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Filtering by Tag: Madison Hobley

False Light Theory Illuminate Media Wrongs in Evans Case?

False light is a legal theory that allows someone to file a lawsuit against a media outlet for publishing offensive and false facts.  

Closely related to defamation, the false light theory claims that information released about an individual is wrong if it is misleading, unreasonable, and malicious.

The legal theory holds the following elements: a publication about someone, one made with actual malice, and one that places the individual in a perspective that would be considered highly offensive by a reasonable person. 

More and more this false light legal theory seems to address the abuses Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans has endured by Chicago’s media machine.  

Evans was indicted last year for allegedly sticking a gun in the mouth of gang member Ricky Williams after a chase in 2013. 

A few days after Williams was arrested, Evans was called down to headquarters and ordered by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA)—the agency that investigates police misconduct—to submit his pistol for a DNA swab. A state police DNA report later indicated the swab showed Ricky Williams’ DNA was on Evans’ gun. 

A media frenzy followed, describing the report as indicative of Evans’ guilt. Part of that frenzy included reporters requesting Evans’ work history and publishing complaints made against him over the course of his career. 

But the criminal case against Evans has taken some heavy blows in the last few months, not the least of which is the emergence of possible exculpatory evidence. In June, the Cook County State’s Attorney announced that this evidence emerged from an inquiry by the city’s Inspector General (IG) into the IPRA, the agency that investigated Evans.  

Exactly what that exculpatory evidence is, isn’t clear. Judge Diane Cannon has imposed a protective order in the case. 

But a reporter for public radio station WBEZ, Chip Mitchell, has stated in his reports that one aspect of the investigation by the IG into IPRA is the release of the DNA report of Evans’ gun to the media. Mitchell and other media outlets have stated that this report was first released by Mitchell.

If IPRA released the report, it would be a significant violation of Evans’ due process and a serious blow in the case against him. It could be construed as an underhanded act to portray Evans in a negative light.

Did the reporter who allegedly first released the DNA report, Chip Mitchell, know that its release might be a violation of Evans’ due process? How did he get hold of it? 

More so, is the report even indicative of Evans’ guilt at all? 

Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask, has stated that the DNA could have gotten on the gun in various ways. Evans never denied, for example, that he was wrestling with Williams in the course of the arrest. So why then is the DNA report portrayed as such a bombshell piece of evidence against Evans? 

It may be just as feasible that the state DNA report actually bolsters Evans’ account of what took place. 

And what about the exculpatory evidence the prosecutor and IG have brought forth? Why didn’t the media discover it in the course of their investigation? If they were being reasonable in their reporting, wouldn’t they have discovered such evidence or learned that IPRA was itself the subject of an investigation? 

Rather than discover this evidence, media reps like Mitchell at WBEZ and the Steve Schmadeke at the Chicago Tribune obtained the record of accusations made against  Evans, records they obtained through Freedom of Information requests. 

The reporters dug deeply into the allegations against Evans, but, it appears, not so deeply into other aspects of the case, such as potential misconduct by IPRA. 

Then WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell took it a step further. He interviewed G. Flint Taylor from the People’s Law Office in an article in which Mitchell described the misconduct complaints against Evans. 

Seeking a comment from Taylor is somewhat surprising. 

The reason is that Taylor is the leading architect of the wrongful conviction movement in Chicago. His law firm has spent the last three decades vilifying Chicago Police Officers, claiming, among other things, that many are racist torturers. Taylor’s PLO is also infamous for its long client list and associations with native terrorist groups who have committed bombings and other violence throughout the country, many of them driven by an intensely anti-American, pro-Marxist ideology.  

But in the last few years, Taylor’s claims about police corruption have taken their own body blows. Some of the seminal wrongful convictions Taylor and other wrongful conviction activists have cited as evidence of police wrongdoing have imploded, much as the Evans case now seems to be. 

Chief among those is the Anthony Porter exoneration in 1999. Once the lynchpin wrongful conviction case in Illinois, the Porter exoneration is showing itself to be nothing more than a criminal conspiracy by wrongful conviction activists at Northwestern University, longtime allies of Taylor. The evidence of wrongdoing in the case was never difficult to find, but Taylor and his wrongful conviction cohorts ignored it for more than a decade. 

