Crooked City

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Filtering by Tag: David Protess

SIMON CASE TESTS TAINTED PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE

Prosecutors represent the people. It is their duty to identify, charge, and convict criminals. They hold a sacred responsibility to the public. Prosecutors are the people victims and their loved ones turn to in their last attempts for justice.  

The wrongful conviction movement has challenged this trust. Lawyers, academics, and their supporters in the media machine have lobbied an intense campaign against the police and prosecutors office for the last 30 years, challenging one conviction after another. 

Prosecutors in many instances have bowed to this pressure, violating their oath of office. In doing so, they have betrayed the public, the police, and the innocent. A sign of this betrayal is the exoneration Anthony Porter and wrongful conviction of Alstory Simon. 

The story of Porter’s release and Simon’s incarceration is one of a prosecutor’s office mired in corruption and politics, an office bending to the will of the wrongful convition activists in defiance of evidence, testimony, police investigations, and the law. It shows that prosecutors knowingly let a killer free from prison and incarcerated an innocent man. 

Part 1

The Anthony Porter Conspiracy

Anthony Porter was a career thug who gunned down a couple in a crowded park in 1982. When Porter’s name came up as a suspect right after the murders, every cop in the second district knew who they were talking about. Anthony Porter was a known gang enforcer and stick up man. At the time of the murders, he was wanted on a warrant for shooting a man in the head over a barking dog and was a suspect in numerous armed robberies of elderly people and several murders. 

No less than seven witnesses eventually pointed to Porter as the offender. Two of the witnesses testified in court. One of the two witnesses had been robbed by Porter shortly before the shootings. His testimony placed Porter at the park, armed, committing robberies. Porter was convicted and sentenced to death. Shortly before he was to be executed, his lawyer obtained a stay of execution, based on the claim that Porter’s IQ was too low. 

In 1998, Northwestern University’s Innocence Project under David Protess became involved in the case. After a short “investigation,” Protess, his private investigator Paul Ciolino, and several students announced Porter was innocent and another man, Alstory Simon, was the offender. The foundation of their claim that Porter was innocent was a confession they obtained from Alstory Simon on a winter morning in 1999.

Simon eventually claimed this confession was coerced. He claimed Ciolino burst into his Milwaukee home with a gun that February morning and threatened violence against him. He said Ciolino claimed he (Ciolino) was a cop and Simon was about to be arrested for the murders. Ciolino showed documents from witnesses that stated Simon was the killer and not Porter, then advised him he could get the death penalty. Threatening Simon with life in prison and even violence if he didn’t cooperate, Ciolino, according to Simon, forced Simon into making a taped confession to the two murders. 

Simon also made a claim that was by now common in Protess/Ciolino exoneration cases. He said he was offered a shortened prison sentence and money from movie and book deals by the two men if he would confess to the crimes. 

In one of the most incredible twists in the confession, Ciolino corroborates the claim that Simon asked for an attorney during their meeting. Ciolino picked up the phone at Simon’s apartment and called an attorney who was a personal friend back in Chicago, Jack Rimland, who also rented office space from Ciolino. 

It was one of the darkest chapters in Chicago’s criminal justice system. A man trying to get another man to confess to murder obtains a lawyer for that man, a lawyer who tells his client not to exercise his right to remain silent, but instead confess to murders sixteen years after the fact. 

In addition to not telling Simon to remain silent, Rimland didn’t tell Simon to call the police and have Ciolino removed. Rather, he encouraged Simon to plead guilty to the murders on tape without the attorney even reviewing the case, and despite all the evidence of Simon’s innocence, including the six witnesses who still fingered Porter. 

Alstory Simon’s lawyers recently pounced on the validity of this confession and the conduct of Rimland in a letter to prosecutor Anita Alvarez, demanding that Simon be released from prison. 

“…Alstory [Simon’s guilty] plea is directly attributable to provable misconduct of his attorney, Jack Rimland, who was hired by and working on behalf of Ciolino and Protess. In that role, Rimland lied to Alstory about the strength of the State’s case, and withheld explosive grand jury evidence of Porter’s guilt from both Alstory Simon and the court.”

Armed with the videotape of Simon’s confession, Ciolino delivered it to a network news station in Chicago. It was broadcast.  Suddenly the whole city was electrified by the contention that the state had almost executed an innocent man. 

In 1999, the Cook County State’s Attorney was Dick Devine. At the time Devine decided to free Porter, the Chicago media, particularly the Chicago Tribune, was pummeling Devine’s office, saying prosecutors had put dozens of innocent people in prison. 

In the face of this pressure, Devine released Porter from prison on the double murder charge, based largely on the existence of the videotaped confession. But, according to Devine’s own staff member, Devine had never actually seen the entire tape, only the edited, cut down news broadcast version. That meant a gang enforcer convicted of a double homicide was released from prison based upon a taped confession the prosecutor had not even reviewed. 

This was all it took to undermine a murder conviction in the City of Chicago. 

Of course, there is a level of irony that’s hard to ignore. The Chicago media was hounding Devine’s office about wrongful convictions as the Porter exoneration was unfolding. These journalists were pointing to what they claimed was one coerced confession after another, but failed to see the clear coercion by Ciolino against Simon right in front of them.

Porter was released. The media went nuts. Here was a man going from death row to walking around the south side within just a few days. Inmates who watched Porter’s release realized that if Porter could get out, anyone could. Wrongful conviction claims exploded. 

Devine’s office could have put Porter on bond, could have granted him some conditional discharge pending further investigation, but Devine just cut Porter loose. 

And that, as they say, was that. 

Part II

The 1999 Grand Jury

After Devine let Porter out, Thomas Epach, chief of the prosecutor’s criminal division, initiated a grand jury investigation. Epach disagreed with the decision to let Porter out and to take Simon into custody. Epach set up the Grand Jury so that the Northwestern case could be carefully reviewed. 

The transcripts of these hearings are explosive. They reveal, step by step, the fraudulence of the Northwestern “investigation” into the Porter case. They also stand as a chilling window into the tactics of the wrongful convition movement, and they reveal clearly just how corrupt the decision by Devine to release Porter and convict Simon truly was. 

Convening the Grand Jury was itself a revealing event, a sign of the schism within the prosecutor's office. Why hold a Grand Jury after Porter had already been released? It was putting the cart before the horse. Shouldn’t Devine have held the hearings before releasing Porter? If his office was working by sifting through evidence and the application of the law, that would be the right way to proceed. The fact that Devine released Porter before holding this grand jury is a clear indication of how easily his office bowed to media pressure. 

Prosecutor Thomas Gainer was given the job of presenting evidence for the Grand Jury. In the course of this hearing, Gainer slowly dissected the Northwestern claims, refuting them in their entirety. Gainer discovered one piece of evidence after another that the Northwestern’s claims were not only false, but also that Protess, Ciolino and the students had quite likely acted illegally. 

Gainer discovered, for example:

—Northwestern students hadn’t even bothered to talk to four of six witnesses in the case. Four of the six witnesses corroborated in exact detail the statements of two witnesses discovered hours earlier. Rare indeed was it for detectives to find two groups of independent witnesses who provided identical statements, all of which fingered Porter.

