HISTORIC HEARING ON REPARATIONS FOR BURGE TORTURE SURVIVORS

Mayor’s Office Announces Support for Reparations Legislation; Supporters Pack City Council chambers

Chicago, IL – This morning, members of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), Amnesty International, USA and representatives of the Mayor’s Office announced an agreement on a reparations package for survivors of torture by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command before a special session of the City Council Finance Committee. The package, based on the Reparations Ordinance introduced in October of 2013 by Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins (21st Ward), provides concrete redress to the torture survivors and their family members, which includes: a formal apology for the torture; specialized counseling services to the Burge torture survivors and their family members on the South side; free enrollment and job training in City Colleges for survivors and  family members; a history lesson about the Burge torture cases taught in Chicago Public schools; a permanent public memorial to the survivors; and it sets aside $5.5 million for a Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims that will allow the Burge torture survivors with us today to receive financial compensation for the torture they endured.

This historic agreement is the product of decades of organizing for justice in these cases, and represents the culmination of a concerted six-month campaign led by CTJM, Amnesty International – USA, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, with the help of several other organizations including BYP100, Chicago Light Brigade and the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression.

Bill sponsor Alderman Moreno said, in support of the bill’s passage, “I call on my fellow aldermen to swiftly pass this reparations package that Mayor Emanuel has agreed to because we have a moral and ethical duty to help these victims and their families. We hope and trust that the healing and forgiving process can begin with the passage of this legislation.”

The reparations package, rooted in a restorative justice framework, acknowledges the torture of Black people under former police commander Jon Burge, and begins to make amends by providing financial compensation and services to the torture survivors and their families. Beyond the financial compensation, the legislation is an important acknowledgment by the city of its responsibility to make amends for the torture, and the decades of denials and cover-ups. It is a significant step towards justice and healing, although nothing can erase the unconscionable human rights violations committed by Burge and his fellow officers.

“The harm that was done by Burge and officers under his command to individuals, to their families, and to Black communities in Chicago cannot be undone,” said Mariame Kaba, founding Director of Project NIA. “It cannot be erased, and the lasting impact of this torture and trauma continues to this day. We keep this knowledge in our hearts and minds. And at the same time, it is important that the city acknowledge and speak to this harm. This ordinance is another step in the long march toward an end to police violence.  It is a modicum of redress.”

Scores of supporters of the legislation filled the City Council chambers to support the survivors of police torture. Several leaders in the movement for reparations gave testimony before the Council Finance Committee in support of the package, including torture survivors and CTJM members Anthony Holmes and Darrell Cannon, Steven Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA; Dorothy Burge, member of CTJM and Black People Against Police Torture; Joey Mogul, co-founder of CTJM and partner at the People’s Law Office and Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office.

When describing the ordinance, Darrell Cannon, a survivor of torture by detectives under Burge’s command, said “This is historic.  For those of us who have been fighting and struggling to set a landmark, this is that landmark. This is the moment. What we do here will not be undone. People across the country will talk about Chicago.  It would be the first bill in the US that would provide reparations for law enforcement conduct.”

The Reparations Ordinance was drafted to provide redress to approximately 120 African American men and women subjected to racially-motivated torture, including electric shock, mock executions, suffocation and beatings by now former Police Commander Jon Burge and his subordinates from 1972 through 1991.  Although Burge was convicted on federal charges for perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the torture cases in 2010, he continues to draw a taxpayer funded pension, while scores of Chicago Police Torture survivors continue to suffer from the effects of the torture they endured without any compensation, assistance, or legal redress.

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Super Lawyers Interview with Michael Deutsch

The Atticus of Attica

By Beth Taylor
Published in: 2015 Illinois Super Lawyers — February 2015

From rioting prisoners to Black Panthers to animal-rights defenders, Michael E. Deutsch has been on the front line of the fight for civil rights

Q: What were the roots of your civic activism?

A: I didn’t really become an activist until I got to law school. I graduated [Northwestern] in ’69, right at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

Then I became a law clerk in the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The Chicago conspiracy trial was going on; these anti-war activists were put on trial for crossing state lines to encourage riots—basically to encourage demonstrations against the war.

It was a very colorful trial, and the defendants were from different parts of the anti-war movement; one was a leader of the Black Panthers. I used to go down there and watch. There was this judge, Julius Hoffman, who was very against the defendants. There was a lot of commotion and a lot of acting out and drama in the courtroom. I became very immersed in wanting to become a lawyer who represents people who are fighting injustice, and [in] working for people’s rights.

I joined a group of lawyers—which I still am part of—called the People’s Law Office, which started in 1969 and is still going strong 45 years later. We represent people who are victims of police abuse and police brutality. We also are very involved in uncovering people who have been wrongfully convicted and have been in prison a long period of time. We’ve been able to free many people from prison.

My first jury trial was on behalf of Black Panthers in southern Illinois who had been attacked by the police and shot back. They were acquitted of 47 counts of attempted murder. So that was a great way to start your legal career.

Then what really influenced my commitment was the Attica prisoners’ rebellion, which happened in September of 1971. I was one of several lawyers who came from different places to represent the Attica prisoners who, by the time I got involved, had been beaten and a lot of them shot, and the prison retaken. We were trying to get them medical care and equal rights.

The state of New York was willing to sacrifice its own guards, who were being held hostage, in order to put down this prison rebellion, even though it could have been negotiated. When they stormed the prison and shot—like a turkey shoot—they killed nine of the hostages. They originally said the hostages had died because their throats had been cut, and of course the coroner determined that they had all been killed by state police bullets.

I helped to organize the legal defense of over 60 prisoners who were facing 1,400 felony counts. We organized a group called the Attica Brothers Legal Defense and I moved to Buffalo, New York, where it was based. I spent the next four or five years going back and forth from Chicago to Buffalo. Ultimately we brought a civil rights case on behalf of the [prisoners] who were killed and tortured after they took over the prison.

