Evans Case a Lesson For Cops, FOP?

Caught in the crosshairs of the city's anti-police machine, police commander turns the tables on his accusers... 

 

In a stunning turnabout, a Chicago reporter may be called to testify as a witness in the criminal trial of a Chicago Police Commander.  

WBEZ public radio reporter Chip Mitchell may be compelled to testify by lawyers representing Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans. Evans is charged with nine felonies for allegedly sticking his pistol in a suspect’s mouth in 2013 and threatening him. 

Since Mitchell has been listed as a witness, he cannot hear the testimony of other witnesses in court, potentially forcing him off the case as a reporter. 

Mitchell tweeted about the development in two statements:

Cmdr #GlennEvans lists me as potential witness in his felony trial. #Illinois law backs reporter privilege.

But the Cook County judge tells @WBEZ: "You may want to make arrangements for someone else to cover the case." Stay tuned.

Mitchell may be putting on a strong face in these tweets. But the truth is that it’s been quite a fall for Mitchell, who once swaggered about the city as the reporter who broke an exclusive story that virtually convicted Evans in the public imagination. 

Mitchell’s bombshell story hinged on a confidential state police report that stated the DNA of the suspect Evans arrested in 2013, Ricky Williams, was found on the barrel of Evans’ gun. Mitchell’s story was written such that the DNA sample was evidence of Evans’ guilt. The release of Mitchell’s story, and the DNA report, initiated a media frenzy. Evans’ case seemed hopeless. 

Now the tables have turned. That release of the DNA report is now seen as possible evidence of corruption in the media and the city agency, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA),  that initially obtained the sample as part of an investigation into the allegations against Evans.  

Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask, an expert in DNA cases, has argued that the DNA is in no way evidence of guilt against her client. Evans never denied that he came into contact with Williams in the course of arresting him, she has stated to the media. 

If Morask’s claims prove true,  Mitchell’s release of the DNA and his writing about it as if it pointed to Evans’ guilt portrayed Evans in a false light. It may be that the DNA actually bolsters Evans’ account of what happened when he arrested Williams, a gang member. That in and of itself would be a chilling sign of misconduct by Mitchell and WBEZ.

Then there is the release of the DNA report itself. If IPRA was responsible for releasing the report to the media, it would be a gross violation of Evans’ due process, a sign that the agency was engaged in its own misconduct against him.  

Mitchell’s willingness to publish a report that should not have been released may add to his woes. It raises some questions about his relationship to investigators at IPRA, if indeed he did obtain the DNA report from them. 

Once again, the fact that Mitchell is to be called as a witness for the defense is an ominous sign of something potentially rotten in Mitchell’s reporting. 

There may be even more bombshell information about the IG’s report, but Judge Cannon has imposed a protective order, prohibiting its release and anyone involved in the case from speaking about it. 

Right before the trial against Evans was supposed to have started, prosecutors announced that IPRA was the subject of an investigation by the Inspector General’s (IG) office and that this IG investigation revealed potential exculpatory evidence in Evans’ case.  Also, IPRA investigators have recently been fired from their jobs. The announcement of potential exculpatory evidence against Evans is a devastating blow to prosecutors. 

Mitchell has stated in his coverage of the case that the release of the DNA report is one part of the IG's investigation into IPRA.

Questions abound: If there is corruption at IPRA, how does deep does it go? Did someone at IPRA release the DNA report against Evans to Mitchell? Is it a sign of covert relationships between IPRA and reporters? If so, who else are IPRA investigators talking to? How far back does it go? Why didn’t Mitchell observe any of the potentially exculpatory evidence against Evans that the IG did?   

If someone at IPRA released the DNA report, is the very agency that is supposed to be investigating misconduct on the police department trying to hang a Chicago Police Commander? 

One thing is worth observing about the IG’s report. Notice how quiet the media has been about it, particularly Mitchell. Rather than take up what would be considered a bombshell investigation in any other city, the media machine in Chicago is running away from it as if it carries a plague. 

