CROOKED CITY

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Angels or Serpents?

One of the great myths in literature is Satan’s downfall in Milton's Paradise Lost.

In the myth, Satan is initially one of God's favorite angels, one who betrays God by leading a rebellion. In the different stages of this rebellion, Satan is portrayed in the guise of different historical epochs.

Early on, for example, Satan is a classical hero who is able to persuade other angels to join in his rebellion, filling them with the rhetoric of liberation and utopian worldviews.

But in each subsequent manifestation, Satan is diminished a little more, until he is reduced to the snake in the Garden of Eden, seducing Eve into biting the apple. In this, his final manifestation, his true character and intent reveals itself:

No longer is he fighting for some high principle. In fact, it’s clear he never was. Rather, Satan emerges a malevolent, narcissistic creature trying to seduce the most innocent into his evil designs and his lust for destruction.

In this transformation from hero to snake, the myth of Satan’s fall aptly describes the trajectory of Chicago’s wrongful conviction movement over the last four decades.

Once a movement internationally renowned for freeing the wrongly convicted, more and more evidence emerges that this movement has released killers and rapists, destroyed the lives of honest cops, and undermined the criminal justice system. It has also left a hole in the lives of the family members of victims, who see the killers of their loved ones walking free and becoming wealthy.

Despite this growing body of evidence, the advocates of this movement--many of them highly credentialed academics--desperately try to carry on with their claims that they are operating from some deep principle, rather than some destructive intent and intense narcissism.

The latest anti-police fairy tale manufactured by the wrongful conviction crowd is a case in point. It appeared in the Guardian, an England-based newspaper with a clear sympathy for the wrongful conviction movement.

In the Guardian article, reporter Spencer Ackerman paints a dire picture of Homan Square, a police building on the west side that houses several specialized units of the Chicago Police Department. From the article:

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

 The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

 According to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

 

Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.

Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.

Shackling for prolonged periods.

Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.

Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

What is compelling about these ludicrous claims is the tenuous reception it has gotten from the local media. One wonders, first of all, why no local media outlet ran with the initial story. At one time, virtually anything wrongful conviction lawyers said, the local press printed.

No longer. Now the local media treads softly on any wrongful conviction claim. It’s been a long time, for example, since Eric Zorn championed a story claiming some sociopathic gang member was innocent and the police were the offenders. The Chicago Reader has also been silent on any wrongful conviction cases. Normally, these journalists would be drooling over such a story about Homan Square.

Equally telling, some local media even expressed some skepticism over the Guardian article.   

“Lawyers and local crime reporters say a widely-shared article from The Guardian mischaracterized a Chicago Police Department facility called Homan Square as the equivalent of a CIA "black site,” wrote WBEZ. “Black sites house detainees who undergo interrogation in highly secretive prisons. But the non-descript Homan Square building on the city’s West Side is not exactly off-the-books.”

The Guardian story, in truth, barely even constitutes propaganda. The “interviews with local attorneys and one protester” that Ackerman describes is a fancy way of saying he spoke to some wrongful conviction attorneys and their clients and then published what they claimed.

That’s the sum total of research behind the story, not enough for anything that could remotely be called journalism. 

Think about it. Is it feasible that the Chicago Police could maintain such a building without one cop, just one, coming forward with some evidence that it was taking place? In the childish, petulant worldview of the wrongful conviction movement and their adherents, is there not one decent cop in the city who would stand up to such abuse? Not one supervisor? 

Apparently not. In the minds of these ideologues, the police are inherently evil, and they are inherently good.   

Such delusional thinking permeates every wrongful conviction claim, claims that invariably find their way into print.

In a recent interview with the Conviction Project, a top editor at the Guardian admitted they did not interview any police officers for the story. They brought forth no independent witnesses to any alleged police malfeasance at Homan, no case reports, no hospitalization reports, nothing at all that would constitute evidence of such claims, save the statements of these offenders and their lawyers. From this, they built an entire narrative about corruption at Homan Square.

This is not journalism. It’s myth making.

And who, specifically, are the protestors making these claims about Homan?

The editor at the Guardian admitted that the claims were made by youths charged with manufacturing Molotov Cocktails--firebombs--during the 2012 NATO demonstrations. Those youths were charged under a new terrorism statute. In the trial, they were found not guilty of the terrorism charge, but were found guilty of other crimes, including building an incendiary device, a felony.

Wrongful conviction lawyers rushed in to represent the accused bombers after they were caught. These lawyers, the same ones making the claims of abuse at Homan Square, were outraged that their clients were charged under the terrorism statute.

But for the first time, the local media wasn’t buying it. Consider the Trib editorial in the wake of the jury verdict:

But defense attorneys (the PLO) were way out of line when they stepped to the microphones, post verdict, to bash Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez for pursuing terrorism charges.

"Have we forgotten about Boston here?" Alvarez said after the verdict, adamantly defending her decision to pursue terrorism charges. "Have we forgotten about homemade bombs in backpacks? We were able to stop people from being hurt, and I would do it again."

We should all rest easier knowing that.

These bomb makers…well, these incendiary device makers, and their lawyers are the people now claiming there is a Gulag at Homan Square.