I realized, working on the Attica case, how important it was to stand up for people in prison and how bad the conditions and treatment of prisoners were. That was really the cause of the Attica rebellion. I realized that I could walk away from these situations, but those people in prison or the people who were victims of injustice couldn’t. So I made a commitment that that was going to be my life’s work: to expose injustice and fight for equal rights of people.

Q: What was the outcome of the Attica lawsuit?

A: We won at trial for one of the prisoners for $4 million, then that was taken away by the Court of Appeals. But ultimately, we settled the case for $12 million for the victims of Attica.

Q: Have any of your cases taken you before the U.S. Supreme Court?

A: In 1980, I appeared in a case called Carlson v. Green, which was the case that established the right to sue directly under the Eighth Amendment for damages for cruel and unusual punishment.

I represented a black man who died in a Terre Haute, Indiana, federal prison. He was the fourth man to die in the prison hospital within an eight-month period. This man was suffering from a terrible asthma attack; the doctor refused to come, even though he lived on the prison property. After several hours of him fighting for breath, the doctor said, “Give him some Thorazine.” That’s contraindicated for someone who’s having trouble breathing, and he died.

We brought a case for cruel and unusual punishment—basically a denial of medical care. The government said, “You can’t bring a case directly under the Eighth Amendment; it doesn’t provide for a private cause of action.” That case established that right. It was 7-2.

Q: What was it like arguing before the Supreme Court?

A: It’s very intimidating in a way, but I believed very strongly in the case and I had a very strong factual situation. I’m told that Thurgood Marshall kind of poked the judge sitting next to him and said, “Look at this guy; he really believes in his case.”

Then the most interesting thing: Right in the middle of my argument, they bang the gavel and say, “It’s lunchtime.” So they get up and leave. Which is good, in a way, because then I had a whole lunch period to plan the rest of my argument. But it was so shocking. As soon it’s 12 o’clock, no matter what, they just bang the gavel and they get up and leave.

Q: Which justices dissented?

A: Then-Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justice [William] Rehnquist. I recall that Justice Burger was very negative.

Q: Was it an intimidating experience?

A: The lead-up is intimidating: “I’m going to argue in front of the Supreme Court; they’re going to ask me a lot of questions. Am I going to do a good job?” But for me, I’m always very nervous whenever I go into court, no matter what. And I’ve been doing it for all these years. But as soon as I get in there and I lose myself in the struggle and I find a way to express my belief in my client and the issues in the case, nerves dissipate. I was fired up.

Q: Any other cases that really stand out?

A: A case that I’ve done on behalf of a prisoner in Indiana who was on death row and 30 days away from being executed. After many years of fighting for him, and winning once and losing once in the Indiana Supreme Court … they agreed to take the death penalty off the table, and he’ll be eligible for release in two years. He was a young black man who was accused of being involved in a bank robbery in which a police officer was killed.

Q: You also worked for two decades, starting in 1975, on behalf of the Puerto Rican independence movement.

A: I represented Puerto Rican political prisoners in U.S. courts and helped to obtain their freedom and clemency from President Jimmy Carter. I also represented Puerto Rican activists from Chicago and New York who were accused of being terrorists who were involved in clandestine work on behalf of independence. I have also testified before the U.N. decolonization committee and in other international tribunals in support of Puerto Rican independence.

Q: What changes have you seen in our society over the years?

A: One of the things that I’ve been involved with in the last 10 years is representing people accused of being terrorists.

I’ve been representing Palestinian-Americans who have been accused of giving money to people in the occupied territories and charged with providing what they call material support for terrorism. [In] one of the cases I had in Chicago, two Palestinian men, who were from Chicago, were accused of RICO [racketeering and corruption] for being part of an organization in Palestine. [Prosecutors were] saying that was a racketeering-influenced organization. Of course, the jury didn’t buy that; after a long trial, they acquitted them of everything but minor charges.

I’ve seen the courts used, in my view, to repress political activity; to over-punish people. I’ve been involved with a lot of work around the rights of prisoners and challenging high-security units. We brought lawsuits challenging keeping people locked up, basically being evaluated as threats to the institution and then being put in these units for indefinite periods of time—for two, three, four, five years in segregation. No way to get out, and no due process for getting in.

I’ve done some work for animal rights people who have been involved in releasing minks and other animals that are in these fur farms and being treated very badly. And, of course, now they’re accused of terrorism. There’s a statute called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act which makes it a crime, a terrorist crime, to free animals or do any kind of protest about the treatment of animals that interferes with these industrial animal farms.

They have been using RICO in political situations when it was supposed to be used only against organized crime, and that’s what they’ve used with terrorism too. They’ve expanded that use to use it against people who don’t fit the definition of terrorism. Just this year, I represented, with two other lawyers, these young men. My client was just 21 years old; he had come from Florida to be part of the anti-NATO demonstrations because the NATO summit was in Chicago this summer, and they were part of demonstrating and actually causing some kind of vandalism. They were found by these two undercover Chicago police who were encouraging them to take further steps beyond just minor vandalism and talking to them about making Molotov cocktails. Before they did anything—they never were able to do anything—they arrested them and charged them with terrorism.

This was the first time, under Illinois law, they used the terrorism statute since it was passed after 9/11. [They] charged these young guys with providing material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit terrorism. We had a long trial in the state court in Chicago and they were convicted of lesser charges. But the terrorism charges were rejected by the jury, which basically said, “We don’t think this is terrorism. These are just young guys who went over the line but certainly aren’t terrorists.”