—They had not bothered to even speak to the detectives, though their theory that Porter was innocent was based on the claim that detectives had framed Porter. 

—Protess, Ciolino, and the students harassed a central witness into the case into changing his story, part of a pattern of coercion taking place at Northwestern, according to Alstory Simon’s lawyers.

—Numerous independent statements that witnesses had been bribed into changing their testimony. 

—The Northwestern group had clearly coerced a confession from Simon through threats of violence, intimidation, and bribery.

Consider this exchange between Gainer and Protess about four witnesses to the shooting;

Q: And your students didn’t investigate those four men, did they?

Protess: No.

Q: You didn’t ask Paul Ciolino to find those four men?

Protess: No.

Q: You didn’t go out yourself and look for those four men?

Protess: No.

Q: None of your group ever conducted any interview of those four men?

Protess: That’s correct.

So much for the Northwestern “investigation.”

At the conclusion of this Grand Jury hearing, despite all the evidence revealed in it, Devine did not re-indict Porter. He did not release Simon from prison. 

Part III

Simon’s Confession

The release of Porter, the arrest of Simon and the Grand Jury investigation all took place in the winter of 1999. Devine and Gainer knew from the Grand Jury hearings that the witnesses still fingered Porter for the killings. They knew that Protess and his students hadn’t really investigated the case at all. 

Most of all, Devine and Gainer knew Simon was innocent. Nevertheless, Gainer walked into court six months after the grand jury hearings and accepted a confession from Simon, a confession in which Simon accepted a sentence of 37 years in exchange for pleading guilty. 

Not only did Gainer walk into court and allow Simon to confess, so did Simon’s lawyer, Jack Rimland, who was also aware that the witnesses still fingered Porter. 

Then something amazing happened. Both Gainer and Rimland lied to the trial judge, not revealing all the evidence that Porter was still guilty and that Simon had nothing to do with the murders. In fact, Gainer misrepresented key eyewitness testimony. Gainer did so by taking evidence that pointed to Porter being the killer and falsely using it against Simon. Rimland also knew this evidence against Simon was false. 

Both Gainer and Rimland also knew that the videotaped confession obtained by Ciolino from Simon was clearly coerced and would not hold up in a trial. 

Not only did both men lie to the judge, they both neglected to tell Alstory Simon about all the witnesses still fingering Porter. Obviously, if Simon knew about these witnesses, he would not have pled guilty. He would have gone to trial. And if he had gone to trial, his so called confession would finally get the legal scrutiny it deserved, a scrutiny that Devine’s office clearly refused to apply: The confession would have been laughed out of court. 

It is important to pause for a moment and consider the import of what happened in the prosecutor’s office in their exoneration of Anthony Porter. The wrongful conviction movement is based on the argument that Chicago Police Officers are crooked, that they will lie to put an innocent man in prison and they don’t care who the real offender is. These accusations have compelled prosecutors to let convicted offenders out of prison. 

But the Porter case shows clearly, as a matter of record, that both the prosecutor’s office and the wrongful conviction activists were guilty of these same accusations on a staggering scale. It was the complete breakdown of a criminal justice system, a vast conspiracy. 

Part IV

Discord in Devine’s Office

Over the years, many people questioning the Porter exoneration have pointed out the corruption in Devine’s office for letting out Porter and taking Simon into custody. Oftentimes the people questioning this decision were ridiculed by Chicago’s Media machine. Chief among them was a retired Tribune journalist Bill Crawford, who wrote a long article about the Porter case, called Chimera.  

Crawford reviewed the evidence that Porter was guilty, that the Northwestern claims were false. He pointed out the utter illegality of the so called confession obtained by Ciolino. Crawford showed that this confession  could not withstand any scrutiny in a court of law. He questioned how it was that Porter could be released with so little evidence of his innocence. In response, local journalists ridiculed him, but never addressed the facts of the case that Crawford pointed out. 

Then something happened in 2014 that confirmed everything Crawford was arguing. One of the top members in Devine’s office, the Chief of the Criminal Division, Thomas Epach, signed an affidavit describing the intense discord within Devine’s office over Devine’s decision to release Porter and arrest Simon.   Epach described how he openly condemned this decision by Devine. 

“At the time of the release of Mr. Porter from custody, I was aware not only that the purported confession of Alstory Simon was obtained by Paul Ciolino, who was working on behalf of Anthony Porter, but also that Simon was being represented by attorney Jack Rimland, who had close ties to both Mr. Ciolino and David Protess, who were also advocating on behalf of the release of Porter,” Epach wrote. 

Then Epach dropped a bomb:

“I believed at the time that circumstances of this purported confession needed to be thoroughly investigated before a decision was made to either release Porter or to charge Simon with a crime. I was also aware that there was substantial credible evidence to support the conviction of Anthony Porter and that no physical evidence existed which tied Simon to those murders.”

Epach’s statement is a stunning rebuke of the Porter exoneration and a clear sign that members within Devine’s office understood that Simon was innocent. How could Devine accept a confession from Simon when his own attorneys are telling him it was no good? How could Gainer go into court and say there is no exculpating evidence against Simon when one of the lead attorneys in his office is saying exactly that? 

It’s hard to know how this discord in the prosecutor’s office played out, but there is an old saying about Chicago politics: If you are not at the table, you are on the menu. 

Within a few years, Epach would leave Devine’s office, his career as a prosecutor finished. Gainer remained at the prosecutors office after the Porter debacle and eventually became a judge, a coveted position among ambitious prosecutors.  

One man who stood for what was right was tossed aside. Another, who put a killer back on the street and innocent man in prison, was promoted. 

Crooked City, indeed. 

Part V

The Aftermath

Clearly, the prosecutor and the Northwestern investigators hoped the Porter case was finished. Simon, who had pled guilty to the murders, would waste away in prison. Porter, like all the “wrongfully convicted” offenders and their lawyers, would sue the city, claiming Porter was framed by the detectives. Porter would become rich. Protess and Northwestern would ride another wave of international acclaim. 

In prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Alstory Simon slowly realized he had been hoodwinked by Protess, Ciolino and Rimland. After he was sentenced, they stopped calling, stopped returning his letters. A shortened prison sentence and movie and book deals never materialized. Rimland sent a letter to Simon saying their business was finished. Simon suffered a kind of nervous breakdown in prison, realizing he would have to do the 37 years he was sentenced to. The deal by Ciolino that he would only serve a few years in prison was obviously a lie. 

Devine left the prosecutors office in 2008, replaced by Anita Alvarez. 

Simon became a jailhouse lawyer, spending his days in the prison library. He learned that he was entitled to all the records pertaining to his case from his lawyer. He sent a letter to Rimland demanding them. At first, he says, Rimland refused. Simon says he filed a complaint and a judge ordered Rimland to send them. 

