Hobley. 

It was a penetrating insight into the integrity of Dumke as a journalist that he would bring up these charges once again in an attempt to avoid discussing the corruption of his own journalist community in the Hobley case, as well as others cases. Having failed a lie detector test and confessing to the crime, what other defense could Hobley contrive other than that he was tortured into confessing? Dumke’s trotting out of torture allegations against the detectives—allegations that have been refuted time and time again—was a pathetic attempt to deflect attention away from the Reader’s own cover-up by continuing to make cops the fall guys. 

Here it is January of 2016 and Dumke is still repeating that there were torture allegations against the detectives, who caught and convicted a mass murderer after wading through one of the most horrible crimes scenes any of them had ever encountered. 

Dumke could not be pressed further to answer up about the corruption in the media. He was bailed out with the help of the crowd, a mob “educated” on police corruption for decades by papers like the Reader and journalists like Dumke. 

And all of this brings us back to Napoleon’s compelling claim that “history is a collection of lies agreed upon.” Was Napoleon from Chicago? For no city seems more adept at preserving a set of lies as its history the way Chicago does. 

Will it always be so? 

Perhaps, but new evidence arises every week that the Reader engaged in a vast cover-up in the Hobley case, and this evidence reveals itself not in some obscure artifact or a dubious statement from a witness with an agenda. This evidence arises right out in the open, in public documents like a case report revealing that arson was foremost in Hobley’s mind weeks before the actual fire. 

This record points to a truth most cops learn early on, that crooked journalism is a necessity in the most Crooked City. 

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













After Acquittal of Police Commander, Nine Murders Hang Heavy on Eric Zorn

Just a few days after Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans was acquitted on all charges that he stuck a gun in a suspect’s mouth and threatened his life, the Chicago media began covering their tracks. 

The Chicago Tribune, which had been publishing one article after another claiming DNA evidence in the case indicted Evans, published a grudging editorial suggesting that Evans was, after all, falsely accused by a self-admitted street dope dealer.

The Tribune :

But the public ought to defer to the judge's evaluation of the case. Sometimes cops are falsely accused, and there was more than enough reason to think that this was one of those instances.

Not everyone, however, on the Tribune team was back peddling. Columnist Eric Zorn offered no olive branch, though Zorn was all over the case when the story first broke, saying that even the superintendent was part of what Zorn termed a “scandal,” in light of the allegations against Evans.

Rather than apologize for getting yet another story involving the Chicago Police completely wrong, Zorn posted an article on his Facebook page written by his long-time wrongful conviction soulmate Rob Warden, a former top dog of Northwestern University’s Law School.  

In this shocking article—one that borders on the deranged in its barely disguised and wholly unjustified fury against the judge in the case, Judge Diane Cannon, Warden hurls one of the most vindictive, ludicrous, and nonsensical attacks on a judge ever published. Claiming that “perhaps Cannon simply is not educable,” Warden states: 

Thus, even assuming that the acquittal of Glenn Evans was colorable and rational — a dubious proposition, given the absence of a plausible explanation consistent with innocence for the DNA on his service pistol — Cannon is anything but a credit to the criminal justice system. Her decision in the Evans case exemplifies a double-standard: If acquittals generally were warranted by evidentiary inconsistencies as inconsequential as those that Cannon claimed left her with reasonable doubt about Evans’s guilt — the complaining witness was inconsistent in his description of the weapon involved and told investigators at one point that the officer who assaulted him used his left hand although Evans is right-handed — there would be far, far fewer convictions.

Try reading that paragraph ten times and figuring out what Warden is saying, apart from the fact that he’s furious Cannon acquitted Evans. 

That Zorn, or anyone really, still holds Warden as some legitimate authority on alleged police misconduct cases is, in and of itself, fairly shocking. It would take thousands of pages to list the abuses that took place at Northwestern University in the years Warden worked there to fully demonstrate the lengths to which Warden and his minions will go to construct a fraudulent misconduct case against Chicago Police Officers. 

But suffice it to say that no judge, even those most sympathetic to wrongful conviction zealots like Warden, could convict Evans on what prosecutors brought forth as “evidence” in the Evans trial. The complainant could not identify Evans in two photo lineups. His story changed over andover again as new evidence emerged and the DNA experts who conducted the test admitted it was not conclusive evidence of Evans’ guilt.

“His [Williams’} testimony taxes the gullibility of the credulous," Judge Cannon declared.

So what the hell is Warden talking about? A judge ruled based on the evidence, or, in this case, the lack of it. So what? 

It is a mark of the radicalism that permeates the anti-police campaign by Warden, Northwestern, and Zorn that Warden could attack Cannon so viciously in response to a verdict she had no choice to make. Warden’s ludicrous article—and Zorn’s willing to broadcast it to his readers on Facebook, even as his own paper was admitting the case against Evans was no good, is another example of how wrongful conviction advocates and their media allies engage in an intense attack upon anyone, be it cop, prosecutor, witness, journalist, or even a judge, who dares question their efforts to vilify the police.   