[In another] case, two young men are accused of freeing minks in Illinois and Iowa, and they’re charged with this Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. It may be against the law, and maybe they can indict them, but why call it terrorism? I’ve found that, if you have a jury and you start talking about terrorism, either they’re going to see it and say, “Well, it’s really not terrorism,” like they said with those NATO kids, or they’re going to be influenced by that and not be able to really fairly look at the evidence. It’s a very prejudicial kind of charge.

I’ve done a lot of work representing people who are subpoenaed to grand juries, and wrote a long law review article in 1984 that’s still being quoted by people who are opposing grand juries about how the power of the grand jury is being abused by the federal government—being usurped by federal prosecutors when the grand jury is supposed to be an independent institution.

Q: Are you seeing a lot of repercussions from what’s going on with ISIS?

A: The FBI is concerned that there are people who have gone from the U.S. over to fight with that group and other groups in Syria. The FBI is very active in terms of investigating and surveilling the Arab and Muslim communities in Chicago and in New York as well.

I’m involved in a case right now in Detroit where a Palestinian woman, who’s 67 years old—lived in this country for 20 years—was arrested because they said 10 years ago when she filled out her naturalization papers, they asked her if she was ever arrested, convicted or imprisoned, and she filled out “no, no, no.” It turns out 45 years ago, in 1969 when she was a 22-year-old student, she was allegedly involved in resistance to the new occupation when the Israelis went into Gaza and the West Bank in 1967. She was put into a military tribunal that they set up, she was horrifically tortured, and she was found guilty of being involved in resistance activities against the Israel occupation.

She’s been in this country 20 years. The reason, I believe, they brought these charges is because she’s very active in the Palestinian community in Chicago and part of the Arab American Action Network. We’re saying it’s politically motivated.

Q: You are a past legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

A: It was started [in 1966] by lawyers who were involved in the civil rights movement in the South. One of the founders was William Kunstler, who was a well-known civil rights lawyer; [also] Arthur Kinoy and others. They set up this office in New York, and over the years it’s expanded to be involved in international human rights, women’s rights, labor rights, all kinds of different work on behalf of people who are fighting for justice in the courts.

From 1991 to 1996 I was fortunate enough to be the legal director of that institution. We had about 10 lawyers and we had a lot of cooperating lawyers who would donate their services to work on a civil rights case with the center. It’s still going strong; it was very involved in challenging the people who were put in Guantanamo and got some good opinions from the Supreme Court about that.

I was involved in several cases when I was there. One that I was proud of was getting an injunction against preventing homeless people, who were getting harassed and beaten up in Penn Station. The police would see them as homeless and jump on them and throw them out. The court said they had a right to be there and to stop any type of abuse and harassment.

Q: What do you like the best and least about your job?

A: I like fighting for people’s rights and exposing injustice. Having to be creative about how to present people’s cases to juries, basically. The thing I like least is being in front of judges who are not open-minded and are basically so pro-prosecution or pro-government that they won’t listen to reasonable arguments.

Q: What has changed in the legal arena since 1969?

A: The law has become more restrictive and the judiciary has become more conservative. Of course, I came at the time of the Warren court. After Attica, there was a period of time in which courts were trying to give prisoners constitutional rights and protect their conditions and treatment. [Recently] we’ve seen a more conservative court, both in the federal district court level and, of course, in the Supreme Court. Also, I think we’ve seen a rollback on certain basic civil rights that were being protected when I first started practicing. Even in the criminal defense field, it’s much harder to defend people, and the law has restricted some of the rights of people who are accused of crimes. We have the influx of mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws. When Attica happened, there were 200,000 people in state and federal prisons—that was in 1971, 1972. Today we have like 2.5 million.

This idea that we could somehow deal with crime by locking up more people for longer periods of time, that was the ethic that kind of took over—particularly the war on drugs and this idea that we needed to be harsher and [offer] less rehabilitation in prisons.

Q: Do you see this trend continuing?

A: The pendulum is starting to swing slowly back the other way—I think because of the financial problems that we’re experiencing. I don’t think there’s a strong sentiment among legislatures or judges that, “Oh, we’ve locked up too many people and we’re being too harsh.” But we’re spending too much money on prisons … and that’s what I think is causing the pendulum to slowly move back.

The federal sentencing guidelines are not mandatory anymore—judges can look at them but they don’t have to follow them in federal court. That’s a good development. There are rulings by federal judges about keeping people locked up indefinitely in isolation units; they’re starting to say that mentally ill people shouldn’t be kept isolated. So there’s a beginning of some liberalizing or progressive movement, but it’s slow. The pendulum has swung so far the other way, it’s going to take a while to swing back. But I’m optimistic.

15 Practical Proposals of Attica Prisoners

THE 15 PRACTICAL PROPOSALS OF REBELLING ATTICA PRISONERS

Practical Proposals

1. Apply the New York State minimum wage law to all state institutions. STOP SLAVE LABOR.

2. Allow all New York State prisoners to be politically active, without intimidation or reprisals.

3. Give us true religious freedom.

4. End all censorship of newspapers, magazines, letters, and other publications coming from the publisher.

5. Allow all inmates, at their own expense, to communicate with anyone they please.

6. When an inmate reaches conditional release date, give him a full release without parole.

7. Cease administrative resentencing of inmates returned for parole violations.

8. Institute realistic rehabilitation programs for all inmates according to their offense and personal needs.

9. Educate all correctional officers to the needs of the inmates, i.e., understanding rather than punishment.

10. Give us a healthy diet, stop feeding us so much pork, and give us some fresh fruit daily.

11. Modernize the inmate education system.

12. Give us a doctor that will examine and treat all inmates that request treatment.

13. Have an institutional delegation comprised of one inmate from each company authorized to speak to the institution administration concerning grievances

(QUARTERLY).