It was then that Simon received the boxes of transcripts, including the Grand Jury records from 1999. He read them in his cell. He saw clearly all the evidence that should have immediately eliminated him as a suspect. He finally saw he had been railroaded by Northwestern and the prosecutors. He saw how Protess and his students hadn’t looked into the case at all, hadn’t even talked to the witnesses. He saw how all the evidence still pointed to Porter. He realized none of this evidence had been made known to him. He realized both the prosecutors and his own attorney had lied in court about his case. He began writing attorneys, seeking representation. He was, after all, wrongfully convicted. 

Finally, some attorneys and private investigators looked at the case and saw what happened. For the first time in more than a decade, there was hope for Simon. 

Simon filed two post conviction relief petitions, spelling out the evidence that he was the victim of a grand fraud and describing how Ciolino, Protess and the students had coerced him into confessing. Both of these petitions were reviewed by prosecutors who are still working in the prosecutors’ office as assistant state’s attorneys. One of the petitions was filed after Devine left office and the current prosecutor, Anita Alvarez took over. None of them took up Simon’s cause. 

But one has to stop and wonder: Why were the holes in the Northwestern exoneration claims so clear to one of the original prosecutors, Thomas Epach,  who never ceased protesting Simon’s innocence, but none of these prosecutors who reviewed his post conviction petition saw the holes in the Northwestern claims? Why didn’t they at least see the evidence in the Grand Jury that so clearly pointed to Porter’s guilt and Simon’s innocence? Why didn’t they see the evidence that the Simon confession was clearly coerced and false? Based on all this evidence, why didn’t the prosecutors grant Simon a hearing? Did anyone reviewing Simon’s petition bother to call up Epach and ask him about the case? Clearly their colleague, whom many of them had once worked with, could have pointed out the truth of the Porter case. 

Just one phone call. 

First prosecutors under Devine’s administration lie in a trial as part of a frame up against Simon. Then the prosecutor’s office under Alvarez refuses to re-open the case. 

If only that were the end of the sordid story. But it gets worse, much, much worse. 

 

Part VI

The Memo

The Chicago Sun Times recently published the contents of a 2002 internal memo from city attorneys. In this memo, the attorneys reviewed the Porter case and came to a stunning conclusion: They said rather than being released for the murders, Porter should have been retried. They then clearly stated that the prosecutors ruled on the case based on “political decisions,” not legal ones:

“Armed with five witnesses and one dead eyewitness (who could no longer be impeached) who placed Porter at the scene, shooting the deadly fire, it seemed strange that the State Attorneys’ Office did not re-prosecute the case. A political decision was made that this case should be put to rest because it causes too much publicity against the imposition of the death penalty, caused great doubt about the validity of the death penalty punishment for mentally challenged individuals and incited a significant amount of negative press concerning the Death Row reversals,” the memo read.

It was one more piece of evidence suggesting that prosecutors in Devine’s office had betrayed their oath, an oath demanding they rule based upon the evidence and the law. Instead, as the memo accuses, they had ruled based upon political reasons and media pressure. In doing so, Devine’s betrayed the police who had investigated the case and had faced accusations that they had coerced a confession from Porter. The prosecutor had betrayed the public good by releasing a killer back onto the streets, and they had betrayed the rights of Alstory Simon by accepting a confession from him when they knew it was false. 

Most of all, the prosecutors had let the wrongful conviction activists know that, if they could get away with the fraudulent exoneration of Anthony Porter, they could get away with anything. 

The memo was a stunning rebuke of the prosecutors’ conduct by another wholly independent body. 

But one has to pause and consider the memo in a circumspect manner. The city attorneys are saying  that there is still a lot of evidence against Porter, who was pardoned by Governor Ryan, and that he should be retried. 

If city attorneys felt this way about the Porter case, why didn’t they do more to bring it to the public’s attention? Why didn’t they ask the state’s attorney to review the case? Why didn’t they confront the state’s attorney with their conclusions? At the time of this memo, the city was fighting myriad cases levied by the wrongful conviction movement, including Northwestern. 

Why, then, didn’t the city attorneys use the Porter case to defend other cops accused of wrongdoing? After all, here was evidence that the wrongful conviction movement engaged in illegal tactics to obtain false evidence. Why didn’t the city attorneys explore this tactic and use it to defend the police? Why didn’t they ask for a special prosecutor? Why didn’t they contact the media and point out the evidence that still pointed to Porter? The wrongful conviction advocates, particularly Protess, were successful in large part because they used the media to promote their claims. Why couldn’t city attorneys at least issue some kind of public statement about their findings on the Porter case? They just wrote an internal memo, and that seems to have been that. 

Aside from this internal memo, which was clearly written so that it would not become public, there is nothing to indicate these attorneys did anything about it. One wonders: Is this what attorneys working for the city would call public service? Is this what they would call representing the police? The Porter case contained a vast body of evidence that could have informed other wrongful conviction claims, particularly those involving Northwestern. But the city attorneys apparently did nothing with it. 

It must be reassuring for Chicago Police Officers to see how aggressively city attorneys back them up. 

Part VII

The Civil Trial

As if all this wasn’t enough, then came the greatest rebuke of Devine’s decision to release Porter. 

The detectives in the Porter case had come together and fought to go to trial on the accusations that they had framed Porter. Porter’s attorneys were seeking a $24 million settlement. The detectives knew well the modus operandi of the wrongful conviction movement. Once one successful claim was made against them, a flood of new ones would follow. Inmates would begin alleging the same mistreatment, hoping it would get them sprung from prison and make them wealthy. What was there to lose? 

The two detectives, Charles Salvatore and Dennis Gray, lobbied city attorneys heavily to take the case to trial and not settle. Even though city attorneys had issued a memo in 2002 saying they thought Porter should have been retried, they waffled on the civil trial, eventually farming it out to an independent lawyer, Walter Jones.  

One wonders about this decision. If the 2002 memo indicated city attorneys thought there was still evidence against Porter, why wouldn’t the city attorneys go to trial? Why would they farm it out? Here was an opportunity to undermine a great conspiracy. The detectives were looking at the loss of almost everything they had built up: their reputations, their careers, their money, potential for a flood of lawsuits from other inmates. Why wouldn’t the city attorneys go all out for the detectives? The Porter case was a great opportunity for the city to attack the corruption within the wrongful conviction movement. But city attorneys passed. 

When Walter Jones first got the case, he planned on settling. There was so much media coverage saying Porter was innocent, Jones just assumed it was true. On top of that, the media pressure in the case was unyielding. Then Detectives Gray and Salvatore walked Jones through the evidence and their investigation. The detectives showed Jones that Porter was clearly the killer. Jones sat down and completely reinvestigated the case, interviewing every witness. He even found more witnesses who fingered Porter. Jones never found one witness who said Simon was the killer. In fact, he never found one who said Simon was even at the crime scene. Much to the relief of the detectives and the shock of the rest of the city, Jones announced he would take the case to trial.

The strategy embraced by Jones was not that they would argue the detectives did nothing wrong. Rather, they would argue that Porter was the offender. They would, in essence, retry the criminal case. Jones argued this theory in  a 2005 trial.

And won. 

After the trial, reporters approached Jones how it could be that Porter didn’t get any money. Jones pointed his finger at Porter and said because he, Porter, was the killer. 

