‘Sorry’ Not Good Enough for Chicago Torture Survivors

Rahm Emanuel needs to put his money where his mouth is.

BY G. FLINT TAYLOR AND JOEY L. MOGUL

In May of 1973, then-Chicago Police Detective Jon Burge allegedly suffocated and electric-shocked teenager Anthony Holmes until Holmes confessed to a murder he says he didn’t commit. Holmes then spent the next 30 years in prison. In 2010, after his release, he testified in the government’s successful prosecution of Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice.

While Burge serves his 4 1/2-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, N.C., he’ll continue to collect a pension; by contrast, Holmes says his time in prison left him with no health insurance and no long-term means of survival. And Holmes wasn’t the only person whose life was devastated by the former police commander’s alleged tactics—Burge allegedly supervised the torture and wrongful imprisonment of as many as 120 people. Now, though, anti-torture advocates are pressing the city to make reparations that might go some way toward allowing survivors like Holmes to get back on their feet.

On Sept. 11, 2013, the Chicago City Council approved $6.15 million settlements for each of the convicted police torture victims Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves. After presiding over the Council meeting at which the settlements were approved, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the city’s sordid 40-year history of torture and cover-up a “dark chapter in the history of the city of Chicago,” and a “stain on the city’s reputation.” When City Hall reporter Fran Spielman asked him whether this constituted the apology that Kitchen’s lawyers had demanded, Emanuel said yes—that “all of us” are “sorry for what happened. Let us all now move on.”

For years, the anti-torture movement—consisting of torture survivors, activists and their lawyers—had called for an apology from the city as part of a comprehensive set of remedies that would provide financial compensation, health care, educational opportunities and job training for torture survivors. And, they said, Emanuel’s seemingly impromptu “sorry” was nowhere near sufficient.

Headed by the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project (CTJM) and lawyers from the People’s Law Office, activists seized the opportunity of Emanuel’s response to present progressive 1st Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno with an ordinance thatwould encompass these remedies. Among other demands, the ordinance would require the city to administer financial reparations to all Burge torture survivors who are unable to sue for monetary damages because the statute of limitations for their claims has expired. The proposed ordinance would also provide all torture survivors and their families with tuition-free education at City Colleges; create a center on the South Side of Chicago that would provide psychological counseling, health care services and vocational training to those affected by law enforcement torture and abuse; require Chicago Public Schools to teach about these cases and sponsor the construction of public torture memorials. And it asks the city’s leaders to issue a formal apology to those who were tortured and their communities—not just an impromptu statement made to a reporter at City Hall.

After garnering the support of Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. as a co-sponsor, Moreno introduced the ordinance to City Council on Oct. 16, 2013.

Growing support for survivors

In the past few decades, movements demanding redress for egregious human rights violations have taken hold across the globe. In Chile, for instance, the government has provided reparations to more than 28,000 survivors of torture and imprisonment under the Pinochet regime. These include a monthly stipend, free health care for victims and their families, free education and the construction of numerous memorials, including the Museo De La Memoria Y Los Derechos Humanos in Santiago. Meanwhile, in Argentina, more than $3 billion dollars has been paid to the families of at least 15,000 men, women and children who were kidnapped, tortured and executed by the military junta in the 1970s. And in South Africa, a controversial reparations program has provided a small amount of financial compensation to a limited group of 18,000 apartheid victims (out of an estimated 100,000) who suffered physical, mental or emotional injury as a result of gross human rights violations and who had testified before or registered with South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Though the U.S. government has largely resisted acknowledging its human rights violations, such as the widespread genocide of Native Americans, there have been instances where grassroots campaigns have forced both national and state governmental entities to admit to and provide redress for extreme racial discrimination and violence. For example, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided about $20,000 each in financial compensation to the surviving Japanese Americans who were forced to evacuate their homes and live in “Relocation Camps” during World War II. The Act also included an official apology that condemned the internments as the product of racial prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leadership.

In addition, the Florida state legislature approved a law in 1994 serving as an official apology for the violent race riot in 1923 that destroyed the Black community of Rosewood; the law provided financial remuneration of $150,000 to each of the nine remaining African-American survivors. And in 2002, the state of North Carolina publicly apologized to the survivors of the forced sterilization program that victimized 7,600 men, women and girls, a disproportionate number of whom were African-American, from 1933 to 1974. Eleven years later, the state authorized compensation to the survivors from a fund of $10 million.

Though the struggle for reparations for U.S. slavery has been unsuccessful to date, it is still alive. Every year since 1989, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) has introduced reparations legislation in Congress that would both acknowledge the fundamental inhumanity of slavery and establish a commission to study and propose remedies for enslavement’s impact on present day African Americans. This bill, named HR 40 after the unfulfilled Civil War promise of 40 acres and a mule for freed slaves, now has more than 40 co-sponsors.

Two decades of working for justice

Similar grassroots movements have also been a part of Chicago’s activist history. Two generations of progressive aldermen and an active anti-torture community have repeatedly compelled the Chicago City Council to confront the question of Chicago police torture—with mixed results. On Christmas Eve in 1990, the Council’s Finance Committee convened a hearing at which lawyers and community organizations presented newly uncovered evidence that established the systemic nature of police torture under Jon Burge’s command. For much of the next fifteen years, the movement focused on seeking justice for the torture victims who had been sentenced to the death penalty and on pursuing the appointment of a Cook County Special Prosecutor to investigate the alleged crimes committed by Burge and his men. In 2007, after Special Prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle issued a report that Burge tortured suspects “with impunity,” the Council held a hearing at which numerous aldermen condemned the city’s continuing defense of Burge and his confederates in the numerous pending civil suits that had been brought against them by exonerated torture survivors. (Burge himself was eventually sent to prison in 2011.)

On a more general scale, in 2010, several aldermen introduced a resolution that called upon Illinois to pass legislation that would make police torture a crime without a statute of limitations. Though that law did not pass, in January 2012, in response to a public campaign that focused on the police torture scandal, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution that declared Chicago to be a “torture-free zone.

As far as the future of the movement is concerned, Chicago reparations activists have declared their intention to follow in the path of domestic and international human rights efforts by convincing the city’s political leaders to provide eminently reasonable and fair redress to the Chicago police torture survivors and their family members. Aldermen Moreno and Brookins anticipate that a hearing on the anti-torture ordinance, which has been sent to the Finance Committee, will be convened this February. In the meantime, CTJM has launched a concentrated effort to persuade every alderman to support the bill, including promoting an online petition campaign.