And who specifically are the ones making these claims? It’s the People’s Law Office (PLO), a law firm that has represented accused terrorists for more than 30 years, including the FALN terrorists who set off hundreds of bombs throughout the country. They have close ties to former Weather Underground bombers like Bernadine Dorhn and other violent, Marxist revolutionary groups. 

Back to the media.

The reluctance of the local media to take up the Guardian story—and then to voice skepticism of it when it came out, is revealing. This hesitancy, along with their the media’s new found silence on wrongful conviction claims in general, is no doubt rooted in their dark realization that editors and journalists in Chicago have been bought and sold by the wrongful conviction movement.

Just how badly they have been bought and sold is a question they don’t want to ask, because they know the answer is dire.  

Northwestern University, after all, was a target of a recent $40 million lawsuit in connection with its involvement in the 1999 exoneration of Anthony Porter, a vicious gang enforcer who shot a couple in 1982. The Porter case alone sends chills down the spine of the local media. Three witnesses used to garner Porter’s exoneration now claim they were bribed. Evidence points to perjury and obstruction of justice by Northwestern investigators. It points to the framing of an innocent man for the murders while knowingly freeing a guilty one.

Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez assailed the conduct of the Northwestern investigators, admitting their conduct was quite likely criminal.

What a transformation. The prestigious university, once universally celebrated for freeing the so called wrongfully convicted, now stands accused of framing an innocent man and releasing a killer. They stand accused of engineering the worst wrongful conviction scam in the state’s history.

Each day, more evidence emerges that other wrongful conviction cases are just as dirty as the Porter case.  

Last year, for example, the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago attempted to exonerate two men convicted of a double murder in a gang shooting. Northwestern Law School and the infamous law firm of Loevy and Loevy were also involved in the case.

A third victim was also wounded in the shooting, but survived. This man, Willie Johnson, provided the key testimony that convicted the men.

Here is what the Trib reported:

Willie Johnson had been shot nine times and was hospitalized near death in 1992 when he identified two rival gang members as the gunmen who wounded him and killed two of his friends on Chicago's West Side.

Johnson survived, and two years later, under oath at trial, he again identified Cedric Cal and Albert Kirkman as the killers. His testimony sent them to prison for life without parole.

Now, 17 years later, Johnson has recanted his testimony. He said in a recent postconviction hearing that he identified the defendants out of fear of the real killer, a ruthless drug dealer from his neighborhood.

There was one problem with Johnson’s sudden recantation after so many years: the judge didn’t buy it:

But in July, a judge ruled that Johnson's new story was not credible, and Cal and Kirkman's (the shooters) efforts to get a new trial were denied.

There was another problem. The State’s Attorney didn’t buy it either.

That wasn't the end of the story for Johnson. The Cook County state's attorney's office used the judge's finding to pursue perjury charges against him, which were returned by grand jury indictment last month.

So University of Chicago brought forward a witness convicted of perjury? How does that happen?

The list goes on:

 --Stanley Wrice, sentenced to 100 years for a brutal gang rape, was set free through the efforts of David Protess and the Chicago Innocence Project. The victim in the case was so badly burned by Wrice and the other offenders that she was airlifted to the burn unit at Loyola University. She wasn’t expected to live, but she did. Wrice applied for a certificate of innocence after he was set free. The judge shocked Wrice and his attorneys when he rejected the petition, saying he thought Wrice was guilty of the crime and that Wrice’s recantation witnesses, like those in the Porter and Johnson cases, were lying. Why then, one wonders, was Wrice free?

 --A central witness in the Madison Hobley case claimed that DePaul Law School Professor Andrea Lyon and Private Investigator Paul Ciolino came to his home and attempted to bribe him to change his testimony, just as witnesses in the Porter case claimed. Hobley had been convicted and sent to death row for setting an arson in 1987 that killed seven people, including his own wife and child. Activists dismissed these witness claims, until the same allegations arose in other cases involving Ciolino, establishing a clear pattern of witness tampering.

 --Northwestern University admitted that David Protess had lied to the school, their lawyers, the prosecutor and the courts in another key wrongful conviction case. The school admitted that Protess had altered evidence in a case and that Protess had established a pattern of regularly lying to the school about his cases. Allegations of bribing witnesses have arisen against Protess and his students in other cases, as well.

 --A central witness in the infamous Ford Heights Four Case insisted he was offered bribes by Protess and Ciolino--including sex with one of Protess’ students--in exchange for changing his testimony.

Consider also the solidarity among the wrongful conviction lawyers and academics. Not one wrongful conviction law firm or activist ever pointed out the evidence of malfeasance in any of these cases. Rather, they denied them and stuck together, clearly a sign of a “thin red line” operating among these law firms and activists, who regularly work together on cases.

Back to Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Because many of these activists and attorneys are ensconced in academia and involve students, they have undermined not only the criminal justice system, the lives of the family members of the victims, and the police, but also the students they have corralled into their distorted, often criminal plots.

These activists will no doubt persuade these lost youth into demonstrating against the police in the coming days, all based on the Guardian’s article, just as these professors manipulated naïve students to free killers at high-powered universities like Northwestern.

It’s this image of corrupting the youth that paints the darkest picture of the wrongful conviction leaders, the one that most transforms these once iconic activists from angels to serpents in the most Crooked City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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