14. Give us less cell time and more recreation with better recreational equipment and facilities.

15. Remove inside walls, making one open yard, and no more segregation or punishment.

Declaration and 5 Demands of Attica

Declaration to the People of America
By the inmates at Attica

SEPTEMBER 9, 1971 – read by L.D. Barkley

The People of the United States of America: first of all we want it to be known that in the past we have had some very, very, treacherous experiences with the Department of Correction of New York State. They have promised us many things and they are giving us nothing except more of what we’ve already got: brutalization and murder inside this penitentiary. We do not intend to accept to allow ourselves to accept this situation again. Therefore, we have composed this declaration to the People of America to let them know exactly how we feel and what it is that they must do and what we want primarily, not what someone else wants for us. We’re talking about what we want. There seems to be a little misunderstanding about why this incident developed here at Attica and this declaration here will explain the reason: The entire incident that has erupted here at Attica is not a result of the dastardly bushwhacking of the two prisoners, September 8, 1971, but of the unmitigated oppression wrought by the racist administrative network of this prison throughout the year. We are men. We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. The entire prison populace, that means each and every one of us here, have set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United States. What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed. We will not compromise on any terms except those terms that are agreeable to us. We’ve called upon all the conscientious citizens of America to assist us in putting an end to this situation that threatens the lives of not only us, but of each and every one of you, as well. We have set forth demands that will bring us closer to the reality of the demise of these prison institutions that serve no useful purpose to the people of America, but to those who would enslave and exploit the people of America.

Our demands are such:

1. We want complete amnesty, meaning freedom from all and any physical, mental and legal reprisals.

2. We want now, speedy and safe transportation out of confinement to a non-imperialistic country.

3. We demand that the Federal Government intervene, so that we will be under direct Federal Jurisdiction.

4. We want the Governor and the Judiciary, namely Constance B. Motley, to guarantee that there will be no reprisals and we want all factions of the media to articulate this.

5. We urgently demand immediate negotiations through William M. Kunstler, Attorney at Law, 588 9th Avenue, New York, New York; Assemblyman Arthur O. Eve of Buffalo; the Prisoner Solidarity Committee of New York; Minister Farrakan of the Muslims. We want Huey P. Newton from the Black Panther Party and we want the Chairman of the Young Lords Party. We want Clarence B. Jones of the Amsterdam News. We want Tom Wicker of the New York Times. We want Richard Roth from the Currier Express. We want the Fortune Society; Dave Anderson of the Urban League of Roch ester; Brine Eva Barnes; We want Jim Hendling of the Democratic Late Chronicle of Detroit, Michigan. We guarantee the safe passage of all people to and from this institution. We invite all the people to come here and witness this degradation so that they can better know how to bring this degradation to an end. This is what we want.

—The Inmates of Attica Prison

 

Embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Weighs in on New Orleans Police Monitor: Submitted to HP and CST

By G. Flint Taylor

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During a week in which Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s disapproval rate on two racially charged local issues skyrocketed, he found time to write a glowing letter to Federal District Judge Susie Morgan in support of former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard’s bid to become the monitor of the sweeping consent decree that the Department of Justice has obtained to oversee the New Orleans Police Department.

The 122 page decree comprehensively deals with issues of police use of deadly force; supervision, training and discipline; gender bias, domestic violence and sexual assault; arrests, searches and custodial interrogations; crisis intervention; and secondary employment. The decree also provides for transparency, oversight, and community involvement in the form of an interdisciplinary Criminal Justice Coordination Group, a Police-Community Advisory Board, a community based Restorative Justice Project, comprehensive audits, data collection and analysis, and an independent monitor, jointly selected by the parties and approved by the court. Judge Morgan entered the decree this January, and has set a fifth public hearing on the contested question of the monitor for the Superdome on May 28th.

After unsuccessfully trying to back out of the decree, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed Hillard as the City’s choice for monitor. New Orleans civil rights attorney Mary Howell contacted me to investigate Hillard’s qualifications for the job. In response, I wrote a letter that attorney Howell, who has been courageously fighting against police brutality in New Orleans for more than 35 years, presented with her public comment. The letter set forth Hillard’s role in the continuing cover-up of the Chicago police torture scandal:

When Hillard became the Superintendent in 1998, the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS), after more than a decade of police cover-up and denial, had made an official determination that there was systematic police torture of African American suspects that was led by Police Commander Jon Burge which included the use of electric shock, suffocation, and mock executions; Burge had been fired; and OPS investigators had made specific disciplinary findings that Burge’s “right hand men” had tortured a number of suspects. Hillard’s top aide, rather than acting on these disciplinary findings, summarily overturned them, an act that Hillard expressly ratified. When more than 50 community groups and civic leaders asked him to reverse his decision and mandate an independent investigation, Hillard refused to do so. This conduct led to a continuation of the cover-up and wrongful imprisonment of numerous African-American men for another decade. These actions also provided the basis for Hillard and his aide’s inclusion as defendants in no fewer than five federal court torture/wrongful conviction cases, three of which have been settled for a total of approximately $17,000,000, while the other two are still pending.

The letter also recounted Hillard’s role in two other Chicago high profile cases where he approved the wrongful arrests of two young boys for the murder and rape of 11 year old Ryan Harris and the subsequent arrest of 800 demonstrators who were peacefully protesting the start of the Iraq war.

In response, Hillard solicited a number of letters including from Mayor Emanuel, longtime powerful Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, and former CPD Deputy Superintendent Charles Ramsey. Emanuel, who wrote “as Mayor, a publicly elected official, and as a private citizen,” highlighted his recent appointment of Hillard as chair of the public safety committee in charge of facilitating the highly unpopular closing of 54 Chicago Public Schools. Emanuel also touted Hillard’s “personal integrity and high professional standards” and his confidence that, that, as monitor, Hillard would “play a crucial leadership role” in “helping the people of New Orleans begin to regain trust in their Police Department and the new practices of constitutional policing that will ultimately transform it.”