Through his City Council floor leader, Pat O’Connor, and his Corporation Counsel, attorney Steve Patton, Mayor Emanuel has already voiced his reluctance to compensate the survivors who are legally barred from suing the city by the statute of limitations. But in the face of the more than $20 million Chicago has spent defending Burge, Emanuel’s claim that the city is too cash-strapped to make reparations rings hollow. Without doubt, it is now well past time for Emanuel and the City Council to put weight behind their apologies and to make amends to the torture survivors, their families and their communities for the suffering they have been subjected to by the city and its agents during the past four decades.

This article originally ran on In These Times website on January 6, 2014

The Legal Work Defending Independentistas in the U.S.

The National Lawyer’s Guild Work Defending Independentistas in the U.S.

By Michael Deutsch, with assistance of Jan Susler
Originally appeared on claridad.com

As a young lawyer relatively new to politics and prisons, my work with the Attica Brothers and with Rafael Cancel Miranda and the other Nationalist political prisoners in the early 1970’s, changed my life forever. In the case of the Puerto Rican political prisoners, their courageous commitment to the self-determination and independence of their country, and their warmth and humanity, despite the hardships of two decades in prison, greatly influenced the course of my own work as a lawyer over the next decades. It was the example of these extraordinary fighters, along with many other political prisoners with whom I have worked, that has fueled my continuing dedication to work for justice. To all past and present political prisoners I owe a deep debt of gratitude.

The National Lawyers Guild, which will be celebrating its annual convention in Puerto Rico this October, has a long history defending Puerto Rican militants and activists. Much of the beginnings of this work can be traced to Guild lawyers from the People’s Law Office (PLO) in Chicago meeting Rafael Cancel Miranda in the early 1970’s while he was a prisoner at Marion Federal Prison. It was through those prison visits with Rafael that many of us first learned of the history of the struggle against U.S. colonialism over Puerto Rico and the heroes of this resistance.

Through Rafael, Guild lawyers from the PLO learned of the four other Puerto Rican Nationalists also incarcerated in U.S. prisons since the 1950’s, – Lolita Lebron, Irvin Flores, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Oscar Collazo. Lawyers from the PLO visited each of the prisoners – Lolita at Alderson, West Virginia; and Irvin, Oscar and Andres in Leavenworth, Kansas – and developed a lawsuit challenging some of their conditions of confinement, restricted visits, denial of access to Claridad – the independence movement weekly newspaper – and their continued incarceration. While the Nationalist Prisoners did not recognize the right of the U.S. to hold them as criminals, and refused to directly ask the U.S. courts for their freedom, their family members and independence leaders assumed the role of plaintiffs in the lawsuit and petitioned for their freedom.

Guild lawyers joining with lawyers from Puerto Rico filed the case in Washington D.C. in 1976, as part of a revitalized international political campaign to “Free the Five.“ The case was assigned to the famous Watergate Judge, John Sirica, who severed the cases and transferred them to four separate federal district courts, near the respective prisons where the Nationalists were held. By this time Andres was suffering from colon cancer and was incarcerated in the Federal Medical Prison in Springfield, Missouri.

The Nationalists prisoners decided that the lawyers should pursue the case on behalf of Andres, and within a year, fueled by a strong political campaign, Andres was given a medical clemency and released. At the same time, Guild lawyers from Chicago prepared a petition to the United Nations Human Rights Commission calling for the freedom of the Nationalists, and also appeared on their behalf before the United Nations Decolonization Committee, whose 1978 resolution called for their freedom.

In September of 1979, an international campaign, with the support of broad sectors of the people of Puerto Rico including the former governor, Hernandez Colon and the Catholic Bishop Antulio Parilla, successfully pressured President Carter to grant the unconditional freedom of the remaining four. Guild lawyers, with lawyers from Puerto Rico and family members, went to the prisons where they were held, and escorted them first to Chicago and New York where they were greeted by large crowds, and then home to Puerto Rico where thousands received them at the airport.

Grand Jury Work

Even before the release of the Nationalists, Guild lawyers were involved in representing independentistas subpoenaed to federal grand juries in New York and Chicago investigating the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (FALN), a U.S. based clandestine Puerto Rican group which emerged in 1974 and which carried out bombings and other militant actions calling for the freedom of the Nationalists and the end to U.S. colonialism.

Lureida Torres from Puerto Rico, and later Maria Cueto, the executive director of the U.S. Episcopal Church Hispanic Affairs Commission, and her assistant Raisa Nemekin, and three brothers Julio, Luis and Andres Rosado, were subpoenaed in New York. In Chicago, several leaders of the Puerto Rican community, Jose Lopez, Myrna Salgado, Steven Guerra and Roberto Caldero were subpoenaed, as well as two Mexicano activists, Ricardo Romero and Pedro Archuleta from the Southwest. Guild lawyers represented all of them. Through creative lawyering, including challenging the use of secret illegal electronic surveillance, the lawyers were able to delay their inevitable political detention, thus reducing the time they were imprisoned for civil contempt for their refusal to testify before the grand jury. The grand jury resisters took a position of non-collaboration with the repressive use of the grand jury, and hundreds of people mobilized to support them. Later two independence activists, Carlos Noya and Federico Cintron, were subpoenaed to a New York grand jury. Defended by lawyers from Puerto Rico and the Guild, they also refused to collaborate and were imprisoned for civil contempt.

Several years later, in an unprecedented act of political repression, five of the grand jury resisters, Julio Rosado, Riccardo Romero, Andres Rosado, Maria Cueto and Steven Guerra, after their release from civil contempt, were indicted in Brooklyn for criminal contempt based on their prior refusal to testify, and put on trial. Facing a possible sentence of up to life in prison, they were represented by Guild lawyers. They were convicted after a hard-fought political trial, during which the government argued that they were aiding terrorism by not testifying. The government asked for a 15 year sentence, showing the judge pictures of victims from FALN bombings. Each one of the five was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

In 1983, Guild lawyers were also involved in the case of Alberto de Jesus, a young man who had left Puerto Rico to avoid a grand jury investigating the Puerto Rican clandestine movement. He was arrested in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for using a false social security card. Living in Wisconsin, Alberto had earned the respect and admiration of many human rights activists and people from the religious community, who traveled to Milwaukee to support him at his sentencing.

Part of Guild work around the grand jury and the Puerto Rican independence movement included public education since many people in the United States were not aware of the colonial case of Puerto Rico and the grand jury’s use against the independence movement.

THE FALN AND SEDITIOUS CONSPIRACY

In 1979, William Guillermo Morales was arrested after an explosion in an apartment in Queens, accused of membership in the FALN, and charged with possession of explosives. He was first put on trial in federal court in Brooklyn. Represented by Guild lawyers, he proclaimed he was a Prisoner of War fighting against the crime of colonialism, and demanded to be transferred to an international forum. This was the first time that a Puerto Rican asserted international law as a defense in the U.S. courts. The court denied Morales’ claim, but his Guild lawyers argued that he was indeed a prisoner of war and that the real crime was the U.S. colonial control over Puerto Rico. Morales was sentenced to 10 years. Immediately following his conviction, he was put on trial in New York State court for similar charges and given an additional 55 years.