Once again, one has to ask in the wake of this jury verdict: How many more legal proceedings and opinions would be necessary for prosecutors to re-visit the Porter case? The entire case was reviewed by Jones, who concluded Porter was guilty. Jones waltzed into a courtroom and argued this theory and won. Exactly what, then, did prosecutors need to compel them to revisit Simon’s case? 

To review: A criminal trial convicted Porter. His appeals failed. The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously upheld Porter’s conviction. Members of the State’s Attorneys office under Devine argued against exonerating Porter and convicting Simon. The 1999 Grand Jury hearings exonerated Simon and pointed to Porter as the killer. City attorneys issued a memo saying Porter should have been retried for the murders. Attorney Walter Jones had come to see that Porter was guilty and successfully argued this theory in court. 

Why was it clear to all these people that Porter was still guilty, but the Cook County Prosecutor’s Office stymied every effort made by Simon and his attorneys to get another hearing? 

Prosecutors had released Porter on little more than a suspicious videotape, at the same time the prosecutor’s office was freeing one convicted offender after another on the flimsiest of claims by wrongful conviction advocates. Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Darrell Cannon, Ronald Kitchen…are they all dirty like the Porter case? Is this one reason why prosecutors don’t want to re-open the Porter case, because it is a pandora’s box? 

Equally important, was the prosecutor’s office hesitant to review Simon’s case because any review would lead back to the fact that Devine’s office had knowingly freed a guilty man and incarcerated an innocent one? 

Part VIII

The McKinney Case

Protess and Northwestern continued to bombard the Cook County State’s Attorney with wrongful conviction claims. Finally, Alvarez dug in on one of Protess’ wrongful conviction cases. Alvarez demanded all emails and records from students and professors involved in a wrongful conviction case for a man named Anthony McKinney, who had been convicted of murdering a security guard in 1978. 

Protess and Northwestern initially ridiculed the request by the State’s Attorney, saying the school did not have to turn over the emails because their investigation was protected by Illinois shield laws for journalists. The local media dismissed her actions as nothing more than sour grapes at having been embarrassed by Protess and the university on so many other cases. 

Not so, Alvarez argued. Protess and his students were not acting as journalists. Instead, Protess and his students were passing their information on to defense attorneys in the case. Protess and the journalism students, were, in fact, working as defense investigators, she argued.

A judge in the McKinney cased reviewed Northwestern’s investigation and issued a bombshell ruling. The judge agreed with the State’s Attorney that Protess and his students were not acting as journalists. The judge ordered that  Northwestern must turn over its records.

The music stopped at Northwestern. In the course of reviewing the materials the school was forced to turn over, the school’s attorney observed that Protess had doctored records and lied to the university and to his own attorney who quit the case because of the lies. Shifting into damage control mode, Northwestern initiated their own internal investigation into Protess. 

After the investigation, the school removed Protess from teaching his Innocence Project class —in effect, firing him. It was quite a fall for the once  internationally revered, tenured professor. His Innocence Project class had resulted in the freeing of eleven offenders at the time of his exit from the school. 

Northwestern issued a bombshell statement about Protess:

“The review uncovered numerous examples of Protess knowingly making false and misleading statements to the dean, to University attorneys, and to others. Such actions undermine the integrity of Medill, the University, the Innocence Project, students, alumni, faculty, the press, the public, the State and the Court,” the statement read.  

Protess’ malfeasance in this case, malfeasance that got him fired from his job, was never associated with his malfeasance in the Porter case. Certainly the prosecutor has not tied them together. Alvarez never indicted Protess for lying or doctoring the records, just as she never took up the Simon case for many years. 

One wonders how she couldn’t. How could she not see the vast evidence that Protess was possibly running a criminal enterprise at Northwestern, one in which Protess would do or say anything to get an offender out of prison?All this had been revealed in 1999. This was 2011. Even Northwestern was admitting that Protess was a liar and cheat. Still nothing from Alvarez and her office. 

To many people, particularly cops, lying to the courts and altering evidence has another name:  Obstruction of Justice. 

One wonders what Alvarez’s office would do to a cop who engaged in such behavior. Not only would he be indicted, but all his cases would be subject to review. He would spend the rest of his life facing criminal and civil charges, as well he should.  

 

Part IX

Conviction Integrity Unit

Finally, in 2014, after years of inaction and silence over all the evidence that pointed to Simon’s innocence, Alvarez said she would take up Alstory Simon’s conviction under the Conviction Integrity Unit, a department she created to review wrongful convictions. 

Here again, the decision casts a shadow. Alvarez demanded the investigation would remain under the auspices of her office and not be doled out to a special investigator. 

Alvarez’s demand was immediate. When one office is investigating a case where there is clear evidence of corruption from a preceding administration, there is the suspicion of coverup. Alvarez has never acknowledged the malfeasance in Devine’s office, even though it is right there in the public record.  

Even the Chicago Tribune, which was a vocal cheerleader of the wrongful conviction movement and Protess in particular, called for a special prosecutor.

“The question now is whether Alstory Simon was wrongfully convicted with help from the Innocence Project. The state's attorney's office is not in position to provide an unassailable answer. Alvarez should seek the court appointment of an independent prosecutor to sort this out,” a Tribune editorial read. 

The absence of an independent investigator is beginning to look more suspicious. 

Anthony Porter was released from death row in a few days based upon a videotape the prosecutors had never even seen. Alvarez’s “review” of the Porter case is now on its tenth month, with no end in sight.

The Porter case has been reviewed and reviewed and reviewed. Each time, the evidence points to Porter, not Simon. If Alvarez harbors any doubt about the case, she can call for a hearing to review the evidence. Put Protess on the stand. Put Ciolino on the stand. Put Simon on the stand. Put Porter there and put the detectives there. 

Unlike 1999 when Simon was convicted, a large number of people throughout the country know the facts of the case, including journalists and attorneys. Books are being written, documentaries made. Hollywood is eyeing the Porter saga.

It’s time the Cook County State’s Attorney do the right thing and bring the Porter case back where it belongs: a courtroom.  

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble at Radical U...

As a key wrongful conviction case from Northwestern University implodes, a disturbing view of radicalism at Northwestern University is taking shape, one that reveals a dangerous and violent “ends justify the means” ideology operating at the school. 

Northwestern is currently under fire for the 1999 exoneration of Anthony Porter, convicted of a 1982 double homicide in Washington Park. The Porter exoneration was the result of a Northwestern “investigation” into the case. Porter’s release from prison transformed the Illinois criminal justice system and played a pivotal role in Governor Ryan’s decision to end the death penalty. 

Now the Cook County State’s Attorney is reviewing the case based upon a large body of evidence indicating the exoneration was little more than a conspiracy, perpetuated by a professor named David Protess, his private investigator Paul Ciolino, a lawyer, and several students at the school’s Innocence Project.

To many police, investigators, and attorneys, the Porter scandal is no surprise. These critics have been arguing for decades that many wrongful conviction claims, from Porter to Madison Hobley to Ronald Kitchen are a sham, perpetuated by a group of lawyers, academics, activists, and their allies in the press, all driven by an intense radical agenda whose aim is not to free the innocent, but to undermine the justice system. 

