Incarcerated Victims of Chicago Police Torture File Ground Breaking Class Action Petition

Today lawyers from the People’s Law Office (PLO) and the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center filed a ground breaking class action petition, seeking new evidentiary hearings for a group of Illinois prisoners who allege  that they were tortured by notorious Police Commander Jon Burge and his cabal of Chicago Police officers into giving confessions that provided the basis for their convictions and imprisonment.

This group of prisoners, all of whom have spent more than 20 years behind bars, allege that they were victims of racially motivated torture tactics that included electric shock, suffocation, mock executions, and beatings with flashlights, telephone books, lead pipes, rubber hoses, and batons. The petition asserts that lawyers from the PLO have documented the cases of 117 torture victims, while the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, which  was recently refunded by the Governor  as a result of public pressure, has received more than 100 Burge related torture complaints from Illinois prisoners.

The petition details the torture alleged by class representatives Johnnie Plummer and Vincent Wade.  Wade alleges that in 1984 he was forced to confess after Burge’s detectives smashed him on the nose with a flash light, kneed him in the groin, punched him in the eye, and beat him on his chest with a baton and phonebook while his arms and legs were pinned down.  Plummer, who was a 15 year old juvenile at the time, alleges that in 1991 he confessed after Burge’s henchmen threatened him, repeatedly hit him in his side with a flashlight, struck him in the face, and pulled his hair. Both men sought to have their confessions thrown out because they were the product of torture, but their motions were denied by judges who were unaware of the overwhelming evidence of systemic police torture that has emerged in the decades since their hearings and convictions. This evidence includes numerous Court decisions, the Report of the Cook County Special Prosecutor, the findings of former Illinois Governor George Ryan and several internal police investigations, the admissions of Chicago Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel, and the perjury and obstruction of justice conviction of Jon Burge.

The petition also cites serious law enforcement scandals that have arisen in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, West Virginia, Tulia, Texas, and, most recently, in Boston, and contrasts the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases in each of those locales with the failure of the Cook County Courts and State’s Attorneys’ Office to take similar action in the face of the undisputed “mountain of evidence” that has come to light since the class of prisoners were convicted. The petition further points out that the prisoners do not seek outright dismissal of their cases, but rather only a full and fair hearing where they can challenge their confessions with all the evidence of systemic police torture that is now in the public record.

A friend of the court brief, signed by former Illinois Governor James Thompson, an impressive group of former judges, politicians, and prosecutors, and numerous well known lawyers, has also been filed today in support of the prisoners. The petition, which will first be heard before the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court of Cook County on October 29, 2012, raises fundamental issues of human and constitutional rights and seeks, decades after the fact, to give the criminal courts of Cook County yet another chance to belatedly enforce the rule of law that has been so blatantly and repeatedly flaunted for the past four decades.

Taylor, a founding partner of the People’s Law Office, PLO  partner, Joey Mogul, and MacArthur Justice Center lawyers Locke Bowman and Alexa Van Brunt are counsel for the class of prisoners who have filed the Petition.

See Huffington Post Article,

Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission

Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission- Defunded but not Forgotten

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

In 2009, the Illinois Legislature, in response to the demands of Chicago community activists led by Black People Against Police Torture, passed the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission Act.

The act, which was championed by Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul, “establishes an extraordinary procedure to investigate and determine factual claims of torture,” and empowers the TIRC to screen such claims, and, where appropriate, to “conduct inquiries into claims of torture with priority to be given to those cases in which the convicted person is currently incarcerated solely for the crime to which he or she claims torture by Jon Burge or officers under his command, or both.”

The eight person commission, chaired by a former Cook County Judge, was forced to operate on a meager yearly budget of $150,000. Nonetheless it took on the formidable task of screening more than 100 claims of torture by Illinois prisoners. Early this year, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn approved the inclusion of $235,000 in this year’s state budget for the TIRC, but the Illinois Legislature voted instead to eliminate all of the TIRC’s funding.

The commission went down fighting, however. As their doors were shuttered in June of this year, the commission issued findings that there was “credible evidence” of torture in claims made by five African-American prisoners. In several of those cases, well-known disciples of the notorious Chicago police torture ringleader, Jon Burge, were directly implicated.

In the Shawl Whirl case, the commission found by a preponderance of evidence that detective James Pienta, who had a 15-year history of allegedly aiding Burge in torturing African-American suspects, had repeatedly slapped and beaten Whirl in an attempt to obtain a confession from him, and had placed a bag over his mouth to muffle his screams. The commission further found that after Whirl had agreed to confess, Pienta “rehearsed” with Whirl what he should say when he gave his formal statement to the assistant state’s attorney, and whenever Whirl made a mistake in repeating what Pienta told him, Pienta dug a key into a pre-existing wound on Whirl’s leg.

The commission went on to highlight the compelling evidence of systematic torture perpetrated by Burge and Pienta’s connection to it that had emerged since Whirl’s unsuccessful motion to suppress his confession was heard in 1990, and concluded that, without his confession, the case against Whirl was “weak” because it lacked any eyewitnesses or compelling forensic evidence.

The commission also found the allegations of torture in the Gerald Reed and George Anderson cases to be credible. Both men were interrogated by a team of detectives working under Burge in the early 1990s. The most prominent of the accused detectives was Michael Kill, who had famously testified in the Ronald Kitchen torture case that he had used the epithet “nigger” “more than a million times.”

