Chicago Tribune Letter To The Editor

A Letter To The Editor The Tribune Did Not Publish:

As the authors of two books, Crooked City and Justice Perverted: How The Innocence Project at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism Sent an Innocent Man to Prison, that paved the way for the release of Alstory Simon from prison in 2014, we would like to respond to the Tribune’s article April 29 article about Paul Ciolino, the private investigator working with former Northwestern University Professor David Protess in this grand miscarriage of justice. 

Ciolino’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, has filed a sweeping countersuit against us, as well as attorneys representing Alstory Simon, private investigators, and Cook County Prosecutor, Anita Alvarez. 

We fought for four years to have this case reviewed by Alvarez, who called for Simon’s release after a year-long review, including interviewing dozens of witnesses. After her investigation, Alvarez assailed the conduct of Northwestern, Protess, Ciolino, and attorney Jack Rimland, who represented Simon in this case. Alvarez declared that they violated Simon’s constitutional rights, and she called for Simon’s release from prison.  Shortly thereafter, Simon’s attorneys filed a $40 million lawsuit against Northwestern, Protess, Ciolino, and Rimland, putting the case back in a federal courtroom, where it belongs. The case belongs in a courtroom because the narrative that Ciolino, Rimland, and Protess, and Northwestern pushed rarely held up under the rules of evidence. 

As the Tribune reporter stated, it is a long, complicated story, but it is also chilling in the magnitude of misconduct by Ciolino and Protess. It is also a case that had broad influence over the criminal justice system, particularly for the Chicago Police, as Porter’s liberation from prison paved the way for the release of many other inmates making the same claims that they were framed by the police and prosecutors. 

In many ways, the Anthony Porter saga is the lynchpin of the wrongful conviction movement.

As we chronicle in our books, the wrongful conviction of Alstory Simon could not have taken place without the egregious bias of the local media. Even as late as last week, a Chicago columnist was handwringing over the case, refusing to acknowledge the evidence that Ciolino and Protess conspired to frame Simon. It’s ironic and revealing that a Chicago columnist would be so unwilling to observe the evidence of a conspiracy against Protess, Ciolino and Northwestern, given the fact that much of his career, as well as other journalists, has been dedicated to claiming conspiracy against police and prosecutors in numerous other cases on far, far less evidence. 

Even in the April 29 article, the Tribune glosses over salient facts in giving full voice to Ciolino’s tough-talking threats that he will shoot down everyone, from journalists, to lawyers, to private detectives and to the lead prosecutor who condemned his conduct in this case. 

Consider, for example, that Ciolino was working for Protess in the Porter case. This is what Northwestern had to say about Protess when they fired him in 2011: 

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.

This is exactly what the evidence shows Protess and Ciolino did in the Porter case. 

We’ve worked long and hard to get an innocent man, Alstory Simon, out of prison and look forward to his day in federal court, regardless of Paul Ciolino’s ludicrous countersuit that claims Anthony Porter was innocent of the murders. 

It’s time for the rules of evidence to guide the criminal justice system, not public relations stunts.  

Martin Preib

William Crawford

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