Another key murder case, this time a mass murder in which seven people died in an arson, is also revealing itself to be every bit as corrupt as the Porter case.  In this arson case, Madison Hobley was exonerated and released from prison. A key witness against Hobley was Evans, who maintains to this day—in defiance of the wrongful conviction mythology posited by Taylor—that Hobley was guilty of the arson. 

The Evans connection to the Hobley arson in light of the indictment on charges that would undermine his credibility in any criminal case is a connection Mitchell, or any other reporter, will not draw. 

Mitchell does not explain is just why he still considers Taylor a reliable source for commentary on Evans’ case. 

The evidence of wrongdoing among wrongful conviction lawyers and activists, including freeing a mass murderer and making him rich, pales in comparison to the accusations against Evans. 

But Mitchell, and the Chicago media in general, nevertheless insist on running to Taylor for an almost obligatory comment against the police. 

And Taylor delivered:

“He’s [Evans’] one of the worst [excessive-force] repeater cops in the history of the city of Chicago,” Taylor said. “He should be fired.”


One of the worst in the history of Chicago? 

A police officer who went to the upper ranks of the department and worked in the most violent, crime-ridden neighborhoods is one of the worst excessive force cops in the history of the department? A police commander beloved by many people in the community, who garnered the support the superintendent and the mayor? 

He should be fired? 

On what basis does Taylor make this claim? And on what journalistic criteria does Mitchell publish it? 

Clearly Judge Cannon did not see the misconduct complaints as holding much import. Clearly she didn’t see Evans’ work history in such an extreme perspective as Taylor did. In fact, Cannon ruled these misconduct complaints won’t be allowed into trial: 

But in terms of relevance and materiality, the court found there was nothing systematic, nothing alleged in the OPS [IPRA] records. There was no history of brutality. The vast majority were not sustained of the OPS [IPRA] records, unfounded. The defendant was actually exonerated. The petitions were withdrawn. And, again, a large portion, the defendant was not the arresting or primary officer. 

So what exactly is Flint Taylor talking about? 

It’s almost as if Flint Taylor is the go-to guy when the media wants to press a case against police officers, when they want to hang them out to dry, as the media did to the detectives in the Porter case, and then in the Hobley case. 

And then again, where is the coverage of Evans’ success? Where are the discussions of his awards, the breaking down of crime statistics before and after he came to a district? 

What about his medal of valor? 

In fact, isn’t fighting crime exactly what he was doing the night he chased Ricky Williams after observing Williams with a gun? Isn’t this what the police are supposed to be doing? 

If the criminal case against Evans falls apart, how can all this blatantly biased reporting not be construed as malicious, a key element in proving the “false light” legal theory?  

There is one more telling development in the case. 

If Evans were truly guilty, wouldn’t he dread a trial? After all, he stands to lose everything: his pension, his job, his reputation, even his freedom. If he were guilty, there would likely be signs of a plea deal, but there is no evidence that Evans ever did anything but fight for a trial, as if he is chomping at the bit to get the evidence into court.

“I cannot comment directly on the case because of the protective order, but I am eager to go to trial and confident the evidence will absolutely show I am innocent,” Evans told Crooked City. 

These are hardly the statements and actions of a guilty man. 

It’s more like the conduct of a man guided by a singular vision, a vision that takes shape in the false light of the Crooked City. 

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Martin Preib is an awarding-winning writer and Chicago Police Officer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, chronicles his investigation into Chicago's wrongful conviction movement. Told in the gripping tension of a crime novel, Crooked City paints a dire picture of the movement to release convicted killers from prison. 

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The Angel of Death Row and the Court Jester



By William B. Crawford

Sometime in the year 2,000, a man and a woman paid a surprise visit to the southeast side Chicago home of Andre Council, a visit that can only be described as bizarre and brazen. Council had testified as the Cook County State’s Attorney’s star witness years before, in the 1990 arson/murder trial of Madison Hobley and now the two visitors wanted to talk to Council real bad about his 1990 testimony. 

It was principally on the strength of Council’s testimony that a jury in the Cook County criminal courtroom of Judge Christy Berkos found Hobley guilty of setting fire to an apartment building in the 1100 block of East 82nd Street on January 6, 1987 that caused the death of seven of the buildings occupants, including Hobley’s wife, Anita, 21, and his fifteen-month old son, Philip. Following a post-conviction hearing, Berkos sentenced Hobley to death. 

