Crooked City

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Crooked Journalists Frantic over False Narratives...

In the Chicago Police Department, there is a strict policy against lying under oath or on reports, called “a rule 14 violation.”

It prohibits a cop from “making a false report, written or oral.” 

If a cop is caught doing so, he or she is subject to termination. 

A key reason for firing a cop for a rule 14 violation is the argument that when a cop has been caught lying once, nothing he or she says on the stand can ever be believed again.

All a defense attorney has to do is produce the evidence of this lying and the officer is discredited. 

Among Chicago journalists, no such penalty exists. There is no investigative agency that monitors their conduct, and, when confronted with evidence that they are willfully not telling the truth, they do not have to explain. There is no penalty. 

Journalists in Chicago, therefore, have an unbridled freedom to twist the facts into the service of their own private designs.  

This freedom to deceive by the media is at the core of the wrongful conviction movement. The Chicago Reader’s record of deception on several key wrongful conviction cases goes back decades, but perhaps the most glaring example was published just last week, in an article by Reader veteran writer Mick Dumke, entitled The Trials of Anita Alvarez, an article about the upcoming election for Cook County State’s Attorney. Dumke and the Reader are clearly lobbying heavily for Alvarez to be voted out of office and for their preferred candidate, Kimberly Foxx, to take over.  

Dumke recently switched from the Reader to the Sun Times, but for some reason he wrote this latest article for the Reader. Several reporters from the Better Government Association also worked on the article with him, almost as if Dumke’s article is the concerted effort of many journalists throughout the city. 

In his latest article, Dumke trots out the tired leftist cliches about racism in the criminal justice system and disproportionate rates of incarcerations of blacks.

But taking a close look at Dumke’s article reveals something else is going on. There is a desperation behind the desire for Dumke and the Reader to get Alvarez out of office, apart from the fact that her policies offend the paper’s political philosophy. 

Dumke and the Chicago Reader’s candidate, Kimberly Foxx, is backed by Cook County Board member Toni Preckwinkle.

Taking a close look at Dumke’s article reveals the real reason why so many journalists want Alvarez out of office and Foxx in.  

Chicago journalists are facing a crisis over their coverage of the wrongful conviction movement. Their reports going back decades, in which they argued that murderers supposedly innocent were being released from prison, are slowly falling apart under renewed scrutiny.

The crisis is so deep that Chicago media outlets are engaged in a coverup over their coverage of these stories, refusing to publish evidence of key developments that undermine their reporting and actively vilifying anyone who comes forward to point out their record of getting the stories completely wrong.

Dumke’s shocking article about Alvarez bears all the hallmarks of this coverup, not the least of which is Dumke’s willingness to publish out-and-out falsehoods on a grand scale. 

Here is why. 

In the past few years, Alvarez has grudgingly revealed the corruption at the heart of the wrongful conviction movement. It’s a window into the movement that reveals the greatest corruption in these cases was not the conduct of Chicago Police detectives, as Dumke and his colleagues have alleged for decades. Rather, the real corruption lies with the wrongful conviction zealots and the Chicago media, the two working hand in hand. 

Dumke and the Reader want a prosecutor who will maintain their narrative about the wrongful conviction cases. That candidate would be Preckwinkle’s Kimberly Foxx, for Preckwinkle has unquestioningly supported the anti-police narrative of the wrongful conviction movement. 

To see Dumke’s service in the media coverup of the wrongful conviction scandal, one only has to take a close look at his article about Alvarez.  

Evidence mounted that, in its push to put away criminals during the rising violence of the 80s and 90s, some county prosecutors took politically expedient shortcuts. After a number of flawed murder convictions came to light, then-governor George Ryan put a halt to executions in Illinois. Meanwhile, Daley's lieutenant and successor, Richard Devine, was battered with allegations that his office had failed to investigate evidence of police torture under former commander Jon Burge…

This is perhaps one of the most incredible paragraphs ever written by a Chicago journalist, featuring a jaw-dropping sentence that flies in the face of more than ten years of evidence indicating just the opposite. 

After a number of flawed murder convictions came to light, then-governor George Ryan put a halt to executions in Illinois. 

Every journalist in Chicago knows that this claim no longer holds water. Each week, more evidence arises that these convictions were not flawed at all and that these convicted killers should never have been let out of prison. Dumke and his fellow writers at the Reader have been confronted with this evidence for years. They have chosen to ignore it. 

The most compelling evidence lies in the Anthony Porter exoneration in 1999, the most influential wrongful conviction case in the state’s history and the core case in the wrongful conviction mythology.

