#NoCopAcademy Goes to Court to Compel the Mayor’s Office to Produce Withheld Emails Concerning $95 million Police Academy

Today, attorneys from the People’s Law Office representing the #NoCopAcademy campaign, presented a motion requesting the Honorable Judge Sophia Hall to both review records withheld by the Mayor’s Office and to order the Mayor’s Office to produce any records withheld in violation of the law.

The motion is part of a lawsuit filed by the #NoCopAcademy campaign against the Mayor’s Office for withholding critical e-mails regarding the proposed $95 million Chicago police academy. Erin Glasco and Debbie Southorn submitted FOIA requests seeking relevant emails from key players in the development of the cop academy. The Mayor’s Office produced some messages, but indicated it was withholding emails sought by Glasco and Southorn – thus prompting this lawsuit.

The Mayor’s Office has now confirmed that it has withheld and/or redacted at least 27 emails about the new police facility and has offered little to no explanation as to why these emails have been withheld, even in the context of a lawsuit. The Mayor’s Office has also refused to say whether City employees used private email accounts to communicate about the new police academy.

The Mayor’s Office’s decision to withhold information from Glasco and Southorn, like its decision to construct a new multimillion dollar facility for Chicago police, has been cloaked in secrecy.  The lawsuit pushes for the kind of transparency the people of Chicago are entitled to when considerable amounts of taxpayer funds are being spent on a facility many believe is not necessary and counter-productive, as the City is in desperate need of funds for Chicago Public Schools and mental health clinics. Such transparency is also vital for the effort challenging the expansion of policing in Chicago, an effort embodied by the #NoCopAcademy campaign.

The #NoCopAcademy campaign is led by young Black people from Assata’s Daughters, GoodKids MadCity, and several other organizations and is supported by 80 community organizations across the city and country. For more information and updates on the #NoCopAcademy campaign, visit https://nocopacademy.com

Historic Decision in Jackie Wilson Police Torture Case

On June 14, 2018, Cook County Judge William Hooks, in a historic 119 page opinion that he read from the bench, overturned the conviction of Jackie Wilson and ordered a new trial. That opinion can be found HERE. Jackie Wilson is represented by Flint Taylor and John Stainthorp of People’s Law Office, along with Elliot Slosar of Loevy and Loevy.

In 1982, Wilson was tortured by Chicago police detectives and forced to confess to being involved in the fatal shooting of two Chicago police officers. This tortured confession led to his conviction and imprisonment for over 36 years.

Judge Hooks’ ruling is the result of an evidentiary hearing that has continued over the past several months. During the hearing, Wilson took the stand and emotionally described the abuse and torture he suffered at the hands of Area 2 detectives, including Jon Burge. Burge and the other detectives responsible for Wilson’s torture asserted their Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer any questions, and a voluminous record of the racist and systemic pattern and practice of Chicago police torture was also made part of the record.

Commenting on the ruling, People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor stated, “It was a courageous decision. It was the right decision, and it’s a decision that I think not only speaks to Jackie Wilson but all of the victims of police torture under the regime of Jon Burge.” Most significantly, it is the first time that a Cook County Criminal Court Judge has made detailed factual findings that document the decades long police torture scandal.

The latest chapter in this scandal implicates the Cook County Board and its “Special Prosecutor’s” Office that has continued to fight this case despite the overwhelming evidence that Judge Hooks has now adopted in his opinion. Upon hearing Special Prosecutor Mike O’Rourke – – whose law firm has already made more than $200,000 fighting the case – – – vow that he will immediately appeal the decision rather than abide by Judge Hooks’ award of a new trial, Taylor told the press that it “was well past time for the County Board and President Preckwinkle to stop this ‘pin striped patronage’ and demand that Special Prosecutor O’Rourke act in the interests of justice rather than at the beck and call of the Fraternal Order of Police, who has been calling the shots in Jackie’s case.

Judge Hooks will hear Wilson’s motion for a reasonable bond on Thursday June 21, 2018.

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For more information:

Statement Opposing SB 2562 – Increased Police Surveillance by Drone

The People’s Law Office has signed onto the below statement opposing SB 2562.

No Drone

We the undersigned organizations stand together in opposition to SB 2562. This bill would allow police to use drones equipped with facial recognition capabilities to spy on large public gatherings across the state of Illinois.

Increased surveillance of demonstrations and other public gatherings will make us all less safe because it intimidates and deters people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest, a necessary tool for holding elected officials accountable–especially in the age of Trump. If we want to build a more equitable world, the Illinois legislature must encourage political engagement, not scare our fellow Illinoisans away from its most elemental form: public gathering.

