Martin Preib

Award-winning Writer





Police Commander Found Not Guilty In High Profile Case

A Chicago Police Commander was acquitted today of criminal charges alleging he put his gun in the mouth of a suspect and threatened his life. 

In a case that cast a dark shadow on the agency that investigates police misconduct, the prosecutors’ office, and the local media, Commander Glenn Evans said after the verdict that he believes the charges against him were retaliatory, based on his involvement in a high-profile wrongful conviction case from 1987.

Here is Evans’ exclusive statement to Crooked City: 

I believe the charges brought against me are part of a pattern of retaliation, beginning with my involvement in the 1987 arson case of Madison Hobley.  I was a witness in that case, identifying Hobley as threatening to burn down the dwelling where his wife and child were living weeks before Hobley actually did so, killing seven people. Because I was active in attempting to block any financial award sought by Hobley’s attorneys, who were active in the wrongful conviction movement, I believe I have been held in the crosshairs of this movement and its sympathizers ever since. These actions against me, including the charges brought against me in this case, are, I believe, retaliatory and harassing in nature.

Evans’ conviction once seemed a slam dunk, as the agency that oversees police corruption, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), obtained a DNA report indicating the presence of DNA on Evans’ gun by the complainant, gang member Rickey Williams.

Williams alleged Evans stuck a gun in his mouth in a dark, abandoned building after a foot chase. Williams, who said he never had a gun, only a cell phone, said Evans demanded to know where Williams was hiding the pistol. Evans had called out the chase on his radio, saying he saw Williams carrying a pistol in the area where a shooting had taken place the previous day. 

Despite the DNA evidence, Evans demanded that the case go to trial. Along the way, it slowly and steadily fell apart, moving Evans away from the hot seat and putting IPRA investigators, prosecutors, and media in it instead. 

Here are some crucial developments in the case:

—Right before the trial was supposed to begin, prosecutors came forward with Brady evidence—evidence that is potentially exculpatory for Evans. The evidence arose from an investigation by the city’s Inspector General into IPRA. The trial was delayed for months after the judge reviewed “thousands” of documents uncovered by the IG and gave them to Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask. 

—It was revealed in the trial that Williams initially identified a male hispanic as the offender. Evans is African American. 

—Williams failed to identify Evans in two photo lineups. 

—Williams made conflicting statements and changed his statement under highly suspicious circumstances. 

—Defense attorney Laura Morask got DNA experts to admit in the trial that the DNA sample was not necessarily saliva, but could have been on Evans’ gun as a result of casual contact. 

—Morask introduced evidence that IPRA investigator Martrice Campbell fudged reports in an effort to incriminate Evans. She also asserted Campbell was responsible for releasing the DNA report to the the media, a violation of IPRA confidentiality policy and potentially illegal. 

—Morask also introduced key evidence that Campbell released the report to WBEZ reporter Chip Mitchell, painting a picture of a concerted effort by IPRA investigators and the media to condemn Evans in the public imagination. Morask won a crucial motion to have Mitchell testify as a defense witness, but Mitchell was never called. 

—As the trial unfolded, it appeared that the relationship between Campbell and WBEZ’s Mitchell was a key focus of the IG’s investigation. 

It is unclear what the fallout will be at IPRA in light of the trial and the IG’s investigation, in particular whether there will be criminal charges. 

Evans’ claims that the charges against him are connected to his role in the Madison Hobley case stem from the fact that the Hobley case is pivotal in the city’s wrongful conviction narrative. Convicted of a 1987 arson that left seven people dead, Hobley’s attempts to gain his freedom on the claims that he was tortured by police never went anywhere in court. Under the most suspicious of circumstances, Hobley was able to obtained a pardon from Governor Ryan, shortly before Ryan himself would be convicted of corruption charges and sent to prison. Hobley walked out free and then received a settlement for $6 million from the city. 

Evans was a rookie cop when the arson took place. He became a key witness when he andhis partner were called to the apartment of a woman several weeks before the arson. The woman claimed Madison Hobley had thrown a brick through her window because he was angry at the woman for housing Hobley’s wife and child after Hobley’s wife left him. 

While at the apartment, the phone rang. The the woman who lived at the home asked Evans to listen on another phone. Evans heard Hobley threaten to commit an arson against the woman unless his wife and child returned home. Evans documented the threat.

Weeks later, Hobley fulfilled his threat, setting his apartment building on fire and killing his wife and child, along with five other victims. More than a dozen others were seriously injured. 

Outraged when Hobley was set free from prison, Evans continued to fight a financial settlement for Hobley. 

The Hobley case is under renewed scrutiny after another wrongful conviction case closely related to it has unraveled in the legal system. Based upon the work of writers Martin Preib and William Crawford, the exoneration of Anthony Porter has imploded in the legal system. Overwhelming evidence of corruption among wrongful conviction activists, particularly Northwestern University, and the media has come to light based on the work of Crawford and Preib. Both men have written books about the case. 

WBEZ’s standard of coverage suggests it is a key supporter of the wrongful conviction movement; it has, for example, refused to cover key developments in the Porter case, and others.

Chip MItchell declined to comment to Crooked City.