Porter was exonerated in 1999 through the efforts of former Northwestern Professor David Protess and his private investigator Paul Ciolino. The men, along with students at Northwestern, came forward with what were later proven fraudulent claims about Porter being innocent of a 1982 double murder. Dumke and his rag, the Chicago Reader, published these claims without checking the facts. In an effort to free Porter, evidence indicates wrongful conviction activists went so far as to bribe witnesses and coerce an innocent man, Alstory Simon, into confessing to the crime. 

Alvarez was the state’s attorney who finally admitted that Northwestern’s “investigation” in the Porter exoneration was crooked. Just last year Alvarez released Alstory Simon from prison, admitting more than a decade after he was imprisoned that Simon’s constitutional rights had been violated by Protess and Ciolino when they fingered Simon—who was not identified by one single witness at the scene of the crime—and that they had coerced him into confessing. 

Earlier this year, a judge also reviewed the case and declared that Simon was innocent of the murders. 

So what is Dumke talking aboutwhen he cites “flawed murder convictions” as if it is a statement of fact? Simon’s release from prison is proof positive that this most central exoneration in the wrongful conviction mythology was anything but a “flawed murder conviction.” 

The clear intent of Dumke’s article is revealed as much in what he writes as what he avoids. Despite the fact that the Porter exoneration is the crucial exoneration in the wrongful conviction mythology and it has now been rejected yet again under the weight of new investigations, Dumke does not give the case one word in his article. He completely ignores it. This would be akin to writing a defense of the Richard Nixon administration by simply ignoring the Watergate burglaries. 

It gets worse. 

Dumke mentions Governor Ryan’s decision to end the death penalty in the face of these “flawed murder convictions.”

Whoa. Wait a minute. 

That’s not exactly accurate. That’s a statement that might have a tough time in a Rule 14 hearing. 

Ryan acknowledged that the motive for this moratorium on the death penalty was rooted in the Porter exoneration, an exoneration now thoroughly discredited by Alvarez, a judge, a grand jury, a civil trial, a criminal trial, witnesses old and new, detectives, private investigators, and attorneys.  

Dumke is asserting an argument about “flawed murder convictions” when Ryan himself admitted he was basing his decision on an exoneration that has now been revealed as little more than a criminal conspiracy. The Porter exoneration reveals itself to be a legitimate conviction more and more each day. 

This is the kind of duplicity, deception, and downright fraud all too common in Chicago journalism. 

Perhaps the reader would be interested to know that the exoneration, upon which Ryan ended the death penalty, has been thoroughly discredited. Perhaps Dumke would do at least this slight service to the truth in his article, just one sentence. 

As it is, Dumke’s claim about“flawed murder convictions” is a measure of just how far Chicago journalists will go to maintain their mythology about these cases, no matter how powerful the evidence to the contrary. They will do so even if it means fighting to get people elected to crucial positions in the criminal justice system as a means of preserving this false narrative. 

That’s particularly bad news for Chicago police officers, already facing the daily threats of working in one of the most violent, gang-infested cities in the country. Dumke’s article is a sign that the media will never give them a fair shake, will never be reasonable in their coverage.  

I got accused of certain things I didn’t do,” says Charles Salvatore, a lead detective in the Porter case. “I got accused of being this ringleader in a great conspiracy to frame Anthony Porter. I got accused of not having probable cause. I got accused of intimidating witnesses and I got accused of physical abuse, and I didn’t do any of this. And I have to ask. If they were making this up in my case, in how many others were they doing it?” 

Perhaps Dumke should have sat down with Salvatore for a little while before Dumke published his fantasy claim about “flawed murder convictions” from Salvatore’s era on the job. Certainly Salvatore could enlighten him about such a claim. But that’s not likely. Since Salvatore successfully defended his investigation of Porter and proved in both a criminal and civil trial that Porter was guilty, not one journalist has ever sat down and asked him about the Porter case, including Dumke.  

That Dumke’s article and his advocacy in favor of Foxx for prosecutor is aimed at covering up corruption by the media in the wrongful conviction movement is also revealed in his refusal to address the most obvious questions arising from Ryan’s stated reasons for ending the death penalty. 

Wouldn’t a legitimate journalist, for example, call Ryan up and ask him how he and his staff didn’t see all the evidence that Porter was guilty and Simon innocent in the face of the Porter exoneration imploding this year? Rather than writing articles insisting that convictions were flawed, wouldn’t a legitimate journalist ask Ryan why he let Porter out in the face of all the un-refuted evidence of Porter’s guilt that was on the record at the very time Ryan pardoned Porter, evidence that compelled Alvarez to release Simon and a judge to declare Simon innocent? 

Once again, it gets worse. 

In his public relations piece posing as journalism, Dumke does slightly mention some wrongdoing by Protess in his article, but in a manner and substance that only adds to what seems to be clearly calculated deceit. 

