Crooked City

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Election Politics Guiding Alvarez In Alstory Simon Case?

Is a contentious battle for governor guiding the Cook County State's Attorney in a crucial wrongful conviction case?

More and more it seems to be the case that Anita Alvarez is stalling in her decision on Alstory Simon, an inmate whose case is currently under review in Alvarez's Conviction Integrity Unit. Alvarez is reviewing evidence that Simon was the victim of a conspiracy by Northwestern Investigators headed by former professor David Protess, who, Simon and his lawyers maintain, coerced Simon into confessing. Simon's confession released Anthony Porter from prison for the 1982 slayings. Porter's release played a pivotal role in ending the death penalty in Illinois. 

But Alvarez has made statements recently that her investigation is completed and she would make a decision on Simon's fate within a few weeks. This announcement came almost a year after she began reviewing it. Now those few weeks have come and gone and Simon remains in prison.

Alvarez has refused to make a decision despite the overwhelming evidence of Simon's innocence, evidence that includes corruption in the prosecutor's office in 1999 before Alvarez was the state's attorney.

This evidence includes, as journalist Bill Crawford points out:

--That during the September 1999 Alstory Simon sentencing hearing before Judge Thomas Fitzgerald, Thomas Gainer, a former prosecutor, now an associate Cook County criminal court judge, knowingly withheld evidence from the sentencing judge--evidence that Gainer knew exculpated Alstory Simon of the murders and proved Porter’s guilt. 

--That during that hearing, Gainer told the sentencing judge that the State was in possession of a bona fide written Alstory Simon confession to the pool shootings when Gainer knew that that confession had been illegally extracted from the defendant by Paul Ciolino, a small time private eye and a cohort who, wearing guns and representing themselves as Chicago police, barged into Alstory Simon’s Milwaukee home and obtained the confession with threats of violence. 

--That Thomas Epach, chief of the criminal division in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office when Alstory Simon was sentenced, has signed a three-page sworn affidavit in which Epach asserts, in sum, that even though his boss, State’s Attorney Dick Devine, was aware of the evidence proving Alstory Simon’s innocence and Porter’s guilt, Devine allowed the sentencing hearing to go forward for “political” considerations.

--That Jack Rimland, Alstory Simon’s attorney, was in possession of the same materials as Gainer that proved Alstory Simon’s innocence and proved Porter’s guilt, yet, as an officer of the court, beholden to speak truth to the sentencing judge, Rimland purposely did not tell Judge Fitzgerald that he had been hired by Ciolino to represent Alstory Simon and that he shared offices with Ciolino. 

--That a special team in the Corporation Counsel’s office under then Corporation Counsel Mara Georges, had authored a three-page memo informing Georges that the team had reviewed the Simon/Porter case and had concluded that while evidence proved Porter’s guilt and Alstory Simon’s innocence, the sentencing of Alstory Simon was allowed to proceed for “political” reasons. 

--That Protess, a thirty-year, once heralded journalism professor was summarily fired for fabricating evidence, lying to his peers, lying to a criminal court judge, and lying to his attorney who ultimately walked away from Protess because of more Protess lies, and after the University had shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. 

--And much, much more.

What, then, is Alvarez waiting for? 

The answer might be the upcoming November governor's election. The Democratic Party is facing a possible humiliating defeat against Republican Bruce Rauner. Democrats have pulled out all their guns in the election. 

How would it look for Alvarez to release Simon before the election and have the whole sordid story of his conviction splashed across the media? Inevitable questions would need to be asked, all of which paint a nasty picture of the Democratic Machine in Chicago.

One issue that would arise would be the fact that current Governor Patrick Quinn, now fighting for his job against Bruce Rauner, would have to explain why he ended the death penalty in Illinois, a decision based in large part on the Porter case. Simon's release from prison could provide great ammo for the Rauner campaign. 

That might be one reason why Alvarez is stalling. 

Alvarez can at least count on the local media not to seriously investigate the case or question why her decision is taking so long. The Chicago Tribune has covered up the story, refusing to reveal crucial evidence in the case. The Trib won a Pulitzer, in part for its coverage of the Porter case. 

Will Alvarez wait until after the election to make a ruling on Simon?