One has to step back from the Evans case and ask a question: Why? Why was the Evans case so important to Warden, the Tribune, and Zorn in particular? Why did they make Evans a target of a media frenzy with evidence that quickly withered away in his trial? Why would they build such a case on the claims of street dope dealer, whose testimony taxes the gullibility of the credulous.”

The reason becomes clear when one looks more closely at the history of nine murders, murders inextricably linked to Glenn Evans, in which the offenders were fraudulently released from prison, in large part through the collusion of journalists like Eric Zorn in cooperation with wrongful conviction activists like Rob Warden. 

In the context of these nine murders, the criminal case against Evans appears as a desperate attempt by wrongful conviction activists and their media allies to undermine Evans’ credibility as these murders potentially move back into the legal and public spotlight. If they do—and they should—no one stands to lose more than Eric Zorn. 

First, the history.  

It was 2005 and the biggest wrongful conviction case in the state’s history, the exoneration of Anthony Porter for a double murder in 1982, was headed to a civil trial. Porter’s attorneys were trying to fleece the city out of $24 million, claiming detectives framed Porter for the shooting.  The trial itself was a surprise, as no one expected the Porter civil case to make it into a courtroom. Rather, they expected a settlement. There was just too much media hype, spearheaded by Zorn and his Tribune, pushing the claim that Porter was innocent and the cops and prosecutors were crooked. 

But the detectives fought desperately for a trial, hoping to show the jury and the public that, despite the claims of journalists and columnists like Zorn, Porter was the killer and should never have been released. 

The detectives’ strategy was partly successful. In the trial, their attorney, Walter Jones, proved once again that Porter was the killer. The jury ruled against Porter and for the detectives. Porter, a gang enforcer, got no money. 

But the detectives’ hopes that their names would be cleared, and the truth about Porter being the killer would come out, were dashed. After the verdict, Eric Zorn wrote one of the most chilling columns in the history of the city, revealing clearly just what happens to anyone who contradicts his anti-police party line. Zorn published a vicious attack on Jones, who stated moments after the civil trial that he believed Porter was the killer.

Zorn:

Yet Tuesday, shortly after the jury's verdict was announced, Walter Jones, the attorney representing the city, pointed to the table in the courtroom where Porter sat during the trial and told Tribune reporter Charles Sheehan: "The killer has been sitting in that room right there all day."

It was a stunning, graceless and infamous accusation.

Anthony Porter was innocent.

In this column, Zorn is almost frothing at Jones for declaring what Jones had just proven in court: Porter was guilty. Zorn condemns Jones and declares Porter innocent. It is almost impossible to look back at this column by Zorn in the context of what had just taken place in the trial as anything but willful deception.

And so, thanks mostly to Eric Zorn and his willingness to ignore all the evidence that Porter was guilty, and his willingness to attack anyone who pointed it out, the Porter-is innocent myth carried on, all the way until two years ago, when the Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez reviewed the case. After a year-long review, Alvarez attacked the conduct of Northwestern investigators who fought for Porter’s exoneration based on the claim that another man, Alstory Simon, committed the murders. Alvarez set Simon free. In releasing Simon, Alvarez singled out two men in the Northwestern investigation for their likely illegal conduct in framing Simon to free Porter, former Professor David Protess and private investigator Paul Ciolino.  

The release of Simon from prison and then the declaration by a judge that he was innocent several months later revealed just how depraved was Zorn’s column after the civil trial, nine years earlier. Zorn could have looked fairly at the facts of the case all the way back in 2005. But he didn’t. In doing so, he acted as a kind of media henchman for Northwestern Professor Protess, Ciolino and the rest of the wrongful conviction zealots who had fraudulently exonerated Anthony Porter and framed Alstory Simon. 

Zorn’s vicious attacks on Walter Jones, and then on those who were fighting to free Alstory Simon, are hardly different from the vicious attacks Zorn’s ally Rob Warden has now leveled against Judge Cannon in the Evans case. 

See the pattern here? Disagree with us and we will launch a vicious attack on you. Zorn is the media strongman, enlisted by wrongful conviction activists not only to push their fraudulent claims, but then to attack their critics. 

But Zorn’s conduct in the Porter case is only a prelude to an altogether more macabre plot in which he also played a key role. This was his writing about the arson by Madison Hobley in January of 1987, an arson in which seven people were burned to death, including Hobley’s own wife and child. Scores were injured, some of them badly burned, others when they leaped out of upper floor windows to escape the flames.  

In March, 1998, Zorn wrote:

The case against Hobley, then an employed medical technician with no criminal convictions on his record—is far from overwhelming. It's based primarily on the testimony of two witnesses who said they saw him buying a can of gas shortly before the fire and the testimony of police from Area 2—a station where the city now admits suspects were routinely tortured—that Hobley confessed his guilt to them. Hobley maintains he, too, was tortured by interrogators.

Again, it is extraordinarily difficult not to see these columns by Zorn, just like his columns about the Porter case, as willful deception. The reason is that Zorn’s columns on the Madison Hobley exoneration omit two crucial words: Glenn Evans.  