According to the commission’s findings, Reed was kicked and beaten, causing a steel rod in his leg to break, while Anderson was repeatedly beaten, kicked, and attacked with a rubber hose.

As provided in the act, the commission referred its findings to the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Timothy Evans, who, on September 19, 2012, randomly assigned the cases to sitting criminal court judges for further judicial review. According to the act, that review may include an evidentiary hearing on the allegations of torture, a new trial, and, ultimately, dismissal of the underlying criminal charges. Unfortunately, in four of the five cases, the assigned judges are former Cook County assistant state’s attorneys who served in the States Attorneys’ Office during the Burge torture era.

Whirl’s lawyers have moved for the appointment of the current Cook County Special Prosecutor, Stuart Nudelman, to represent the State in Whirl’s case. The Cook County State’s Attorneys’ Office has indicated that it may oppose the appointment, despite the fact that the chief judge of the Criminal Division, Paul Biebel, citing a conflict of interest occasioned by former States Attorney Richard Devine’s previous representation of Burge while Devine was in private practice, has appointed a special prosecutor to represent the State in Burge related torture cases on several prior occasions.

The lawyers for the five men are expected to ask for full evidentiary hearings and new trials on the basis of the TIRC’s findings. Meanwhile, the commission’s dedicated executive director, David Thomas, seeks to continue the commission’s work with volunteer attorneys, and Black People Against Police Torture is pressing its demand, against long odds, that the Legislature reinstate the commission’s funding. As Thomas told the Chicago Tribune in June, the money is “chump change” when considered in light of the commission’s important unfinished business of reviewing claims of police torture that the Cook County Criminal Courts have either consciously ignored or wrongfully rejected.

$950,000 Settlement Approved in Civil Suit of Oscar Walden

Oscar Walden, represented by civil rights lawyers in Chicago from People's Law Office80 Year Old Chicago Police Torture Victim to Obtain His Final Vindication

By Flint Taylor, Civil Rights Attorney at People’s Law Office
Article also appears on Huffington Post

On September 10, 2012 the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council approved a $950,000 settlement for 80-year-old police torture victim Oscar Walden, the penultimate event in Walden’s 60 year battle to obtain justice. The settlement will now go before the full City Council for final approval on Wednesday September 12, 2012.

In January of 1952, 20-year-old Oscar Walden was arrested by Chicago police for the rape of a 50-year-old white woman that had occurred on Chicago’s south side months before. He was taken to the station and tortured by a brutal detective who threatened to hang him, lynching style, with a rope. Walden, who had never before been arrested, gave a false confession, and the police obtained the rape victim’s identification by parading Walden before her and compelling him to apologize to her. Walden was convicted on the basis of his confession and the victim’s tainted identification, and he was sentenced to 75 years in the penitentiary for a crime he did not commit.

Walden continued to protest his innocence from his prison cell, and with the help of renowned civil rights attorney George Leighton, was released on parole 14 years later. He next sought a pardon from the Illinois governor, which was granted in 1977. However, the pardon was not on the basis of innocence, so Walden, who had become an ordained minister and accomplished poet, continued his quixotic battle for complete vindication.

Finally, in January of 2003, Governor George Ryan granted Walden an innocence pardon, and this paved the way for Walden to bring a civil damages action in federal court, which People’s Law Office lawyers filed in January of 2004. Since all of the police and prosecutor defendants, as well as the rape victim, were long deceased, Walden’s lawyers were compelled to sue the City of Chicago as the sole defendant under a theory that its police department had a pattern and practice of torturing African-American suspects accused of raping white women that predated Walden’s arrest…

Over the next six years, the city fought the case tooth and nail, retaining the private law firm of Andrew Hale and Associates, whose lawyers made every move possible in a vain effort to obtain the dismissal of the case before trial, while Corporation Counsel, Mara Georges, refused to make a reasonable settlement offer. In February of 2011, the case went to trial before Judge Ruben Castillo and a jury.

Walden was the only living witness who could testify about his torture and professed innocence. To prove their case against the city, Walden’s lawyers relied on a mosaic of musty documents, reports and studies, including the Wickersham Commission’s 1931 Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement, as well as the testimony of a Chicago police history scholar, and of 99-year-old George Leighton.

The city put on a defense, in the teeth of the innocence pardon, that Walden was nonetheless guilty, and presented the 1952 criminal trial testimony of the rape victim, the police officers and prosecutors through actors posing as witnesses. Andrew Hale and his partner Avi Kamionski, who collected approximately $375,000 in fees defending the city, repeatedly drew the wrath of the judge by making unfairly prejudicial arguments before the jury, and tendering to the jury highly prejudicial evidence about the rape that the judge had specifically barred.

The jury returned a verdict for the city, but Walden’s lawyers continued to fight the case, moving for new trial based on the pattern of misconduct before the jury by Hale and Kamionski. In March of 2012, Judge Castillo granted Walden’s motion, finding that:

The cumulative effect of these occurrences, when viewed in the context of the entire trial, unduly prejudiced Walden’s case… The improper conduct tainted the trial from opening statements through closing arguments and the court is not confident that the sustained objections, admonishing counsel, and jury instructions minimized the harm that resulted from the numerous inappropriate statements, questions, and arguments that occurred throughout trial.
Walden v. City of Chicago, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30962 * 40-41 (N. D. Ill. Mar. 6, 2012).

The court further found that Hale and Kamionski’s “repeated ill-advised actions in this case” crossed “the bright line between aggressive advocacy and ‘win at all costs’ unethical conduct.”

