Cops Get Burned, Angelo Fiddles...

It was 1993 and Jon Burge, a former police commander, had recently been fired in response to allegations that he had tortured murder suspects in 1982. 

The manner of Burge’s termination rallied the FOP. Burge’s main enemy, the People’s Law Office, had attempted to sue him twice, but lost. 

Undaunted, they and their allies employed an intense media campaign that spurred former Mayor Daley to appoint a new head of the agency that investigated police corruption, the Office of Professional Standards (OPS). Even though the agency had reviewed the allegations against Burge twice, the new director appointed by Daley contradicted earlier OPS investigations and announced that the claims against Burge were bona fide. 

This review nine years after the fact by OPS laid the groundwork for Burge’s termination. 

Throughout this period, the Fraternal Order of Police stood by Burge, claiming that Burge and his men were innocent and the process that led to his firing was a political witch hunt. 

Much of the rank and file also stood by Burge, though cracks between white and black officers over the Burge allegations were beginning to form. 

As a sign of solidarity for Burge and other officers who had been fired, the FOP decided to enter a float in an annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on the south side. 

From the New York Times: 

Originally, the police float was to be decorated with banners proclaiming the union's support for the five officers, who were invited to ride on it. The Chicago Sun-Times reported the plan today in a front-page article and immediately created a furor.

The name of the float?

Travesties of Justice.

The media backlash compelled the parade organizers to reject the FOP’s entry. Already by 1993 the People’s Law Office held the local media in a kind of spell. In this spell, reporters in the city were unwilling to look at the dark past behind the law firm, in particular its support of terrorists like the Weather Underground, the FALN bombers, and the Black Panthers, all of whom had committed violence against police officers. This dark history, the deep bias and lawlessness at the core of the PLO, never entered into the reporting on Burge. 

The union entered another, less controversial float. 

A year later, the FOP was still speaking out in support of Burge over his firing.

The Tribune: 

“This [Burge’s firing} we feel is a miscarriage of justice," said William Nolan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. "In this entire case, there is not one shred of evidence. It's strictly a political victory and that's what this is, political."

Nevertheless, Burge’s termination remained intact and the wrongful conviction movement expanded, moving into other districts, other detectives. 

The ascendance of this movement—now a national phenomenon—is also the narrative of the FOP’s decline, the two inextricably linked. For in each administration after Nolan’s the representation for members accused by wrongful conviction law firms steadily declined. 

Now the current FOP administration, headed by Dean Angelo, has all but abandoned any officers caught up in the machinations of the wrongful conviction movement. 

Perhaps the lowest moment for the FOP, under Dean’s administration, came at the beginning of the year, when former Governor Pat Quinn commuted the sentence of Howard Morgan. 

Morgan had been convicted on four counts of attempted murder of four police officers after he shot three of them during a traffic stop on the west side in 2005. One officer was saved from a hit to his heart only by the edge of his bulletproof vest. 

Throughout the trial, Morgan’s supporters employed the wrongful conviction playbook, manufacturing a host of loony conspiracy theories that the police were actually at fault. It was a long nine years for the four officers, as one accusation after another against them—no matter how clearly the evidence rejected it—found expression in the local media. 

In large part because of the media coverage, it took two trials and nine years to convict Morgan. He was sentenced to 40 years. 

The officers thought their odyssey was finally over when Morgan was convicted and his appeals rejected. But then Quinn, in the waning moments of his defeated administration, simply released Morgan without explanation. 

Supporters of Howard Morgan, convicted of trying to murder four police officers, gather at the Thompson Center after a pardon hearing.

Supporters of Howard Morgan, convicted of trying to murder four police officers, gather at the Thompson Center after a pardon hearing.

It wasn’t the first time an Illinois governor sold the police out to the wrongful conviction machine, but it was in many ways the worst, for it sent a clear message to every working cop that even an offender who tries to kill the police can get off scot-free. 

This betrayal of the police by a machine hack politician would have been an ideal moment for the Angelo administration to step up, to condemn the decision and begin the arduous but essential campaign to fight the wrongful conviction machine that freed Morgan. 

But they didn’t. Apart from a tepid, poorly written email blast after the decision by Quinn, Angelo’s administration said and did nothing. 

Angelo, for example, did not call on the superintendent, the mayor, or the aldermen to publicly condemn such a blatant betrayal of the cops, who were almost murdered in the course of doing their job.  Angelo never confronted the press. He held no press conference, wrote no guest column in any paper, or even submitted a letter to the editor. 

Angelo did not call out the prosecutor to initiate an investigation into Quinn’s actions, as Quinn’s decision had all the earmarks of a backroom deal. Nor did Angelo threaten to demand an inquiry by federal prosecutors if the local one refused to take action. 