These letters did not sit well with two longtime veterans of the battles against police brutality and corruption in Chicago. In his public comment, Howard Saffold, a founding member and past president of the African American Police League who acted as the Coordinator of Security for Mayor Harold Washington, recounted how he was compelled to remove Hillard from his security staff, and shined a light on Hillard’s powerful advocates:

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no track record of Hillard, or those who have written in his support, advocating public policy changes in Chicago. It is a sad fact that retaliation from the desk of some of those powerful letter writers still rules here and silences voices of change. In fact, the all-powerful Ed Burke was one of the leaders of the 29 white aldermen who unsuccessfully sought to drive Mayor Harold Washington from power during his first term, and Charles Ramsey was Deputy Superintendent during a period where his direct supervisor, Superintendent Leroy Martin, was actively covering up findings of “systematic” police torture.

In her public comment, Mary Powers, longtime coordinator of Citizens Alert, a Chicago organization which has fought for police accountability for more than four decades, raised Citizen Alert’s “most serious concern” which arose from “Mr. Hillard’s consistent stonewalling of community requests that he employ the authority of his office to reopen investigations of systematic torture by Jon Burge and CPD officers under his command” and “substantially contributed to the continuation of a decades long police torture scandal.”

Historically, New Orleans has been a sister city to Chicago when it comes to a long standing tradition of racially motivated police torture, deadly brutality, and systemic cover-up. In a certain sense then, it should not surprising that New Orleans would seek a kindred spirit from Chicago to “monitor” its Department. Unfortunately, it is also not be surprising that the City’s Mayor and most powerful Alderman would attempt to swing some good old fashioned Chicago clout to help their sister city in police crime. Like their very unpopular move to close 54 Chicago public schools, their war with the Chicago Teacher’s Union, their refusal to apologize to the African American community on behalf of the City for decades of police torture, and their continued funding of Jon Burge’s defense, Emanuel and Burke’s advocacy for Terry Hillard is yet another galling manifestation of their abiding lack of respect for Chicago’s African American community.

Racism, Torture and Impunity in Chicago

By G. Flint Taylor

This article appeared in the March 11-18, 2013 edition of The Nation.

In Chicago, Black History Month is a time when some of us reflect on one of our poorest kept secrets, an ongoing injustice born of brutal, systemic racism, which has spread over a generation and whose stain is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city.

Forty years ago, a rookie Chicago police detective named Jon Burge tortured Anthony Holmes using electric shock and suffocation, causing him to crawl on the floor in pain. Lacing this torture with racial epithets, Burge initiated a pattern of dehumanizing abuse that would terrorize at least 120 African American men, their families, and the black community for the next 20 years. This pattern was marked not only by its uniquely brutal tactics, but also by its overtly racist motivation. Burge referred to his notorious electric shock device as the “nigger box,” routinely used the term “nigger” as part of his torture routine, and also used the term to describe his victims in boasting conversations with friends and even casual acquaintances. One day, when asked by an acquaintance about his work investigating homicides, he remarked that he had been “dealing with dead niggers all day.” His “right hand men,” Sgt. John Byrne and Detective Peter Dignan, also repeatedly used the term, including during interrogations, introducing the plastic cover used for suffocation by saying that they “had something special for niggers,” and threatening to hang another suspect by pointing to a noose hanging from the basement ceiling and saying they “hang niggers around here all the time.” Burge and his confederates often focused their torture and brutality on the genitals of their victims.

This blatant racism is highlighted by two pending civil rights damages lawsuits brought under the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, in which two wrongfully convicted torture survivors allege that their torture was the result of a racially motivated police conspiracy. In Darrell Cannon’s case, Byrne and Dignan informed him that they had “a scientific way to interrogate niggers,” then proceeded to take him to a remote area, and repeatedly electric shocked him on the genitals while using the racial slur so frequently that Cannon recalls thinking “that was my name.” In Ronald Kitchen’s case, Burge and detective Michael Kill beat him and kicked him in the genitals while racially taunting him. When later asked, under oath, how often he used the “n-word,” Kill proudly replied “more than a million times.”

Local historians, including African American history professor Adam Green at the University of Chicago, have linked this racially based torture to the brutality of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow. The parallels in the nature and focus of the brutality are undeniable. So too the selection of African American commanders chosen for their subservience who looked the other way when they heard the anguished screams of the torture victims, and actively participated in the cover-up. African American detectives were kept in line by strict enforcement of the police code of silence, and when they complained of Burge’s racism to their Commander, Burge threatened them with retaliation. Several of these detectives heard rumors that Burge was a Ku Klux Klan member in Indiana. So black detectives under Burge remained silent, coming forward to acknowledge the “open secret” only when they retired decades later.

The CookCountyprosecutor’s office not only countenanced and facilitated the racist pattern of torture; it also aggressively used the confessions so produced to wrongfully convict scores of African American men, sending a dozen to death row.  Some of these prosecutors kept a scorecard of their “accomplishments,” comparing the weights of their convicted defendants in a competition called “nigger by the pound.”

Richard M Daley’s long term involvement in the torture scandal is now well known. As Mayor he scorned all opportunities to apologize, and paid millions of public dollars to continue to defend against this undeniable record of racism. In 2006, special prosecutors given $7 million in public monies to investigate Burge and his men, somehow managed never to mention the racist nature of the torture in their 192 page report. And when Burge was finally put on trial in 2010 — not for the torture itself but for lying about it — his lawyers successfully kept any mention of racism out of the record. While waiting for the jury to return a verdict, Burge asked a courtroom observer whether the jury would really “believe that bunch of niggers,” apparently referring to the courageous men who had testified against him. One of those men was  Melvin Jones, to whom Burge rhetorically posed a similar question while torturing him with electric shocks 30 years earlier.