One of the most powerful, unequivocal pieces of evidence pointing to Hobley’s guilt was brought by Glenn Evans himself. 

Several weeks before Hobley set the fire that killed the seven people, he was overheard by Evans making arson threats on a telephone call. Evans, a rookie at the time, heard the threats after he and his partner were called to a residence where Hobley’s wife was staying with a friend after she temporarily broke up with Hobley. 

Evans, even though he was just a rookie, was so troubled about the arson threats that he documented them in a case report, then wrote another report to his supervisors about them. He contacted detectives working the Hobley arson after he heard about the fire. When the detectives learned of these documented threats, they were certain they had the right man. 

It would not take a keen investigator to see the magnitude of Hobley’s arson threats just weeks before the actual arson. It is bombshell evidence, showing clearly that setting his wife and child on fire were foremost in Hobley’s mind for weeks. But try to find one sentence in any Zorn column about the Hobley arson acknowledging this key piece of evidence. Just one sentence. Zorn simply ignored it, ignoring that this evidence refuted Zorn’s own ludicrous claims that the evidence against Hobley was not “overwhelming.”

What kind of journalist writes about a fire that kills seven people, including two children, and ignores the indisputable fact that the offender made threats to commit this arson weeks before he actually did so? 

One can see, then, what a shattering disappointment it is for the Tribune, Zorn, Warden and the other wrongful conviction supporters in the city that Evans was acquitted of all criminal charges earlier this month. Had he been convicted—if he had even taken a plea bargain—Zorn and Warden could have discredited any claims made by Evans in the Hobley case. 

“Well, Evans makes these claims about the Hobley case, but, after all, here was a man convicted of sticking his pistol down the mouth of a suspect and threatening his life,” Zorn could have written. 

And it isn’t just Evans’ role as a key witness in the Hobley case that contradicts Zorn’s incredible claim that the evidence against Hobley was not “overwhelming.” Here’s a few things other things Zorn never mentions about the case:

—Witnesses at the crime scene described Hobley wearing completely different clothes than what Hobley claimed, a clear sign he was trying to hide those clothes because they might have traces of the gasoline on them, the gasoline he spilled outside his apartment door and down the stairwell. Hobley admitted in his confession that he had lied about the clothes he was wearing, just as the witnesses said. 

—Hobley was never observed by any witness making any attempt to rescue his son or wife, though he participated in the rescue of others. He was never observed making any attempt to call up to them in their apartment. What husband/father wouldn’t be manic in his attempt to rescue his own wife and child?  

—Hobley’s changing accounts of his escape from the building while his wife and child remained inside contradicted the vast forensic evidence of the fire. Fire investigators testified that if Hobley had gone out into the hallway of the building to investigate, as he claimed, he would have been incinerated. 

—Hobley eventually told detectives he suspected his mistress was the real offender, yet in the hours after the fire he never made any attempt to notify the police, or any authorities, about the woman he says he believed just burned his own wife and son to death. Who believes they know who just killed their own wife and child and doesn’t bother to alert authorities? 

—Hobley failed a lie detector test, then confessed to the detective administering it. He then confessed again to two detectives. If the detectives had framed Hobley, they would have had to bring this other detective in on their conspiracy, quite a tall request in a quintuple murder case covered extensively by the media. Hobley provided details of buying the gas in his confession, details that matched what two witnesses, one of them the owner of the gas station, said. Were these witnesses part of a conspiracy as well? 

The evidence goes on and on that Hobley was, in fact, overwhelmingly guilty, just as the evidence showed Anthony Porter was overwhelmingly guilty of a double murder. The jury in the Hobley trial was convinced, so much so that the jury voted to give Hobley the death penalty. 

The truth is that Zorn’s columns about the Porter and Hobley cases are emerging as some of the most disturbing columns ever written by a Chicago journalist.

But hold on. It gets worse. 

Zorn and his allies who were claiming Hobley was innocent scored one Pyrrhic victory in their crusade to undermine the case based on evidence. In an appeal by Hobley’s attorneys to the Supreme Court, the court was troubled enough by some claims about a gas can taken recovered by detectives to demand an evidentiary hearing. Judge Dennis Porter conducted these hearings. In them, Hobley’s attorneys made various arguments of a police conspiracy based on a gas can, which detectives recovered from the building the day after the fire. True to form, the attorneys alleged that detectives planted the gas can as part of their frame-up of Hobley.  

What followed was two years of intense scrutiny by Judge Porter into every facet of the gas can conspiracy theory by Hobley’s lawyers, a theory Porter soundly rejected after the lengthy process. In the end, Porter openly ridiculed many of the claims made by Hobley and his attorneys.

Zorn’s reaction after he attended the hearing in which Judge Porter rejected the conspiracy theories?

Accordingly, the other half of my expectation Monday morning was that [Judge] Porter would do just as he did--shade the benefit of the doubt on each issue to the prosecution, thereby allowing the Cook County state's attorney's office to keep the lid on this can of worms a little while longer.