The FOP’s failure to do so is even more puzzling given the presence of David Protess on the last day of the trial against Morgan. At the trial, Protess addressed Morgan’s supporters and encouraged them to fight the conviction as if it had the merits of a wrongful conviction.  

David Protess, former professor at Northwestern University’s Innocence Project, is an icon in the wrongful conviction movement. He was fired from the school in 2011 for lying about his wrongful conviction cases and for altering evidence. 

Despite the fact that prosecutors and the university caught him red-handed violating the law and lying, the FOP never publicly demanded that Protess be indicted in 2011, even though Protess and his supporters built their careers on destroying the lives of good cops.   

But it is Protess’ role in perhaps the greatest conspiracy in the modern history of the city that makes Angelo’s silence even more difficult to comprehend. In the period just before and during Angelo’s administration, the central murder case in the wrongful conviction mythology—the one posited by Protess—has been revealed as a criminal conspiracy. 

Protess’ fight to exonerate gang member Anthony Porter in 1999 has steadily fallen apart under renewed media and legal scrutiny. In October of last year, Cook County Prosecutors released Alstory Simon from prison, vacating his conviction. 

Simon was the patsy in a scheme to exonerate Porter. The Northwestern investigators did this by coercing Simon into confessing to the murders that Porter had committed. With this confession, Porter was released and Simon convicted.

For more than a decade, a small group of lawyers, journalists, retired and current cops fought to get Alstory Simon free and reveal the misconduct by Protess and Ciolino in the case. One motive in their actions was to show that the Porter exoneration by Northwestern University was not an anomaly. Rather, they believed, the kind of corruption in Porter case by Protess was endemic in the entire wrongful conviction movement. 

It is important to remember that this group fighting to have the Porter case reviewed did so without any aid from the FOP, apart from one token letter to the state’s attorney voicing support for a review of the Porter case.  

Here is what Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez said when she released Simon from prison:

“At the end of the day and in the best interests of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction.”

The FOP’s response to the most seminal wrongful conviction case imploding under a renewed investigation by the state’s attorney? 

Silence. 

No press conference, no column in the local papers. 

Simon’s release from prison would have been a perfect time to begin confronting the wrongful conviction zealots that have destroyed the criminal justice system and lives of so many cops. But Angelo refused, despite being confronted at several union meetings and promising in front of the members he would do something about it.  

Finally, many months after Simon’s release, the FOP sent a single letter to the prosecutor supporting a wider criminal probe into Northwestern.

Alvarez ignored it, and the union let the matter die. 

It is almost impossible to overestimate the opportunity the FOP has squandered. 

The evidence of misconduct in the Porter case is vast and expands into other cases, a virtual smorgasbord of testimony, documents, witness statements, and legal proceedings that the FOP could use to confront the media, prosecutors, attorneys, and city leaders about the wrongful conviction movement.

One example of misconduct is to be found in the prosecutor’s office. The Alstory Simon release from prison provides compelling evidence of wrongdoing by prosecutors in 1999 when they let Porter out and took Simon into a custody. 

Here is what happened.

The second-in-command of the prosecutor’s office at that time, Thomas Epach, has recently come forward and stated in a sworn affidavit that he told his then boss Dick Devine that he, Epach, did not think Porter should have been released nor Simon taken into custody.

It was an on-the-record statement by a former prosecutor indicating that the chief prosecutor may have knowingly let a guilty man go and took into custody an innocent one. In doing so, the prosecutors had also knowingly left investigating detectives open for false accusations of framing Porter, accusations that lasted for more than a decade. 

Here is a clear proof of what many cops have claimed for years: prosecutors are throwing cops under the bus in deference to the pressure by wrongful conviction attorneys in the media. 

In her press conference last year releasing Alstory Simon, Alvarez refused to criticize Devine’s administration, despite these statements by Epach. 

A sworn admission from a top prosecutor that prosecutors in 1999 may have knowingly released a guilty man, convicted an innocent one, initiating a vilification of police officers that lasts to this day might have been of interest to an FOP actually concerned about the welfare of its officers. 

The Porter exoneration made life hell for the detectives who originally arrested Porter. They endured almost daily news stories asserting that they had blown the case and framed Porter. The exoneration led to a host of others in which detectives were also vilified, ones in which multi-million dollar settlements were paid out to men who were clearly guilty. Right now many of these lawsuits are still pending. 

Nevertheless, the FOP—and Angelo in particular—remain silent, unwilling to do the necessary work of following the evidence from this one case into others. 

Among lawyers, journalists, retired and active cops who fought to have the truth about the Anthony Porter case revealed, there is a constant murmur: What does it take for the FOP to get involved?

There is another crucial reason why the FOP should be fighting on all fronts over the Porter exoneration. Even the most crooked, steadfast journalists in the city who sided with Protess about the Porter case admit that its current implosion holds the power to transform the city’s narrative about wrongful convictions.