Guild lawyers would again be involved in defending Morales after his convictions. After a daring escape from a New York prison hospital, he was later arrested in Mexico, where he was tortured and imprisoned. Guild lawyers worked with progressive Mexican counsel and helped to oppose U.S. efforts to extradite him to the United States. A successful political campaign to fight the extradition allowed Morales to go to Cuba, where he was granted political asylum.

In April of 1980, 11 Puerto Ricans were arrested in Evanston, Illinois and accused of being part of the FALN. They were first tried in state court and sentenced to terms of 8 to 30 years. The U.S. then indicted them for seditious conspiracy, the same charge lodged against Albizu Campos and other Nationalist Party members in the 1930’s and in the 1950’s. Like Morales, the accused FALN prisoners, Carlos Alberto Torres, Carmen Valentin, Dylcia Pagan, Alicia Rodriguez, Lucy Rodriguez, Elizam Escobar, Ricardo Jimenez, Luis Rosa, Adolfo Matos, and Alfredo Mendez also asserted their right to be treated as POWs. Assisted by Guild lawyers who acted as legal advisors, since the accused refused to participate in what they considered an illegal trial, the accused filed an extensive document supporting their claim under international law. The lawyers also filed a petition with the U.N. Human Rights Commission and raised their case in international fora in Malta, Barcelona and Cuba. The federal prosecution resulted in grossly disproportionate sentences ranging from 55 to 90 years, with the judge lamenting that he could not give them the death penalty.

During the Illinois state court proceedings, Alicia Rodriguez was gagged and beaten for speaking out about the illegal nature of their criminal prosecution. A Guild lawyer who condemned this brutal, demeaning treatment was held in contempt, and immediately taken into custody until bail was obtained from the Appellate Court. The judge also threatened to throw another lawyer out the window of his chambers.

One of those arrested in Evanston, Maria Haydee Torres, was taken to New York and tried for a bombing at the Mobil Oil Building in Manhattan. She was physically brutalized in the course of being forced to participate in a line-up, witnessed by a Guild lawyer, refused to participate in her trial, and sat in a holding center with her legal consultant, a Guild lawyer, listening to her trial over special speakers. She was given a life sentence.

The following year, Oscar Lopez Rivera was arrested and charged with the same seditious conspiracy. While he assumed the same POW position, Oscar, advised by Guild lawyers, confronted one of those arrested in Evanston, Alfredo Mendez, who the FBI, through isolation and promises of leniency, had made into a government witness.

In July of 1983, there were four more arrests of accused FALN members in Chicago – Alejandrina Torres, Edwin Cortes, Alberto Rodriguez and Jose Rodriguez, also charged with seditious conspiracy. The government, based on information provided by Mendez, located safe houses in private apartments rented under false names, and placed secret cameras and filmed bomb-making activities. Guild lawyers convinced the judge to suppress this evidence as illegally obtained without any legal statutory authorization. The government took an interlocutory appeal, and the appeals court found that, regardless of the absence of any authorizing law, the government had the inherent authority in fighting terrorism to enter a private dwelling and place cameras there. At trial, one of the defendants, represented by Guild lawyers, presented a legal defense, while the three others, with Guild lawyers acting as legal consultants, took the POW position. All were convicted. Jose Rodriguez who presented a legal defense was given probation, and the three others were sentenced to 35 years.

The Guild lawyers who represented the POWS were criticized by many members of the bar, including other Guild lawyers. Many asked, “Why didn’t the lawyers convince the accused to make a legal defense?” And “by not presenting a traditional legal defense weren’t these lawyers abdicating their responsibility as lawyers?” Despite this criticism, the lawyers for the POWs believed that they were acting in the highest tradition of radical lawyers, following the political direction of their clients and using the courtroom to put forth the legal/political position of their clients. Nonetheless, these Guild lawyers not only had to endure the negative opinions of their colleagues, but also suffered attacks on their competency and reputation. Creative lawyering, however, had established the international law framework to help build a campaign for their release.

The negative fall-out against the lawyers was nothing compared to the treatment that the political prisoners suffered in U.S. prisons. They were placed in special sensory deprivation isolation units, including the Alderson Cardinal Unit, Lexington Woman’s High Security Unit, U.S. Prison at Marion and ADX Florence, Colorado. They were subjected to discriminatory and humiliating treatment, sensory deprivation isolation, and arbitrarily denied visits, literature and mail; in other words, denied contact with their political movement, family and supporters. Guild lawyers were involved in campaigns to end the torturous treatment. In the case of the Lexington unity Guild lawyers, along with other attorneys, brought a lawsuit challenging the treatment of similarly situated political prisoners and with the support of a public campaign eventually closed down the Lexington unit.

LOS MACHETEROS CASE IN CONNECTICUT

On August 30, 1985, hundreds of FBI agents raided numerous homes and workplaces in Puerto Rico, arresting and transporting out of the country to Connecticut accused members ofLos Macheteros, (Sugarcane Cutters), a highly successful Puerto Rico based clandestine group, charging them with involvement with the expropriation of 7 million dollars from a Wells Fargo depot in Hartford. Working with lawyers from Puerto Rico, Guild lawyers from New York, Connecticut, Boston and Chicago organized a joint legal defense team. Discovery revealed that in the course of months of secret investigation of the independence movement, the FBI had illegally recorded hundreds of personal conversations and had seized thousands of political books, pamphlets and personal diaries. Evoking claims of terrorism, the government used a new “preventive detention” law to deny bail to many of those arrested. While some were detained as long as three years, Guild lawyers were successful in challenging the indefinite pre-trial detention of those arrested, ultimately obtaining the release of all the accused on bail. The lawyers were also able to have much of the electronic surveillance suppressed. Guild lawyers formed part of the defense team that represented those accused at trial, and also help to negotiate substantially reduced sentences for those who did not go to trial. Guild lawyers also represented on appeal those who had been convicted at trial.

During the court proceedings in the Machetero case in Connecticut, another case againstindependentistas was taking place in Chicago. In 1986, several community organizers were charged with conspiracy to free Oscar Lopez from Leavenworth federal prison, resulting from an FBI sting operation designed to ensnare community people active in the campaign for the release of the FALN prisoners. Guild lawyers represented the accused at trial and on appeal. Oscar Lopez was sentenced to an additional 15 years and transferred to super max prisons for the next 12 years, and his codefendants Jamie Delgado and Dora Garcia were sentenced to 4 and 3 years respectively.

