CROOKED CITY

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FROM A FORMER CHICAGO TRIBUNE REPORTER TO A CURRENT TRIBUNE REPORTER

By William B. Crawford

For those of us who have been battling to free Alstory Simon from a three-decade prison sentence imposed on him for a 1982 double homicide in the pool area of Chicago’s Washington Park that was committed by Anthony Porter, we read this morning’s front page Tribune article about the Simon/Porter tragedy with a modicum of interest. 

Headlined, “Probe of capital case could rewrite history,” the newspaper, for the first time since Alstory Simon was sent away for 36 years following a kangaroo court hearing in 1999, hinted that perhaps Alstory Simon was innocent of the fatal pool shootings. The article represented a glacial shift for a newspaper that for years had become an unwitting, fawning tool in an evil charade designed and orchestrated by a Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism professor, a defense attorney, a prosecutor, a small time private eye, and others. 

For years before and after Alstory Simon was sentenced for the murders committed by Porter, a thug of a human being who routinely visited unbridled violence on South Side residents until he was arrested by Chicago police and charged with the pool shootings, the newspaper had taken as gospel “facts” about the case. Facts that had been spoon fed to the newspaper by David Protess, a once iconic, now disgraced Medill journalism professor who subsequently was fired by the University for the sinisterly, brilliant scheme he perpetrated on the local justice system. 

But we do digress. 

The purpose of this brief piece is to ask Steve Mills, the author of this morning’s front page Tribune article, why he failed (yet again) to include certain relevant information in his story which proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Alstory Simon is innocent and that Porter, whose rap sheet contains more than two dozen entries for suspicion of murder, rape, aggravated battery, hostage taking, shootings, unlawful restraint and other crimes, was the pool triggerman.

From a former Chicago Tribune reporter, who won a Pulitzer for his role in shutting down two fraudulent and abusive for-profit Chicago hospitals, I would ask Mills why he failed to include the following in his piece:

--That during the September 1999 Alstory Simon sentencing hearing before Judge Thomas Fitzgerald, Thomas Gainer, a former prosecutor, now an associate Cook County criminal court judge, knowingly withheld evidence from the sentencing judge--evidence that Gainer knew exculpated Alstory Simon of the murders and proved Porter’s guilt. 

--That during that hearing, Gainer told the sentencing judge that the State was in possession of a bona fide written Alstory Simon confession to the pool shootings when Gainer knew that that confession had been illegally extracted from the defendant by Paul Ciolino, a small time private eye and a cohort who, wearing guns and representing themselves as Chicago police, barged into Alstory Simon’s Milwaukee home and obtained the confession with threats of violence. 

--That Thomas Epach, chief of the criminal division in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office when Alstory Simon was sentenced, has signed a three-page sworn affidavit in which Epach asserts, in sum, that even though his boss, State’s Attorney Dick Devine, was aware of the evidence proving Alstory Simon’s innocence and Porter’s guilt, Devine allowed the sentencing hearing to go forward for “political” considerations.

--That Jack Rimland, Alstory Simon’s attorney, was in possession of the same materials as Gainer that proved Alstory Simon’s innocence and proved Porter’s guilt, yet, as an officer of the court, beholden to speak truth to the sentencing judge, Rimland purposely did not tell Judge Fitzgerald that he had been hired by Ciolino to represent Alstory Simon and that he shared offices with Ciolino. 

--That a special team in the Corporation Counsel’s office under then Corporation Counsel Mara Georges, had authored a three-page memo informing Georges that the team had reviewed the Simon/Porter case and had concluded that while evidence proved Porter’s guilt and Alstory Simon’s innocence, the sentencing of Alstory Simon was allowed to proceed for “political” reasons. 

--That Protess, a thirty-year, once heralded journalism professor was summarily fired for fabricating evidence, lying to his peers, lying to a criminal court judge, and lying to his attorney who ultimately walked away from Protess because of more Protess lies, and after the University had shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. 

--And much, much more.

While we would like to thank Mills for shedding a ray of light on what Thomas Epach, the former top prosecutor in Devine’s office has called “America’s worst day,” we remain puzzled by Mills’ lack of attention to important detail. Is it out of ignorance or is something else at hand? It should be noted that the Tribune won a Pulitzer for its diligent work in tracking the Medill manufactured Simon/Porter tragedy and other Medill cases just like it. 

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