Walden’s counsel then moved the judge to sanction the city and its counsel for their misconduct. In the motion, Walden’s counsel pointed out that Hale and his associates had been paid more than $20 million by the city over the past nine years for defending police officers accused of abuse. The city removed Hale and Kamionski from the case, and these lawyers obtained private counsel to defend them on the motion. The city later claimed that it had investigated the misconduct, and had concluded that while “there were errors and lapses in judgment in certain instances,” it “did not find evidence of ethical violations that would warrant removal.”

Consequently, the city has continued to retain Hale, Kamionski and their associates in numerous other cases, including as counsel for notorious police torturer Jon Burge.

Faced with the specter of substantial monetary sanctions and a re-trial where the playing field had been leveled by an irate judge, the city’s new Corporation Counsel chose instead to offer Walden a reasonable settlement. As a result, at long last, in this remarkable case, a case that has exposed a sordid history of racism, police torture and systemic injustice in Chicago that mirrored the injustice of the Scottsboro case and foreshadowed the Jon Burge era of Chicago police torture, Oscar Walden now stands on the threshold of obtaining the final piece of vindication in his 60 year fight for complete justice.

To see more about our civil rights cases regarding false imprisonment, visit our Wrongful Conviction page

The Torture of Darrell Cannon- A Case the City of Chicago Cannot Win

The Torture of Darrell Cannon: A Case that the City of Chicago Cannot Win

By Flint Taylor, People’s Law Office

On November 2, 1983 three charter members of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s torture crew took African American murder suspect Darrell Cannon to an isolated area on the South Side of Chicago and tortured him. They repeatedly pressed an electric cattle prod to his testicles. They allowed him to believe they had loaded a shotgun, rammed it into his mouth, and pulled the trigger, repeating this mock execution three times. They tried to lift him off the ground by the handcuffs that secured his hands behind his back. At another location, they drove the cattle prod into his mouth. They beat him with a police flashlight.1 Eventually, Cannon succumbed and falsely confessed to participating in the murder. Thus started a twenty-nine year legal odyssey that continues to this day and presents the City of Chicago with a case that it cannot win.

Cannon’s false confession led to his conviction for murder and a life sentence. He won a reversal of the conviction, but he was again convicted at a second trial. On appeal, Cannon’s lawyers informed the court of 28 newly discovered cases of torture and abuse by the same Burge henchmen who had tortured Cannon, and the Court issued a landmark decision granting Cannon a new hearing at which he could use this evidence to show that his confession was tortured from him.2 The case was again returned to the trial court, and, after a protracted evidentiary hearing that focused on the pattern and practice of police torture, the State of Illinois dismissed Cannon’s case in 2004. After another lengthy legal battle, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board finally rescinded a parole hold that was premised on the dismissed murder conviction and Cannon was released from prison in 2007 – – 24 years after he was wrongfully convicted.

In 1986, while ensconced in the bowels of the Illinois prison system, Cannon had sought to vindicate his constitutional rights in Federal Court. He filed a handwritten complaint alleging that he was tortured and seeking money damages from his torturers. Unbeknownst to him, his court appointed lawyer, and the public at large, his torture was part and parcel of a widespread secret pattern and practice that was spearheaded by Burge and implemented by the crew of detectives who tortured him. As a result of this ignorance, in 1988, well before the newly discovered evidence of torture had surfaced, Cannon accepted the City of Chicago’s offer of a nuisance value settlement of $3000, of which he netted $1247.

After Cannon was exonerated in 2004, he filed a new suit in Federal Court, seeking damages for the more than two decades of wrongful imprisonment that he suffered as a result of his tortured confession. In this suit, he described the decades-long conspiracy to cover-up by high level Chicago and Cook County officials, and added Burge, a series of police superintendents, as well as the City itself, as newly named defendants who had not been named in the original suit. The City and the police defendants moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the 1988 settlement agreement barred Cannon from pursuing further compensation against any and all City officials. In 2006, the trial Judge rejected this argument, ruling that the massive conspiracy to cover-up the torture constituted a fraud by the police defendants and the City which thereby rendered the 1988 settlement a nullity.3

In 2007, the Chicago City Council held hearings on the Burge torture scandal, with a special emphasis on ending the City financed defense of Burge in five pending civil damages cases, including Cannon’s. Several Council members publicly called on Mayor Richard M. Daley and the City’s legal department to settle all of the outstanding torture cases, including Cannon’s. In response, the City settled four of the five cases for a total of $19.8 million, but refused to offer a nickel to Cannon, arguing that he was not entitled to a second bite of the apple. Instead of settling, the City poured $1.75 million in legal fees into further contesting Cannon’s case, and in 2011 its lawyers convinced the Judge to reverse her field and grant the City’s motion for summary judgment. In so doing, the Judge deemed the cover-up irrelevant to the issue of fraud because Cannon knew he had been tortured and therefore, in her view, was not deceived.4

Cannon appealed the decision, and on August 8, 2012 his lawyers from the People’s Law Office and the MacArthur Justice Center filed his brief in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.5 The appeal presents to the Court the fundamental question of whether Burge, his crew of now notorious “Asskickers,” and the entire City power structure can utilize their wholesale cover-up of the worst police scandal in the history of the City of Chicago to deprive a torture victim of his fair day in court and his right to reasonable compensation. Whatever the Court of Appeals decides, the City cannot win this battle in the court of public opinion, as its steadfast position in the Cannon case reaffirms, without question, that it continues to be on the side of the torturers rather than the tortured, preferring to spend millions to peddle the proposition that a torture victim’s suffering is worth $1247, regardless of the official fraud perpetrated on him, if he accepts the pittance.