In other words, Zorn attacked Porter, claiming Porter was not ruling on the evidence, or again, the lack of it, but simply bailing out prosecutors, just as Warden attacked Judge Cannon in the wake of her not guilty ruling in the Evans case, and just as Zorn attacked attorney Walter Jones for daring to claim that Anthony Porter was guilty of a double murder. 

See the pattern again here? Disagree with us and we’ll attack you like a bunch of rabid wolves. 

What Zorn will not admit is the obvious: It would have been impossible for the courts to extend any more latitude to Hobley’s attorneys to prove their loony theory that Hobley was innocent. 

Tellingly, Zorn also fails to inform his readers that Judge Porter also ruled that a witness brought forth by Hobley’s attorney in the gas can saga—an inmate in prison—was lying. 

Prosecutors in the Hobley case:

Judge Porter’s ruling was issued after two years of discovery, including depositions, and after hearing voluminous testimony. Significantly, Judge Porter ruled that the linchpin of Hobley’s “planted can” theory, fellow arsonist Donnell McKinley, committed perjury in attempting to support this conspiracy hearing. 

It wouldn’t be the last time one of Zorn’s treasured wrongful conviction theories would be rife with witnesses accused of lying. 

Hold on, though, it gets even worse for Zorn. There are even more fundamental ties between the corruption in the Porter exoneration and in Hobley’s. 

One of the bombshell developments in the Hobley exoneration was a claim of attempted bribery by a central witness, Andre Council—one of the witnesses who saw Hobley purchase the gasoline shortly before the fire. Council told prosecutors that one of Hobley’s attorneys, DePaul Law School Professor Andrea Lyon, and a private investigator, Paul Ciolino—the same Ciolino who worked the Porter case—paid a visit to Council’s home. There, Council said, Lyons and Ciolino attempted to bribe Council into changing his testimony against Hobley.  

Zorn’s columns cover this chilling sign of bribery in an arson that left seven people dead, right? 

Nope. Not a word from Zorn. 

Nevertheless, Council’s statement is a crucial bridge from the Hobley case to the Porter, tied together by private investigator Paul Ciolino, who worked on both cases and stands accused of bribing statements from witnesses in both exonerations, including bribing the so-called confession from Alstory Simon in the Porter case. 

Zorn is at the center of these cases as a columnist who wrote extensively about both of them, claiming the convicted killers were innocent. But more and more, these nine murders cast a dark shadow on Zorn and the Chicago media’s relationship to the wrongful conviction movement. 

These nine murders also provide a chilling explanation why this media machine seemed almost hysterical in their drive to see Evans convicted in a case that held so little legitimate evidence of his guilt from the outset.  

No doubt Zorn and his entourage assumed—hoped, really—that Evans would have taken a deal and pled guilty to a lesser charge. But they underestimated Evans’ courage, his willingness to fight the case at the risk of everything. The fact that Evans witnessed Hobley’s crime and then witnessed this mass killer walk free from death row no doubt was a pivotal reason Evans fought, and prevailed. 

And that may not be the end of it for Zorn.  Evidence mounts that more cases will emerge undermining the legitimacy of his columns for the last two decades. 

Public relations executive and former Tribune reporter, Dan Curry, for example, has published a blog, What Really Happened in Paris, focusing on corruption in another downstate double murder case that led to the exoneration of two convicted killers. 

That case, spearheaded again by Northwestern University’s David Protess, was covered extensively by Eric Zorn. 

In that case, Curry questions why Zorn at one time covered every aspect of the story when he was alleging a wrongful conviction, but is now silent when new evidence emerges that the original offenders may be guilty after all. 

Curry: 

In Zorn’s case, it simply is a bridge too far to declare himself possibly wrong about the numerous columns he wrote about the case. He has already declared himself possibly wrong about the Anthony Porter case, also involving Northwestern University. One case could be an anomaly — two might be a pattern. 

One wonders: Are the nine murders hanging over Zorn’s head now turning into eleven? What will be the final tally?  

There is another reason why Zorn and his wrongful conviction allies would want Evans discredited. Zorn and his entourage of media colleagues built much of their movement in painting former Commander Jon Burge and his men as racist thugs, as cops who went around torturing suspects. Those allegations never went anywhere in a courtroom until the Hobley case came along. In the end, Burge’s sole conviction in connection with the torture allegations arose from the Hobley case. 

What will it mean for Zorn, Warden, Northwestern and the rest of the wrongful conviction gang when the Hobley exoneration case is revealed as one of the greatest frauds ever perpetuated in the state’s history? 

No wonder they all wanted Evans’ head so badly, his head on a wrongful conviction platter, paraded all around the most Crooked City.

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

Anatomy Of A Media Frame-up

Journalists in Chicago, particularly those from WBEZ and the Chicago Tribune, put on a surprised countenance when they heard the not guilty verdict in the criminal trial of Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans this week. 

Evans was acquitted of sticking his gun into the mouth of gang member Rickey Williams in 2013 after a foot chase that ended up in an abandoned building on the south side.