Imagine, for example, what would happen if the IG had a report on police misconduct. Why, Mitchell would be camped out on the stairs of police headquarters and city hall and WBEZ’s lawyers would filing daily Freedom of Information requests. 

Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans

Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans

There is a larger, much larger theme taking shape in Evans’ case, one that is crucial for every cop and every cop union. The criminal case against Evans, from the very moment that a gang member made such ludicrous allegations against Evans, bore all the earmarks of a wrongful conviction frame-up. Not since Jon Burge has the movement gotten to a cop ranking as high as commander. The hysteria with which WBEZ, the Tribune, and other media outlets published their take on the DNA report was a sign of just how ecstatic they were at the possibility of hanging such a high-ranking police department member. 

WBEZ, after all, has been a devoted wrongful conviction media outlet, echoing virtually any claim against a Chicago Police Officer, then ignoring the evidence that those claims are utterly false. The station has also steadfastly refused to cover the evidence of corruption in the movement itself, despite being confronted with it time and time again. 

Journalists in Chicago are always pontificating about corruption in the police department, about cops selling out the obligation of their office for some sordid motive. That image seems to apply more to Chicago’s activist media community than it does to the police. 

Think about what is at stake. These wrongful conviction cases are not ones involving petty crimes. They are vicious, brutal murders and rapes that have devastated families. The stakes, both for society in general and for the victims’ families, as well as the cops whose careers and reputations are on the line, are very, very high. 

Most cops would have folded under the pressure that Evans faced when he was indicted—the possibility of a prison term, the loss of their pension, their job. Most would have pushed for some kind of deal. But Evans stood tall, even in the face of Mitchell’s story on the DNA. 

Now, it seems, Evans is in the catbird seat as the evidence steadily points to possible corruption as the basis for charges against him and the media coverage that gave those charges momentum. 

What a turnabout in the wake of Evans’ decision to stand tall. Mitchell’s deer-in-the-headlights countenance at hearings ever since the case began to fall apart is just one sign that he and WBEZ are terrified about what might come out in Evans’ trial. 

Mitchell isn’t the only one. The other usual suspects in the media also chimed in to throw Evans under the bus when he was indicted.  

Eric Zorn, still reeling from the evidence of his gross misconduct in the Anthony Porter scandal:

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy issued a statement on the case itself Thursday: "As soon as we were made aware of the charges, Cmdr. Evans was relieved of his police powers, pending the outcome of this matter."

I did a spit take. What? Being aware of the results of the DNA test, the subsequent recommendation of the Independent Police Review Authority that Evans be suspended, and Evans' longest-in-the-department record for brutality complaints wasn't enough to get McCarthy to act sooner?

McCarthy, by delaying, earned himself a piece of this scandal.

Now who has now earned himself a piece of the scandal? 

Will Zorn step forward with an apology to Evans if Evans beats his case? Will he pound his chest and demand accountability from the media brethren and from IPRA if the IG’s report eventually points to it? 

Did Zorn ever apologize to the detectives in the Porter case after he and his paper put them through six years of hell? 

How will Zorn, the Tribune and WBEZ get over yet another example of them vilifying a Chicago Police Officer without even looking into the case, without observing the potential corruption that gave it life? No doubt phone calls are now flying around from one reporter to another and from press rooms to wrongful conviction law firms. 

“How are we gonna spin this one?”

As part of their full-court press against Evans, media hounds, including Mitchell and the Tribune, obtained records of complaints against Evans, as if they were signs of how crooked he is, not signs that he is willing to take on the worst gang bangers in the city, gang members Mitchell, Zorn, and the Tribune are always trying to transform into heroes or victims. Evans was chasing Williams because Evans saw Williams, a gang member, carrying a gun in one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city. Some people would be grateful for a police commander willing to go out and take on the gang members in such a manner. 