Taylor is one of Darrell Cannon’s lawyers and a founding partner of the People’s Law Office. For more information on police torture visit the Chicago Police Torture page on this site.

1 Videos of Darrell Cannon can be viewed on this site on the Chicago Police Torture page

2 Decision in People v. Cannon,1997,

3 Decision Cannon v. Burge, 2006.

4 Decision Cannon v. Burge, 2011.

5 The brief can be viewed here: Darrell Cannon Appellate Brief

Richard Daley: Central Figure in the Chicago Police Torture Scandal

Civil Rights lawyer in Chicago, Flint Taylor of People's Law OfficeRichard M. Daley: A Central Figure in the Chicago Police Torture Scandal

By Flint Taylor, People’s Law Office
Originally published at Huffington Post

Recently, the Chicago City Council approved a $5.375 million settlement to police torture victim Michael Tillman. Tillman had named former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley along with Jon Burge and numerous Chicago police detectives, supervisors, and high-ranking command officers as co-conspirators in a 40-year, racially based conspiracy to torture and cover-up.

Last July, Federal Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, in a precedent setting decision, upheld Tillman’s conspiracy claims against Daley. Last week’s settlement ended a year-long quest for Daley’s videotaped deposition, a quest that had first been met with refusal, then delay, and finally with an unresolved battle over whether his deposition would be publicly accessible. Both Tillman and his lawyers, while stating their disappointment that they would not be able to examine Daley under oath about his broad ranging involvement in the torture conspiracy, also emphasized that his wrongdoing was already powerfully demonstrated by the evidence in the public record.

That evidence establishes the following conduct, from 1980 to 1988, while Daley was state’s attorney of Cook County:

In 1982, Daley and his first assistant, Richard Devine, were specifically informed by Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek that Andrew Wilson had been tortured with electric shock, burned on a radiator, and savagely beaten at Area 2 police headquarters by Jon Burge;

Daley and Devine refused to investigate Wilson’s torture or direct Brzeczek to do so, but rather publicly commended Burge for his conduct in the Wilson case;

As a result of Daley’s failure to investigate or prosecute Burge for the torture of Wilson, scores of additional African-American men, including Tillman, were subsequently tortured, gave false confessions, and were convicted and imprisoned, some on death row;

Despite his knowledge about police torture, Daley approved the seeking of the death penalty in at least 10 police torture cases, including Tillman’s;

In 1987, after the Illinois Supreme Court reversed Andrew Wilson’s conviction and death sentence because of the overwhelming evidence of torture, Daley again refused to investigate Burge and his men.

In 1989, Daley began his 20 year reign as Chicago’s mayor, and his involvement in the torture scandal continued apace:

From 1989 through 1991, as the torture conspiracy began to unravel, Daley was repeatedly presented with evidence of systematic torture and political demands to act, including from Amnesty International, at several City Council hearings and at demonstrations at City Council and his home, but he refused to respond in any way;

In 1992, after the court ordered release of an internal Office of Professional Standards Report which found that “certain command personnel” participated in, and were aware of, “systematic abuse” and “planned torture” at Area 2, Daley, rather than accepting the report’s findings and taking corrective action, instead joined his police superintendent, who was implicated by the report, in publicly denying that systematic abuse had occurred while condemning the report as “lies,” “rumors,” and mere “allegations;”

In 1996, after several accusations of torture had been sustained by OPS investigators against one of Burge’s primary co-conspirators, Daley nonetheless used his mayoral powers to promote him to lieutenant;

In 2006, special prosecutors who were closely connected to Daley’s father, Richard J. Daley, and the Daley machine refused to indict Burge or any of the other alleged Area 2 torturers, and absolved Daley and Devine, who was then the state’s attorney of Cook County, of any accountability for the torture scandal;

During the entire 20 years he ruled as mayor, Daley refused to break the city’s ties to Burge, approving payment of approximately $15 million in fees to lawyers who were retained to defend Burge in a series of damages cases;

Daley refused to apologize to the torture victims, even after the special prosecutor found that Burge and his men had tortured with impunity, and again after Burge was subsequently indicted by federal prosecutors and convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.

These are the disturbing “highlights” of Daley’s 30 years of involvement in the police torture scandal. At every turn, he refused to use his unparalleled power, first to stop the torture, then to end the cover-up, assume responsibility, and bring the torturers to justice. If Daley had acted in 1982, scores of African-American men would not have been tortured and sent to prison. Moreover, if he had acted in 1982, in 1987, or even as late as 1992, Burge would have been prosecuted and sentenced for the serious violent felonies of serial torture and its cover-up, rather than for perjury and obstruction of justice; his men would have been subjected to similar prosecutions; the city and county would not have invested more than $53 million in public funds to cover Burge’s crimes; and the continuing stain on the conscience of Chicago as the torture capital of the United States would have been eradicated long ago. This deep complicity in the torture scandal is the real legacy of Richard M. Daley.