Last summer the Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed off on a settlement for another torture survivor, Michael Tillman, who was exonerated in 2010.  It was the perfect chance for the mayor to apologize on behalf of the city to the African American community that helped elect him. He chose not to do so. Instead, picking up where the Daley administration left off, the mayor has continued to fund Burge’s defense, paying private lawyers a total of $3.8 million to date in the Cannon and Kitchen cases alone. Incredibly, in the Kitchen case, the lawyers the Emanuel Administration has chosen to represent Burge are the very same lawyers a federal judge has found to have practiced “deliberate,” “purposeful,” and “invidious” “racially based” discrimination during jury selection in another wrongful conviction case.

Burge is now serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence in federal prison, where he continues to receive his pension on the taxpayers’ dime. None of his co-conspirators have been held accountable. At the same time, scores of torture survivors remain locked behind bars, serving significantly longer sentences for crimes to which they confessed while being brutalized. If Black History Month is to mean anything in a city like Chicago, our leaders must finally own up to this racist legacy—or they, too, will be remembered for covering it up.

‘Englewood Four’ say city, police ignored evidence that could have cleared them

 

Thursday, November 15, 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times 

People’s Law Office attorneys, together with the MacArthur Justice Center, today filed a damages lawsuit on behalf of Terrill Swift, one of the Englewood Four, alleging that he was framed, at the age of 17, by several notorious Chicago police detectives, including Kenneth Boudreau and James Cassidy, for crimes he did not commit.

The following is a Chicago Sun-Times article, written by staff reporter Jon Seidel, detailing this case.

‘Englewood Four’ say city, police ignored evidence that could have cleared them

Terrill Swift and his “brothers” — Harold Richardson, Michael Saunders and Vincent Thames — all spent much of their lives in prison for a rape and murder they didn’t commit.

DNA evidence cleared them. A judge overturned their convictions one year ago, freeing Richardson and Saunders after they spent more than 17 years behind bars. Swift and Thames, who served more than a dozen years for the 1994 murder and rape of Nina Glover, had already been released.

Now the men, known as the Englewood Four, are all going back to court. Their lawyers said Thursday they’re filing lawsuits against the City of Chicago, a Cook County prosecutor and several city police detectives who they said ignored evidence that linked Johnny “Maniac” Douglas, a career criminal, to Glover’s murder. It was his DNA, linked to Glover’s body, that finally exonerated the men.

“This is Chapter Two in a long battle,” Swift said.

The men also claim a code of silence within the Chicago Police Department led to their false convictions. Their lawsuits come just two days after attorneys for a female bartender beaten by a former Chicago cop in 2007 said they won a verdict from a federal jury by proving the existence of that code of silence.

“We didn’t see any detectives come forward and say that these men were the wrong men,” said Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office. “They went and continued to stand behind their coercion and their fabrication, so the code of silence was at work very much so in these cases.”

A spokesman for the city’s law office didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

The men were just teens, ranging in age from 15 to 18, when they were arrested for Glover’s murder. Her naked body was found Nov. 7, 1994, in a Dumpster behind the Family Super Mart Liquor Store at 1400 W. Garfield, wrapped in a bloody sheet, lawyers said. An autopsy found she’d been strangled to death.

Lawyers said police found Douglas — the “real murderer” — at the scene and even interviewed him. But they said police let him go and focused instead on the four teens. Swift said that led to him and his friends being “abducted” from their lives and families.

“Straight to the point, we were young black youth in urban communities,” Swift said. “We were, again, abducted. Maybe the mind-state was, we’ll get them off the street now. They’ll do something later. We were young, black, I don’t want to use the ‘N’ word, but, hey, they didn’t give us a chance. We were taken away for that reason.”

Stuart Chanen, Thames’ lawyer from the Valorem Law Group, said Douglas went on to kill at least one more woman after Glover’s death. Douglas, now dead, was arrested 83 times and earned 38 convictions between July 1980 and April 1998, the attorneys said.

But lawyers said police used “deceit, intimidation and threats” to force a confession from each of the teens, allegedly beating on one’s chest with a phone book and a flashlight. The officers are also accused of ripping an earring out of Saunders’ ear and threatening to take him to the railroad tracks behind the police station to shoot him.

Swift said he and the others are not filing the lawsuits for financial gain.

“We want you to make a change in how you interrogate us,” Swift said.

Adjusting to life since their release from prison has been a challenge, Swift said. He now has a job in Bolingbrook, but something as simple as finding a place to live can be difficult.

“People want to know, why don’t you have credit?” Swift said. “And I don’t want to tell everybody what I went through. But you have to at times, because it’s a big void in there.”

Thames now lives and works in Paducah, Ky. Richardson has earned his GED, and Saunders is looking for work.

When prosecutors announced in January they wouldn’t pursue another trial, Swift said he was still bitter about the time he spent in prison. He said Thursday that feeling will always be there.

“But like I said then, you can’t let the bitterness continue to control you,” Swift said. “You just have to continue to move forward.

The Police Code of Silence: What Will Mayor Emanuel Do?

By Flint Taylor, Civil Rights Attorney at People’s Law Office
Also Appears on Huffington Post

 When an all-white federal jury found that Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate was acting pursuant to a widespread and persistent police code of silence when he brutally beat a diminutive female bartender, it sent a message to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his police superintendent, and the city’s corporation counsel that fundamental and systemic reform, from the top down, is required in order to change the police culture that has made the police code of silence a Chicago institution.

