Crooked City

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Ghost of Mike Royko Haunts G. Flint Taylor, PLO

It was 1992 when Mike Royko headed over to a downtown apartment to meet with Jon Burge’s representatives. 

Jon Burge was a Chicago Police Commander on the south side of Chicago facing accusations that he tortured confessions from suspects in murder cases. 

The purpose of the meeting was for Royko to finally sit down and pore over the facts of the infamous Wilson murders from 1982, the murder of two police officers that gave rise to what is now known as the wrongful conviction movement. 

Royko spent the afternoon gathering first the facts of the murders, then the long history of the criminal case and the claims by Wilson and his attorneys that Wilson had been tortured by Burge and his men.

The murders took place during a surreal month in the history of the city, in which five police officers were gunned down, four of them fatally. 

It’s best to start with the last two officers who were murdered and work backward.

Officers Fahey and O’Brien were sitting in their squad car on February 9, 1982, at 81st and Morgan when they saw a beat-up Pontiac go past them, a car occupied by driver Jackie Wilson and his brother, Andrew. 

Both officers were not wearing their regular uniforms. Instead, they were wearing their dress blues, the uniform police wear for special occasions.

The reason they were wearing their dress blues was that Fahey and O’Brien had just come from the funeral of a rookie cop, James Doyle, who had been shot  a few days earlier on a bus as he and his partner tried to take a suspect into custody. The suspect’s name was Edgar Hope. 

Here’s what happened on the bus. 

The rookie policeman, James Doyle, and his partner were sitting in a car on a cold winter day. A man approached them, claiming there was an offender on the bus named Edgar Hope. Hope, the man claimed, had robbed him. The man told the officers that Hope had a warrant for his arrest. 

Doyle and his partner told the man to get in the squad car. They pulled over the bus, which was packed with riders. Walking along the side, the witness pointed out Hope. The two officers got on the bus and approached Hope. Doyle patted Hope down, but missed two pistols Hope was carrying. He ordered the belligerent Hope off the bus. Hope walked out first. As they walked, Hope pulled out one of the pistols, turned on Doyle and fatally shot him in the chest. 

A gun fight erupted between Hope and Doyle’s partner, one that moved outside the bus, as Hope exited the front and Doyle’s partner out the back. The partner shot Hope twice and placed him in custody. 

The police felt as if they were losing control of the city. One reason was that the murder of Officer Doyle came in the wake of another police shooting just a few weeks earlier. Two other officers, this time two Sheriff’s deputies, had been shot on the far south side of the city. 

In that shooting, two men had walked into a McDonald’s restaurant on January 11, 1982, where the two sheriffs were working security off duty. One of the offenders shot Cook County Sheriff Lloyd Wycliff in the chest, killing him. Another offender then pushed Cook County Sheriff Alvin Thompson to the floor. He put a gun between Thompson’s eyes. Thompson began to pray. 

At the last moment, Thompson crossed his arm in front of his face. The offender was reportedly smiling. He fired, but the bullet was deflected by the officer’s arm. It wounded Thompson, but it was not fatal. Thompson played dead and survived.

Investigators would later learn that one of the two offenders—the one who was smiling when he shot Thompson in the McDonald’s shooting—was none other than Edgar Hope, the man who shot Doyle on the bus. They would later learn that one of the pistols recovered from Doyle on the bus shooting belonged to one of the officers at the McDonald’s. It was one of the strange, almost otherworldly connections between these police shootings. This meant that Hope was responsible for the shooting of three police officers, two of whom died.  

Police were still reeling from the shooting of the two sheriff’s officers in the McDonald’s when Officer Doyle was murdered on the bus. They were devastated after the funeral for Doyle, a rookie cop just starting out in his career. 

Officers Fahey and O’Brien had just returned from Doyle’s funeral. They saw the Wilsons drive past them, unaware that this car and its occupants bore such a strange connection to Edgar Hope and the other police shootings.

Fahey and O’Brien did not know, for example, that the passenger of the car, Andrew Wilson, a sociopathic, violent predator, was friends with Hope. They did not know that at the time Jackie and Andrew were driving past Fahey and O’Brien, the brothers were actually preparing to free Edgar Hope from custody at the Cook County Hospital, where Hope was recovering from the wounds he received in the bus shoot-out. 