For more info on the work of People’s Law Office in fighting for justice for torture survivors, visit the Chicago Police Torture page on this site

City Council Approves Tillman Settlement; Mayor Emanuel Stands Mum

Full City Council Approves Tillman Settlement, yet No Statement from Mayor Rahm EmanuelMichael Tillman settles civil rights lawsuit for police brutality and torture

July 25, 2012

Today, twenty-six years after his July 21, 1986 arrest, the full Chicago City Council approved the payment of a $5.375 million settlement to police torture survivor Michael Tillman. After exchanging accolades to a series of Chicago citizens from baseball hero Ron Santo to restaurateur Charlie Trotter, the Mayor and the Council members stood silent as the Council unanimously approved the City’s settlement agreement with Tillman, who is represented by People’s Law Office and MacArthur Justice Center lawyers. The Council also approved an additional $1.8 million for David Fauntleroy, another Burge torture victim. This brings the total amount of taxpayer money spent by the City and County in the police torture scandal to more than $53.5 million, not including the many millions paid to Jon Burge and his confederates in pensions.

The silence from the Mayor and the Council members was yet another slap in the face to the more than 110 African American victims of Chicago police torture and to the African American community as a whole. People’s Law Office lawyer Flint Taylor and Tillman himself both recently urged Emanuel to apologize on behalf of the City and the Police Department for the 40 year torture scandal. As Tillman put it in a statement released on Monday, July 23, after the Finance Committee of the City Council gave preliminary approval to his settlement:

The evidence in my case shows without doubt that I am innocent and was tortured as part of a longtime conspiracy led by Jon Burge to torture confessions from black men. I feel that Mayor Emanuel, speaking for the City, should definitely apologize to me, to my family, and to everyone else who suffered because of this conspiracy.

The call for an apology, first publicly suggested by Taylor in a recent Chicago Sun Times Op Ed, was reasserted on Monday by Taylor and the People’s Law Office:

We urge Mayor Rahm Emanuel to publicly apologize on behalf of the City and its police department to Michael Tillman and his family, to all Burge torture victims, and to Chicago’s African American community. This symbolic act, which the Mayor can appropriately perform when Michael Tillman’s settlement is formally presented to the entire Chicago City Council for approval on Wednesday, is not only important to Mr. Tillman, his family, and to all survivors of police torture, but is also vital to the entire community’s healing process.

Unfortunately, Emanuel’s refusal to apologize is “business as usual” for Chicago mayors. In 2006, in the aftermath of the Cook County Special Prosecutor’s Report, which found that Burge and his men abused African American suspects “with impunity,” Mayor Richard M. Daley agreed to apologize. He was afforded a perfect opportunity to do so in early 2008 when the Chicago City Council approved a $19.8 million settlement on behalf of four Burge torture victims. Instead, Daley left the City Council Chambers just before the settlement was called to vote. Later that year, after Burge was indicted for falsely denying that he committed torture, Daley added insult to injury by laughingly making a sarcastic “apology” during which he said “Okay, I apologize to everybody [for] whatever happened to anybody in the City of Chicago in the past.”

While the settlements stand as yet another silent admission by the City, it continues to funnel additions millions in taxpayer money to defend Burge, his confederates, and a pantheon of City officials in several torture cases that remain unsettled. Additionally, the Mayor and his Corporation Counsel remain mum while the Illinois Attorney General battles to strip Burge of his pension, and numerous torture victims, several of whom were instrumental in the successful prosecution of Jon Burge, remain uncompensated because the statute of limitations has expired on their claims. While the settlements are a step in the right direction, the City and its Mayor must deal with these outstanding issues before it can truthfully say that it no longer is on the wrong side of the torture scandal.

To find out more about Michael Tillman’s case, read this article on our site or watch the video below.

To find out more about the work of People’s Law Office on the Chicago Police Torture cases, visit the Police Torture page on this site.


Statement of Torture Survivor Michael Tillman on Settlement in Civil Rights Case

Torture survivor Michael Tillman talks about settling civil rights lawsuit for police brutalitySTATEMENT OF MICHAEL TILLMAN

First off, I want to say that I am very relieved that my 26 year nightmare is finally ending. I was tortured and convicted of crimes for which I am completely innocent. I spent 23 ½ years in prison, and every day I still feel the awful mental pain that my torture and wrongful imprisonment has caused me and my family. No amount of money can fix that feeling and the freedom I lost, but I am pleased that the City and the County, by paying these settlements to me, have finally recognized that their people did me wrong

I am sorry that Mayor Daley will not be questioned in my case, but that does not change the fact that he did me and my family wrong. Not only that, but he did at least another 100 torture victims wrong while he was States Attorney and Mayor. If he had done what he should have, I would not have been tortured, lived with the fear of the death penalty, or sent to prison. To me, this settlement proves that Daley, Jon Burge, and Burge’s torture crew did me terribly wrong.

The evidence in my case shows without doubt that I am innocent and was tortured as part of a longtime conspiracy led by Jon Burge to torture confessions from black men. I feel that Mayor Emanuel, speaking for the City, should definitely apologize to me, to my family, and to everyone else who suffered because of this conspiracy.

Michael Tillman

July 23, 2012


City to Settle Lawsuit of Torture Survivor Michael Tillman for $5.375 Million

Michael Tillman settles civil rights lawsuit for police brutality and tortureCity of Chicago Settles Michael Tillman Police Torture Case

July 23, 2012

Today, almost exactly twenty-six years after his July 21, 1986 arrest, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council has approved the payment of a $5.375 million settlement to police torture victim Michael Tillman. During his four day interrogation, Tillman was repeatedly suffocated with a typewriter cover, beaten bloody with a telephone book, water boarded with 7 Up poured up his nose, threatened with a gun, and burned with a cigarette lighter by police detectives working for notorious Chicago police commander Jon Burge. As a result of this ordeal, these detectives, who were an integral part of a crew known in police circles as “Burge’s Asskickers,” tortured false admissions from Tillman that were later used to convict him of a murder and rape that he did not commit.