And in light of the spin Mitchell, the Tribune, and other journalists put on Evans’ complaint history, they then turned to their go-to quote machine, Attorney G. Flint Taylor. Taylor is the godfather of the wrongful conviction movement. As soon as WBEZ broke the story about the DNA report, Mitchell and the media called Taylor, whose firm, the People’s Law Office, has defended one terrorist after another. 

Here’s what Taylor said about Evans in a Chip Mitchell report:

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

Is Evans one of the worst excessive force violators? How many of the complaints against him have been sustained? Is he one of the worst violators or one of the best cops in the city?  

The judge didn’t see any significant pattern of abuse by Evans. She ruled such arguments could not be asserted in his trial. 

One wonders if Taylor would like some salt and pepper with those words, and if he understands clearly the elements of a defamation lawsuit. 

Then there is the prosecutor’s office. When a prosecutor is forced to turn over evidence that may exculpate the very defendant they are trying to convict right when that trial is supposed to start, it’s a sure sign that their case is blowing up on them. 

Some obvious, yet chilling questions emerge: Why did prosecutors charge Evans to begin with? Was it another example of prosecutors bowing to the wrongful conviction hustlers in the city and their pattern of framing cops? Why didn’t prosecutors observe the potentially exculpatory evidence that the IG did? Why didn’t the Police Board, for that matter? The police board, after all, bases many of its decisions about the firing of cops on IPRA investigations.  

Here is the central point. Evans is just one police officer who stood up to the entire anti-police machinations of the wrongful conviction movement now so deeply embedded in the city’s institutions. Evans refused to capitulate. He dragged the case into a courtroom, where the wrongful conviction movement does not hold the absolute power it has in other facets of the city, and where the rules of evidence and proper procedure still sometimes survive in the country’s otherwise most corrupt city. Now that entire apparatus against Evans seems to be running for its life. 

And this case is not the first example. It was just a few men, after all, a patrolman, a retired journalist, a public relations executive, and a few private detectives that relentlessly pushed the evidence that the greatest wrongful conviction case in the city, the exoneration of Anthony Porter, was a complete fraud. These activists showed that the movement is rife with corruption and the media, particularly Eric Zorn’s Tribune, were key players on the side of this corruption. These activists freed a guilty man from prison and showed that the Tribune is engaged in a vast cover-up, refusing to address the ample evidence that the Porter exoneration is not the only fraud in the movement. 

There is a profound political truth now taking shape in the city. Once upon a time, the wrongful conviction advocates were the revolutionaries in the city. They despised the country and wanted to overthrow it, calling themselves Marxist revolutionaries. 

Bernadine Dohrn, founding member of the Weather Underground, terrorist, and former wrongful conviction attorney at Northwestern Law School, from her early revolutionary days: 

“Our intention is to disrupt the empire, to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside."

Well, now Dohrn and her ilk are deeply ingrained in the city’s power structure, key players in its political and legal institutions, even buddies with the president who hailed from Chicago. They are now, in effect, the establishment. 

Whatever their accomplishments, the wrongful conviction movement is being tested by those now on the outside of the city’s political power base, just as they themselves once were on the outside of the city’s political power, searching for ways to impose their vision of government upon it, some of them concluding at one point that setting off bombs was the best method. Now that they are in power, they face a tough question: Have the wrongful conviction activists built their movement on a solid foundation, or is it just a house of cards? Can it withstand a serious challenge? 

Evans’ case is an example that it is a house of cards, for just one man standing tall has the entire city wearing the terrified countenance that Mitchell betrayed when the straw case he helped construct against Evans began to fall apart. The success of this small group of men who overturned the Anthony Porter exoneration is another example. 

Every cop, every member of the union that represents cops, the FOP, should take note and consider what a group of cops, united in purpose and with the resources of their own union, could do to this movement. 

Why, it would be revolutionary in 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. 

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