The overwhelming record of extreme brutality, unfailingly followed by police silence, lies, and coverup, has been spread upon the public record in a parade of civil rights cases that have been litigated in the Chicago federal courts during the past 45 years. The rampant brutality that marked the 1968 Democratic Convention was followed by false denials in testimony from untold numbers of Chicago police officers and supervisors.

The next year Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton was murdered in his bed during a pre-dawn police raid, and the entire command structure of the CPD, working in unison with the Cook County State’s Attorney, perpetrated a massive cover-up that spanned a decade and further illuminated the code of silence. Only three years later, Jon Burge started a torture ring at Area 2 detective headquarters, and the documented cases of Burge related police torture, now some 117 in number, followed him as he rose to commander during the next two decades.

His meteoric rise, as well as the systemic torture itself, was made possible by a code of silence so widespread that it not only has kept scores of detectives silent to this day, but has also extended to several successive police superintendents and former Mayor Richard M. Daley himself.

The Abbate case is but the most recent extreme example of a police code of silence so embedded within the department that it permeates nearly every complaint of police brutality and misconduct.

A precious few officers have risked their lives and careers by breaking the code. Former Area 2 Detective Frank Laverty is the most shining example. In the early 1980s, Laverty came forward to save the life of an innocent black teenager who was on trial for a murder he did not commit. Laverty had uncovered the real perpetrator of the crime, but Laverty’s commander and several fellow detectives had buried the evidence in a secret “street file” that was routinely kept by detectives. Laverty’s heroic act freed the teenager and exposed the CPD’s illegal “street file” practice, but earned him physical threats from Burge and several of Laverty’s fellow detectives, and a demotion to the job of watching police recruits give urine samples.

This blood chilling example of the code of silence at work was not lost on the police rank and file. In 1989, when a fellow Area 2 detective came forward to detail for the first time the systematic and racist nature of Burge’s torture ring, he did so in anonymous letters to People’s Law Office lawyers, saying that he wanted the letters to remain private because he “did not wish to be shunned like Officer Laverty has been since he cooperated with you.”

This Burge colleague has never been identified. Several African-American Area 2 detectives who had general knowledge about the torture ring remained silent until their retirement two decades later.

In 2008, one white Area 2 detective, when threatened with indictment, reluctantly told the Federal Grand Jury about witnessing Burge torture a black suspect, but the code of silence again reared its ugly head when he attempted to retreat from his prior testimony during Burge’s 2010 perjury trial. No other officer has ever come forward. Instead close to 50 officers have denied any knowledge of the torture ring, and, more recently, a majority of them has chosen to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

The mayor and his corporation counsel have shown, to date, little interest in taking the decisive steps required to change the police culture that perpetrates the code. Instead they continue to defend torture, wrongful conviction and other police misconduct cases by employing the implicated officers’ use of the code to deny responsibility. Similarly the police disciplinary agency, (IPRA) ignores the code of silence, almost always taking the word of the accused officer and his confederates over the victim, in order to absolve the accused from discipline.

The evidence of a widespread, top to bottom, police code of silence has now been confirmed by the verdict of a federal jury. The city, however, rather than heeding the verdict, immediately issued astatement that it “strongly disagreed with the verdict” and vowed to appeal, while the mayor has already passed the buck to his police superintendent.

Once again, it appears to be “business as usual” when it comes to police brutality, the code of silence, and official cover-up in Chicago.

Grand Jury Resistance Post 9/11

Grand Jury Resistance Post 9/11

By Michael Deutsch, People’s Law Office
Originally published on boricuahumanrights.org

In the past, the likely scenario for a grand jury resister was a citation for civil contempt which could be a long as the remaining life of the grand jury – up to18 months – and the possibility of early release through a “Grumbles” motion, which alleges that further incarceration would not force the contemnor to cooperate. It was also possible to re-subpoenaed to a second grand jury after the life of the first one has expired. In a few cases, the MLN 5 being one of them, the government obtained an indictment for criminal contempt after the civil contempt was unsuccessful. Criminal contempt does not have a maximum sentence. Theoretically one can be sentenced up to life for criminal contempt. In the MLN 5 case the government asked for 15 years and the judge sentenced the 5 to three years each. This sentence occurred before the sentencing guidelines was enacted, allowing the district judge to have broad discretion is fashioning a sentence.

Post 9/11, with the Justice Department in full propaganda mode in its fight against terrorism, the stakes for the grand jury resister has increased. While I have not seen an analysis of post 9/11 use of criminal contempt, in one recent case a Palestinian activist, Abdelhaleen Ashqar, was charged with criminal contempt and the obstruction of the due administration of justice for two refusals to testify, one in New York and one in Chicago. After Ashqar, following a long hunger strike, was released from civil contempt in 1998 in New York under the Grumbles theory that he could not be coerced, he was re-subpoenaed four years later to a grand jury in Chicago. convened post 9/11 and investigating the same issue of Palestinian support for Hamas.

The government knew full well based on his position in New York he would not testify. After he refused in Chicago he was imprisoned for civil contempt and after several months he was indicted for criminal contempt and then subsequently charged with criminal contempt and obstruction of justice for his refusals in New York and Chicago, and a RICO conspiracy.

He was acquitted of the RICO charge, but convicted of both criminal contempt and obstruction. Despite a clearly sympathetic jury, there is really no defense to a criminal contempt charge other than jury nullification. Ashqar now faced a maximum of 10 years on the obstruction charge and up to life (no max sentence) for criminal contempt. Both the probation department and the prosecutors argued that Ashqar’s sentence should be increased by a “terrorism enhancement”, which specifically allows a grand jury resister to be charged with having obstructed a terrorism investigation by refusing to testify before a grand jury that is alleged in investigating terrorism and terrorist groups. Despite the fact that Ashqar was acquitted of the Rico conspiracy based on allegations of support for and membership in the “terrorist” Hamas, the court readily applied the “terrorist enhancement,” sky-rocketing his potential sentence up to 30 years. The court did reject the government’s argument that he could also be sentenced based on a claim that his refusal to testify was the equivalent of aiding and abetting terrorism. However the terrorism enhancement allowed for the same type of draconian sentence.