Andrew and Jackie Wilson had hatched a plot to get Hope out of custody while he was still in the county hospital. They figured there would only be a couple of police officers guarding him and it would be relatively easy to get him out. 

Fahey and O’Brien, of course, didn’t know this. They were just pulling over a suspicious car for a traffic violation. 

O’Brien approached the driver’s side. Jackie Wilson jumped out of the car. O’Brien began questioning him. Jackie Wilson didn’t have a license. As he questioned Jackie, Fahey got Andrew Wilson out of the passenger side. Andrew made a gesture to reach into the car. Fahey stopped him and grabbed a jacket there. In the jacket was some ammunition. 

O’Brien then found a gun on the seat of the car. 

Andrew Wilson spun around on Fahey, trying to grab Fahey’s gun. Andrew Wilson already had a warrant out for his arrest, a long rap sheet. There were also proceeds of a burglary he had just committed that same morning in the back of the car. Now, found with another gun in his possession and proceeds from a burglary, he was looking at a long, long prison sentence. 

Andrew Wilson and Fahey began wrestling. O’Brien had two pistols out, his own and the one he found in the car. He could not shoot Andrew Wilson without possibly hitting his partner. He was also watching Jackie Wilson. 

Andrew and Fahey slipped on the icy ground. Andrew was able to get hold of Fahey’s pistol. He fired, hitting Fahey in the back of the head, a fatal wound. Andrew ducked behind the rear of the car, popped up and shot O’Brien in the chest. O’Brien went down. 

Because the men planned on breaking Edgar Hope out of prison, Andrew Wilson told his brother to grab O’Brien’s gun. He wanted the extra firepower when they went Cook County Hospital and got Hope out. 

Jackie told his brother that O’Brien was still alive. 

Andrew jumped up onto the trunk of the car and leered down at O’Brien and shot him three more times. 

A witness said that Andrew was laughing as he got into the car and they sped off, just as Edgar Hope was smiling when he shot Thompson in the McDonald’s shootings a few weeks earlier. 

The police working the day Fahey and O’Brien were murdered—many of whom had also attended the funeral for James Doyle—heard a strange voice on the radio, clearly a civilian’s voice, announcing that two cops had been shot. They rushed to the scene of yet another police shooting and rushed Fahey and O’Brien to the hospital, but neither would survive. 

These police murders by Andrew and Jackie Wilson would become the basis of the wrongful conviction movement. 

Here is why.

Jon Burge and his men were assigned to the case. Burge never left the Area. He had clothes brought to him from his apartment. He showered at the station. At the time, Burge and his men were considered among the best cops in the city. They had excellent snitches on the street and the top resolution rate for crimes. 

Ambitious cops considered it an honor to be invited to work on their team. They were aggressive and they didn’t take a lot of hemming and hawing from prosecutors. When they put a good case together, they expected the state’s attorney to run with it. 

Several days later, they got a tip where Andrew Wilson was hiding out on the west side. They went there and took him into custody. Jackie was taken into custody the same day. 

The two men spent the entire day at the Area being questioned by Burge and his men. They were also taken to a lineup where they were identified by witnesses. Eventually they confessed to a state’s attorney. Later on that night, the wagon men were called to transport Andrew Wilson to central detection at 11th and State. 

When the wagon men arrived at central detention, Andrew Wilson was so badly beaten the detention aide would not accept him without medical clearance. The wagon men took Wilson to Mercy Hospital, where, by all accounts, one of the wagon men lost his temper toward Wilson and threatened him. The loss of four police officers in less than a month was more than some officers could endure. 

To this day it is not known who beat Andrew Wilson. 

But the People’s Law Office, headed by G. Flint Taylor, immediately pinned the abuse on Burge and his men. Taylor and his colleagues were a collection of 1960s radicals hell-bent on attacking the American system, in particular its criminal justice system. Their client list and associates, like the Weather Underground and the FALN, reads as a who’s who of terrorist organizations willing to set off bombs in order to push their political agenda. 

The wounds on Andrew Wilson afforded Taylor and the PLO a unique opportunity to build a narrative against the Chicago Police. Blaming the wagon men wouldn’t work for their designs. A few distraught officers losing their temper would not build the mythology of police corruption Taylor and his allies needed.  They wanted to push their mythology that Burge and his men were racist torturers. 