The woman half of the team that wanted to talk to Council during the 2000 visit to his home was Andrea D. Lyon, a graduate of Rutgers University who went on to obtain a law degree from Antioch School of Law. At the time of the Council visit, she was the director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at Chicago’s DePaul University College of Law in Chicago.

Fourteen years after her highly unusual 2000 chat with Council, she would be appointed Dean of Valparaiso Law School, becoming the first woman to head the century-plus old Hoosier law school. Upon landing at her new “Valpo Law” post in 2014, Lyon said, “Valparaiso Law is a community dedicated to excellence in legal education as well as social justice. In short, it is a special place and I am thrilled to be part of it.”

But Lyon is far more than a fighter for social justice. She also is an Angel. An Angel of a lawyer, that is. But don’t take our word for that characterization. The claim to Angel-ship comes from Lyon herself, in a 2014 book she authored bearing the title, “Angel of Death Row: MY LIFE AS A DEATH PENALTY DEFENSE ATTORNEY,” originally published by Kaplan Publishing, a division of Kaplan Inc. 

Amazon’s web site, where the “Angel of Death Row” is available, introduces the potential reader with the following foreword on the author and her tome’s narrative: 

“Nineteen times, death penalty defense lawyer Andrea D. Lyon has represented a client found guilty of capital murder. Nineteen times, she has argued for that individual’s life to be spared. Nineteen times, she has succeeded. Dubbed the ‘Angel of Death Row’ by the Chicago Tribune, Lyon was the first woman to serve as lead attorney in a death penalty case. Throughout her career, she has defended those accused of heinous acts and argued that, no matter their guilt or innocence (emphasis ours), they deserved a chance at redemption.”

At Lyon’s side during the 2000 visit to Council’s house was Paul Ciolino, in many ways a polar opposite of his female colleague. A 1974 graduate of Reavis High School in Burbank, Illinois, Ciolino attended nearly a dozen junior colleges before finally obtaining an associate degree from Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. Ciolino, who became a licensed Illinois private detective, also was saddled with a checkered past, which included his once having threatened to put a bullet in the head of a south suburban man who had been hassling one of Ciolino’s clients. In an earlier incident, he was fined $2,000 by state regulators for having acted as a private eye without an Illinois license and barred from working as a private eye for a year. 

At the time of the visit to Council’s house, Ciolino was well known to Chicago’s newspaper and internet readerships. After all, it was Ciolino, who, acting on an illegal charade crafted and supervised by David Protess, a now disgraced former professor at Northwestern University’s Medill school of Journalism, extracted an illegal and sensational 1999 confession from Alstory Simon in which Simon admitted fatally shooting a young couple in the pool area of Chicago’s Washington Park in 1982.

As a consequence of the illegal confession, Simon was sentenced to 37 years in prison and the real killer, Anthony Porter, who had been sentenced to death for the 1982 double homicide, was summarily freed by State’s Attorney Dick Devine after spending 17 years on death row and ultimately pardoned by then Gov. George Ryan. 

The overriding purpose of Lyon’s and Ciolino’s visit to Andre Council’s home? Real simple. To get Andre Council to alter the testimony he had given to a criminal court jury that led to Hobley’s conviction and sentence of death in 1994.

Their visit came in anticipation of a 2003 civil federal lawsuit Hobley would file against the City of Chicago and seven police officers: Commander Jon Burge, Detectives Robert Dwyer, James Lotito, Virgil Mikus, Daniel McWeeny, John Paladino and Sgt. Patrick Garrity. The suit was filed by Kurt H. Feuer of Leovy & Leovy after Gov. George Ryan, facing mounting legal troubles of his own, pardoned Hobley on Jan. 9, 2003, at the recommendation of the Illinois Prison Review Board based on new evidence brought to the board’s attention by Feuer and Lyon. 

Specifically, Ciolino and Lyon wanted Council, who would be called as a key witness in the federal civil suit, to recant his trial testimony, which was so damming of Hobley, and change it so it would accord with their theory of the case--namely that Hobley was innocent--and thus pave the way for a handsome payout from the defendants to Hobley and Hobley’s legal team. 

 In anticipation of that federal suit, Andre Council was deposed in part on October 22, 2004 by James Sotos, an attorney who was representing the named defendants, that is John Burge et al. While the deposition is hundreds of pages, for the purposes set forth here, the focus is on Andre Council’s account of the Lyon/Ciolino visit to his home in 2000. 

