Crooked City

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The Strange Confession Obtained by Paul Ciolino...

Private Investigator Paul Ciolino played a crucial role in the Anthony Porter case. Probably the biggest "evidence" he collected was a confession from Alstory Simon, a confession that paved the way for Anthony Porter's release from prison.

It was a bizarre event. Somehow, the private investigator was able to convince a man he had never met before to confess to a double homicide early on a winter morning some 16 years after the murders.   

But now that Cook County State's Attorney has called for a review of the case, Ciolino has been in front of the media answering questions, like this interview on Fox television. 

Let's take a close look at Ciolino's claims in this Fox interview: 

Ciolino:  "There wasn't any pressure {in obtaining the confession}...It was like we were having coffee and he's re-stating something that happened many years ago..."

Really? This is quite a contrast from other accounts of the confession from Ciolino.

Journalist Bill Crawford cites another description of the same event.

"In a July 2002 Chicago Magazine article, Ciolino gave the following explanation of how he was able to extract the Simon confession. 'We just bull-rushed him, and mentally he couldn’t recover.' According to the magazine piece, Ciolino added that he, Ciolino, had 'danced to the edge in getting Simon to confess...'"

In another interview, Ciolino said this about his right to interview:

"I don't have any rules. The supreme court says I can, lie, cheat, do anything I can..."

Which is it, then? Did Simon calmly confess to a double homicide as casually as sitting down having coffee together or was he "bull rushed"?  

The image of a casual coffee get together appears contradictory in other ways, as well. How often do coffee conversations end up with one party demanding an attorney? If there was no pressure, why did Simon try to lawyer up? 

Ciolino: He {Simon] knows the game inside out. He knew it that day. 

Good Point. Which brings up a few important questions. Simon is street smart. He grew up in the projects. He knows his rights. Why then would he admit to a double murder to a guy he just met, a murder that was more than 16 years old and another offender [Anthony Porter} was already convicted of? Any person from the projects with a little street sense would know to keep their mouth shut. But Simon didn't. He confessed to the murder and put himself in danger of getting the death penalty. Ciolino is clearly quite persuasive when having coffee with people, especially people he just met.  

Ciolino: I've taken 100's of confessions. 

If Ciolino has taken so many confessions and is a private investigator who has worked with the likes of David Protess and students at the Innocence Project, then certainly he knows the basic roles of various people in a criminal investigation. He must know that the purpose of a defense attorney is to represent the interests of his client.  Everyone knows that, right? 

Then Ciolino must understand that getting an attorney for someone you are trying to get a confession of murder from is a violation of their civil rights. When Simon asked for an attorney that day, all questioning should stop. Ciolino should have left Simon's apartment and brought whatever he claimed was evidence to the police. The person doing the questioning cannot say, "Hey, I know this lawyer. He's a friend of mine. He'll represent you for free," then have the lawyer encourage Simon to confess. Clearly this a form of pressure. Ciolino knows that it is the right of an accused person to remain silent. Yet he sends for an attorney who allows Simon to admit to the killings, even though there are still six witnesses who say Porter is the killer. 

Who, by the way, informed Simon on his rights before he confessed? Who mirandized him? Certainly Ciolino knows after all these years investigating crimes that a suspect has to be mirandized. If the police fail to mirandize a suspect, all evidence gathered from him is in jeopardy of being tossed out of court.    

Ciolino: Alstory Simon is a career criminal and killer.  

Whoa. Alstory certainly had his share of arrests and even did time for them, but he also had an extensive work history where he held jobs for a long time. His relatives have all made statements that Alstory was a good man who tried to keep his step children out of gangs and encouraged them to get jobs and live honestly.  

A killer? Outside of his dubious conviction for the Porter murders, who else did Simon kill?  

Compare Simon to Porter. Clearly Porter was a career criminal. He was a gang enforcer. The community where he lived was terrified of him. Porter shot a man in the head over a barking dog, pulled a gun on two cops looking for him for this shooting, robbed a man at gunpoint, then murdered two people in Washington Park. He was a notorious stick up man, whose specialty was to rob senior citizens when their social security checks arrived. At the time he was arrested for the double homicide, Porter was a suspect in some nine armed robberies. The judge who convicted Porter for the homicides cited his exceedingly violent criminal history as one reason he gave Porter the death penalty. Clearly, human life holds little value to Porter. 

Yet Ciolino and Protess transformed Porter from the cold-blooded killer he is into a kind of a folk hero, the victim of police corruption, then they unleashed him back on the south side.  

The Simon "confession" should never have made its way into court.