Steve Mill from the Tribune:

Rewriting a key chapter in Illinois' death penalty history, Cook County prosecutors Thursday threw out the murder and manslaughter conviction of Alstory Simon… 

One reason the Porter case holds this power is that the evidence in the Porter case dovetails into many others, going all the way back to the seminal torture claims against Burge and his men. 

That is more than rewriting a single chapter of history. 

The FOP now has the opportunity to turn the entire movement to vilify the police—one that began in the 1980s and now reverberates throughout the country—on its head. 

And all of this brings us back to the decision by Quinn to commute the sentence of police shooter Howard Morgan. The emergence of Protess in the last phase of the trial adds to the deparvity of the Quinn commutation. 

Here is what President Angelo could have said in front of the news cameras: 

The FOP condemns the unconscionable decision by Governor Quinn to release a man convicted of trying to murder four police officers. 

The claims by activists and lawyers, including those of disgraced former Northwestern professor David Protess, that the Howard Morgan case is a candidate for a wrongful conviction claim are false, incendiary, and entirely corrupt. 

The FOP is puzzled that these accusations continue to surface in cases where the evidence is clear, and in light of the evidence that so many wrongful conviction cases have revealed themselves as possible criminal conspiracies. 

David Protess, for example, was fired from Northwestern after the school discovered he had been lying to them about his cases and that he had altered evidence subpoenaed by the state’s attorney. The FOP believes Protess should have been indicted for these actions, just as any police officer would be.  

Rather than freeing someone like Morgan from prison, Quinn should have been calling for a wider criminal probe into Northwestern. 

As it is, Protess’ actions in the Anthony Porter case, and others, cast disgrace on his legacy, Northwestern, and the wrongful conviction movement in general. The decision to release Morgan is another disgrace on the wrongful conviction movement.

The FOP calls on the prosecutor, the superintendent, the mayor and all the city’s aldermen to condemn this decision and call for a special investigation into Quinn’s actions. 

Even after the Howard Morgan debacle, the FOP has ignored other opportunities to represent the membership. 

Consider, for example, the criminal case against Commander Glenn Evans. 

Charged last year on nine felony counts for allegedly sticking a gun in a gang member’s mouth and threatening him, Evans’ conviction once seemed all but guaranteed. But as his trial approached, the case against him began to nosedive. 

The state’s attorney admitted they had come across potential wrongdoing at the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), formerly OPS, the agency that investigates allegations of misconduct against police officers. Two investigators at the agency have already been fired. 

Media reports have emerged stating that the agency is under investigation for possibly releasing crucial documents against Evans to the media, a release that could have violated Evans’ rights. 

What’s more, this evidence purported to indicate Evans’ guilt is appearing weaker and weaker with each passing month. 

Misconduct at IPRA? The media publishing documents it shouldn’t have? Investigators fired? 

Shouldn’t the FOP be all over this? Shouldn’t they be digging deeply into it? 

If true, the FOP should be asking, is this the only instance of misconduct at IPRA? 

It is important to remember that former FOP presidents also alleged corruption at IPRA, all the way back to the Burge cases. 

Angelo and the FOP have also failed to see the opportunity to confront other city entities over their failure to address corruption in the wrongful conviction movement. 

Police officers, for example, are generally “represented” by city attorneys. Often, though, these city attorneys settle cases, even when the cops are chomping at the bit to get to court and show a jury that the guy they fingered from the outset is, in fact, the killer, regardless of whatever his lawyers have concocted about police misconduct. 

In the wake of all this evidence of corruption in the wrongful conviction movement, why is the FOP not fighting the city attorneys in their decisions to settle these cases? Why isn’t the union confronting them about selling the cops out? 

And what about the police board, the organization comprised of civilians that recommends whether an accused officer should be fired? 

Shouldn’t this organization be confronted by the union with all the evidence that many of these wrongful conviction claims, like the Porter case, are pure nonsense? 

Shouldn’t the police board be confronted with the evidence of possible misconduct at IPRA that has emerged in the Evans case? Shouldn’t they be confronted for their failure to see the corruption among many wrongful conviction claims, going back decades? 

The wrongful conviction narrative now emerging in the city is one in which one institution after another has failed to live up to its basic obligations: prosecutors, attorneys, political leaders, judges. But of all these, the FOP, the last hope of many accused officers, now stands at the forefront. 

Gone are the days when the FOP president was out in front of the media, calling many of these cases for what they are. 

Perhaps it’s time for another FOP another float in a city parade.

On top would sit a collection of officers falsely accused by wrongful conviction law firms, and on all four sides a simple placard bearing only two words: 

Crooked City. 

 

For more information on Crooked City, check out the video below...


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