The case was emblematic of the FBI’s continuing attack on Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. The FBI raided the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Pedro Albizu Campos Alternative High School, with agents searching the community institutions for hours. The raid was part of continuing efforts by the U.S. government to frighten community members by labeling the Center and school as “terrorist” institutions. Guild lawyers stood in solidarity with the Puerto Rican community condemning these repressive actions.

In yet another case in Chicago, professor Jose Solis Jordan was tried in 1999 for planting two pipe bombs outside a military recruiting center. Represented by Guild lawyers, the defense centered on the FBI’s use of an informant/provocateur to infiltrate the Puerto Rican community and ensnare people active in the campaign for the release of the political prisoners. Solis was convicted and sentenced to 4 years in prison.

THE CAMPAIGN TO FREE THE FALN PRISONERS

In 1993, Guild lawyers working closely with the Puerto Rican community in the U.S. and the Puerto Rico based human rights campaign filed a petition for executive clemency on behalf of the FALN and some of the Machetero prisoners and began to garner support for their release in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and internationally. In 1999, President Clinton offered to commute their sentences, declaring that “the prisoners were serving extremely lengthy sentences–in some cases 90 years–which were out of proportion to their crimes.” The president said he was moved by the support from “various Members of Congress, a number of religious organizations, labor organizations, human rights groups, and Hispanic civic and community groups” along with “widespread support across the political spectrum within Puerto Rico,” and thousands of letters requesting their release. He also indicated he was moved by “worldwide support on humanitarian grounds from numerous quarters,” pointing specifically to former President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prize Laureate South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Coretta Scott King.

As the prisoners consulted about whether to accept the offered commutations, which did not include all of them, and which provided for parole-type conditions upon release, the right wing set about to try to sabotage the release of the prisoners. Several committees in both houses of the legislature convened hearings, and both houses overwhelmingly approved a joint resolution condemning Clinton’s offer, accusing him of “making deplorable concessions to terrorists and placing in danger the national security in conceding clemency to Puerto Rican ‘terrorists.’”

A month later, after more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans marched to show support, the prisoners’ agreed that those eligible for immediate release would accept the offer, while Oscar López Rivera, who would not have been eligible for release for another 10 years, would remain in prison in solidarity with those not included in the offer.

On September 10, 1999, eleven women and men became former political prisoners, emerging from prison to be received with a hero’s welcome, in Chicago, where two returned to their families and communities, in San Juan, were nine went to live. With the love and support of the Puerto Rican people, they all integrated into civil society, and have since lived productive, law-abiding lives, just as the previous generation of Puerto Rican political prisoners.

In 2010, Carlos Alberto Torres, represented by a Guild lawyer, was released on parole after having served 30 years in prison. Haydée Torres was also released after serving 30 years. Today Oscar López Rivera, represented by a Guild lawyer, is the only remaining prisoner from the Chicago FALN cases. After 32 years behind bars, the call for his release enjoys even more support than that garnered in 1999, including numerous NLG resolutions.

Today, Guild lawyers are instrumental in organizing and advising the international campaign to free Oscar Lopez Rivera. They have been at the forefront in helping to obtain the support of many sectors of society throughout the world. They continue to testify annually before the U.N. Decolonization Committee, representing the NLG International Committee, and have lent their advice and expertise to assist lawyers representing new grand jury resisters and two fugitive Macheteros, Norberto and Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, arrested and imprisoned over the last several years. Also Guild lawyers were involved in helping to expose the 2005 FBI assassination of Machetero leader Filberto Ojeda Rios.

In all of this work, the National Lawyers Guild and Guild lawyers have stood in solidarity with the Puerto Rican people in their fight against political repression and their struggle for independence and self-determination.

Thanks to Sylvia Solá, Guillermo Rebollo Gil, María Cristina y Lowell Fiet for the translation.

NOTES:

1 This article does not cover the work of the Puerto Rico Legal Project, whose legal support for the independence movement will be discussed in a separate article.

2 The author apologizes for any Guild work on behalf of the independence movement which was unintentionally left out.

3 The Guild Lawyers involved included Michael Deutsch, Mara Siegel and Dennis Cunningham. The lawyers from Puerto Rico included Emilio Soler Mari, Luis “Willie” Abreu and John Passalacqua.

4 Instrumental in the coordination of this campaign was Nelson Canals.

5 Among the Guild lawyers involved in the representation of grand jury witnesses were Elizabeth M. Fink, Margaret Ratner-Kunstler, Susan B. Tipograph, Martin Stolar and Doris Peterson from New York; Jose Antonio “Abi” Lugo from Puerto Rico; Michael Deutsch, Dennis Cunningham, Mara Siegel, and Kingsley Clarke from Chicago.

6 Non-collaboration with U.S. federal grand juries has been a continuing principal of the independence movement. The FBI conceded that the refusal of independentistas to testify before grand juries had stymied their investigation into the FALN.

7 See e.g. Deutsch, The Improper Use of the Federal Grand Jury: An Instrument for the Internment of Political Activists, 75 Journal of Criminal Law and criminology, 1159 (Winter 1984): Berkan, The Federal Grand Jury: An Introduction to the Institution, Its Historical Role, Its Current Use and the Problems Faced by the Target Witness, 17 Revista Juridica Del La Universidad Interamericana 103 (1984)

8 William was represented by Michael Deutsch and Elizabeth M. Fink.

9 In state court William was represented by Susan B. Tipograph. After Morales’ escape, Attorney Tipograph was the subject of intensive FBI surveillance and harassment.

10 Among the Guild lawyers who acted as legal advisers were Michael Deutsch, Mara Siegel, Edward Voci, Kinglsey Clarke and Dennis Cunningham.

11 The lawyer, Mara Siegel, had her contempt sentence reversed by the Appellate Court, but was later reinstated by the Illinois Supreme Court.

12 Involved with the suppression challenge were Guild lawyers, David Thomas and Michael Deutsch. In addition, Melinda Power and Dennis Cunningham acted as legal advisors.

13 Jan Susler, Elizabeth Fink, Michael Deutsch, Mary O’Melveny, and Adjoa Aiyertoro from the ACLU, National Prison Project comprised the legal team

14 Among the Guild lawyers involved were William Kunstler, Leonard Weinglass, Ronald Kuby, and Richard Harvey from New York; Linda Backiel then from Philadelphia; Michael Avery from Boston; John Schoenhorn, Richard Reeve, Diane Polan, John Williams and Margaret Levy from Connecticut; Michael Deutsch from Chicago; and Juan Ramon Acevedo and Rafael Anglada from Puerto Rico.