Toward that end, Taylor began arguing that Burge and his men were systemic abusers, men who lived up to the vilification of the police endemic among radical political groups of the 1960s, groups who refused to see the contradiction between these claims against the police and their own willingness to support terrorists at home, like the FALN terrorists and the Weather Underground. 

The contradiction became even more apparent as these radical groups affiliated with the PLO traveled to Cuba and met with communist leaders to learn about revolutionary tactics, leaders who would be renowned for their cruelty and abuse of human rights. 

The most immediate problem for Taylor was that he could never win this argument of police torture about Burge and the Wilson brothers in court, under the rules of evidence. 

The claim, for example, that Burge and his men would provide an instant defense to the Wilsons by torturing them and leaving marks all over them—men they desperately wanted to see get the death penalty—made little sense. Leaving Wilson badly bruised and just letting him go to central detention would be an incredibly foolish thing to do, even if they wanted to do it. It would undermine the case they had against Wilson. 

The notion that the police department would entrust such a crucial investigation—the murder of two police officers—to a bunch of renegade racists cops, is completely ludicrous. 

Nevertheless, Taylor pinned the abuse on Burge. In the next few years, Taylor would twice sue Burge for abuse against Andrew Wilson. Twice he failed. In the first trial, the jury found Burge’s men innocent, but hung on a verdict against Burge. The second trial, Burge was found not guilty. 

“We’re sure something happened to him (Wilson), but maybe he inflicted it upon himself,” said one juror. 

“We never would have given him money,” said another. 

Taylor’s behavior in the courtroom was infamous, turning the proceedings into a kind of circus not unlike the famous trials involving other 1960s radicals.  

Unable to win in court, Taylor began playing the media, a common strategy in wrongful conviction cases. He relentlessly pushed the claims against Burge and his men, setting up marches, speaking out in the media and forming allies with media and political elites. Soon he got other inmates to make the same claims about Burge and his men. 

In particular, Taylor formed an intimate connection with a cadre of journalists—Steve Mills, Mike Miner, John Conroy, Eric Zorn, and Mary Mitchell, among others—wholly willing to push wrongful conviction claims, particularly those claiming police coercion, without checking the simplest facts. A sign of this is that many wrongful conviction cases, like the Anthony Porter exoneration of 1999, have since imploded under renewed legal and journalist scrutiny. These reviews revealed that these journalists never bothered to investigate the cases at all. They merely echoed whatever wrongful conviction attorneys like Taylor were telling them. 

It was this complicity among the journalists that gave Taylor his greatest influence. In some instances, it seems as if some of these journalists were actually conspiring with Taylor. 

All of this brings us back to Mike Royko and his visit to a downtown apartment to speak to Burge’s lawyers. 

The year was 1992, a decade after Wilsons murdered Fahey and O’Brien. 

Taylor and his People’s Law Office had come a long way by the time Royko met with the Burge representatives. They had transformed themselves from the 1960s revolutionary Marxists supporting terrorist bombers like the Weather Underground and the FALN calling for an end to America. By the 1990s they were acting like principled lawyers and academics fighting for democracy.   

Burge and his detectives were the means by which Taylor accomplished this transformation. After his lawsuits against Burge and his men failed, Taylor turned the pressure on Mayor Daley, demanding that Burge be fired by the Chicago Police Board. 

It was on the eve of the decision to fire Burge that Royko met with Burge’s supporters downtown. 

Royko heard the supporters lay out the evidence in the Wilson cases, showing that there was really nothing there at all to indicate Burge and his men tortured Wilson. 

So Royko wrote a column about it on February 27, 1992, entitled Facts Don’t Add Up To Police Brutality

It’s worth reading the whole column:  

After 10 years and millions of dollars in legal expenses, there appear to be only two significant facts that can`t be argued in the strange case of Andrew Wilson.

Fact 1: Wilson and his brother, career criminals, murdered two policemen who stopped them for a traffic violation. They were tried, convicted and are serving life sentences.

Fact 2: After Andrew Wilson was caught, he suffered physical abuse. It wasn`t as permanent as the abuse he inflicted on Officers William Fahey and Richard O`Brien, who have been dead these 10 years. But someone, presumably policemen, knocked him around.

Beyond that, though, nobody can say for sure what the facts are.

There have been two trials in federal court as a result of lawsuits brought by Wilson. Both accused several cops of torturing him. He lost both suits.