Several weeks after Tillman’s arrest, detectives connected fingerprints found at the scene of the crime, the victims’ stolen car, and items taken from the victim’s apartment with suspects who were completely unconnected to Tillman. One of these suspects confessed to the crime, and refused to falsely implicate Tillman, despite the detectives’ efforts to coerce him to do so. Nonetheless, Burge’s crew pressed their fabricated case against Tillman, falsely denying under oath that they had tortured him. Tillman’s trial judge, unaware that Tillman was one of more than 110 African American victims of Burge directed torture, rejected his claims of torture and innocence, convicted him, and sentenced him to life plus 25 years in the penitentiary.

Over the next two decades, Michael Tillman repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, raised his claims of innocence. Finally, in 2009, lawyers from the People’s Law Office and the Mac Arthur Justice Center moved to reopen his case. Armed with a “mountain” of evidence that implicated Burge and his Asskickers in a systemic pattern of torture, and a compelling case of innocence, the lawyers convinced the Special Prosecutor that Burge’s confederates had tortured an innocent man into falsely admitting to crimes he did not commit. This concession led to dismissal of Tillman’s case in January of 2010, and the issuance of a judicial certificate of innocence from the Chief Judge of the Cook County Criminal Courts shortly thereafter.

On the twenty-fourth anniversary of his arrest, Tillman filed this civil rights lawsuit, alleging that his torture and wrongful conviction resulted from a 20 year pattern and practice of torturing confessions from African American suspects that was master-mined and directed by Jon Burge and countenanced, encouraged, and covered up by a parade of Chicago Mayors, police superintendents, and Cook County States Attorneys. He also specifically named as a defendant former State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley for refusing to investigate and prosecute Burge after evidence of his torture was first presented to Daley and his First Assistant, Richard A. Devine, in 1982; for subsequently seeking the death penalty against Tillman; and for his prominent role in the conspiracy to cover-up the torture scandal after he became Chicago’s Mayor.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of Tillman’s arrest, District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, in a precedent setting decision, upheld Tillman’s claims against Daley, ruling that Tillman’s allegations were sufficient to hold Daley as a conspirator in the scheme to torture and cover-up. Tillman’s lawyers then sought to question Daley under oath in a videotaped deposition, which Daley’s publicly financed lawyers first sought to block, then to delay, and, after court intervention was sought by Tillman’s lawyers, to cloak with secrecy. With regard to Daley’s deposition, Tillman attorney Flint Taylor said the following:

As a result of the settlement, former Mayor Richard M. Daley will no longer be required to sit for a deposition in Michael Tillman’s case. Naturally we are disappointed. Nonetheless, because of his decades long involvement in the cover-up of the Burge torture conspiracy, he remains a central figure in the torture scandal, and a potential witness in several torture cases that have not yet been resolved.

Tillman, who previously received a $600,000 settlement from Cook County for the role of its prosecutor in his interrogation, and a $200,000 payment from the State of Illinois for his wrongful conviction, is profoundly relieved that his twenty-six year nightmare is coming to a close. However, according to Taylor, there is still unfinished business with regard to the Tillman case:

“We urge Mayor Rahm Emanuel to publicly apologize on behalf of the City and its police department to Michael Tillman and his family, to all Burge torture victims, and to Chicago’s African American community. This symbolic act, which the Mayor can appropriately perform when Michael Tillman’s settlement is formally presented to the entire Chicago City Council for approval on Wednesday, is not only important to Mr. Tillman, his family, and to all survivors of police torture, but is also vital to the entire community’s healing process.”

Flint Taylor, for the People’s Law Office

The video below features Michael Tillman recounting the torture and brutality he experienced by police:


Update on the Bill for Pinstripe Patronage: $82.5 Million

(Revised and updated on July 12, 2012)

For more than 40 years, the City of Chicago has paid top dollar to private lawyers to represent the City and its police officers in the most notorious civil rights cases of assassination, torture, brutality, and wrongful arrest and convictions by Chicago police. This practice began in the early 1970s with the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend the squad of officers who assassinated Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and continued in the late 1980s and early 1990’s with the expenditure of more than a million dollars to defend the City and Jon Burge in several police torture cases, including the seminal case brought by Andrew Wilson. However this “pinstripe patronage,” a term that was coined by the late Judge R. Eugene Pincham, pales in comparison to what the City has paid to outside lawyers to represent their “bad guys” since August of 2003.

In a study of payment records in police cases since August of 2003 that were obtained from the City pursuant to Freedom of Information Act requests, the People’s Law Office has calculated that the City has paid $82,532,589 in fees and costs to 24 private law firms in 659 police misconduct cases during that time period. (Table 1). In 433 of these cases, the lawyers were paid an hourly rate that ranged from $150 to $290 per hour, while in the remaining 226 cases, the lawyers were paid a flat rate of $30,000 per case, with a $15,000 bonus if they won at trial.1 $18,986,393, or approximately 23% of the total, has been paid to lawyers to defend the City, Jon Burge, numerous of his confederates, former CPD Superintendents Leroy Martin and Terry Hillard, and now, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, in a series of cases brought by exonerated victims of police torture and wrongful convictions. (Table 2). In the Burge torture cases alone, the City has paid $15,354,502 in outside counsel fees since the City began to finance the defense of Burge and his men in 1988, and has paid $13,097,676 to defend police torture in these cases since 2003. (Tables 2 and 14).