15 The Guild lawyers included Carol Brook, Jeffrey Haas, and Jan Susler.

16 Solis was represented by Linda Backiel and Jed Stone.

17 In 1995, Guild lawyers also assisted independence leader Juan Mari Bras, in his effort to renounce his U.S. citizenship and affirm his right to his Puerto Rican nationality, and to reject the U.S. citizenship that was imposed on Puerto Ricans against their will by an act of the U.S. Congress. After months of delay, pressure by the independence movement assisted by Guild lawyers forced the U.S. government to accept Mari Bras’ renunciation.

Unholy Alliance Seeks to Dismantle Illinois Torture Commission

In 2009, in the wake of the indictment of notorious Chicago police torture ringleader Jon Burge, the Illinois Legislature passed the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission Act. The Act, which was championed by Black People Against Police Torture and other Chicago anti-torture activists, created a Commission that was empowered to take complaints from alleged victims of police torture, investigate the cases, and, where appropriate, send the case back to court for a hearing. The Act provided a hopeful new remedy for those men, almost all African American, who still languished behind bars, decades later, on the basis of confessions which they claimed were tortured from them.

The Act was not welcomed by the Cook County State’s Attorneys’ Office, which had recently changed hands from Richard Devine to Anita Alvarez. Devine was a first lieutenant to then Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley in the early 1980s when compelling evidence of police torture first came to light, and participated with Daley in the decision not to investigate or prosecute Burge and his men. He then left the State’s Attorneys’ Office and went on to represent Burge in the civil rights case brought by torture victim Andrew Wilsonagainst Burge, a case that was instrumental in uncovering the fact that torture was a pattern and practice of the Chicago Police Department. In 1996, Devine was elected Cook County State’s Attorney and steadfastly refused all demands to investigate Burge, while staunchly fighting against all legal efforts to free the torture victims who had been convicted during Daley’s reign.

Alvarez joined the State’s Attorneys’ Office under Daley and rose in the ranks under Devine, prosecuting at least one torture related case along the way. In 2002 the Chief Judge of the Cook County Criminal Court disqualified Devine’s State’s Attorneys’ Office and appointed a Special Prosecutor to investigate Burge, in 2003 he disqualified the SAO from all Burge-related torture cases, and he reaffirmed this decision on two occasions, most recently in April of 2013 after Alvarez again sought to re-enter the cases.

Meanwhile, advocates for the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC) fought to get the Commission funded, and it began to investigate the more than 100 complaints that it had received. The Director of the Commission, a well-respected criminal defense lawyer named David Thomas, enlisted experienced volunteer attorneys from large Chicago law firms to assist in the investigations. In June of 2012 the Commission found five cases worthy of hearings, but it appeared that its work would be aborted because the State cut off its funding. Fortunately, community outrage led to the Commission’s refunding by the Legislature.

Consequently, in May and July of 2013 the Commission determined that eleven more cases should be sent back to Court for hearings. Among those cases were two that were highly politically charged – - – Jerry Mahaffey and Jackie Wilson. Mahaffey and his brother had confessed to a gruesome double murder committed in Devine’s north-side neighborhood and opposing their claims of torture had been a personal crusade for Devine and the State’s Attorney’s Office for more than a decade. Jackie Wilson, who was Andrew Wilson’s brother, had confessed to being his brother’s accomplice in the murder of two Chicago police officers, and the Wilson brothers’ case has been a rallying cry for the Fraternal Order of Police, the Police Memorial Foundation, and all torture deniers in the Chicago Police Department and the State’s Attorneys’ Office for thirty years.

Seizing on the fact that an overworked Thomas had neglected to notify the victims of the crimes in the Mahaffey and Wilson cases as was required by the TIRC statute, Alvarez complained to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn who at that time still feared a formidable primary challenge from Richie Daley’s brother Bill. She also planted the story with some of her pals in the media, and Quinn dutifully called for David Thomas’ immediate resignation. Although one of the authors of the bill, well respected civil rights attorney Standish Willis, pointed out that notification of the crime victims was included in the law as a courtesy to them and that they would rarely have relevant evidence on the issue of whether the confession was a product of torture, Quinn nonetheless demanded Thomas’ immediate resignation, and the Commission withdrew its recommendations in the Mahaffey and Wilson cases.

Thomas, rightfully indignant that Quinn, Alvarez, and their unholy alliance of torture apologists were using the notification pretext to scuttle the Commission and its continuing vital work, refused to tender his resignation, and the question was placed on the agenda for the Sept. 25 Commission meeting for decision. Afraid that his alliance would lose the vote, Quinn hastily filled three longtime vacancies on the Commission with handpicked Commissioners the week before the meeting.

On Sept. 25, the hearing room was packed – - – with torture survivors, their families, and anti-torture activists on one side, and the crime victims’ families wearing yellow ribbons and representatives of the State’s Attorneys’ Office and the Police Memorial Foundation on the other. Former police Superintendent Phil Cline, who had succeeded Burge as Area 2 Violent Crimes Commander, was prominent among the torture deniers, who were apparently represented by disgraced Burge attorney Andrew Hale, whose firm has collected more than 20 million dollars in attorneys’ fees from the City over the past ten years for representing a menagerie of alleged police torturers and brutalizers.

The Commission scurried into private session to consider Thomas’ fate, and nearly ninety minutes later returned to announce that Thomas had indeed “resigned” effective on Sept. 30. The vote was 5-4, with the three Quinn appointments toeing the governor’s line and voting to force the resignation.

Not content with axing Thomas, the Commission called an emergency meeting for the next Monday, and, without considering any other candidates, appointed the governor’s handpicked candidate to replace Thomas. A longtime state bureaucrat with no experience in investigations, criminal justice, or police torture, the new “interim” director will not have the benefit of a transitional period where Thomas, who had intended to resign before the end of the year in any event, could educate him about the many pending investigations and the procedures of the Commission. As a result, the Commission’s important work is at a standstill.

This political power play, orchestrated by Anita Alvarez with the willing assistance of the governor, is an end run around the Cook County Courts by a State’s Attorney whose office has been disqualified from contesting the torture cases that the TIRC sends back for hearings. Even more disturbing, in one of the TIRC cases, she was the in-court prosecutor who sent the torture victim to the penitentiary on the basis of what the Commission later found, by a preponderance of the evidence, to be a confession that was tortured from him.

Ignoring her obvious conflict of interest, Alvarez has escalated her attack on the TIRC, calling for the removal of the Commissioners who sided with Thomas and the appointment of pro-police substitutes. It is clear that Alvarez has set out to destroy the TIRC by rendering it completely ineffective. For his part, Governor Quinn continues his sorry record with regard to wrongful conviction cases — a record that is marked by his refusal to act on pardoning a number of obviously innocent men and women who have been wrongfully convicted — by effecting Alvarez’ devious plan. Once again, the onus is on the forces that have battled for justice in the torture cases to fight back in order to save the Commission and its important work.

