CROOKED CITY

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Events:

 

 

 

Really Flint? The Public Record?

It was a winter night in 1970. 

Sgt. Brian McDonnell was doing paperwork in a room with a large window at the Park Place police station in San Francisco. 

Someone approached the station and placed a bomb on the windowsill and fled. The bomb went off.

McDonnell was mortally wounded and died after a few agonizing days in the hospital. Several other officers were also injured. The projectiles from the bomb were inch-long nails. Investigators suspected the bomb was supposed to go off fifteen minutes later, when the room would be filled with officers after roll call. 

A witness reportedly described seeing a woman flee the scene. In the course of their investigation, FBI investigators began to suspect the offender was Bernadine Dohrn, a founding member of the radical group the Weather Underground (WU). Dohrn graduated from the University of Chicago Law School.

Later on, a Vietnam Veteran from Ohio, Larry Grathwohl, would infiltrate the Weather Underground and report his findings to the FBI. One reason Grathwohl was able to gain access into the group was that he had been trained in demolitions in the military. A man who could blow things up was particularly useful to them. 

Several times over the years, Grathwohl would testify that another founding member of the group, Bill Ayers, who would eventually marry Dohrn, told him that Dorhn was the San Francisco bomber who killed Sgt. McDonnell. 

There was other evidence. 

Two other members of the group also reportedly gave statements to the FBI that Dohrn was the bomber. 

“…Former FBI agents have told Village Voice Media the basis for their belief that the Weather Underground was behind McDonnell's murder. The agents have revealed that two credible eyewitnesses — both former left-wing radicals tied to the Weathermen — gave detailed statements to investigators in the 1970s alleging that Dohrn and Howard Machtinger, another member of the group, were personally involved in organizing the deadly attack. Both witnesses claimed to have participated in meetings where the bombing was planned, and one confessed to having cased the police station for the Weathermen prior to the explosion,” wrote the River Front Times. 

Dorn and her collection of radicals would end up setting off bombs throughout the country, including other police stations. Later, she and her husband Bill Ayers would claim their intent was never really to harm anyone, but the Park Place bombing would suggest otherwise. 

Retired FBI agents, the San Francisco Police union, and members of the media have attempted to get the McDonnell murder case reopened in recent years. A forensic testing of the evidence with modern technology, for example, might reveal new evidence against Dohrn, they argue.  

What does the murder of a police officer from 1970 in San Francisco have anything to do with Chicago? 

Well, a lot actually.

Last week, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge broke his long silence and publicly accused G. Flint Taylor, the founding member of the People’s Law Office (PLO), of using wrongful conviction claims fraudulently and getting rich off them. Burge made the statement in the wake of a decision by the City Council to pay reparations to supposed victims of Burge and his men. 

Flint Taylor built his career on vilifying Burge, claiming over the last four decades that Burge and his men routinely abused suspects in murder cases, even framed them. Taylor and his colleagues in the wrongful conviction movement have helped free dozens of convicted killers and made millions in the subsequent civil lawsuits arising from them. 

Why did Burge and his men commit these crimes, according to Taylor? Because, he says, Burge and his men are racist thugs. 

Here is part of Burge’s statement to the Conviction Project condemning the reparations:

What about reparations for the families of the African American victims of the heinous crimes perpetrated by the scum who now demand reparations? This entire scenario is being manipulated by lawyers like G. Flint Taylor and his ilk. They have been getting rich for years filing specious lawsuits against Chicago Police Officers, the City of Chicago and other government entities. They know that 99% of the time the City will settle the lawsuit rather than go to trial because it’s cheaper. The City never admits wrongdoing on their part or the part of the individual defendants (police officers) when they settle.

The following day, Taylor shot back at Burge in a Sun Times article: 

“(Burge) is clearly a serial human rights violator who has committed racist crimes against humanity too numerous to count. And this attack on the men who have so bravely stood up to him — and who a jury and a federal judge relied upon to send him to the penitentiary — only underscores how disgraceful and cowardly his unsworn statements . . . slandering me, my fellow lawyers and these clients are,” Taylor said.

“He says the truth will come out. The truth has come out. That’s why the city has acted as it has. No matter what kind of cowardly statements Burge may make under cover of darkness, it is not going to change the public record of his and his fellow officers’ crimes.”  