We are greatly troubled by the dramatic expansion of surveillance powers this bill would make available to Illinois law enforcement. The Chicago Police Department’s long history of violating the rights of protesters is well known and includes unlawful surveillance and targeted abuse of people working to make this a more just city for our most marginalized residents. Chicago police violence as exemplified by the police riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the murder of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in 1969 continues today. We need only look at the recent attempts by the Chicago police to interfere with protected First Amendment activity by the #BlackLivesMatter to be convinced that the Chicago police are not to be trusted with a legal tool that will allow them to invade personal privacy and impede political activity from the skies.  

We strongly encourage elected officials to oppose SB 2562 and the widespread use of surveillance technology by police.

Signed,

For more information on 2562, click here.

What You Can Do

PLO Files Lawsuit Demanding Mayor’s Office Release Information to #NoCopAcademy

Activists with the #NoCopAcademy campaign file suit against the Mayor’s Office for withholding critical e-mails regarding the proposed $95 Million new CPD facility, including evidence that the DOJ report did not prompt the new facility construction.

Erin Glasco and Debbie Southorn, of the #NoCopAcademy campaign, are filing a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit against the Mayor’s Office for refusing to disclose crucial emails and records regarding the early planning for the proposed $95 Million new police academy. They are represented by attorneys with the People’s Law Office, the full complaint can be viewed here.
https://nocopacademy.files.wordpress.com/…/nocopacademy-com…

“As a librarian and information worker who believes that people have the right to access and scrutinize city plans involving their communities, I’m dismayed to see that the Mayor’s Office continues to prioritize secrecy regarding a plan that will have a substantial impact on Black communities across Chicago,” says Erin Glasco, one of the individuals filing suit. “Even as Mayor Emanuel attempts to paint a picture of this new facility as the answer to the CPD’s problems since the cover-up of the Laquan McDonald murder, he is continuing the same practices which led to that scandal in the first place – secrecy and collusion with CPD.”

Glasco and Southorn filed numerous requests for information with the Mayor’s Office upon learning about the proposed new training facility, including their communications with key players in the cop academy including the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, the Office of Alderwoman Emma Mitts, and the Department of Planning and Development. While some information has been shared, critical e-mails and records are still being withheld. The documents released so far indicate evidence that the plans for the new facility were initiated four months before the Department of Justice report was released, debunking the Mayor’s justification for the facility since it was first announced in July of 2017.

Shubra Ohri of the People’s Law Office, who is one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said, “The Mayor’s refusal to provide full and complete information to the #NoCopAcademy campaign about developing a $95 million police training academy is a clear violation of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. We hope this lawsuit will help provide more transparency and government accountability concerning this massive misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

This afternoon’ lawsuit is in solidarity with young Black people in Chicago, who are trying to stop his new plan to construct a massive new training facility for Chicago Police. His plan to spend $95 million on a new, 32-acre police academy this year in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood, has drawn criticism from communities across Chicago, including celebrities like Chance the Rapper. The #NoCopAcademy campaign in Chicago is led by young Black people from Assata’s Daughters, and is supported by over 52 community organizations across the city and country. For more information and updates on the #NoCopAcademy campaign, visithttps://nocopacademy.com

 

Charges dropped in 1989 murder investigated by Chicago cops tied to Jon Burge

By: Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune.

Kevin Bailey admits that there were moments during his 28 years in prison that he lost hope he would ever be cleared of murder.

“But I just kept fighting,” he said with a smile moments after his release Tuesday afternoon from Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet. “Just kept fighting.”

Hours earlier, with Bailey in a courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, a Cook County special prosecutor dropped charges against him and Corey Batchelor, who had been paroled in 2004. The two had long alleged that Chicago police detectives with ties to disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge had physically abused them into confessing to a brutal 1989 murder.

After Judge Alfredo Maldonado formally tossed out their convictions, Batchelor and Bailey, both 48, embraced in the courtroom.

Bailey then grinned, pumping his fists in the air as spectators in the courtroom applauded.

“I never, ever wanted to give up,” Batchelor, his voice at times emotional, later told reporters in the courthouse lobby. “At times, Kevin used to actually tell me that he was giving up, that he actually didn’t believe that we were ever going to get out. And all I did was motivate and motivate and motivate him, and let him know no matter what … the fight would continue.”

Batchelor and Bailey were 19-year-olds with no criminal history when they were arrested for the murder of Lula Mae Woods, the wife of a retired Chicago police officer, according to court records. Woods was found stabbed to death in her South Side garage in June 1989.

Read the whole article here: Chicago Tribune 

7th Circuit Allows Malicious Prosecution Case to Proceed

A malicious prosecution case brought by a woman wrongly convicted of murdering her son will continue in district court after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the grant of summary judgment to the United States government.