The journalists maintained their incredulous expressions over the verdict, as if to ask: How could the verdict contradict the two years of reporting they had done on the case, much of it hanging on a state police report identifying Williams’ DNA on Evans’ pistol? 

The same incredulity haunted their reports on the verdict, reports suggesting that Judge Diane Cannon’s not guilty ruling was misguided.  

WBEZ:

A Cook County judge acquitted Chicago police commander Glenn Evans of aggravated battery and official misconduct charges, despite DNA evidence. 

But the demeanor and writing of these journalists was all affect. The evidence had been building for years, from the very first moments that Williams made a complaint against Evans, that the whole case against Evans was a big fraud, a fraud in which the media was the key player.  

It wasn’t the first time the media has engaged on such a campaign against the police. The difference in the Evans case was that the media got caught, in large part because Evans would not fold under the immense pressure they rallied against him. 

The Evans case, therefore, is crucial because it reveals clearly the modus operandi of Chicago’s activist media, and the lengths they will go to frame the police. 

To understand this modus operandi clearly, one only has to look at the coverage of the case by WBEZ reporter Chip Mitchell.

On January 30, 2013, Evans spotted three men standing at a bus stop on the south side in an area where a shooting had taken place the day before. Every cop knows that gang members are on heightened alert after a shooting, many of them carrying pistols or keeping them nearby. Evans pulled up and stared at one of the men, Rickey Williams, who suddenly took off. Evans saw that Williams was carrying a pistol and gave chase into an abandoned building three blocks away after calling it out on the radio. 

Evans and several other cops found Williams hiding in the building. Evans and the other cops arrested him, putting Williams on the ground as he did so. 

Though Williams showed no physical signs of abuse and made no complaints to the lockup keeper or other cops, he filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the agency that oversees police misconduct, saying Evans shoved his gun in Williams’ mouth and pushed a taser to his crotch. 

False Evidence

In response, a day and a half later IPRA called Evans into headquarters, where IPRA and other officials were waiting. They ordered Evans to submit his gun for DNA testing. Evans did so. The sample was sent to the state police lab. 

But early on, there were already problems with the consistency of Williams’ complaint. Nevertheless, a DNA report came back in April of 2014, indicating that Williams’ DNA was on the outside of Evans’ gun. This is when Mitchell became the point man in reporting on the case. 

Mitchell revealed his close ties to sources within IPRA:

The complaint, according to sources close to the case, alleges that Evans threatened to kill Rickey J. Williams, 24, and jammed his police pistol into the man's mouth. The sources spoke on condition they not be identified because they are not authorized to speak with the media.

The DNA test, described in an April 17 laboratory report from the Illinois State Police, found that material swabbed from the weapon “matches the DNA profile” of Williams.

A release of information to a reporter from IPRA should raise some eyebrows; IPRA staff are strictly forbidden from releasing details of any investigation to the media. Did Mitchell have a covert source inside IPRA providing him this information? More and more, it looks as if he did. 

If so, one could argue that the information about Evans is so vital for the public good, for the larger justice, that releasing it is seems a principled move, by both the source and Mitchell. If it were unequivocal evidence of a terrible police abuse, such a release might be justified. Otherwise, the fact that someone at IPRA is releasing this information to Mitchell would be troubling. 

It would be its own quite newsworthy story. One can imagine the headline:

“IPRA Employees Leaking Confidential Information to Reporters.”

Well, the notion that some higher principle was guiding the possible leaks at IPRA falls apart when one takes into account the judge’s eventual not guilty verdict, in particular her statements about the validity of the DNA evidence in forming her ruling.  Judge Diane Cannon dismissed the DNA evidence out of hand, agreeing with Evans’ lawyers, who argued it was merely “touch” DNA, a sample that could have found its way onto Evans’ gun from merely arresting him. 

From DNA Info:

Though prosecutors last week called the DNA evidence on Evans' gun "a smoking freaking canon," the judge on Monday characterized it as "of fleeting relevance or significance" to the case and said the DNA could have come from incidental contact between Evans and Williams.

In light of this ruling, Mitchell’s confidential source releasing information, and perhaps even the DNA report itself, in violation of the agency’s policies, moves Mitchell and his source away from high-principled journalism into something altogether more sinister. 

The judge’s rejection of the claim that the DNA test result was evidence of Evans’ guilt poses crucial questions. If the judge ruled that the evidence was “of fleeting relevance or significance,” one wonders why Mitchell put so much stock in his stories that it was evidence against Evans. One then wonders why IPRA recommended that Evans be stripped of his police powers in light of the DNA sample. Finally, one wonders why prosecutors indicted Evans to begin with. 

Nevertheless, it is clear that Mitchell, with sources within IPRA, pushed a claim about the DNA that did not hold up to scrutiny in the trial. 

Complaint History

It is clear now that from the very beginning Mitchell refused to investigate whether the DNA sample truly pointed to Evans’ guilt. Instead of practicing this due diligence, Mitchell moved into the next crucial step of a police frame-up by the media. He obtained a lengthy record of Evans’ employment history, including complaints and lawsuits. 

