Jason Meisner, Tribune Still Burying Key News Stories?

Signs of a news blackout at the Chicago Tribune for the paper’s potential role in manufacturing a false wrongful conviction narrative are growing.

The paper, one of the most crucial proponents of the claim that many offenders convicted of vicious murders and rapes are innocent, is ignoring key rulings and court motions that undermine the thirty-year narrative the paper has foisted upon the public.

The court rulings center around a private investigator Paul Ciolino and former Northwestern Professor David Protess, who left the school amidst a scandal in which the university stated Protess had lied about his investigations. Ciolino and Protess worked together on several key cases.

After Protess left Northwestern, he opened up his own Innocence Project in Chicago. While there, he and several Northwestern students claimed a man, Stanley Wrice, convicted in 1983 of a horrific gang rape and burning of a victim, was innocent, the victim of police coercion.

Prosecutors declined to retry Wrice after a judge tossed the conviction, in part because the victim was deceased. But in Wrice’s attempt to secure a certificate of innocence, Cook County Judge Thomas Byrne refused to grant it, saying he believed Wrice was guilty.

Then, a few weeks ago, a federal judge in the case granted a motion that will allow attorneys for the detectives the right to argue a defense theory that there is a pattern of obtaining false affidavits by Protess and his students, a ruling that will likely allow defense attorneys to call into question many of Protess’ wrongful conviction investigations, potentially spanning decades, in an effort to establish their alleged pattern.  

From the judge’s ruling:

The point is, Defendants contend that Protess and students have a playbook for getting false affidavits, and that they used it to procure false affidavits from [witnesses] in order to argue Wrice’s innocence.

Here is a ruling that tosses a Molotov cocktail in the Tribune’s thirty-year mythology. Who invented this playbook? How many people use it? How many times has it been used to exonerate a killer or rapist?

The Tribune’s reaction?


Isn’t this the newspaper that publishes almost weekly an article claiming a “blue code of silence” within the police department?

Imagine if the courts made the same ruling allowing wrongful conviction attorneys to establish a pattern of misconduct against a detective. It would be a lead story in the paper for months. Tribune journalists would dig into every complaint against the officer, no matter how frivolous.

Nevertheless, the reporter who covers the federal courts for the Tribune, Jason Meisner, has wholly ignored it.

Small wonder, since the Tribune has been a cheerleader for David Protess for the last three decades.

But these are cases involving ghastly, vicious rapes and murders. Meisner and the Tribune have a deep moral obligation to keep the public apprised. Meisner and the Trib also have a deep obligation to the detectives and police officers whose names have been so badly smeared in these cases. Meisner’s non-reporting, therefore, begs a question that has come up again and again in the past year: Are many legacy media employees just activists disguised as reporters?

Well consider that the Tribune and Meisner ignored another key ruling.

Last week, a federal judge tossed a bizarre countersuit by Ciolino.

Ciolino is a defendant, along with Protess and Northwestern, in a massive $40 million lawsuit by a man, Alstory Simon, who claims he was framed by Protess and Ciolino as part of a plan by the two men to spring Anthony Porter from prison in 1999 and bring an end to the death penalty.

Ciolino filed a countersuit against eight defendants, including State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, claiming they all conspired to undermine Ciolino’s narrative about the infamous Anthony Porter exoneration in 1999. When Ciolino filed the countersuit, the Tribune was all over it, giving voice to Ciolino’s claims of a conspiracy and defamation.

One person who jumped on the story was Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, whose career is intimately tied to Protess and his wrongful conviction mythology.

But when the judge dismissed Ciolino’s countersuit just last week, not a word from Meisner, Zorn, or anyone at the Tribune. Even the Daily Northwestern, the paper by journalism students at the university, published a long article about it.

That’s not the end of it. There is one more motion in the lawsuit against Protess, Ciolino and Northwestern that points to a news blackout at the Tribune.

It is a motion to compel evidence from the three defendants.

This motion provides the first glimpse into just how far attorneys representing Alstory Simon against Northwestern, Protess, and Ciolino will go to build their claim of a pattern of misconduct. Spanning pages and pages, attorneys are asking for a massive number of documents, records, and statements going back decades and touching on many of the cases Protess and Ciolino worked on, not just the Anthony Porter case.  

Imagine if attorneys were building a case against a detective and requested such evidence in a high-profile case. Tribune journalists and editors would not only be frothing to pore over the documents, publishing article after article along the way, they would also begin digging through the evidence themselves.

Not Meisner and the Tribune. They apparently won’t touch these cases with a ten-foot pole.

It doesn’t matter in the end. The cases are in federal court, where it is far more difficult for the Tribune to recast murder cases into their mythology.

And there is one demand for possible evidence from Protess that just might send shivers down the back of Tribune journalists and editors:

All documents which reflect or refer to communications between [Protess] and any media outlet…

Communication between Protess and members of the media?

Now that make some interesting reading in the Crooked City.  

Martin Preib is a Chicago Police Officer and writer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, which played a critical role in the release of Alstory Simon from prison, is available on Amazon. His articles have appeared in Playboy, The Chicagoan, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and New City. He is currently working on his third book about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and the Hobley arson, titled Burn Patterns. He is also running for Second Vice President in the upcoming Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7 elections. 





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