Protess is now named by Alstory Simon’s attorneys in a $40-million lawsuit. In the lawsuit, Simon’s attorneys cite a pattern of potentially criminal conduct by Protess in his wrongful conviction crusade throughout several cases spanning many years.

Dumke, who ignored in his article Protess’ role as the architect of the Porter conspiracy, also wholly ignores this evidence of other misconduct, and all the while prattles on about “flawed murder cases” by police and prosecutors and suggests Alvarez has been too “skeptical” of these wrongful conviction cases. 

Instead, Dumke refers to one small aspect of another scandal Protess was involved in, the case that led to Protess’ exit from Northwestern, the McKinney case. 

McKinney was another convicted killer Protess was trying to spring from prison. Dumke’s writing on this subject is nothing less than chilling. 

In the McKinney case, the misconduct by Protess was discovered after Anita Alvarez and her staff smelled a rat. Alvarez subpoened a wide array of evidence in this case, including the Northwestern records and emails of students working on the case with Protess. 

Journalists were furious at Alvarez for demanding these records, saying it was a violation of their privacy and their rights as reporters. Dumke taps into this outrage in his article.   

In a 2012 interview, Alvarez said, "We tore those cases apart to see if there was any truth to them. I think it was unfortunate that it was portrayed as me going after the students." 

Well, there are a few telling details omitted by Dumke about this subpoena that cast even more suspicion on the substance and intent of his article.   

Alvarez smelled a rat in Protess’ claims about the case because her investigation unearthed statements from witnesses that contradicted statements Northwestern was claiming these witnesses made. It was yet another sign that wrongful conviction activists may be manufacturing false narratives. When Alvarez subpoened the records, it was the first time in decades that a prosecutor stood up to Protess, Northwestern, and the wrongful conviction movement.

Sure enough, Alvarez hit pay dirt. 

The lawyer for Northwestern—not Alvarez—discovered that Protess was committing some potentially serious misconduct in his investigation. The lawyer discovered that not only was Protess lying about the case, but that Protess had also altered evidence that he had submitted to the school in response to Alvarez’s subpoena. In other words, Alvarez’s subpoena, which Dumke implies is overaggressive, unearthed shocking evidence of corruption against Protess. 

Rather than criticizing Alvarez for being too aggressive, too skeptical of wrongful conviction claims, shouldn’t Dumke and the Reader be patting Alvarez on the back for potentially preventing yet another killer returned to the streets, like Anthony Porter? 

Don’t bet on it. In the sick, twisted world of wrongful conviction journalists, undermining a wrongful conviction case is, in and of itself, a sin by a prosecutor, even when the prosecutor uncovers corruption and imposes justice. 

Here is what Dumke is truly arguing: How dare Alvarez question Northwestern, Protess, and the Reader…How dare a prosecutor question these self-appointed guardians of truth? 

After the school’s lawyer rushed to a hearing and told the judge that he was unwittingly given false evidence by Protess, Northwestern was compelled to conduct an internal investigation of Protess. What the school found was rumored to be chilling and undeniable: There was a shocking level of dishonesty at the very heart of wrongful conviction claims, a dishonesty Dumke and his self-aggrandizing colleagues never once uncovered. 

Doubt it? 

Consider this statement the school released, not Alvarez, not the cops, but Northwestern itself, when they fired Protess.   

In sum, Protess knowingly misrepresented the facts and his actions to the University, its attorneys and the dean of Medill on many documented occasions. He also misrepresented facts about these matters to students, alumni, the media and the public. He caused the University to take on what turned out to be an unsupportable case and unwittingly misrepresent the situation both to the Court and to the State.

Despite this bombshell statement and turn of events that describes conduct that could have clearly resulted in criminal charges, Dumke gives voice in his article to none of this in his recounting of Protess and Northwestern. Rather, he writes thatProtess's methods were eventually discredited, that Protess left the school in the wake of the ensuing controversy

Not exactly, Mick. 

Clearly Dumke is obfuscating the real significance of Protess’ conduct in the McKinney case and what it means in the context of the larger wrongful conviction narrative. 

Here is what actually happened: Caught red-handed manufacturing and hiding evidence once again, the school canned Protess and admitted he was a liar.

Northwestern’s bombshell admission about Protess and their firing of him was yet another indication that what Chicago detectives had been saying for years was true: Dumke’s so-called “flawed murder convictions” weren’t flawed at all. 

It’s important to pause and consider what is at stake. These were cases of vicious murders with grieving families and cops whose lives were ruined by the claims of Protess and his media supporters. This is the criminal justice system being sacrificed by private and potentially malevolent factions. 

Dumke’s article is a sordid look into the imagination of a wrongful conviction journalist in Chicago, a measure of the lengths to which they will go to preserve their wrongful conviction mythology. 

In the wake of all this evidence, Dumke’s suspicious motives are revealed, once again, just as much by the questions he doesn’t address as those he does. 