The tactics of these activists is to take the case away from the courtroom and into the press rooms, where a compliant local media gives full voice to their wrongful conviction claims without checking the facts. 

 

Part 1

Northwestern Hires a Terrorist

One of the first alarms that something dreadfully wrong was taking place at Northwestern was 2001, when the university hired Bernadine Dohrn at their law school. Professor Dohrn strikes a strange figure as a university professor. She was once a leader in a terrorist group called the Weather Underground (WU). The group was a collection of radical students and activists in the late 60s who broke away from the Students for a Democratic Society and decided they wanted to use violence to end the war in Vietnam and initiate a Marxist revolution in America. Their preferred method was setting off bombs throughout the country. 

A main focus of the Weather Underground’s intense hatred was the country’s criminal justice system, particularly the police, with whom they battled in the 1968 Chicago riots. This hatred was revealed in the fact that several of their bombing targets were police districts throughout the country. 

The WU members sold themselves as activists operating from some higher calling. They claimed they never hurt anyone but themselves when three members accidentally blew themselves up while preparing for a bombing at an army base in New Jersey, a bombing that could have killed hundreds. Because of this incident, WU members claimed they had a change of heart and avoided violence.

But to many people, particularly those in law enforcement, these claims were a lie.  Weather Underground, these investigators argued, was a dangerous collection of criminals using the veneer of anti-war activism and civil rights to carry out their crimes.  

As a sign of the group’s true character, these officials point to evidence uncovered by federal investigations that Dohrn was part of a 1970 bombing of a San Francisco police station that killed a sergeant and wounded eight other police officers. 

Sergeant Brian McDonnell was killed when a bomb placed on the window sill of his precinct in the Upper Haight neighborhood exploded. Investigators believed the bomb was timed to go off at the change of shift when the room would have been crowded with police officers, but malfunctioned. 

Many investigators on the McDonnell murder believe there is compelling evidence that Dohrn was one of the bombers. 

“This whole image that these were nice-type people is what makes me upset. It's bullshit. That's not what they were. They were thugs, and they were criminals trying to overthrow the U.S. government,” said retired FBI  Agent Max Noel in a 2009 River Front Times article.

Statements that Dohrn was one of the offenders came from different sources. One source was Larry Grathwohl, the only person to infiltrate the Weather Underground. Grathwohl reported his findings on the group to the FBI.

Grathwohl stated that while he was in the group, a leader of the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers, who would go on to marry Dohrn, admitted Dohrn had set off the bomb in San Francisco. 

Federal authorities also gathered statements from informants implicating Dohrn. The evidence was convincing to many federal authorities. These investigators couldn’t understand why Dohrn was never indicted for the murder of  Sgt. McDonnell.

In the 2009 expose on the case in the River Front Times, journalist Peter Jamison spoke to retired FBI agent Willie Reagan.  

“Reviewing the bureau's files in 2000…it was plain to Reagan that the case against the Weathermen went well beyond a solitary piece of after-the-fact hearsay relayed by an FBI mole [Grathwohl]. When he [Reagan] read the statements from the other two informants, who had independently supplied similar details about Weather Underground members conspiring to bomb Park Station, [Reagan] had one thought: Why didn't they prosecute?” wrote Jamison.

The San Francisco Police Union wrote a letter in 2003 asking federal authorities to indict Dohrn for the McDonnels’s murder. 

"There are irrefutable and compelling reasons to believe that Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn ... are largely responsible for the bombing of Park Police Station," the letter said. 

Another sign of the group's violent motives was the bombing of a judge’s home on the east coast. The judge was presiding over a trial involving members of the Black Panther Party. In February of 1970, three gasoline bombs were set off at the judge’s home while the judge and his family slept. The family was saved by the heroic actions of neighbors. Many claim this too was a WU bombing. Even former members of the group claimed they were responsible. 

The supposed conviction not to harm anyone didn’t last very long. In 1982, two “former” members of the WU, now working with the Black Liberation Army, drove a getaway car for a Brinks armored car robbery in New York State. WU member Kathy Boudin deceived two cops into lowering their weapon after the police officers pulled over the truck Boudin and the other offenders were driving. The officers, who were looking for black offenders, were tricked by Boudin’s ruse. After they lowered their weapons, offenders jumped out of the truck and gunned down the officers. 

Boudin was paroled in 2003. She is now a university professor, like Dohrn. 

Dohrn, Ayers, and other Weathermen members were able to avoid prosecution for their terrorist actions because the courts ruled evidence had been gathered illegally against them by the FBI. But many federal investigators wonder why Dohrn has not been indicted for the San Fancisco bombing, since there is no statute of limitations on murder. 

With charges related to her other bombings dropped, Dohrn was free to enter legitimate society. It was quite a transformation. Once a frothing revolutionary calling for the violent end of America and praising mass murderer Charles Manson as a true revolutionary, Dohrn quietly moved into a cushy position in Chicago academia. She ended up at Northwestern University's Law School, eventually working on wrongful conviction cases involving minors. 

It’s difficult for many police officers to imagine how a woman who once went around calling on people to revolt against “the pigs”—and one who may very well have murdered a cop—could ever judge a criminal case fairly, but Northwestern University seemed perfectly comfortable with bringing her into the Northwestern fold. Only a few alumni protested the school’s hiring her.  

Dohrn wasn’t the only former Weatherman to move into the Ivory Towers. Her husband, Bill Ayers, also a founding member of the terrorist group, eventually became a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Neither Dohrn nor Ayers never backed away from their radical philosophies or their support for revolutionary violence. They claim to this day they did not murder Sgt. McDonnel. 

His murder remains unsolved.

Whether or not one believes Dorhn was involved in the murder of Sgt. McDonnel, her terrorist actions reveal an “ends justify the means” mentality, one that may well have been willing to kill and maim and to lie in the pursuit of her radical ideology. 

Part 2

Ends Justify Means…

The same “ends justify the means” ideology flourished in another department, Northwestern’s venerated Medill School of Journalism, where another controversial professor enjoyed wide support from faculty members and students. This professor, David Protess, was given great freedom to investigate criminal cases as head of a sub-department in the journalism schoolcalled The Innocence Project. 

David Protess attained international attention after he led a successful campaign to free four men accused of rape and murder in the infamous Ford Heights Four Murder. Claiming DNA evidence pointed to other offenders, the four men were exonerated and settled for more than $30 million. 

Despite Protess’ success in overturning this conviction, a wild claim by a witness in the case emerged. This witness, who never wavered from his statement that he saw the exonerated individuals take part in the crime, said David Protess approached him and offered that he, the witness, could “use” one of the Northwestern students in exchange for altered testimony.  The witness said he was shocked and outraged at the alleged offer by Protess. 

The claim was so wild, no one paid much attention to it. 

Rather, Protess rode the wave of praise for the Ford Heights Four exoneration. 