After a fire destroyed her home and claimed the life of her 3-year-old son in June 1995, investigators with the Indiana Fire Marshal’s office decided Kristine Bunch had intentionally set the blaze. But when samples from Bunch’s home were sent to William Kinard, a federal forensic chemist with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, he determined no accelerants were present in the living room and boy’s bedroom, where the fire began.

According to Bunch, the investigators told Kinard they were not happy with the results of his report, so he agreed to fabricate findings and report that accelerants were found in the two central locations. Bunch was subsequently convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 60 years.

Read the whole article here: The Indiana Lawyer

Read the 7th Circuit Opinion Here.

Burge and nemesis Flint Taylor spar in video depositions in Jackie Wilson case

Lawyers for Jackie Wilson on Tuesday closed out their case that detectives under the command of Jon Burge tortured Wilson into confessing to the 1982 murder of two Chicago Police officers, in Wilson’s latest bid to win a new trial for the killings.

A courtroom gallery filled with CPD officers looked on as Wilson was cross-examined by special prosecutors at the second of what will be a trio of hearings on whether Wilson’s confession to the slaying of CPD officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien was tortured out of him.

On Tuesday, as he did at an earlier hearing last month, Wilson choked up on cross-examination, as he repeated his recollection of being beaten by multiple officers until he confessed to the murders, as special prosecutors who tried to trip him up on details. Wiping his eyes, Wilson, 57, took issue with Special Prosecutor Michael O’Rourke skipping steps in Wilson’s account of the abuse when O’Rourke jumped from Wilson being clubbed with a phone book directly to being hooked up to an electroshock box.

Read the whole article here: Chicago Sun-Times

On 48th Anniversary of Fred Hampton’s Murder, Rampant Surveillance of Black Liberation Movements Continues

American political and social activist and Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton (1948 - 1969) raises his arms at the 'Days of Rage' rally, Chicago, Illinois, October 11, 1969. (Photo: David Fenton / Getty Images)

American political and social activist and Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton (1948 – 1969) raises his arms at the “Days of Rage” rally, Chicago, Illinois, October 11, 1969. (Photo: David Fenton / Getty Images)

Monday, December 04, 2017

By Flint TaylorTruthout | Op-Ed

In August 1967, notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent out an urgent directive to all of his field offices under the file name “COINTELPRO-Black Nationalist Hate Groups.” It instructed “Racial Matters”(RM) agents to take aggressive — and highly illegal — actions to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of Black-nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters.” On March 4, 1968, exactly one month before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, another urgent Bureau-wide COINTELPRO directive from Hoover’s desk instructed RM Agents to devise COINTELPRO actions designed to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.”

On December 4, 1969 — 48 years ago today — RM agents in the Bureau’s Chicago office secretly congratulated themselves and hailed their “success” to Hoover for masterminding the bloody pre-dawn police raid that left Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) — and most certainly a rising “messiah” — and Peoria Panther leader Mark Clark dead, and several other young Panthers seriously wounded.

Read the whole article here: Truthout 

Time for Kim Foxx to do the right thing

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx

Prosecutors have a hard time owning up to the injustices they perpetrate—especially in murder cases, all the more so when the deceased happens to have been a police officer.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office was supposed to be different under its avowed reformist leader, Kim Foxx, but the office has proved sadly unexceptional in refusing to acknowledge a palpable miscarriage of justice dating back more than four decades.

At about 2 a.m. on Oct. 10, 1976, a Sunday, Terrence Loftus, a 36-year-old off-duty Chicago police officer wearing civilian clothes, courageously tried to stop a brawl between 30 to 40 members of rival gangs—the white Gaylords and Puerto Rican Lawndale Imperial Gangsters.

Read the whole article here: injusticewatch.org

8 Principles for Aspiring People’s Lawyers

This was a speech originally given by People’s Law Office attorney Michael Deutsch this Spring at the 2017 Midwest Regional National Lawyers Guild Conference. 

I also want to welcome you and recognize your commitment to be here so early on a Saturday morning. These meetings are really important to share strategies, experiences and to provide the fuel of comradeship that keeps us fighting for justice in all aspects of our work.

One of the perks/ consequences of having reached senior status, and having been around so long, is being asked to share my insights on the representation of the victims of political repression.  To be sure we are entering dark and really uncharted waters, with what I would characterize as the neo fascist take- over of the executive branch of the federal government, and the very real potential of a sea change in the make-up of the federal judiciary, with the potential given the present vacancies and the attrition of the appointment of hundreds of new judges, as well as the control of state governments by conservative forces which are moving to rewrite laws to up the ante against those who protest.