Cowardly statements made under the cover of darkness?…the public record? 

Whoa. 

Wait a minute. 

Remember the man who infiltrated the Weather Underground, Larry Grathwohl? 

In a series of interviews with the Conviction Project, Grathwohl stated that when he had infiltrated the WU he was repeatedly told by leaders of the group that if they ever got arrested, they should immediately call Flint Taylor’s law firm, the People’s Law Office (PLO), in Chicago. 

Grathwohl also stated he was told that if any members of the WU in one city needed to get hold of members in another city, they should do so through the PLO. 

Both these statements point to a deep connection between the WU and the PLO from the earliest inception of both organizations. 

Taylor’s purported connection to a radical, terrorist organization that bombed police stations, and quite possibly murdered Sgt. McDonnell, is not often mentioned in the local media, the keepers of the “public record” in Chicago. 

But it does give weight to Burge’s claim that Taylor and the PLO, far from being the principled crusaders for justice they portray themselves to be, have been guided by a deeply destructive mission from the very beginning. 

One only has to look at the long client list of the People’s Law Office.

There is the FALN, for example, a terrorist group.

Here is a passage from a Tribune reporter interviewing a PLO lawyer representing the group: 

Jan Susler takes a deep breath and looks at the reporter long and steady. She's skeptical. She's afraid he'll get it wrong.

"The FALN are really lovely human beings," says Susler, a lawyer representing the group. "They aren't the kinds of people that have horns and a tail. They are intelligent, gifted and tolerant."

It is Susler's job-along with New York Attorney Michael Deutsch-to make the FALN's legal case for a presidential pardon. It's a tough sell, and she knows it. Susler, who practices out of The Peoples Law Office near the corner of Division St. and Milwaukee Ave., wrote the 70-page pardon application.

Well, here’s one differing opinion, that of a family member of a FALN bombing victim: 

The FALN was one of the most prolific terrorist organizations ever to wage war against the American people. They proudly claimed responsibility for over 130 bombings and incendiary attacks in the U.S. and Puerto Rico between 1974 and 1983, killing six and wounding scores.

Among these vicious, cold-blooded attacks was the Jan. 24, 1975, lunchtime bombing at New York City’s historic Fraunces Tavern. Four innocent men were murdered that day, and one of them was my 33-year-old father, Frank Connor. My father had been very excited to get home from work that night to celebrate my brother’s and my recent 11th and 9th birthdays with his young family. Instead, after my father’s funeral, mourners shared a dinner in our home that was meant for our birthday celebration…

After members of the FALN were arrested, they threatened Judge Thomas McMillen’s life during their Chicago trial. Carmen Valentine told the judge, “You are lucky that we cannot take you right now,” and called the judge a terrorist. Dylcia Pagan warned the courtroom: “All of you, I would advise you to watch your backs.” And Ida Rodriguez told the judge, “You say we have no remorse. You’re right. … Your jails and your long sentences will not frighten us.” These terrorists convinced McMillen that they would continue being terrorists “as long as you live. If there was a death penalty, I’d impose the penalty on you without hesitation.”

Let’s go back to Dohrn and the public record. 

The evolution of Dohrn in the years after she was setting off bombs in the 70s illuminates even more connection between her radical past and Taylor’s. After she was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list, Dohrn went underground, living for some time in San Francisco where Sgt. McDonnell had been murdered. 

She would later beat the terrorism charges on a legal technicality. Some of her Weather Underground brethren would flee to Cuba. Some would kill other cops. Some would go to prison. And some would be pardoned, even those convicted of murdering police officers. 

Where would Dohrn end up? Broke and vilified for her crimes? An outcast? 

Hardly. 

Dohrn would end up at Northwestern University’s Law School as a tenured faculty member, teaching kids about—get this—human rights. 

Eventually, Dohrn would, like Taylor, end up working on wrongful conviction cases. In fact, Dorn’s Northwestern University and Taylor’s People’s Law Office would work together on many of them, both groups steadily making claims about Burge and his men being monsters. 

Northwestern and the PLO would be core players in the wrongful conviction movement, a collection of law firms and university law schools that would work together in freeing a multitude of convicted killers and rapists, not to mention destroying the lives and reputations of police officers. 