Council begins by telling Sotos that at some point in the year 2000, two persons show up at his house on East 147th Street, whom he identifies as Andrea Lyon, a woman with “black long hair….medium build, kind of heavyset,” and Paul Ciolino, whom Council describes as “a white guy....not heavyset, maybe medium.”

After Council inited his unanticipated guests into his house, Sotos asks the witness to describe the initial exchange between him and Ciolino and Lyon. 

“Well, both of them was talking to me. I don’t remember little details. You know, they were telling me that, you know, he didn’t do it.”

Sotos:    He meaning who?

Council:  Madison Hobley. You know, that’s the way---they say Madison Hobley, he wasn’t the one who set the fire. The lady was telling me, you know, that I need to concentrate on looking at him as not being guilty, you know….he wasn’t guilty. So they was  telling me, you know, that this is going to come up again, you know, and that I was going to have to go----that they was appealing this case.”

Council’s deposition testimony then takes a turn into an area where it appears that his guests are attempting to offer him something of value in return for his altered testimony, a tactic used time and again by Ciolino in the Alstory Simon/Anthony Porter saga.

 Council: And they were both telling me that, you know, my…it was a mantle piece, something like this. My daughter’s picture was sitting up there right in front. They was asking me did I have kids.

Sotos: Asked if you had kids?

Council: Right….And so they was asking me what grade, what grade they were in, how old was my kids and was they going to college. I said, yeah my daughter is older and they was talking about what she going to college for. I told them I didn’t know what she was going to college for. I told them I didn’t know what she was she going to do. And they asked me, you know, how would I like to not work anymore. They said that they have ways they could do it. You know, she said she deal with colleges. 

Council again: And he was telling me the same thing, basically, that they would send my daughter to college and I wouldn’t have to pay for it.

Sotos: What do you mean, if you changed our testimony?

Council: Exactly. They told me first of all, he’s not guilty I’m like, first of all, I’m saying this to myself, they didn’t know Madison Hobley before this case comes up. You know I could see if they live right next to him or they knew him, but they didn’t know anything about him at all. 

Sotos then asks Council whether his guests told him what they wanted him to say.

“They wanted me to say that I didn’t….that I wasn’t sure. She was writing down, which I never said this before, but I’m going to say it now. She was writing on a sheet of paper the things that I should say.

Sotos: Andrea Lyon was?

Council: Right. 

Council concludes this portion of his deposition with the following:

“And then they was both telling me they could just help me….Just to go in there and tell the people, hey, you’re not sure. You know, after thinking about it, she was drinking a pop, and she was saying, you know, you’re not really sure…..And, so, she told me I wouldn’t have to work no more. I say, you know, you all got to go.”

On the way out the door, Council said his departing guests said, “If I wanted to change my mind, here’s the card and contact us and they’ll be back out to talk to me again.”

With that, the Angel of Death Row--or is it the Devil of Death Row---and Ciolino, the sometime gun-slinging private eye with the checkered past hit the road.

For the record, the Hobley case never went to trial, much to the unhappiness of the police defendants who urged that the case proceed. Under an unusual settlement, the City agreed to pay Hobley and his attorneys in excess of $7 million for his “wrongful conviction.” 

William B. Crawford is a former writer, reporter and legal affairs columnist who won many major awards, including a Pulitzer, during a twenty-four-year career at the Chicago Tribune. After leaving the paper in the mid-'90s, he worked as a vice president in charge of communications for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange before co-founding a niche public relations/media strategy firm on Michigan Avenue. His latest book(below) is a non-fictional account of the how the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University put an innocent men behind bars for fifteen years. Crawford's  work was instrumental in recently freeing this innocent man, Alstory Simon, from prison. 


"It's only fitting that the man who was the driving force behind Alstory Simon's release wrote the definitive record of the case. Highly recommended!"

"This is a tale of a miscarriage of justice so grotesque that it may make you question every well-intentioned "justice" or "innocence" project in the country. But then it reminds you that this particular perversion of justice was largely the result of one seemingly amoral man's efforts. Best of all, it is an absolutely compelling read."

"Thank you Bill Crawford. It's regrettable the media outlets that were complicit in peddling all the BS the Innocence Project fed them refuse to acknowledge their lack of due diligence and responsibility in setting these murderers free, and the danger and financial expense this has put upon the taxpayers of Chicago."

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