A judge ruled this week that a Chicago Police Officer who is also an award-winning writer must turn over email messages he has received from former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.
Circuit Court Judge Erica Riddic ordered the release of email records by Chicago cop Martin Preib, whose 2014 book, Crooked City, played a pivotal role in undermining a central wrongful conviction case in Illinois.
Preib is currently writing a book about Jon Burge.
The order arose from a subpoena by Chicago Attorney G. Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office, a law firm that has made its fame and fortune by claiming police torture and coercion. In particular, Taylor has spearheaded the thirty-year fight against Burge, claiming he and his men routinely tortured confessions from suspects.
Preib’s attorney had argued that the subpoena violated Preib’s freedom of speech and his protection under the statute protecting journalists and their sources.
Preib is the author of another book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, as well as several articles in national magazines. His blog, crookedcity.org, also describes his investigation into corruption within the wrongful conviction movement.
Last month, Preib published an exclusive statement from Jon Burge in response to the decision by the Chicago City Council to establish a reparations fund to men who claimed they were abused by Chicago Police, a decision by the council that infuriated many attorneys and members of law enforcement.
Here is part of Burge’s statement about the decision:
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.
Burge’s comments drew Taylor’s ire. Taylor responded in the Sun Times:
“(Burge) is clearly a serial human rights violator who has committed racist crimes against humanity too numerous to count. And this attack on the men who have so bravely stood up to him — and who a jury and a federal judge relied upon to send him to the penitentiary — only underscores how disgraceful and cowardly his unsworn statements . . . slandering me, my fellow lawyers and these clients are,” Taylor said.
“He says the truth will come out. The truth has come out. That’s why the city has acted as it has. No matter what kind of cowardly statements Burge may make under cover of darkness, it is not going to change the public record of his and his fellow officers’ crimes.”
The truth has come out?
Well, let’s take a look at that.
In Burge’s full statement, Burge cites the Anthony Porter case.
The Porter case plays a pivotal role in the wrongful conviction narrative, including Taylor’s, because Porter’s exoneration paved the ay for other inmates to go free, including inmates represented by Taylor and the PLO.
In the Porter case, wrongful conviction activists at Northwestern University coerced an innocent man, Alstory Simon, into confessing to the crimes in order to allow Anthony Porter to be exonerated.
But last year, Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez released Simon from prison, saying his constitutional rights had been violated by Northwestern Professor David Protess and his private investigator Paul Ciolino.
A few weeks ago, Judge Thomas Byrne went one step further and declared that Alstory Simon was innocent.
Just last month, former Tribune reporter William Crawford published a book, Justice Perverted: How The Innocence Project at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism Sent an Innocent Man to Prison, detailing the corruption at Northwestern’s Innocence Project in the Porter case, including evidence that other cases taken up by the school are also highly suspicious.
Even Taylor himself has admitted the crucial role the Porter exoneration plays in his 30-year narrative about the Chicago Police. He said as much in a 2013 article for The Nation magazine about Governor Ryan’s ending of the death penalty and his freeing of several death row inmates:
[Former Illinois Governor George] Ryan’s momentous actions [i.e., the ending of the state’s death penalty] were partly inspired by the case of Anthony Porter, who came within days of execution only to later be exonerated, thanks in large part to the work of journalism students at Northwestern University. Much credit has been awarded to their work in opening Ryan’s eyes—and rightly so.
But now with the release of Simon and the declaration by a judge that Simon is innocent, it turns out Ryan’s eyes weren’t open at all, and neither were Taylor’s.
What makes the downfall of the Porter case even worse is the fact that Northwestern University worked with Taylor’s PLO and other law firms on several cases, yet neither Taylor nor any other law firm has explained why they did not see the corruption at Northwestern, corruption that was evident in the public record for more than a decade.
Nor have the PLO or any other wrongful conviction law firms condemned the corruption at Northwestern.
For the wrongful conviction law firms in Chicago, it seems that the truth has still not come out.