Here is a public record little discussed in Chicago: 

Taylor and Dohrn were people, from the very beginning, who seemed willing to either commit or support ghastly, violent crimes in a destructive frenzy for a political ideology. They used an “any means necessary” strategy to wage war against a country whose democratic shortcomings were, in their eyes, contemptible compared to the promise of revolution they saw taking place in other parts of the world. 

In one of the strangest twists from the 1960s to the 70s, many of these former violent radicals from the 1960s moved into academia and the law, establishing powerful political and media allies. In doing so, they shed their criminal past and transformed themselves into seekers of justice, trying to right great wrongs in society. 

But is it true? 

Or have the these radicals merely perfected their tactics over the years? Are these wrongful conviction claims based on evidence and a pursuit of truth or are they, as Burge argues, a scam, a kind of legal bomb hurled at police and prosecutors in an attempt to overthrow the criminal justice system, just as the Weather Underground crudely set off bombs at police stations throughout the 70s? 

Taylor and his cohorts have been widely successful. They have garnered the release of hundreds of convicted killers, making these killers and themselves rich in the process, transforming themselves from grungy, violent 60s radicals into a bunch of Cadillac Commies.  

But the problem for Taylor is that the evidence of corruption in the wrongful conviction movement, that is, the public record, is coming from sources beyond just Jon Burge. It’s coming from the media, the courts, retired detectives. Each week it grows. 

Consider the following:

—The biggest wrongful conviction case in the state’s history has imploded. The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that Anthony Porter, released in 1999 from death row for a double homicide, was clearly guilty of the murders and another man, Alstory Simon, was framed for the killings. Three witnesses in the case have made identical allegations of bribery and coercion against Northwestern investigators David Protess and Paul Ciolino. Protess, a former professor at the school’s Innocence Project, is a long-time collaborator with Taylor and the PLO. They have teamed up on several huge wrongful conviction cases. The witnesses all claim Protess and his private investigator Paul Ciolino offered them bribes to make false statements in an effort to free Anthony Porter from prison. 

In response to pressure from the Conviction Project and others, the Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez recently released Alstory Simon from jail, the man Northwestern investigators coerced into confessing to the Porter murders. It was Simon’s confession that allowed Porter to go free. In releasing Simon after 15 years in prison, Alvarez assailed the conduct of Protess, Ciolino and an attorney working with them, Jack Rimland, saying the three violated Simon’s constitutional rights in coercing Simon to confess. Alvarez said the group quite likely committed crimes in doing so. 

After Simon’s release from prison, his attorneys filed a $40 million lawsuit against Northwestern, Protess and Ciolino. In the complaint, they allege a vast body of criminal conduct against Protess and Colin, spanning decades and involving several wrongful conviction cases. 

Apparently neither Taylor nor Dorn observed the flagrant violation of human rights in the Porter case, even though the facts were clearly articulated in the long public record of the case.

--Northwestern University admitted in 2011 that David Protess made false statements to the school, the prosecutor, and lawyers regarding other investigations. The school, the prosecutor and even David Protess himself admitted altering evidence. Protess was subsequently fired from the university. 

--Witness Charles McCandless in another crucial wrongful conviction case told investigators he was offered a bribe by Ciolino and Protess in exchange for McCandless changing his testimony. McCandless also said that Protess offered sex with one of his students. McCandless was outraged at the offer and reported it. The PLO was also involved in the case and won a massive settlement. 

-- Witness Andre Council in another wrongful conviction case stated that Paul Ciolino and DePaul University Law Professor Andrea Lyon came to his house and offered a bribe in exchange for Council changing his testimony. Council was so outraged he shut down his gas station, went to the prosecutor’s office at 26th and California and immediately reported the bribe to authorities. 

The complaint by Council was particularly troubling. He was a central witness in an arson that took place in 1987. Seven people died. A man named Madison Hobley was convicted and sentenced to death row for setting the fire. The evidence against Hobley was overwhelming and the repeated attempts by his lawyer, Andrea Lyon, to overturn the case utterly failed in the courts. Lyon was able to get Hobley set free only by a suspicious pardon from former Governor George Ryan, a disgraced politician who would himself end up in prison for corruption. 

The unraveling of the Hobley case is a time bomb for Taylor and the PLO. The reason is that Hobley’s case forms the basis of the sole conviction against Jon Burge. After Hobley got out, he filed a lawsuit against Burge. In the course of that civil complaint, Burge denied that he had ever abused any suspects. That denial was the basis of the perjury and obstruction of justice claims against him. 