With these records, Mitchell painted an even more dire picture of Evans’ character, ignoring the fact that in many of the complaints, the complainants refused to even sign an affidavit, a common indication that the allegations are fabricated. He also ignored the fact thatmany others were ruled unfounded by IPRA, the very agency whose tenuous allegations about the DNA report Mitchell embraced wholeheartedly and unquestioningly. Without any investigation into the legitimacy of these complaints—just as Mitchell had refused to question the legitimacy of the DNA report—Mitchell used the complaints to bolster his theory that Evans was a renegade cop. 

Again, compare Mitchell’s depiction of Evans to what the judge said about Williams’ statements during a hearing in the criminal case:

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. 

Take into account Cannon’s dismissing the notion that the history of complaints against Evans reveled systemic abuse in light of what she later said in explaining her verdict:

Cannon pointed out that Williams is seeking $5 million in a pending civil suit at a time when the nation is focused on cases of alleged police misconduct.

Here is a different picture of what the complaints against Evans truly mean. Judge Cannon is clearly suggesting that Williams made the complaints in an attempt to fleece the city out of a settlement, in an attempt to ride the media hysteria about police corruption as a means of getting rich. Fortunately for opportunistic self-admitted street dope dealers like Williams, there are plenty of journalists like Mitchell to lend a hand. 

Criminals like Williams know that all too many journalists in Chicago will not investigate the complaints against the police for their validity—indeed, the vast majority of complaints against Evans were in fact judged unfounded, and the evidence for these judgements are easy enough for any reporter to obtain, nor will they investigate them as evidence of how the police are falsely accused, as the judge implied was what happened in Evans’ case. Journalists like Mitchell merely use the number of complaints to suggest that a cop is dirty.

Of the few complaints against Evans that resulted in any kind of settlement, Mitchell makes unjustified assumptions as well. Ask any cop who has been sued about the decision by the Corporation Counsel, the lawyers that represent the city, and they will tell you how often the city settles lawsuits, not because they believe they are true, but because it is cheaper to get rid of them with a payout than to litigate them for years. Among cops, filing false complaints is called the “ghetto lottery.”

"His [Williams’] testimony taxes the gullibility of the credulous," Cannon said at the end of the trial. And the legitimacy of a reporter like Mitchell, she might well have added. 

Taking all this into context, the complaints against Evans, a hardworking cop who earned the high praises of citizens in his districts for getting rid of gangs and other crime, are hardly indicative of an abusive cop. What they indicate is that, in Chicago, the harder a cop works, the more complaints and lawsuits he accumulates. That’s the world the unquestioning, non-investigative coverage of journalists like Mitchell have created, not the police.  

The “Experts” Chime in

There’s more, though, to Mitchell’s coverage of the complaint history against Evans. No vilification of a Chicago cop is complete with just posting the complaints against him. It must be accompanied by commentary of an “expert,” whose wise statements on the officer, even one who was promoted steadily through the ranks for his hard work, makes “official” the vilification. 

Mitchell does not disappoint. He runs right to the godfather of the wrongful conviction movement—the movement that claims cops are a bunch of racist thugs who go around beating innocent men into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit, G. Flint Taylor from the People’s Law Office (PLO). 

Taylor in Mitchell’s article about the complaint history against Evans:

“He’s one of the worst [excessive-force] repeater cops in the history of the city of Chicago,” Taylor said. “He should be fired.”

Despite the fact that law-abiding, decent people in the communities where Evans has served have always come forward and praised his skills and his commitment to weeding out the most violent, dangerous gang members in his districts, Taylor declares that Evans is “one of the worst.”

This is perhaps one of the most chilling aspects of the process of the frame-up of Chicago cops by the media. It entails taking a collection of politically radical activists and lawyers in the city, like Taylor, and transforming them into experts on police corruption, ignoring along the way their own well-documented corruption and bias, their own potential conflict of interest, in that their clients stand to win millions in settlements by the city should their campaign of vilification against a cop succeed. 

Try to find one journalist in Chicago, for example, who will point to the clear signs of an egregious antipathy against the police pervading Taylor and the rest of the wrongful conviction clan. Taylor’s PLO client list is a virtual Who’s Who of domestic terrorists, including bombers, police killers, and every manner of criminal gang thinly disguised as crusaders for civil rights. 

For journalists like Mitchell, it doesn’t matter that Taylor and his PLO are old cronies with members of the Weather Underground, that they represented the Puerto Rican terrorist group the FALN. The wrongful conviction law firms provide journalists like Mitchell the necessary “quote” to justify their fabricated narratives. 

Media Intimidation

With the release of the DNA evidence and Evans’ work record, Mitchell became a star journalist in Chicago. Every journalist had to cite the fact that WBEZ broke the big Evans story. 

Here comes the next stage of the frame-up. 

Mitchell and WBEZ used the DNA report and Evans’ work record to pressure various government agencies to take measures against Evans. As Mitchell broke the story, IPRA recommended that Evans be stripped of his police powers. He was stripped. IPRA gave their evidence to the state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, who was in the midst of a tough re-election campaign. The prosecutor indicted Evans on nine felony counts. 

