People’s Law Office Settles Multimillion-Dollar Jail Death Lawsuit

The People’s Law Office filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Richard J. Gonzalez’s estate in 2013, naming Ford County IL, its sheriff and four corrections officers for failing to provide proper medical treatment to Mr. Gonzalez, who later was found dead in his cell, and for lying about the timing of his death. Click here to read more about the case and settlement.

Pressure Mounts for Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Fund Torture Justice Memorial.

For over a quarter century the People’s Law Office has helped expose and represent people tortured under former police Cmdr. Jon Burge. Recently, the artist and activist-led collective, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) selected a design for a public memorial to honor the Burge torture survivors. The memorial is called Breath, Form & Freedom. It was designed by Chicago artists Patricia Nguyen and architectural designer John Lee.

“Breath, Form and Freedom” is a 1600 square foot structure with a winding hallway that is twelve feet wide and features the names and dates of survivors tortured by Jon Burge and his police in his Midnight crew. Click here to read more about the memorial and the process of choosing it.

While most of the historic reparations legislation package has been implemented Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to provide funding for the public memorial. Now CTJM is calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to fund the construction of the memorial.

In an article published by the Chicago Tribune today, People’s Law Office attorney and co-founder of CTJM, Joey Mogul said “There is no better way in my opinion to name racism … than the city of Chicago building a memorial about these racially motivated police torture cases.” You can read the entire article here.

Two Million Dollar Settlement Reached in Derek Williams’ Squad Car Death

Gina Barton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published 10:12 a.m. CT May 7, 2019

The family of Derek Williams, who died after begging for help and gasping for breath in the back of a Milwaukee police squad car, will receive a $2 million settlement in a long-running civil rights suit against the city, attorneys said Tuesday. 

The settlement comes eight years after Williams’ death in July 2011. It took three years for the two sides to agree on a resolution to the case, which was filed in 2016.

The money will be paid over time to Williams’ three children, now 8, 9 and 10. The children and their mother still celebrate his birthday and regularly visit his grave, said Milwaukee attorney Jon Safran, whose firm represented Williams’ family along with the People’s Law Office of Chicago.

Read the rest of this article here.

The Torture Machine Racism and Police Violence in Chicago

Order your copy at haymarketbooks.org

With his colleagues at the People’s Law Office (PLO), Taylor has argued landmark civil rights cases that have exposed corruption and cover-ups within the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and throughout the city’s corrupt political machine.

The Torture Machine takes the reader from the 1969 murders of Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton and Panther Mark Clark—and the historic, thirteen-years of litigation that followed—through the dogged pursuit of commander Jon Burge, the leader of a torture ring within the CPD that used barbaric methods, including electric shock, to elicit false confessions from suspects.

Joining forces with community activists, torture survivors and their families, other lawyers, and local reporters, Taylor and the PLO gathered evidence from multiple cases to bring suit against the CPD officers and the City of Chicago. As the struggle expanded beyond the torture scandal to the ultimately successful campaign to end the death penalty in Illinois, and obtained reparations for many of the torture survivors, it set human rights precedents that have since been adopted across the United States.

CAUGHT ON VIDEO: CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT FILED ON BEHALF OF HANDCUFFED MAN KICKED IN THE FACE BY FORMER MPD OFFICER MICHAEL GASSER

Attorneys for Plaintiff Rafael Rosales, who was brutally attacked by former Milwaukee Police Officer Michael Gasser, have today filed a multi-count federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages against the City of Milwaukee, Gasser, and numerous other MPD officers. As alleged in the complaint, after surrendering to police following a car chase, Rosales was attacked by Gasser, who kicked Rosales in the face while he was subdued face down on the ground, handcuffed behind his back, completely vulnerable and unable to protect or defend himself, causing Mr. Rosales serious physical injuries, including a broken nose, and triggering multiple epileptic seizures, which left him hospitalized and on a breathing tube for three days. The complaint alleges that eight additional Milwaukee Police Officers were standing nearby, yet did nothing to stop the attack, and instead congratulated and joked with Gasser afterward, and then covered up for Gasser by writing false reports of the incident and lying to investigators.