Now the record is showing clearly that Hobley was the offender in the arson after all. 

Is Burge’s conviction based upon a false exoneration, one in which a man got away with murdering seven people, including his own wife and child? 

Turns out it is. 

The judges, the jury members, the prosecutors and the detectives were all right: Hobley set the fire. It was only a crooked governor who got him out. 

It leads to a dark question: In order to convict Burge did Flint Taylor and the wrongful conviction crowd support freeing a mass murderer? 

Talk about cowardice. Talk about operating in the cloak of darkness. 

Talk about a disturbing “public record.” 

Hold on. It gets worse.  

—Last year, a Certificate of Innocence petition in a brutal rape conviction was rejected.  Stanley Wrice was exonerated through the efforts of David Protess. The victim was a woman who had been badly burned and gang raped by Wrice and his co-conspirators. The crime was so brutal Wrice had been sentenced to 100 years. 

From the Tribune: 

"Stanley Wrice’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, gasped when Cook County Judge Thomas Byrne issued his ruling and declared that there was “substantial evidence” indicating Wrice “actively participated” in the brutal Sept. 9, 1982 sexual assault.

Wrice said the denial of the certificate — which would expunge his conviction and make him eligible for thousands of dollars from the state — was like a “dagger to his heart.”

If a judge ruled Wrice was guilty and his recantation witnesses were lying, what was he doing walking the streets? 

--Another recantation witness used by Northwestern and other wrongful conviction law firms fell apart last year. Prosecutors charged Willie Johnson with perjury after Johnson came forward and recanted testimony made in a case where he was the victim of a shooting. Two other men were also shot and died. The offenders were caught and sent to life in prison. . Johnson eventually pleaded guilty. Johnson, a gang member, suddenly emerged after some 17 years to recant his trial testimony about the two men who shot him. No less than three wrongful conviction law firms were involved in the attempt to use Johnson’s recantation in attempt to free the convicted killers. Johnson made his recantation in front of the judge. The judge responded by saying he didn’t believe him and rejected the bid by the inmates to get their freedom. Not only did the judge reject Johnson’s statement, Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez charged him with perjury, and Johnson pled guilty.

Why are three of the most prominent wrongful conviction law firms having their witnesses convicted of perjury, in a case that could release two killers? 

—Inmates in the Illinois Department of Correction have come forward and stated that they were instructed by fellow gang leaders to coach inmates on making torture claims, particularly those inmates who were arrested in Area 2, where Jon Burge and his men worked.

Is it true? Are wrongful conviction activists putting the word out in prisons, encouraging inmates to make false claims of abuse? 

When several youths were arrested on the eve of the 2012 NATO summit for making bombs, bombs they reportedly planned on throwing at police officers, who else but the People’s Law Office would jump in to represent them? 

PLO lawyers ripped apart the case, making all kinds of claims that the police framed the suspects. Then they assailed prosecutors for pressing terrorism charges against the youths. 

It was like the Weather Underground and the 1960s all over. 

The terrorism charge was rejected by the jury, who nevertheless convicted the youths on a felony charge of making a incendiary device. 

In a rare moment of standing up to the PLO, the Chicago Tribune praised Alvarez for indicting the would be bombers: 

When a 20-year-old calls himself an anarchist in such a setting, you don't question whether he's man enough to mean it. If he builds a Molotov cocktail, you'd better assume he'll throw it. If he talks about firebombing a bank or a skyscraper — if he says, "Ready to see a police officer on fire?" — you don't stop to wonder if it's the beer talking, or the testosterone. You take it dead seriously. Police and prosecutors did just that.

"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."

Well said. 

But perhaps one should add, “Have we forgotten about Sgt. McDonnel as well?”

Sadly, we have, much to the relief of people like Flint Taylor, Bernadine Dohrn and David Protess. 

Bombings, murdered cops, terrorism, bribed testimony, fraudulent witnesses, inmates tutored on false torture claims, perjury convictions, killers set free…

What kind of operating under the cloak of darkness is all this? What kind of public record is it?

It is evidence there is another “public record” out there, one Taylor is hiding deep in the lower reaches of the Crooked City. 

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