 

This article was first published in the Huffington Post.

PLO Lawyers Join with Aldermen Moreno and Brookins in Support of Torture Reparations Ordinance

In the wake of a mayoral apology that was demanded by People’s Law Office lawyers and a $12.3 million dollar torture and wrongful conviction case settlement negotiated by the PLO and the MacAurthur Justice Center, Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins introduced into City Council an ordinance entitled Reparations for the Chicago Police Torture Survivors. The Ordinance serves as a formal apology to the survivors; creates a Commission to administer financial compensation to the survivors; creates a medical and psychological and vocational center on the south side of Chicago; provides free enrollment in City Colleges to the survivors; requires Chicago Public schools to teach a history lesson about the cases; requires the City to fund public memorials about the cases; and sets aside $20 million to finance this redress, the same amount of money the City has spent to defend Burge, other detectives and former Mayor Richard M. Daley in the Chicago Police torture cases.

The Ordinance was announced at a press conference where Aldermen Moreno and Brookins, PLO client and torture survivor Anthony Holmes, PLO lawyers Joey Mogul and Flint Taylor, and Chicago Torture Justice Memorial member Alice Kim all addressed the importance of the Ordinance. To view the press releasethe Ordinance, and press coverage, click on the links below.

 

CBS Article, October 16, 2013.

Sun-Times Article, October 16, 2013.

Press Release, October 16, 2013.

The Ordinance. 

The Chicago Reporter

Occupy Chicago Appeal Brief Filed

On Monday, September 30, a legal team from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), including lawyers from People’s Law Office, filed a brief arguing that the mass arrests and prosecutions of Occupy Chicago activists that occurred in October of 2011 when Occupy occupied Grant Park should be dismissed. In September of 2012, Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas Donnelly issued an opinion dismissing the charges against 92 of the activists who were arrested, on the grounds that the Chicago Park District curfew prohibiting congregating in the park after 11 p.m.was unconstitutional on its face and as applied to Occupy Chicago.

The City of Chicago appealed the Court’s decision. We have now filed our brief with the Illinois Appellate Court, arguing that the curfew ordinance violates the constitutional rights of the Occupy Chicago activists who were arrested.

Because of the importance of this issue, involving the rights of individuals to gather in a public place to demonstrate against the government, we are requesting an oral argument in the case, which will be open to the public. The date and location of the argument, should it be granted, along with other updates, will be posted on this site.

View the Occupy Chicago Appeal

Rahm Emanuel Apologizes For Police Torture. Now What?

The City of Chicago has paid tens of millions of dollars in settlements with victims of brutality under Police Commander Jon Burge. But justice is far from done—and some victims are still in prison.

By: Flint Taylor

On September 11, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, acceding to a longstanding community demand, apologized for decades of torture by police officers of black suspects under former Police Commander Jon Burge. He called it a “dark chapter in the history of the city of Chicago,” and a “stain on the city’s reputation.” “All of us,” he said, are “sorry for what happened.”

The unprecedented apology came just after the Chicago City Council approved a $12.3 million settlement to Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves, both tortured by Burge and his crew of brutal detectives. Kitchen gave a false confession as a result of this torture; both he and Reeves were wrongfully convicted and spent twenty-one years in prison, with Kitchen spending thirteen of those years on death row.

The City of Chicago has now paid more than $20 million in “pinstripe patronage” to private lawyers to defend Burge, former Mayor Richard M. Daley and the City of Chicago, approximately $65 million in settlements to eighteen of the 120 known African-American victims of Burge-related torture and more than $500,000 to Burge in pension money. Cook County, whose prosecutors, under the lead of former State’s Attorney Daley, knew of the torture and actively covered it up, have expended an additional $10.7 million in lawyers’ fees, and the federal government and its court system have easily spent more than $5 million during its six-year torture investigation, its successful prosecution of Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice, the litigation of numerous civil torture cases brought by wrongfully convicted torture victims and its housing of Burge at the federal penitentiary at Butner, North Carolina, where he is serving his four-and-a-half-years sentence. With the Kitchen and Reeves settlement, which will unfortunately once again relieve Daley of his dreaded obligation to testify at deposition about his thirty-year involvement in the torture scandal, the taxpayer’s tab now exceeds $100 million with no end in sight.

While the financial burden that the forty-year police torture scandal has inflicted is in itself stunning, the harm that it has visited goes far beyond that. The brutal racism that Burge and his men visited upon their victims from 1972 until Burge was removed from the force more than twenty years later mirrored the violence of slavery, lynchings and Jim Crow, with its dehumanization being imported from the US military’s torture chambers in South Vietnam. The entire Cook County criminal justice system was also deeply corrupted by the scandal, with prosecutors and judges fueling wrongful prosecutions by willfully obtaining and gladly accepting false confessions that were the product of torture, and the blatant perjury that was a necessary partner in this brutal microcosm of the new Jim Crow. And this scandal has implicated the long reigning former Mayor of the City of Chicago, and the highest officials in the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorneys’ Office.

Thus the continuing damage to Chicago’s citizens, particularly African-Americans, is incalculable. As Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno said on the floor of the City Council when its finance committee approved the settlements: “There are lives behind these torture victims, there are families behind them. Most of the time, poor families, if not all the time.” While the vast majority of Burge’s numerous co-conspirators are retired and collecting police pensions with healthcare benefits, most of the living torture survivors are working menial jobs or hustling on the street, without healthcare or treatment for the psychological damage that they suffered as a result of their torture, deprived of legal redress because of the official cover-up. Two of these men, Anthony Holmes and Melvin Jones, were key government witnesses in its successful prosecution of Burge in 2010, and Jones also testified against Burge at the Chicago Police Board hearings that resulted in Burge’s firing in 1993. Even more disturbingly, some twenty men are still in prison, fighting for new hearings where their cases can be re-evaluated in light of the overwhelming evidence of systematic police torture.

So where do the City and county powers-that-be presently stand as the Chicago police torture scandal enters its fifth decade? While Mayor Emanuel’s apology is certainly both welcome and in sharp contrast to his predecessor’s arrogant refusal to offer one, the City cannot, as of yet, put this scandal behind it, as Mayor Emanuel urged. Not while scores of men remain uncompensated, without medical and psychological care, and Burge and his confederates continue to receive pensions and free lawyers at the City’s expense.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, now headed by Anita Alvarez, was disqualified more than ten years ago from the cases where survivors of torture by Burge seek new criminal court hearings. But it recently attempted to reinsert itself, to oppose the prisoners’ pleas for relief. Stymied in that attempt by the chief judge of the Criminal Courts, Alvarez now is spearheading a vicious attack on the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, no doubt because it has recommended that more than a dozen police torture cases be reopened. Disappointingly, the special prosecutor who replaced the State’s Attorneys’ Office has resisted the prisoners’ pleas for hearings in most of the cases, and Cook County did not join the City in settling the claims made by Kitchen and Reeves against the Cook County prosecutors who participated in procuring Kitchen’s false confession and fabricating false evidence against both of them.