Mitchell was all over it, and so was the rest of the media in the city. Things could not be going better for him. 

But, once again, pause for a moment and consider these actions against Evans in light of what later happened in his criminal trial. In the criminal trial, the judge rejected the claim that the DNA indicted Evans. Nevertheless, Mitchell had used it to build pressure against Evans. 

What a shocking sign of collusion between IPRA and Mitchell that someone at the agency would release the report, then the agency would recommend that Evans be stripped, and all the while Mitchell was getting the scoop on it. And, in the end, in the court of law, the DNA report did not even amount to significant evidence against Evans. 

And then consider the fact that Anita Alvarez charged Evans with nine felony counts. Again, one wonders, with so much experience in criminal trials and the rules of evidence, didn’t prosecutors see what Judge Cannon saw: the DNA sample didn’t signify anything, except that Evans had participated in the arrest of Williams? 

What incredible pressure Mitchell’s reporting, echoed by virtually the entire community of “journalists” in the city, brought upon Williams’ allegations. 

Evans never stood a chance of getting treated fairly, not by the press and not by government agencies who gave into media pressure initiated by Mitchell and his “sources” within IPRA.  

Certainly Mitchell, IPRA, and many others following the story figured Evans would take a deal to preserve his pension and avoid prison. Certainly he would go gently into that good night. After he did, Mitchell and his cabal of media hitmen could wallow in the elevated status their reporting on the case would garner for them. Afterward, they could cite the Evans case as another crucial example of “police misconduct,” this time at the highest levels of the command staff. 

What glory. What celebrity. More cases against Evans would surely follow. Who cares what the DNA really indicated?

But Mitchell underestimated who he was dealing with. Facing what seemed at the time an almost certain defeat, Evans demanded to go to trial.

It was at this point that Mitchell’s world turned upside down and the evidence trail of his own misconduct began to reveal itself. 

Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask, confronted Mitchell and the rest of the media on the ambiguity of the DNA sample. Mitchell was obligated to report it, and he grudgingly did so. 

By the time the trial was set to begin, Evans’ case was strong. If Morask could show Judge Cannon that the DNA sample was not conclusive of anything, then Evans would be found not guilty. 

But then things went completely south for Mitchell. 

Prosecutors stepped forward and announced that exculpatory evidence had come forward in the case from another source. Turns out the city’s Inspector General was also investigating IPRA and had uncovered evidence that could help Evans in his case. Prosecutors were legally obligated to reveal this evidence to the judge. 

Talk about a bad day for Mitchell. According to Judge Cannon in one of the hearings, there were “thousands” of documents in this evidence with Mitchell’s name on it. Slowly and steadily, this evidence was released to Evans’ attorney, his case going from long shot to being almost in the bag. 

It’s important to consider the emergence of this evidence in the context of Mitchell’s reporting on the case. If the IG had obtained so much evidence of Evans’ possible innocence—the “thousands” of pages Judge Cannon cited in court—why didn’t Mitchell ever find any of it? On the one hand, Mitchell has these amazing connections into IPRA, a crucial source telling him about strictly confidential information in the allegations by Williams, Mitchell’s incredible obtaining of the DNA report itself. But, on the other, he is entirely blind to the boxes of evidence the IG found. Weren’t his confidential sources somewhat one-sided? Didn’t they fill him in on this other exculpatory evidence? 

Kind of makes you wonder about Mitchell’s “investigative reporting.”

Once again, it’s a clear sign that Mitchell was out to bag Evans from the get-go, destroying the life and reputation of a police commander being one of the most coveted trophies among Chicago’s activist media. 

It’s been a while since this coveted trophy was last awarded: the last being when journalists and activists obtained the conviction of former Commander Jon Burge by using another fraudulent accusation of police coercion abuse—this one resulting in the freeing of mass murderer, Madison Hobley. In that case, the journalists, lawyers and activists freed Hobley from death row for burning seven people to death, a chilling sign of the lengths to which this cabal will go to vilify cops. After obtaining the fraudulent exoneration of a man who murdered these people, including two children, what’s a little fudged interpretation of a DNA report against a police commander? 

Well, hold on, though. It’s important to try and to be as fair as possible. To try to give Mitchell the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Mitchell’s egregious reporting in the Evans case was just a bad patch in an otherwise decent journalism career. Maybe he just dropped the ball or let his bias get the best of him this one time.  

Well, let’s take a closer look. 

With the announcement of this exculpating evidence by prosecutors and the Inspector General, Mitchell took a step back and tried to figure out what was true in it, right? He modified the narrative of his stories to accommodate this body of emerging evidence that revealed Evans just might be innocent, right? 

If only it were so. Instead, Mitchell, in a desperate move, doubled down on his crumbling, fraudulent narrative. 