You might think that would be the end of it. The Wilson brothers are in prison, where they should remain the rest of their worthless lives. Two federal trials failed to establish how Andrew Wilson received some burn marks and other wounds to his body.

But that`s not the end. It`s gone on and on. And after 10 years, the cop- killing Wilsons are no longer the bad guys. Andrew is now a victim. And the bad guys are the cops who brought him in.

Hearings are being held for the purpose of firing Cmdr. Jon G. Burge and two detectives who were under his command. They have been accused of doing the torturing.

Their accusers are Wilson and his lawyers. Because the lawyers weren`t in the police station when someone caused pain to Andrew, the lawyers can`t be 100 percent certain who did it.

So that leaves us with Andrew the murderer. Once we cut through all the legal square dancing, it`s his word against the word of these three policemen. Oh, there have been other witnesses. After Wilson made his torture charges, others came forth with similar stories. They couldn`t come too far forth, though, since most of them are convicted criminals doing time.

And if this case goes on long enough, half the prisoners in Stateville can probably be persuaded to jog their memories and remember that, yes, these three cops did them dirty.

If anyone is getting the impression that I think the city shouldn`t be trying to fire these cops, you`re right.

Wilson has had more than his day in court. He had two murder trials, during which he had a chance to make his torture case against the cops. He had two federal trials in which he had the same chance. He and his lawyers didn`t do it.

Yet Police Supt. Leroy Martin wants them fired, so we have still another hearing that isn`t turning up much of anything that didn`t come out before.

It might be justified if these three cops were known to be dirty. But they aren`t. To the contrary, they have excellent records.

Or if some reputable citizen came in and said he had been mistaken for someone else and beaten by the cops. Such things have happened.

But the only alleged victims of these three cops are the kind of people you wouldn`t believe if they told you that you had a nose in the middle of your face.

At this point, it`s hard to say what this is all about. Racial politics by aldermen and other cheerleaders? Huge legal fees that Wilson`s lawyers might be seeking if they can get the cops booted? A social cause for protesters who are bored with holes in the ozone?

There have surely been some clever public-relations moves. You may have read with amazement, as I did, that an international group called Amnesty International has called for an investigation of the alleged torturing of Wilson and others.

Amnesty International usually concerns itself with oppressive governments of entire countries, not municipal police departments. So it was a shocker that they would be looking at Chicago. One could easily get the impression that Amnesty International had evidence that suspects are being stretched on the rack or forced to walk on hot coals.

Not quite. It appears that Wilson`s lawyers told Amnesty International what they, the lawyers, thought happened. So Amnesty International issued some sort of statement that if these things are happening, they should be investigated. Not that Amnesty International knows if any of it is true. They just issued a statement about what someone else told them. And that someone else wasn`t exactly impartial.

In other words, it was a publicity stunt that worked.

Yes, there has been talk about a long and terrible list of atrocities for which Burge and/or his cops were responsible. But so far, it is nothing more than talk.

So unless someone comes up with something more than the claims of an Andrew Wilson, these three cops shouldn`t be fired. And the city should stop wasting money trying.

Now, if someone believes that I condone police brutality, I`ll state it simply: I don`t. Since I`ve been doing this job, I`ve exposed far more cases of police brutality in Chicago than Amnesty International has. That`s one reason most cops don`t like me.

And I don`t doubt that someone abused Andrew Wilson after he was arrested. But we don`t know who did it, and we`ll never know. It could have been the three facing dismissal. It could have been others.

Since the city doesn`t know, it should let it go.

As for those sign-waving protesters who are seeking the hides of the three cops, one two-part question: Have you ever had any firsthand experience with them, and did they ever torture you?

If not, get a life.

The rumor is that after Royko wrote this column, the journalists in the news room, most of whom were from a younger generation than Royko and had embraced Taylor’s mythology, despite the court rulings refuting the torture claims, gave Royko the silent treatment. 

Now 30 years after the murder, Jackie is the only remaining brother. Andrew died years ago.

So why is all this important? Why dredge up a horrific police murder from 1982? 

Because in Chicago, after 30 years of G. Flint Taylor, the People’s Law Office, The Innocence Project, The Center on Wrongful Convictions, and Loevy and Loevy, no murder conviction is ever final. Anyone can get out of prison and get wealthy, no matter what crimes they have committed. 

