Crooked City

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Complaint Demands State Sanctions Against Lawyer in Alstory Simon Case

Two men who played a central role in securing the release of an inmate after 15 years in prison have filed a complaint against that inmate’s attorney, demanding that his license to practice law be suspended.

Chicago Police officer and writer Martin Preib, along with journalist Bill Crawford, have filed a complaint with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), the state agency that oversees attorneys. In their complaint, Preib and Crawford claim attorney Jack Rimland, who represented Alstory Simon in a 1999 double homicide case, knowingly violated Simon’s rights. 

“We… assert herein that Jack P. Rimland, an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois since Nov. 29, 1966, played a central role in a sweeping criminal enterprise to ensure that his client, Alstory Simon, would be sentenced to 37 years in Illinois state prison for a 1982 double homicide that Rimland knew his client, Mr. Simon, did not commit,” Preib and Crawford wrote. 

The complaint by the two men comes in the wake of Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez’s recent decision to free Simon from prison after her Conviction Integrity Unit conducted a review of Simon’s conviction. 

In announcing Simon’s release, Alvarez assailed the conduct of Rimland, former Northwestern Professor David Protess and Private Investigator Paul Ciolino. 

Alvarez said her review “raised serious questions about the integrity of the original Protess reinvestigation as well as ethical questions about Simon’s legal representation” by Rimland. 

“The bottom line is the investigation conducted by Protess and private investigator Ciolino as well as Mr. Rimland’s subsequent legal representation of Mr. Simon were so flawed that it’s clear the constitutional rights of Mr. Simon were not scrupulously protected as our law requires.”

“At the end of the day,” Alvarez asserted, “and in the best interests of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction.” 

Alvarez’s review of the Simon conviction came in response to an article by Crawford, titled “Chimera,” in which the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist revealed the conspiracy against Simon by Rimland and members of Northwestern University’s Innocence Project.

Preib, also an award-winning writer, has written a book on this case, entitled “Crooked City.”  In it, Preib interviewed several key investigators in the original Porter murder case that bolstered Crawford’s arguments. 

Preib and Crawford fought a long battle to have Simon’s case reviewed by Alvarez and for Simon to be set free. 

A central theme in their argument was the so called 1999 confession obtained by Protess and his private investigator, Paul Ciolino, a confession that paved the way for Porter’s exoneration and Simon’s conviction.

Crawford and Preib argue that the confession, obtained by Private Investigator Paul Ciolino, was coerced through threats of violence and the death penalty. They also argue that Ciolino solicited it by promising Simon wealth through movie and book deals. 

For several years, Crawford was ridiculed in the local media when he claimed that Simon’s rights had been violated by Rimland, Protess and Ciolino. Porter’s exoneration had attained near mythic proportions among the local media, few of whom would look at the evidence Crawford presented in his article. 

But after a year-long investigation by the state’s attorney, Alvarez’s ruling breathes new life into Crawford and Preib’s claims. 

“I don’t know how the ARDC could allow Rimland to keep practicing law after these statements by Alvarez and after her decision to release Simon,” Preib said. 

Crawford and Preib’s complaint also questions the conduct of a prosecutor in the conviction of Simon. Based on evidence in the public record, Prosecutor Thomas Gainer also knowingly withheld key evidence at Simon’s sentencing hearings, they argue.

“In fact, not only did Gainer and Rimland withhold material facts, they fabricated other facts and mischaracterized material facts for the judge,” they state in their complaint.  

Alvarez has denied her investigation found any wrongdoing on the part of prosecutors from 1999. 

Crawford and Preib’s complaint disputes this claim by Alvarez and requests that ARDC review the evidence that both Rimland and Gainer accepted a confession when they both knew there was exculpating evidence. 

“For these reasons, we are asking for a complete review of Rimland’s professional conduct in this case, a review we are confident will lead to a stripping of his license to practice law in Illinois,” Crawford and Preib state in their complaint.