Mitchell never bothered to explore what evidence against Evans pointed to his innocence. Rather, he turned to another story, this one about a recently fired employee from IPRA. This fired employee, Lorenzo Davis, told Mitchell he was fired because Davis had concluded several police shootings were unjustified, but IPRA supervisors had ordered him to to reverse his findings. But, Davis said, he wouldn’t do it, so they canned him. 

Mitchell’s article:

A Chicago investigator who determined that several civilian shootings by police officers were unjustified was fired after resisting orders to reverse those findings, according to internal records of his agency obtained by WBEZ.

Here was a narrative standing in absolute contrast to the narrative unfolding right in front of Mitchell in the Evans case, one in which it was clear that IPRA investigators seemed to be doing anything they could to get Evans indicted on a trumped-up complaint. Now Mitchell runs a story saying that IPRA tries to pressure investigators to find police shootings justified.  

Other IPRA officials denied Davis’ claims, saying no one told him had to change his findings.

How revealing is it, then, that Mitchell, in the midst of being bombarded in every direction that the entire narrative he had constructed about Evans was completely false, he should ignore all this evidence and run to another story from a disgruntled, fired IPRA employee in an attempt to bolster Mitchell’s own desperate claims that the police run around framing innocent people, that they shove their pistol in the mouths of suspects? 

Mitchell’s coverage of the Lorenzo Davis story and Davis’ ludicrous claims had all the earmarks of a Hail Mary pass, a panicked attempt at deflecting from what was unfolding in the Evans saga. In any case, it was too late. Mitchell couldn’t salvage what he had done. 

From Journalist to Defense Witness

Then the unthinkable happened for Mitchell. It was at this point that Mitchell officially went from a journalist in the case to a witness, a defense witness, no less. Because Judge Cannon imposed a protective order on the trial, no one knew for sure what was in the IG’s investigation of IPRA. But shortly after the Evans’ defense team got it, they put Mitchell on their witness list, a clear sign that they had evidence about Mitchell that would help Evans’ case.

What a fall from grace, going from the heralded journalist who broke the big story into being a witness for Evans. Mitchell and WBEZ desperately fought back. WBEZ hired high-powered law firm Jenner and Block to represent Mitchell in a futile battle to stay off the stand, arguing that Mitchell was protected by reporter’s privilege.  

It was in the course of rejecting Jenner and Block’s motion to keep Mitchell off the stand that Judge Cannon referred to “thousands” of documents she had read with Mitchell’s name on them, a likely reference to the IG investigation into IPRA.

Thousands of documents? Thousands of documents indicating exactly what? 

What a development this was. What a great news story. In response to this bombshell transformation of Mitchell from journalist to a witness for Evans, other reporters throughout the city were now trying to get to the bottom of this IG report and find out why Mitchell was mentioned in thousands of documents, right? After all, they had constructed a vast narrative about how evil Evans was, based upon the claims of a street drug dealer, right? They did the noble thing and investigated one of their own reporters, right? 

Insert crickets chirping here. 

There was not a word about it. Absolute silence. 

One wonders: Now who clearly has a code of silence? 

So the trial went forth, one element of the charges against Evans after another falling apart in the evidence and testimony of the case. Judge Cannon reviewed the evidence, much of it never mentioned in Mitchell’s articles. 

From DNA info:

His [Williams’] testimony taxes the gullibility of the credulous," Cannon said.

Williams couldn't identify Evans in a photo lineup, the judge said, and described Evans' silver-and-black gun as black. Williams changed his description of the attack several times during the trial, and Cannon pointed out that Williams is seeking $5 million in a pending civil suit at a time when the nation is focused on cases of alleged police misconduct.

To repeat: the judge is clearly suggesting the whole thing was a scam by Williams. Too bad a judge is the first to publicly suggest this, and not the media. But then, more and more it looks as if the media was a main player in this scam, so how could they bring it up? The evidence in the trial was so bad that even the signs of prosecutorial misconduct were difficult to deny. 

It was a great victory for Evans and the police, but at quite a cost. As Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask, pointed out, Evans will never get back the last two years of his life, a life throw into a kind of hell, in large part because of the reporting by Mitchell. 

And what about WBEZ? In light of the evidence of misconduct on Mitchell’s part, the publicly financed radio station initiated an internal investigation into Mitchell’s conduct, right? 

Well, there is no sign of one. Even as the evidence emerged that Mitchell’s reporting was not on the up and up, WBEZ kept him on the story. 

WBEZ officials did not return messages from Crooked City about Mitchell. 

All of this brings us back to modus operandi. If Mitchell’s coverage of the Evans case was an isolated example in an otherwise honorably conducted career, then it would be easier to digest. But the problem is that it isn’t. What happened to Evans is part of a larger pattern of framing the police by Chicago’s media Maffia. 

The evidence of this framing will not go away in many key cases, no matter how much the media revels in their latest accomplishments to vilify the police. 

Doubt it? 

Ask Chip Mitchell, once the star journalist in the most Crooked City. 

Martin Preib is a Chicago Police Officer and writer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, is available on Amazon. His articles have appeared in Playboy, The Chicagoan, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and New City. He is currently working on his third book about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and an arson in 1987, titled Burn Patterns.