As a teacher at Northwestern, Protess taught one Innocence Project class every semester. He and other students pored through criminal cases looking for what they said was evidence of wrongful conviction. Finding examples of what they claimed were police or prosecutorial oversight or outright corruption, they pressed their claims in the media and courts. The exonerations started piling up. Protess brought the journalism school more attention and awards. 

Everything seemed to be going great for the Innocence Project and the wrongful conviction movement. Protess and a few other law firms and university departments specializing in wrongful conviction together sued cities over cases, often settling without a trial, much to the anger of the detectives who worked the cases. 

Whispers of dissent from police and prosecutors familiar with Protess’ wrongful conviction cases lingered throughout police districts, union meetings, and the halls of the prosecutor’s office.  But these murmurings were dismissed by Chicago’s local media, for whom Protess and his wrongful conviction allies had become rock stars. The local media ate up Protess’ claims, rarely bothering to hear the police or prosecutorial side of the cases, let alone reviewing the police reports and transcripts.  

But by 2011, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez had had enough. She dug in on one of Protess’ wrongful conviction claims. Alvarez demanded all emails and records from students and professors involved in a wrongful conviction case for a man named Anthony McKinney, who had been convicted of murdering a security guard in 1978. 

This demand by the State’s Attorney for the records in the McKinney case was one of the first times prosecutors fought back on a wrongful conviction investigation. Protess and Northwestern initially ridiculed the request by the State’s Attorney, saying the school did not have to turn over the emails because their investigation was protected by Illinois shield laws for journalists. The local media dismissed her actions as nothing more than sour grapes at having been embarrassed by Protess and the university on so many other cases. 

Not so, the State’s Attorney argued. Protess and his students were not acting as journalists, Alvarez argued. Instead, Protess and his students were passing their information on to defense attorneys in the case, attorneys who just happened to work at Northwestern’s Law School, the same place where Dohrn was employed. Protess and the journalism students, were, in fact, working as defense investigators, she argued.

A judge in the McKinney cased reviewed Northwestern’s investigation and issued a bombshell ruling. The judge agreed with the State’s Attorney that Protess and his students were not acting as journalists. The judge ordered that  Northwestern must turn over its records.

One question was never really asked in the wake of this ruling: What was a group of students and a professors in a journalism school doing working as investigators for defense attorneys?They were supposed to learning the strategies and ethics of good journalism at one of the country’s most prestigious schools. But now a judge had ruled that they were nothing more than investigators for the defense. 

In any case, the music stopped at Northwestern. In the course of reviewing the materials the school was forced to turn over, the school’s attorney observed that Protess had doctored records and lied to the university. Shifting into damage control mode, Northwestern initiated their own internal investigation into Protess. 

After the investigation, the school removed Protess from teaching his Innocence Project class —in effect, firing him. It was quite a fall for the once  internationally revered, tenured professor. His Innocence Project class had resulted in the freeing of eleven offenders at the time of his exit from the school. 

Northwestern issued a bombshell statement about Protess:

“The review uncovered numerous examples of Protess knowingly making false and misleading statements to the dean, to University attorneys, and to others. Such actions undermine the integrity of Medill, the University, the Innocence Project, students, alumni, faculty, the press, the public, the State and the Court,” the statement read.  

In short, the investigation revealed a professor, like Dohrn, who was willing to break the rules to achieve his own ends, even if for Protess it meant lying to the school, his own lawyer, prosecutors, and altering documents. It’s important to remember that Protess was arguing about murder cases, about putting individuals convicted of the most brutal murders back onto the street. If Protess was lying about this case, were there others? If so, it was a level of radicalism not unlike Dohrn’s willingness to bomb police stations, to kill the “pigs,” in her pursuit to overthrow the justice system.

Northwestern’s statement about being committed to integrity when school leaders released Protess rings somewhat false. Didn’t the fact that the university hired a former terrorist bomber, one who many believed was linked to the unsolved murder of a police officer, didn’t that decision already undermine Northwestern’s integrity? Hadn’t the school undermined its integrity further when it allowed a person with Dohrn’s background to work on wrongful conviction cases? 

To get an idea of the mentality of the Weather Underground activists, consider what Dohrn once said about the Charles Manson murders:

“Dig it! First they killed those pigs and then they put a fork in pig Tate's belly. Wild! Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson!”

One wonders exactly what kind of people Northwestern was hiring to educate its young people.

Just as the local media never batted an eye when Northwestern hired Dohrn, the local media never asked another obvious question in response to Northwestern’s statement about Protess: How deep did his lying go? 

 

Part 3

The Anthony Porter Conspiracy

It turns out Protess’ willingness to lie went very deep, indeed. It wasn’t just a few emails Protess altered or the fact that he had lied to the school about his investigation. To see the depth of deception taking place at Northwestern, all anyone had to do was review the evidence in the Anthony Porter case. 

Anthony Porter was a career gang enforcer convicted of killing a couple in Washington Park in 1982. He was tried and sentenced to death, due in part to his violent criminal record. Protess and his students got involved in the case in 1998, eventually declaring that Porter was innocent, the victim of a police frame up. Protess, his Private Investigator Paul Ciolino, and his students claimed another man, Alstory Simon, was responsible for the killings. The Northwestern investigators were able to obtain a bizarre “confession” from Simon, who lingers in prison to this day. 

The Porter murders became a rallying cry for the wrongful conviction movement. Here was a man just a few days away from being executed and Protess’ Innocence Project announced he was innocent. Bowing to the intense media pressure Protess and his allies held in the city, prosecutors released Porter without even reviewing the evidence collected by Protess and his group, despite the fact that there was intense disagreement in the prosecutor’s office about releasing Porter and accepting Simon’s confession. The case made international news. Governor Ryan, citing the Porter case specifically, ended the death penalty. Following Porter’s release, a flood of similar claims was made by inmates. 

Nevertheless, an overwhelming body of evidence still points to Porter as the killer. The original criminal trial, a grand jury hearing in 1999, a civil trial against the detectives in 2005, all concluded Porter was the shooter. Just as prosecutors reviewed the McKinney case and discovered Protess had been lying and doctoring records, the Porter exoneration revealed a mindboggling level of deception and prejudice against the criminal justice system: 

  • Protess and his students admitted in a grand jury hearing that they never bothered to talk to four of six crucial witnesses in the case, witnesses who all pointed to Porter as the offender. One of these witnesses was an eyewitness and provided statements so detailed that they completely matched other witness statements, a clear sign to detectives and prosecutors that these witnesses were telling the truth.
  • Protess and Ciolino hounded one of the eyewitnesses in the case to change his statement. Eventually this witness stated under oath the only reason he changed his testimony was that he was tired of being harassed by the Northwestern investigators. 
  • All the supposed eyewitnesses who supported Protess’ theory that Porter was innocent recanted and admitted they only made these statements as part of a conspiracy with Protess to get Anthony Porter out of prison. These admissions of conspiracy with Protess never got Chicago’s media machine interested. They were largely ignored or dismissed. 
  • The facts of the police investigation refute in their entirety the Northwestern claims that Porter was innocent. 
  • In 2005, Porter’s lawyers went to court against the detectives based on the Northwestern investigation that freed Porter. The attorney for the detectives reviewed the facts of the case and concluded Porter was guilty. The attorney argued his theory in court and won, virtually re-convicting Porter. In the course of his preparation for the case, the attorney found even more witnesses who came forward and fingered Porter. 