So the struggle for justice in the Chicago Police torture scandal continues. With an apology won, activists are now urging Mayor Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to create a joint fund to compensate those torture survivors who have no legal recourse and to provide them with healthcare services and job training. Twenty million dollars—the same amount paid out in pinstripe patronage to defend Burge, Daley and their co-conspirators—has been publicly suggested as an equitable amount. Full and fair hearings for all those torture survivors who remain in prison is another just demand that is long past due, as is the stripping of Burge’s pension. These concrete steps would go a long way to cleanse Chicago and Cook County from the stain of police torture, and to heal the deep and longstanding wounds inflicted by this racist scandal.

This article was first published in The Nation, on September 18, 2013

Analysis of IPRA Quarterly Report for 2nd Quarter

The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) recently released their second quarterly report for 2013, reviewing allegations of brutality and misconduct against Chicago police officers. Details in these reports are notably scarce, hidden behind a veil of lies and secrecy that enable the police to be wholly unaccountable to the public they ostensibly serve and protect. The People’s Law Office continues to encourage and promote government transparency and all efforts to make the Chicago police force more accountable to the public, including providing meaningful disciplinary consequences to those officers who beat or abuse people. Victims of police brutality and abuse who courageously come forward must be supported, and civil rights litigation must be employed to advance strategies of justice and social change to improve the conditions for all who live in Chicago.

IPRA’s quarterly report, dated July 15, 2013, provides information regarding investigations spanning from April 1, 2013 – June 30, 2013. The report is available here. During this time, IPRA initiated 558 investigations, up 15% from the previous quarter. Of those cases, 96 involved a Taser discharge, and 13 related to officer-involved shootings. IPRA noted that they will continue to refer mediation to the Fraternal Order of the Police when appropriate, though we must ask: when is it ever appropriate to refer a case of police brutality or misconduct to an organization that in 2008 voted to pay for the criminal defense of a notorious former police commander who tortured confessions from over 200 black men? Altogether, IPRA received 2,122 allegations or notifications of brutality or misconduct: 14 cases involved an “extraordinary occurrence,” 13 cases involved police shootings where someone was injured, 7 cases involved police shootings where no one was hit, 14 cases involved police shooting animals, 96 reported uses of Tasers, and 5 cases reported pepper spray discharge. An extraordinary occurrence is a death or injury to a person while in police custody or other extraordinary or unusual occurrence in a lockup facility.

The breakdown of complaints by district is also revealing, despite the fact that IPRA only provides quantitative figures, and not any depth of analysis or information related to those complaints whatsoever. Districts 2 thru 8 were among the districts with the most complaints filed; notably, they are all African-American neighborhoods throughout the south side. District 11 recorded the most complaints – 154 in a three month period – and is comprised primarily of the Garfield Park neighborhood, another African-American community.

What little qualitative information IPRA is forced to divulge regarding sustained complaints reveals an unscrupulous workplace that would not be tolerated in most other professions. On May 18, 2012, an officer texted another person with whom he was in a previous relationship with, in violation of a Direct Order, and only received a written reprimand. A complaint filed December 28, 2010 was sustained in so far as it found a Chicago police officer used Chicago Police Department resources for personal gain; the officer was suspended for a single day. On January 31, 2011, an officer choked another while intoxicated, and only received a 10-day suspension. On August 10, 2006, two officers purchased a controlled substance, and only received a 10-day suspension. On December 6, 2011 and December 13, 2011, an officer endangered the life/welfare of a child and was subsequently charged and arrested for that crime. He was suspended a single day for his actions. On various dates in 2010 and 2011, an officer left abusive and profane voicemails for two other individuals, and was suspended a single day for this behavior. On June 14, 2008, an officer fired at an unarmed individual, violating the Department’s Use of Deadly Force Policy, and failed to immediately provide notification of his involvement in a weapons discharge; for these actions he was suspended a single day. On December 20, 2008, an officer threw a victim in the snow, struck her, bit her, and verbally abused her; he was suspended for 15 days. For harassing and stalking a victim in the winter of 2008, another officer was given a mere 10-day suspension. On September 15, 2010, an officer issued a false parking ticket, and received a 2-day suspension. On February 2, 2010, an off duty sergeant put a victim in a headlock and brandished a knife, for which he received a 5-day suspension. On May 8, 2008, an officer scratched the face and neck of another officer, and received a 2-day suspension. In October of 2009, an officer violated an Order of Protection multiple times; he received a 3-day suspension. On February 1, 2012, an officer “accidently” discharged a weapon twice, and received a 3-day suspension. On September 6, 2012, two officers got in a physical fight; they each received a 1-day suspension. There were also numerous other complaints IPRA sustained regarding weapons discharged, and failures to make reports of complaints. All of these cases resulted in no worse than a single day suspension. We would implore the reader to contemplate these incidents, and think about the punishment they would receive for much less severe delinquency at their own workplace. It becomes all the more alarming when we remember the power, authority, and heightened responsibility that comes with being a police officer.

It is quite notable that a significant number of these complaints that were found to be “Sustained” involved police officers injuring other officers. This is in spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of IPRA complaints are filed by civilians against Chicago police officers who beat them, tased them, falsely arrested them or otherwise violated their civil rights. The Chicago Justice Project has reported that only 5.56% of the complaints filed with IPRA are sustained. It is remarkable that of these 5% of cases, so many of them involved officers injuring one another, rather than Constitutional violations against people of Chicago.

Victims of police shootings, brutality and abuse who courageously come forward must be supported and civil rights litigation must be employed to advance strategies of justice and social change to improve the conditions for all who live in Chicago. The People’s Law Office continues to encourage and promote government transparency and all efforts to make the Chicago police force more accountable to the public they serve and protect, including providing meaningful disciplinary consequences to those officers who shoot, beat or abuse people. When Chicago Police Department and the Independent Police Review Authority fail to hold police officers accountable, we utilize our skills as civil rights lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of those abused by police. For more information about the types of cases we handle, view our Practice Areas.

This article is part of People’s Law Office’s ongoing analysis of IPRA and police accountability. Read further analysis here.

 

Emanuel apologizes for torture under former Chicago Police commander, cohorts

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter September 11, 2013 12:42PM

Rahm 2

Mayor Rahm Emanuel apologized Wednesday for the torture of black suspects by former Area 2 Commander Jon Burge and his cohorts after the City Council approved $12.3 million in additional settlements to alleged torture victims.