Remarkably, the leading benefactor of this “pinstripe patronage” is attorney Andrew Hale and his law firm Andrew Hale and Associates. Hale started his career as a City funded lawyer while at the City connected law firm of Rock, Fusco when he became the lead lawyer in two related Area 2 wrongful conviction cases. Soon thereafter, he left Rock, Fusco and, with his lucrative City business in tow, founded Hale and Associates. Since 2004, Rock, Fusco and Hale and Associates have raked in $20,554,498 in fees and costs in 110 cases that the City has sent their way, with $5,268,128 collected in Area 2 torture and wrongful conviction cases. (Tables 1, 2 and 3).

Successive Corporation Counsel Mara Georges and Steve Patton have continued to reward Hale and Associates with new cases despite recurring citations of misconduct by Federal District Court Judges. For example, in Walden v. City of Chicago, Hale and his right hand man, Avi Kamionski, engaged in a pattern of trial conduct that District Judge Ruben Castillo subsequently found to be “unethical” and so prejudicial that he overturned the jury verdict in favor of the City and granted Walden a new trial.2 In Peterson v. City of Chicago, Judge Milton Shadur found Hale lawyers to have made “downright disingenuous” and “totally deceptive” arguments, while in Leon v. City of Chicago, the late Judge William Hibbler found their “attempt to mislead the Court, especially in light of the plethora of errors compiled above is offensive.” In Jimenez v. City of Chicago, Judge Matthew Kennelly found that Hale and Kamionski had practiced “deliberate,” “purposeful,” and “invidious” “racially based” discrimination when they struck an African American from the jury during voir dire. Additionally, Judge Kennelly found that Hale had offered a “made up” reason which was “not at all credible” in a “pre-textual” attempt to justify their “racially motivated” actions. Nonetheless, Corporation Counsel Patton recently awarded Hale and Associates, who already represented numerous Burge confederates, the dubious distinction of representing Jon Burge in three pending torture cases.

The second leading benefactor of the City’s pinstripe patronage is the Detroit based law firm of Dykema Gossett. Dykema replaced Hinshaw Culbertson as the City’s lawyers in the Burge torture cases in 2004 after Hinshaw produced in discovery some embarrassing Corporation Counsel emails that discussed the possibility of the City suing, rather than defending, Burge. The FOIA production shows that Dykema has collected $13,679,073 in fees and costs since that time. (Table 4). Dykema, which has been retained in nearly 200 police cases, most frequently represents the City itself, and recently has been assigned to represent former Mayor Richard M. Daley in the Tillman police torture case. Dykema has collected $5,514,365 in Area 2 torture and wrongful conviction cases. (Tables 2 and 4).

The third leading firm is Shefsky and Froelich, Ltd. Shefsky, which, for a time, featured former State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine and former Police Board member Brian Crowe as partners, collected $8,882,335 in 16 cases, including the defense of the detectives who obtained the false “confessions” from the 7 and 8 year old boys in the notorious Ryan Harris case. (Table 15).

Fourth on the list are James Sotos and several of his associates. Sotos, like Hale, started out in an established law firm – – – Hervas, Condon and Bersani – – – then used his City business to found his own law firm of Sotos and Associates. Together these firms have collected $8,607,256 in fees and costs, $2,964,357 of which has come from their representation of Jon Burge. (Tables 2 and 5). Ironically, Sotos was the lead City paid Burge lawyer when, in November of 2003, Burge signed the sworn false interrogatory answers denying torture that later lead to his indictment and conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Fifth on the list, at $6,819,090, is Freeborn Peters, another firm that represented Burge in several torture cases, making $2,356,069 on those cases. (Tables 2 and 6). Two predominately African American firms are sixth and seventh on the list – – – Pugh, Johnson and Jones at $6,288,348 (Table 7) and Greene and Letts, which made $1,061,646 representing former CPD Superintendent Leroy Martin and former Office of Professional Standards Director Gayle Shines in the torture cases, at $4,423,959. (Tables 2 and 8).

Eighth on the list is Querry & Harrow Ltd. (102 cases and $2,938,535 in fees and costs) (Table 16), followed by Johnson and Bell (58 cases and $2,623,495 in fees and costs) (Table 17), and Jones Day (8 cases and $2,400,018 in fees and costs)3 (Id.).

The other firms that have collected more than $400,000 in police cases are Daley, Mohan, Groble, which collected $973,906, $321,514 of which was in Area 2 cases, (Tables 2 and 9), Hinshaw, Culbertson, which collected $718,839, with all but $774 coming from Area 2 police torture cases, (Tables 2 and 10), attorneys Kralovec, Bueke and Gamboney, who together collected $591,232 for representing Burge in three pending torture cases, (Tables 2 and 11), Ancel Glink, which collected $826,824 in 8 police cases, (Table 12), Smith Amundsen, which collected $610,326 in 7 cases, (Table 18), Mayer Brown, which collected $443,334 in 6 cases, (Id.), Clausen, Miller, which collected $439,034 including $71,094 in 2 Area 2 torture cases, (Id.), and Leinenweber, Baroni and Daffada, which collected $426,898, $116,200 of which was in a Burge wrongful conviction case. (Tables 2 and 13).