A non-violent act of politically motivated civil disobedience could now be considered an act of aiding terrorism and/or obstructing an investigation into terrorism. Ashqar received a sentence of 135 months, an unprecedented, obscene sentence. I might add that the judge was generally not as reactionary as many others, and a higher sentence could have been easily imposed by a different judge. I would also add that after his sentence, the Supreme Court affirmed that judges are not necessarily bound by the sentencing guidelines, and, while they can be used as a measure, the judges have discretion to fashion a fair sentence. However, I believe that despite this ruling by the Supreme Court, most judges will look quite harshly on refusals to testify before grand juries looking into terrorism.

One other point. While I know of no case at this point, there have been insinuations that lawyers and others who try to influence those subpoenaed to not testify could be prosecuted for obstruction or even conspiracy to obstruct. While people have First Amendment rights to speak out and organize, the government would likely argue that no one has the right to counsel and organize people to violate the law.

US Justice Department Prepares for Ominous Expansion of “Material Support” Law

US Justice Department Prepares for Ominous Expansion of “Material Support” for Terrorism Law

by Michael Deutsch, People’s Law Office

In late September the FBI carried out a series of raids of homes and anti-war offices of public activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Following the raids the Obama Justice Department subpoenaed 14 activists to a grand jury in Chicago and also subpoenaed the files of several anti-war and community organizations. In carrying out these repressive actions, the Justice department was taking its lead from the Supreme Court’s 6-3 opinion last June in Holder v. the Humanitarian Law Project which decided that non-violent First Amendment speech and advocacy “coordinated with” or “under the direction of” a foreign group listed by the Secretary of State as “terrorist” was a crime,.

The search warrants and grand jury subpoenas make it quite clear that the federal prosecutors are intent on accusing public non-violent political organizers, many affiliated with Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), of providing “material support,” through their public advocacy, for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Secretary of State has determined that both the PLFP and the FARC “threaten US national security, foreign policy or economic interests,” a finding not reviewable by the Courts, and listed both groups as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).

In 1996, Congress made it a crime then punishable by 10 years, later increased to 15 years, to anyone in the U.S. who provides “material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization or attempts or conspires to do so.” The present statute defines “material support or resources” as:

Any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safe houses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel and transportation except medicine or religious materials.

In the Humanitarian Law Project, human rights workers wanted to teach members of the Kurdistan PKK, which seeks an independent Kurdish state, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which sought an independent state in Sri Lanka, how to use humanitarian and international law to peacefully resolve disputes, and to obtain relief from the United Nations and other international bodies for human rights abuses by the governments of Turkey and Sri Lanka. Both organizations were designated as FTOs by the Secretary of State in a closed hearing, in which the evidence is heard secretly.

Despite the non-violent, peacemaking goal of this speech and training, the majority of the Supreme Court nonetheless interpreted the law to make such conduct a crime. Finding a whole new exception to the First Amendment, the Court decided that any support, even if it involves non-violent efforts towards peace, is illegal under the law since it “frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends,” and also helps lend “legitimacy” to foreign terrorist groups. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts, despite the lack of any evidence, further opined that the FTO could use the human rights law to “intimidate, harass or destruct” its adversaries, and that even peace talks themselves could be used as a cover to re-arm for further attacks. Thus, the Court’s opinion criminalizes efforts by independent groups to work for peace if they in anyway cooperate or coordinate with designated FTOs.

The Court distinguishes what it refers to “independent advocacy” which it finds is not prohibited by the statute, from “advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization,” which is for the first time found to be a crime under the statute. The exact line as to where independent advocacy becomes impermissible coordination is left open and vague.

Seizing on this overbroad interpretation of “material support,” the U.S. government is now moving against political groups and activists who are clearly exercising fundamental First Amendment rights in vocally opposing the government’s branding of foreign liberation movements as terrorist and support their struggles against U.S. backed repressive regimes and illegal occupations.

Under this new definition of “material support,” the recent efforts of President Jimmy Carter to monitor the elections in Lebanon, coordinating with the political parties there including a designated FTO, Hezbollah, could well be prosecuted as a crime. Similarly, the publication of op-ed articles by FTO spokesmen from Hamas or other designated groups by the New York Times or Washington Post, or the filing by human rights attorneys of amicus briefs arguing against a group’s terrorist designation or the statute itself could also now be prosecuted. Of course, the first targets of this draconian expansion of the material support law will not be a former president or the establishment media, but members of a Marxist organization and vocal opponents of the governments of Israel and Colombia and the U.S. policies supporting those repressive governments.

President Obama in his foreword to the recent autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Conversations with Myself, wrote that “Mandela’s sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress. [and] . . . [t]he the first time I became politically active was during my college years, when I joined a campaign on behalf of divestment, and the effort to end apartheid in South Africa.” At the time of Mr. Obama’s First Amendment advocacy, Mr. Mandela and his organization the African National Congress (ANC) were denounced as terrorist by the U.S. government. The “material support” law, if in effect back then, would have opened Mr. Obama up to potential criminal prosecution. It is ironic, and the height of hypocrisy, that this same man who speaks with such reverence for Mr. Mandela and recalls his own support for the struggle against apartheid, now allows the Justice Department under his command to criminalize similar First Amendment advocacy against Israeli apartheid and other repressive foreign governments.