Now wrongful conviction law firms are facing attacks on even more fronts.
Alstory Simon’s attorneys have filed a $40 million lawsuit against Protess, Ciolino and Northwestern University, a lawsuit that is sure to cast more suspicion on key wrongful conviction cases. In the lawsuit, the attorneys cite a pattern of evidence in wrongful conviction cases dating back more than a decade.
What must be of particular concern to the wrongful conviction advocates, including Taylor and the PLO, are the collection of inmates who were freed by Ryan in the wake of the Porter exoneration, in particular Madison Hobley.
Hobley was convicted of setting a fire that killed seven people in 1987, including his own wife and child. He was exonerated by Governor Ryan—the same governor who let Porter out, buying Northwestern’s lies about Alstory Simon—even though no legal proceeding ever ruled that Hobley was in any way innocent of the crimes.
Rather, each legal proceeding bolstered his conviction.
In the lawsuit by Simon’s attorneys, they point out that a central witness in the Hobley conviction claims Ciolino attempted to bribe him into changing his statement. The witness’ account is chillingly similar to the claims of other witnesses who said Ciolino and Protess attempted to bribe them.
And now extraordinary evidence of corruption within Taylor’s own law firm is emerging.
For a long time, a key witness from the 1970s who infiltrated the terrorist organization Weather Underground (WU), Larry Grathwohl, stated that Taylor’s PLO and the Weather Underground were working hand in hand.
Now a new book by Bryan Burroughs, Days of Rage, a history of the Weather Underground, corroborates Grathwohl’s statement.
In his book, Burroughs quotes a founding member of the PLO, attorney Dennis Cunningham, and his wife, about their frequent visits to Weather Underground members, particularly founding WU member Bernadine Dohrn, in the days the WU was living underground and setting off bombs on the west coast.
Burroughs describes how WU members became concerned that they would be spotted by members of law enforcement in their attempts to scout new bomb sites. In response, they hit on the idea of bringing children with them.
But they didn’t have any children of their own. So, according to Burroughs, they used Cunningham’s children.
Burroughs wrote in an article for Vanity Fair:
No beat cop, they (the Weather Underground members) reasoned, would suspect a family with kids out for an evening stroll. It was a brilliant idea; the only problem was, no one in Weather had children. A handful of supporters did, however, and this was how one of Dohrn’s friends, the Chicago attorney Dennis Cunningham, saw his family drawn into clandestineness. Cunningham was a key conduit for the money that paid the leadership’s living expenses.
The truth is coming out. It’s right there in print. The children of a PLO member were used by terrorists to help them scout out new bombing locations. They were also supplying the terrorist bombers with money. Burroughs also rejects the claim by WU members that they were never out to injure anyone in their bomb sprees. On the contrary, he argues, they were a violent organization, particularly against the police.
In the wake of all this evidence that the wrongful conviction movement is as crooked as any Chicago detective, real or imagined, the PLO narrative about the Chicago police is crumbling.
Which begs a question: why is the PLO spending its time demanding the records of a beat cop who is also a published writer?
Why the sudden war on a free speech?
Well, is it such a complicated question? Since the wrongful conviction narrative began to fail in the Porter case, wrongful conviction activists and their media allies have assailed anyone questioning the legitimacy of their claims.
One wonders: Is Taylor trying to head off the growing chorus—headed by Preib—questioning Taylor’s claims about the police and the wrongful conviction narrative in general?
After all, the Chicago FOP recently sent a letter to the Cook County State’s Attorney demanding a wider criminal probe into Northwestern’s wrongful conviction cases in light of the Porter debacle.
The irony is thick. The PLO has allied itself with terrorist bombers for more than thirty years. Then it mastered the art of legal bombs hurled against police and prosecutors.
Now it’s almost as if a metaphorical bomb is ticking in the offices of the law firms that have supported wrongful conviction claims for more than thirty years.
Once it could not be heard.
Now the ticking is clear, the actual living heartbeat of the Crooked City.