Other firms who collected fees are Michael Coffield and Associates ($185,975,) (Table 19), The Law Office of Joseph V. Roddy ($68,155) (Id.), Cotsirillos, Tighe & Streiker, Ltd. ($54,289) (Id.), The Law Offices of Mark Rotert ($16,888) (Id.), and the Law Offices of Kenneth L Cunniff, Ltd. ($14,528 (Id.)

Corporation Counsel Patton, to his credit, has moved to limit this “pinstripe patronage” by discontinuing the “no settlement policy” and cutting back on the number of outside counsel retained, but the most questionable recipient, Hale and Associates, continues to run wild in the police torture cases. Without a doubt, the “pinstripe patronage” still showered on outside counsel by the City could be put to much better use properly compensating victims of police misconduct and abuse.

[1] These cases were typically smaller police misconduct cases that were part of Corporation Counsel Mara Georges 2009 “no settlement” policy. The data shows that from 2009 to 2112 eight law firms participated in this lawyer enrichment program, collecting $8,846,742 in the 226 cases – – – money that otherwise could have gone to compensating the victims in these cases. (See Table 20).

[2] Pursuant to this decision, Walden filed a motion for sanctions against the City and Hale and Associates, seeking $330,000 in attorneys’ fees against them, plus issue related sanctions.  The City then removed Hale and Associates, replacing them with in-house counsel, Hale and Associates hired two private law firms to represent them in the sanctions proceedings, and the City subsequently settled the sanctions motion and the underlying case. See, Chicago Tribune, March 8, 2012, Judge cites unethical conduct in police abuse case, orders new trial; Chicago Tribune, June 12, 2012, (website only), Settlement between Chicago, pardoned man is reached in 1952 rape conviction.

[3] Jones Day, which previously represented the City in the Burge Police Board firing case, collected  $114,812 for dealing with the Are 2 Special Prosecutor on the City’s behalf.

The referenced Tables 1-20 appear below.

Table 1 Fees and Costs Paid by City of Chicago to Outside Counsel in Police Cases

Table 2 Fees and Costs Paid by the City in Area 2 and Area 3 Cases

Table 3 Fees and Costs paid to Hale and Associates and Hale, Rock Fusco

Table 4 Dykema Fees and Costs

Table 5 James Sotos Fees and Costs

Table 6 Freeborn & Peters Fees and Costs

Table 7 Pugh Johnson Jones fees from FOIA

Table 8 Greene and Letts Fees and Costs

Table 9 Daley Mohan Groble fees and Costs

Table 10 Hinshaw Culbertson fees and costs

Table 11 Kralovec Gamboney and Bueke Fees and Costs

Table 12 Ancel Glink Fees and Costs

Table 13 Leinenweber Baroni Daffada Fees and Costs

Table 14 Summary of Fees and Costs by City and County in Police Torture Civil Rights Cases

Table 15 Shefsky Froelich Fees and Costs

Table 16 Querrey and Harrow Fees and Costs

Table 17 Johnson & Bell and Jones Day Fees and Costs

Table 18 Smith Amundsen, Mayer Brown and Clausen Miller Fees and Costs

Table 19 Law Office of Mark L Rotert, Law Offices of Joseph Roddy and Law Offices of Kenneth Cunniff Fees and Costs

Table 20 Flat Fee Cases


Former Mayor Daley and His Role in Chicago Police Torture Cases

Richard Daley to be deposed in civil rights case related to Chicago Police TortureIn 1982, then Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley and his first assistant, Richard Devine were specifically informed by Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek that Andrew Wilson had been tortured at Area 2 police headquarters by Jon Burge. Daley and Devine rejected Brezeczek’s request to investigate, and Daley chose instead to publicly commend Burge rather than to prosecute him. As a result, scores of additional African American men were tortured by Burge and his men during the next decade.

When Daley later became Chicago Mayor, he sought to publicly discredit the OPS Goldston Report, which specifically found that there was “systematic abuse” and “planned torture” at Area 2 under Burge. In 2006, Daley gave a sworn “statement” to the Special Prosecutors who were investigating police torture in which he attempted to justify his failure to act, and after the Special Prosectors issued their 2006 Report finding that Burge and his men tortured “with impunity,” promised to apologize to all the torture victims. Instead, in 2008, when the US Attorney did what Daley and Devine refused for decades to do – – – indict Jon Burge – – – Daley again denied any responsibility and made what the press termed a “sarcastic apology.”

In 2010, Federal Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ordered that Daley be held as a civil Defendant in the Michael Tillman torture case, based on allegations that his decades long involvement in the torture scandal and repeated failure to act to stop it made him part of a conspiracy to cover-up. Daley’s deposition has been scheduled for later this summer.

Read more concerning Daley and his role in the Chicago Police Torture Cases

February 25, 1982 letter from Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Breczek to then State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley informing him of the torture of Andrew Wilson

Sworn Statement of Mayor Richard M. Daley given to Special Prosecutor on June 12, 2006 in regard to the torture that occurred while he was State’s Attorney and Mayor

Sarcastic apology from Mayor Daley to torture victims and “anybody in the City of Chicago”

1990 Goldston Report of Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards finding that “abuse did occur and that it was systematic” at Area 2

Read more about the torture cases on the Chicago Police Torture page on this site