In fact, one has better chance of getting rich through murder in Chicago than they do winning the lottery. 

If there is any doubt to this claim, all one has to do is consider the fact that the Illinois Torture Investigation and Review Commission (TIRC) voted last week to recommend Jackie Wilson’s case for judicial review, based on the fact that his claims of torture are credible.  

Somehow, the torture allegations, shot down in his criminal trial, in the civil trial, have resurrected themselves by this commission. 

Well, who and what is the commission?

TIRC is another testament to the legacy of Taylor and the People’s Law Office. 

It was established in large part as a result of Taylor’s incessant claims of police torture. It portrays itself as a state entity objectively reviewing claims of torture, but in reality it is a renegade state agency that rubber-stamps wrongful conviction claims, even ones struck down in the courts, like Wilson’s. It has been caught red-handed violating its own laws time and again, causing outrage by the family members of murder victims, terrified that they will see killers set free or become wealthy, or both.

One family is that of Officer Fahey. They have sat through two criminal trials, two civil trials, police board hearings and now TIRC meetings, all desperately trying to keep Wilson in prison. They have watched the Wilson brothers transformed from the killers they are into the icons of the wrongful conviction movement. 

Nevertheless, the commission pushes onward with its approval of torture claims in defiance of court rulings. The commission also ignores the mounting evidence of illegal activity in the wrongful conviction movement, evidence like bribed testimony, obstruction of justice, and manufacturing evidence. There is even clear evidence that wrongful conviction activists framed an innocent man and knowingly put killers back on the street, then made them rich. 

It’s evidence that would make the most corrupt detective in the city blush. It should compel the commission to desist investigating torture claims until the corruption is rooted out. But that would be assuming the commission was legitimate. 

As it is now, TIRC is little more than a state-sanctioned mob action aimed at undermining the criminal justice system in favor of a small group of activists like Taylor and the PLO, who stand to profit handsomely from resurrecting long-dead torture claims.   

For Chicago, a dark question looms. With this ruling from TIRC, will Taylor get some kind of settlement for Jackie Wilson? Will he get Wilson a new trial?  Equally important, will Jackie Wilson get a settlement from the city, even though his case is more than 30 years old? 

Incredibly, it’s possible. 

The reason is that G. Flint Taylor has also browbeaten Chicago City Council into giving into his demands. For years, Taylor claimed there should be reparations by the city for those inmates and former inmates claiming torture, even though the statute of limitations had run out. The Chicago City Council finally gave in and made reparations a law, a decision that will likely funnel even more millions of dollars into Taylor’s PLO law firm. 

It was a complete sell out of the Chicago Police Department by the City Council. 

Here is what Jon Burge had to say about Taylor’s reparations:

What about reparations for the families of the African American victims of the heinous crimes perpetrated by the scum who now demand reparations? This entire scenario is being manipulated by lawyers like G. Flint Taylor and his ilk. They have been getting rich for years filing specious lawsuits against Chicago Police Officers, the City of Chicago and other government entities. They know that 99% of the time the City will settle the lawsuit rather than go to trial because it’s cheaper. The City never admits wrongdoing on their part or the part of the individual defendants (police officers) when they settle.

Taylor has built up quite a legacy: The renegade Illinois Torture Investigation and Relief Commission, reparations to killers, a long list of freed murderers and rapists. Aldermen bowing to his will. The media echoing Taylor’s claims without checking the facts. 

It’s important to step back and look at the larger picture of what Taylor and the PLO have accomplished, not just in Chicago but throughout the country. Taylor’s methods are groundbreaking, providing a kind of blueprint for activists today, much of it emulated in the anti-police hysteria now sweeping the country. It is this hysteria that ignores even the most basic processes of the justice system, the rules of evidence, and simple facts.  

Remember hands up, don’t shoot? 

It never happened. 

But does that really matter to the activists pushing the claim? 

Now Taylor has come full circle. He has resurrected the original case that got him started, the Wilson murders of Officers Fahey and O’Brien in 1982.

Seems so long ago that Chicago’s most celebrated columnist took a long, sober look at Taylor’s claims. 

Few people are even aware of Royko’s column, a lucid point of view lost in Taylor’s hysteria that holds the city hostage. 

But it is there, buried deep in the public record of the most Crooked City.