However, despite the dire potential, we still have the trappings of so-called liberal or neo liberal democracy, where we have courts mandated to enforce  the constitution and juries composed independent citizens.

The historic reality that the U.S. was never a real democracy, racism, sexism and exploitation, has always been with us, and as a result we have had a long history of resistance and of repression.  In my own legal experience, I have seen the attacks on the anti-Viet Nam war movement, including the coordinated use of nation-wide grand juries under Nixon to imprison leaders, the Co-intelpro  program which targeted BLM imprisoning and assassinating  its leaders / the Attica massacre and its aftermath of indictments of the prisoners, the siege of Wounded knee the attacks on the PRIM, here and in Puerto Rico, the attacks of the CA Sanctuary movement, the use  after 9/11of  federal “terrorism”  laws to criminalize solidarity work, particularly against  Muslims and the Palestinian solidarity movement, and the passage of broad state terrorism laws to charge Occupy activists.  And countless other acts of repression against workers, woman’s rights, the LGBT community, environmental and animal rights activists and the wholesale attacks and deportations of millions of immigrants.

So I want to share with you some principles I have distilled from my own experiences as a lawyer in many of these struggles. I was very fortunate as a young lawyer to have the opportunity to work with the Attica Brothers in their fight for justice. And many of the experiences I had there were repeated in the subsequent political cases that I have had the privilege of being involved in.

Of course, some of these ideas should be obvious and others will not apply universally, but I humbly offer them for your consideration.

  1. First and foremost, as much as possible take leadership from your clients.  Understand their politics and their goals, specifically as it applies to your legal representation.  At Attica we had 60 brothers charged with 1400 hundred felony counts It was our job to translate in the courtroom and if called upon outside to explain that they were not the criminals, but the victims of a massacre and a subsequent orgy of brutality.  To do so we had to understand what caused the rebellion and the State’s cover-up.

When you represent a Grand jury resister, be clear if their position is non-collaboration, regardless of  immunity andimprisonment.  In the case of PRIM activists accused of being members of the FALN, they made a collective decision to not recognize the jurisdiction of the Court and demand POW status. This decision was a difficult one for a lawyer used to contesting the facts, but we accepted this position, prepared motions supporting their position under international law and took their case to international forums. Not surprisingly, they were convicted, but set the political stage, that they were not criminals, for their release as political prisoners.  In contrast , Independence activists accused in Hartford of being member of the Macheteros, fought their case on the facts, while still raising political issues.

  1. Secondly, we must work with the community of supporters of your clients. We must explain carefully your strategy as much as possible and listen to their views and concerns. Hundreds of people from all across the progressive spectrum were moved to support the Attica brothers, while our relationships were not always amiable, we felt an obligation to respect their support and provide them with information.
  2. Work collectively with co-defendants and their lawyers. Unity is key here. In multi-defendant cases, there may be strategy, political and style differences between the lawyers, but a collective coordinated defense ensures a stronger, clearer, presentation and minimizes the possibilities of  a defendant isolated and choosing to become a state’s witness.   In the Pontiac prison case, in which 17 young Black men faced the death penalty we had 20 different criminal defense lawyers who were used to representing their own individual clients, but after much struggle and meetings and sharing the unity of Attica, all agreed to work together with a joint strategy.  All were acquitted or had their cases dropped.
  3. As much as possible put the Govt/State on trial. look for ways in your motion practice to raise the political issues inherent in your case.  Selective enforcement, political motivation, international law, government vindictive prosecution or misconduct to raise political issues. Use discovery to expose surveillance, spying,  the names of informants and make it burdensome on the prosecution.
  4. Be creative!  Think of ways to expose the political/repressive nature of the prosecution.  In the case of Muhammad Salah, who was tortured in Israel, we kept demanding the protocols and procedures allowed by the Israeli interrogators, which the Court denied as classified. We kept insisting and ultimately the Court allowed us stipulations to be read to the jury about the Israeli methods, which were akin to torture. This was determinative in convincing the jury that he confession was coerced and unreliable.

In the case of the NATO 3 charged with material support for terrorism, – a 40 year potential sentence -we convinced the court to instruct the jury on a lesser included charge of mob action, a misdemeanor

  1. Act with courage. Don’t be afraid to raise political issues or challenge the prosecution’s good faith or the impartiality of the court.  In  Rasmea  Odeh’s case we moved to recuse the Judge because of his close ties to the State of Israel.  He angrily denied the motion, but later when it was exposed that his family had a financial interest in an Israeli business that was bombed he had to step down.
  2. Be Resilient.  Don’t let bad rulings or difficult facts deter you. Study the history of political cases and what lawyers did right and what they did wrong.
  3. See yourself as part of the resistance movement. Your legal skills as your contribution.  Fight for your clients and for justice!