The Northwestern theory that Porter was innocent entered an absurd world. 

As Porter’s civil trial approached, for example, he suddenly claimed more than two decades after the murders that detectives Dennis Gray and Charles Salvatore tortured him. There was one problem with this claim: The detectives never met Porter in the course of their investigation. Salvatore and Gray, along with the prosecutor, only had a warrant issued for Porter’s arrest based on witness statements. No one from Northwestern, nor any journalist in Chicago, ever asked an obvious question: How did detectives torture a man they had not met? 

Like the Weather Underground with their bombing of police stations, Protess’ conduct in his investigation betrays an unconscionable bias against the police, a willingness to hang them no matter what, even if it means freeing a killer. 

It almost worked against detectives Gray and Salvatore. The detectives spent six years being assailed for their conduct in the case, facing claims that they willfully framed the wrong man, even tortured him. 

“I’m telling you. It was tough. It was really tough. It was hard on me. It was hard on my family. I didn’t do any of what they were saying,” Salvatore said. 

But perhaps the most glaring abuse in the Porter case was the “confession” by Alstory Simon obtained by the Northwestern investigators. In order to free Porter, Protess, his private investigator Paul Ciolino and the students somehow got Alstory Simon, in 1999 —on a cold February morning sixteen years after the murders — to admit to the killings.

Nothing like it had ever mades its way into a Chicago courtroom.

Shortly after Simon was convicted, he retracted this confession. Simon claimed Ciolino burst into his apartment with a gun that February morning and threatened violence against him. He said Ciolino claimed he (Ciolino) was a cop and Simon was about to be arrested for the murders. Ciolino showed documents from witnesses that stated Simon was the killer and not Porter, then advised him he could get the death penalty. Threatening Simon with life in prison and even violence if he didn’t cooperate, Ciolino, according to Simon, forced Simon into making a taped confession to the two murders. 

Simon made an accusation that was by now frequent in cases where Protess and Ciolino were involved: that Simon would only serve a short time in prison and would become rich from movie and book deals if he went along with their plan. What made these accusations so troubling is that they had arisen from witnesses in other cases completely unrelated to the Porter exoneration.  

Independent matching witness statements are one basis of building what investigators call modus operandi; that is, evidence of a pattern of criminal activity. That these accusations were made against Protess and Ciolino in other cases never compelled the local media to take them into consideration. Yet Simon’s attorneys have argued that Protess and Ciolino engaged in a pattern of “coercive conduct.” 

In one of the most incredible twists in the confession, Ciolino corroborates the claim that Simon asked for an attorney. Ciolino picked up the phone at Simon’s apartment and called an attorney who was a personal friend back in Chicago, Jack Rimland. 

It was one of the darkest chapters in Chicago’s criminal justice system. A man trying to get another man to confess to a murder obtains a lawyer for that man, a lawyer who tells his client not to exercise his right to remain silent, but instead confess to murders sixteen years after the fact. 

In addition to not telling Simon to remain silent, Rimland didn’t tell Simon to call the police and have Ciolino removed. Rather, he encouraged Simon to plead guilty to the murders on tape without the attorney even reviewing the case and despite all the evidence of Simon’s innocence, including the six witnesses who still fingered Porter. 

How could anyone claim Rimland was representing Simon?

Alstory Simon’s lawyers pounced on the validity of this confession and the conduct of Rimland in a letter to prosecutor Anita Alvarez, demanding that Simon be released from prison. 

“…Alstory [Simon’s guilty] plea is directly attributable to provable misconduct of his attorney, Jack Rimland, who was hired by and working on behalf of Ciolino and Protess. In that role, Rimland lied to Alstory about the strength of the State’s case, and withheld explosive grand jury evidence of Porter’s guilt from both Alstory Simon and the court.”

It was a powerful irony. The wrongful conviction was built upon claims that the police, the “pigs” as Dohrn and the Weather Underground liked to call them, regularly coerced and beat confessions out of African American men, indifferent to whether the men were guilty or not. But the first time a wrongful conviction advocate obtains a confession, it is rife with allegations of abuse, coercion, lies and intimidation and a clear willingness to frame not only the cops, but an innocent man, let alone put a killer back on the street. 

Northwestern’s parting statement about Protess in the McKinney case take on deeper meaning in the Porter case.

“Such actions undermine the integrity of Medill, the University, the Innocence Project, students, alumni, faculty, the press, the public, the State and the Court.”

Again, one wonders what kind of people Northwestern was foisting upon its students; first a terrorist bomber, then a renegade professor using students to undermine legitimate convictions and putting an innocent man in prison.  

One question looms above all others: How many other cases were just as dirty? How many other lies had Protess foisted upon the university and the public? How deep were the deceptions in the wrongful conviction movement? 

Among Chicago’s media elite, the question remains unanswered. A dark silence surrounds the city. The local media does not want to ask another central question: Who are these wrongful conviction activists and exactly what are they really after?

 

This article is dedicated to the memory of Larry Grathwohl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zorn Censors, Ridicules...

Chicago Tribune Columnist Eric Zorn, a main supporter of Northwestern University in their wrongful conviction claims, particularly the Anthony Porter case, now censors his blog. In response to any criticism from a Chicago Police Officer, he can only ridicule, then censor their comments. This is Zorn's blog about the Central Park Five Case and Zorn's coverage of wrongful convictions.

Outraged Blogger, named Jake, who cannot fathom anyone claiming the original offenders in the Central Park Five Case were guilty:

Martin, so your theory is that a psychopathic serial rapist/murderer who always worked alone, including once before in Central Park, decided that night to team up with five total strangers he met in the park to rape the jogger, that somehow that serial solo rapist is the only person among this improvised pack of six to leave any physical evidence behind whatsoever (in the form of DNA), and that each of the other five, for some unknown reason, declined to mention the existence of that sixth rapist in any of their statements to police. The bases of this damned stupid theory are your belief that her injuries are consistent with multiple attackers, your assertion that, despite the presence of knife injuries, Reyes (the "sixth" rapist) didn't mention using a sharp instrument in his statement, even though he used sharp instruments (a knife, an ice-pick) in other attacks, and your faith-like belief in the confessions of scared kids who didn't realize they could never take it back that implicated everyone *but* the one person whom we know was actually was there. I don't have the facts to dispute the snippets of information you post on your blog -- I frankly don't trust them, because you obviously never met a confession that wasn't true, or a police theory that wasn't correct, and you generally seem motivated by a single-minded whackadoo agenda -- but it doesn't matter, because your snippets aren't nearly enough to demonstrate even a possibility, much less a probability, much less proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that any of the five convicted of that crime actually did it.

If you want to get on your high horse on behalf of victims, I'd do it for the five women he attacked after April 1989 one of whom, a pregnant mother, was murdered while her children were in the next room, another of whom was almost blinded (using sharp instruments) by Reyes, after he didn't get caught for the Central Park rape, even though he was already in police crosshairs and could have been caught.