Emanuel issued the apology that victims’ attorneys have long demanded after authorizing a third round of settlements that spared former Mayor Richard Daley from answering questions under oath.

Identical, $6.15 million settlements will go to Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves, who spent 21 years in prison for a 1988 murder of five they did not commit, only to be released and exonerated in 2009.

Kitchen’s lawsuit alleged that he was arrested after an erroneous tip from a convicted burglar-turned-jailhouse informant and was beaten with a phone book and a telephone receiver and had his genitals bashed with a nightstick during 16 hours of questioning.

“I am sorry this happened. Let us all now move on,” the mayor said.

“This is a dark chapter on the history of the city of Chicago. I want to build a future for the city. . . . But, we have to close the books on this. We have to reconcile our past. . . . Yes, there has been a settlement. And I do believe that this is a way of saying all of us are sorry about what happened…and closing that stain on the city’s reputation . . . . That is not who we are.”

Emanuel has been trying to clear the books of the costly Burge cases he inherited to turn the page from the reign of terror that has severely undermined the trust between citizens and police in the African-American community so pivotal to solving crime.

Flint Taylor, an attorney for Kitchen, applauded Emanuel for issuing the long-overdue apology to torture victims, their families and the African-American community at large.

“It’s important that he has acknowledged that it is a dark stain on the history of the city and he’s sorry for it. That is certainly a step forward from what Mayor Daley refused to do,” Taylor said.

“It’s symbolically important that the city recognize that its Police Department, its former mayor and state’s attorney were grievously wrong for the scandal and cover-up.”

But, Taylor said Emanuel’s apology is not enough. The city should also establish a $20 million fund — equal to the amount spent to defend Burge and his cohorts — to compensate torture victims who couldn’t sue because of what Taylor calls a “cover-up” by the city.

“Until . . . torture victims are properly compensated, the wound on the city of Chicago will not heal and its conscience will not be cleansed,” Taylor said.

Burge was convicted in June 2010 of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in a civil court case when asked if he knew of the alleged torture that went on under his watch. He is serving a four-year sentence in federal prison.

Emanuel set aside $27.3 million to settle lawsuits for all of 2013.

The settlements approved Wednesday bring the tab for police abuse and misconduct cases resolved this year to at least $77 million. The city’s overall tab for Burge-related cases now tops $83 million — and tops $95 million when county funds are included.

Also on Wednesday, the City Council agreed to spent $2 million — and up to $1.7 million more in legal fees — to compensate dozens of women denied firefighters jobs because of a discriminatory test of physical abilities that measured upper body strength, but had nothing to do with the job.

The $1.98 million will be divided among roughly 50 women who are now beyond the Chicago Fire Department’s mandatory age limit of 38.

In all, 183 women were discriminated against after having passed a 2006 written exam, but failed a 2010 test of physical skills that the city has now scrapped.

This article was published today in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Remembering Attica

Attica prison rebellion

This week marks the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising and subsequent massacre by New York police officers and prison guards.  The rebellion began on September 9, 1971 and ended on September 13, 1971.

The rebellion was inspiring to many around the country and throughout the world in that it represented a growing movement fighting for human rights for prisoners.

People’s Law Office was among a group of civil rights attorneys around the country who immediately responded to the massacre and provided legal representation to inmates who were charged with crimes due to their involvement in the rebellion. Many of the participants, particularly key organizers, were subjected to abuse and torture by guards after the rebellion was suppressed. Lawyers from People’s Law Office, along with other civil rights attorneys, represented the Attica Brothers in a class action civil rights lawsuit which settled in 1999 for $12 million.

For more information on the Attica Rebellion and subsequent massacre:

Attica Is All Of Us from Freedom Archives on Vimeo.

Attica Prison Uprising 101: A Short Primer by Mariame Kaba, Project NIA

For more on our work representing the Attica Brothers:

Remembering Attica Forty Years Later, article in Prison Legal News, co-written by Michael Deutsch of People’s Law Office

Attica Rebellion Radio documentary featuring Michael Deutsch

Portion of the History page on this site discussing Attica

Finance Committee Approves $12.3 Million Settlement With Police Torture Victims Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves

Ronald Kitchen, wrongfully convicted, client of People's Law OfficeCHICAGO – The Finance Committee of the City of Chicago on Friday approved payment of a $12.3 million settlement to be divided between Ronald Kitchen, a former Death Row prisoner who spent 21 years behind bars, and his co-defendant Marvin Reeves. The criminal convictions of Kitchen and Reeves were overturned in 2009 with the agreement of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and the men later received certificates of innocence from the Cook County Courts.  Kitchen was convicted based on his false confession extracted through torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, detective Michael Kill and two other detectives, and the false testimony of a jailhouse snitch.

Kitchen’s lawsuit, filed in 2010, alleged that he was arrested on a false tip, deprived of food and sleep and repeatedly tortured by Burge and Kill and their associates who beat him with their fists, a nightstick and a telephone, inflicting serious injury to his genitals.

During discovery in the lawsuit, Kitchen subpoenaed former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who, while State’s Attorney, had approved the seeking of the death penalty in Kitchen’s case, to testify about his knowledge of the torture scandal. Daley refused to appear, and a motion to compel his testimony was pending before the court at the time the settlement was reached this summer.

People’s Law Office lawyers G. Flint Taylor, Joey Mogul and Ben Elson and MacArthur Justice Center lawyers Locke Bowman and Alexa Van Brunt represented Kitchen in the lawsuit and negotiated the settlement with the City of Chicago. The portion of the lawsuit naming the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Lukanich as defendants has not been settled and is still pending.

“We regret that former Mayor Richard M. Daley may once again escape testifying about his involvement in the Burge torture scandal,” said G. Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office. “We hope that he will be compelled to do so in Mr. Kitchen’s continuing case against Cook County and in several other cases that are pending in the state and federal courts. We also call on Mayor Emanuel to apologize to the survivors of police torture and to the African American community for the damage done by the Burge torture scandal and to create a fund, in an amount equal to the $20,000,000 paid in ‘pinstripe patronage’ to the lawyers who have defended Burge, Daley, and their confederates, to compensate those torture survivors who have been prevented from bringing lawsuits by the City’s decades long cover-up.”

“More than 100 African American men were victims of torture, wrongful prosecution and false imprisonment in Cook County between 1973 and 1991,” said Locke Bowman, Director of the MacArthur Justice Center.  “The abusive police actions spanning more than two decades were made possible by other authority figures, who helped keep the torture secret, thwarted attempts to discipline police officers, and refused to act on calls for investigations and prosecutions of Burge and others responsible for the systemic pattern of torture.  Ronald Kitchen was tortured and spent much of his life in prison because so many of the people we entrusted to uphold justice opted instead to destroy it.”