The reader might ask why, despite the wrongdoing that Northwestern itself admitted, neither Dumke nor any of his colleagues at the Reader ever asked the next logical question following Protess’ firing from Northwestern: In how many other cases was he employing his “discredited methods.” How many other cases is there evidence of lying, altering evidence, and bribing witnesses by Protess? Isn’t this exactly what the detectives have been begging the Chicago journalists to do for more than thirty years, but Dumke and his band of brothers steadfastly refused? 

Salvatore’s statement seems like a plea from another world. 

“I got accused of being this ringleader in a great conspiracy to frame Anthony Porter. I got accused of not having probable cause. I got accused of intimidating witnesses and I got accused of physical abuse, and I didn’t do any of this. And I have to ask. If they were making this up in my case, in how many others were they doing it?” 

Something else is missing in Dumke’s article. Why hasn’t one journalist in Chicago, why hasn’t Dumke or anyone at the Reader, gotten hold of the internal investigation by Northwestern into Protess’ conduct? The report is rumored to contain other bombshell evidence about Protess misconduct. Wouldn’t any real journalist be drooling to get at such a report? 

Imagine if such a report existed about a cop. You couldn’t shake Dumke and his wolf pack of journalists off the trail. 

The likely answer as to why they won’t track down this report is rather simple. The list of misconduct at Northwestern is also the list of misconduct by journalists, who went along, like so many lap dogs, with whatever Protess and other wrongful conviction law firms claimed.

That’s it, right? That’s the end of the story? 

No, it isn’t. 

Amazingly, it gets even worse. 

Remember Governor Ryan? Remember how Dumke had the gall to say that Ryan was reacting to “flawed murder convictions” when he ended the death penalty?Remember how Dumke ignored the evidence that these convictions were not flawed at all?  

Well, maintaining this false party line about these cases also excuses Dumke and his cohorts from facing the most chilling exoneration of them all, that of Madison Hobley, and the role of Chicago journalists in it.  

Hobley was pardoned along with four other men in the wake of the Porter exoneration. Ryan harkened back to the Porter case when he let all four men go. 

That’s right. In letting four more killers out of prison, Ryan justified the decision in part by referring to the Porter exoneration, an exoneration that has now been completely undermined. 

You wouldn’t know about any of this from reading Dumke’s article, but it’s all true, on the public record. 

Ryan let these men out despite the fact that they had never been able to convince a jury or judge that they were innocent and despite the fact that they had never unearthed any new evidence pointing to their innocence, and he justified much of it based on the Porter case. 

Madison Hobley had been convicted for an arson that killed seven people in 1987. Out of deference to the living family members of victims in the arson, Crooked City will not publish the morgue photos of the burned victims, including the two children who perished when Hobley poured a pool of gasoline outside his apartment door, then down a stairwell. Hobley did so knowing his wife and child were sleeping inside his apartment. Here, though, are pictures of the building after the fire. 

Far be it for Dumke to take a second look at this arson, this so-called “suspicious murder conviction” and Ryan’s shocking decision to release Hobley for the crime, to take a second look at it in light of all the evidence of corruption in the wrongful conviction claims from this era. 

The reason the Chicago media won’t take this second look do it is twofold. 

The Hobley exoneration could not have taken place without the complicity of Dumke’s Chicago Reader. This complicity took the form of journalists ignoring central evidence of Hobley’s guilt in their coverage of the story, including the fact that Hobley threatened an arson against his wife and child several weeks before he set the fire that killed both of them. That’s right. The Reader ignored this threat, which was documented in a case report.    

The second reason is that Hobley’s arson paved the way for the sole criminal conviction against Dumke’s poster child for police abuse, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. The Burge conviction is the foundation upon which Dumke and his cohorts have constructed their mythology about the Chicago Police and wrongful convictions for the last three decades. To face the truth about the Porter exoneration, then Hobley’s, would be a devastating revelation of media corruption spanning three decades. 

And that just can’t happen.

It can’t.

Alvarez is the first prosecutor in more than a decade who actually challenged a wrongful conviction case. Alvarez did so grudgingly in the Porter case, only after she was confronted with a body of evidence she could not escape. 

In doing so, Alvarez opened a window into the dark soul of the wrongful conviction movement and the journalists who have supported them. 

Dumke’s article suggests that’s exactly why the Reader wants Alvarez out. 

And they might pull it off. Alvarez is extremely weak.

And on top of that, there is no Rule 14 violation for journalists in Chicago. They can say whatever they want in the Crooked City. 

Martin Preib is a Chicago Cop and writer. His second book, Crooked City, is available on Amazon. He is currently working on his third book, about Jon Burge and the Madison Hobley arson, called Burn Patterns.