Police are, for the most part I'm sure, hard-working and well-meaning, but everyone makes mistakes. Like doctors, police have an awesome responsibility not to f up -- their mistakes can cost a lot. A good person tries to learn from past mistakes so they don't happen again. Only a prick blusters on that they never happened in the first place.

My Response:

Over the past few months a top prosecutor signed an affidavit saying he thought the release of Anthony Porter was wrong. He had doubts about Alstory Simon being the killer and had grave doubts about his confession. 

Front Page story on the Sun Times.

The Tribune and Zorn?

Silence. 

Lawyers for Simon submit a letter saying Simon's lawyer engaged in provable misconduct and cite a pattern of coercive conduct in other cases. 

Sun Time coverage, Zorn and Tribune silent.

A man convicted of raping and killing a three-year-old girl is exonerated by Northwestern's Law School in 2012. Last month, he is accused of slitting the throat of a man over a dice game. 

Coverage all over the world. 

Zorn and Tribune silent. 

A new documentary played last month by filmmakers in the Porter case who did something Zorn would never dream of doing: They talked to everyone involved, all the witnesses, the investigating cops, the journalists.

They invited Zorn. Maybe he would be interested in seeing how badly he screwed up the biggest wrongful conviction case in the state's history. There were also witnesses in the documentary describing coercive tactics by Northwestern in other cases. This is called a pattern of behavior, or a modus operandi, something Zorn and the Tribune refuse to acknowledge. 

Most of all, Zorn could have confronted some of the detectives whose lives he has ruined over the years and they could have sat down with him and showed him how badly he got it. 

But I guess he had plans that night. 

Zorn's technique, along with his other wrongful conviction activists, is to take a case out of the courtroom where a jury has heard all the evidence, then try it in the press room, where journalists like Zorn can pick some evidence and testimony and ignore others. They can also out and out lie. 

It is also a tactic of these advocates to say people made claims they never made. You are an example, Jake.

My snippets. You might want to take your dazzled eyes off the Burn documentary and review the case clearly. There is a large collection of lawyers, journalists, detectives and politicians who know these kids were guilty, having made admissions that only someone who had been at the crime scene could have made. 

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/editorials/the_central_park_five_again_ypsXFhzI4mhhLz0EEKF9kO

The youths told police that a man named Tony raped the woman. Tony was Reyes’ nickname. 

The allegation in the CPF is not that the cops made a mistake. It's that they engaged in a frame up, just like the allegations in the Porter case. 

Like so many fraudulent wrongful conviction claims, the story of these allegations are compelling. The poor innocent youth who were running around the park terrorizing people never made claims of police coercion until after they obtained civil rights lawyers and learned that this element was essential to recover a settlement. What a coincidence. 

The original trial judge reviewed for several months the possibility of police coercion in the original trial to determine if the confessions were legitimate, painstakingly reviewing the entire investigation and found nothing even remotely close to coercion. One of the little innocents made statements about the attack before the police even knew about it. Fairstein, a nationally renowned expert on sex crimes, overheard the youths making incriminating statements. 

Then, of course, the personal attacks begin. The prosecutor, an accomplished writer, can’t even hold a book signing without the mob attacking her. In true grace and dignity, she invites the agitators to discuss the case and no one takes her up on it. I could see Zorn in this crowd, then going home and writing a toast to them.

http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/fairstein_booed_at_signing_fjkmD4mPmKZvvrNxR65A9L

If only this case had gone to civil trial like the Porter case, which humiliated Zorn and compelled him to hang the lawyer who had just shown the public what a travesty it truly was, then perhaps the public could see. But the CPF activists, including that renowned truth seeker Al Sharpton, knew they only had to wait until a Democrat got elected and shazam, they got the settlement they wanted. 

Another connection between the CPF and other wrongful conviction scams is the willingness, the eagerness of activists to believe wholeheartedly the statements of a sociopathic killer, not under oath and not subject to cross examination, over the large body of evidence reviewed at trial by a jury and by appeals court judges. They cite in the CPF case the fact that Reyes has a modus operendi. He always acted alone. Review his criminal history and you will see very little clear modus operendi. He is a crazed predator who seized on all kinds of opportunities to attack and kill. He raped his own mother, committed robberies, burglaries. When the desire for mayhem arose, Reyes acted. It doesn’t matter whether he was alone or not. This is a pathetic attempt by people who actually know little to nothing about the criminal mind to present themselves as if they do. 

It’s hardly different than the claim by Northwestern that Porter was innocent because witnesses said he fired with his left hand and he was right handed, as if robberies that end up becoming double homicides follow some script. There are million reasons why Porter would move the gun to his left, including grabbing the loot from his victims. 

The activists refuse to look at the evidence that the prosecutor’s decision to vacate the convictions was controversial in his own office. Senior members in the department were furious at this decision, just as they were in the Porter case. 

Physical evidence? What physical evidence exists against Alstory Simon? Yet there he sits in prison compliments of Northwestern University. The confessions of these youths, who were already in the park wilding at the same time, are overwhelmingly indicative of guilt. Each legal proceeding that reviewed arrived at the same conclusion, as if some young woman with a political agenda can see what all these detectives, proseuctors, juries, judges and appeals judges couldn’t, not unlike the image of kids in their 20’s suddenly finding evidence in the Porter case. The offenders made statements implicating each other, trying to minimize their own conduct. Many rapes the attackers are unable to ejaculate. There is nothing unusual about it. In fact, this is exactly what police and prosecutors argued from the first moment of the case: there were other offenders than the one who left DNA. 

How telling that the City attorneys never even bothered to interview the medical staff, just as the state’s attorney released Porter based on a “confession” video they hadn’t even looked at. 

Like so many wrongful condition claims, the CPF falls apart under any scrutiny. Sarah Burns addressed this fact by simply leaving out the interviews from people who contradicted her mythology, including attorney Michael Armstrong. If you’re really interested in justice in this case, you might want to talk to him for several hours about his investigations and his dealings with Burns and her father. 

Fairstein and the detectives unfortunately fall into the same fate as the detectives in the Madison Hobley case in Chicago. They desperately wanted to get to civil trial, where they knew their investigation would hold up and Hobley would be shown to be the killer, just as the civil trial did in the Porter case. But alas, they were all sold out by the Democratic Machine. 

"It was a huge disappointment," Fairstein said before the settlement, "but litigation is ongoing and we think it will make clear their participation in the attacks."

Many of these issues were covered in a recent reading on my book, Crooked City, and my article Crossing Lines in New City, at the Chicago Public Library. The Tribune, and Eric Zorn’s behavior were a central talking point. 

As for your name calling, right back at ya, brother.  Right back at ya.

Zorn deleted the comments with this:

ZORN REPLY -- My apologies. Posts by this monomaniac are supposed to go directly to the spam filter where I can make sure he's staying on topic (which he almost never does).

How badly the lead detective in the Porter wants to sit down with Zorn and go over the Porter case. He's been waiting 30 years to talk to a Tribune writer. One wonders if Zorn will take him up on it.