After officers from the Greenfield Police Department, who also witnessed Gasser’s attack, came forward and reported Gasser to the MPD Internal Affairs Division, a criminal investigation was initiated, and in September 2018, Gasser was criminally charged with misconduct in office and substantial battery, both felonies. Gasser pleaded guilty to lesser charges of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct, resigned from the Milwaukee Police Department, and was sentenced to 14 days in jail and 18 months of probation. However, none of the MPD officers who lied and covered up for Gasser were investigated or disciplined in any way by the MPD.

As alleged in the complaint, Gasser had a disturbing history of misconduct, which included his involvement with Michael Vagnini and Jason Mucha in the District 5 body cavity search scandal, and a resultant $506,000 jury verdict, obtained by Attorney Robin Shellow, that was entered against Gasser in 2014, yet the Department took no disciplinary action against him, essentially giving him free reign to further abuse citizens of Milwaukee as happened in this case. Accordingly, the complaint alleges that the City of Milwaukee is equally responsible for Rafael Rosales’ injuries because its police department had in place widespread practices and customs of failing to properly monitor, control and discipline its officers and the attendant police code of silence.

Attorneys Flint Taylor, Ben Elson, and Christian Snow from the People’s Law Office and Robin Shellow from The Shellow Group are counsel for Rafael Rosales. The attorneys will show footage from the video at the press conference at which time it will be made available to the media.

Attorney Elson said:

The MPD knew for years that Gasser was a problem officer, who repeatedly engaged in serious misconduct. All of the red flags were there, yet the MPD failed to do anything about it until his wanton brutality was caught on video and officers from the Greenfield police department broke the code of silence. The actions of the additional defendant officers, who attempted to cover up for Gasser, and the MPD’s failure to punish these officers, like the officers who covered up the Vagnini body cavity search scandal, demonstrates that fifteen years after Frank Jude the code of silence is still alive and well in the MPD.

For Further Information, Please Contact: Flint Taylor and Ben Elson, People’s Law Office (773) 235-0070; Robin Shellow, The Shellow Group (414) 263-4488.

People’s Law Office Represents Markham Firefighter in False Arrest Case

Markham Firefighter Sues Chicago Cops for False Arrest

After a community cleanup in Englewood, volunteers end up in violent confrontation with dozens of cops.

November 15, 2018

On an April afternoon in 2017, 35-year-old Vairrun Strickland came to the intersection of 63rd and Ashland in Englewood with dozens of other people wearing black T-shirts and brandishing green, red, and black Black Liberation flags. As part of New Era Chicago, a community service and black empowerment group, Strickland and the others were there to clean up the neighborhood and mingle with residents. A firefighter with the Markham Fire Department who grew up in Englewood, he’d helped organize similar cleanup outings in other south- and west-side neighborhoods.

“We walk through the neighborhood with our New Era T-shirts and we pick up trash,” Strickland explained in a recent interview with the Reader. “While we’re doing that we make little chants to promote black love. We also go door-to-door and pass out literature to support black-owned businesses in the neighborhood.”

Nothing about that morning was unusual, he said. As the procession wound its way from block to block, kids and neighbors joined in to help pick up bottles and food wrappers from vacant lots. A police car trailed the group for the three hours they were out there—something that always happens during New Era’s outings, Strickland said, despite the group’s having asked the Chicago Police Department not to send escorts so as not to discourage engagement with local youth who might be wary of cops.

Read the full article in the Chicago Reader.

People’s Law Office is Pleased to Announce our new Associate, Christian Snow

Christian is a recent graduate of the Northeastern University School of Law, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar. During her time at Northeastern Christian was a chair of the Black Law Students Association, a Teaching Assistant, a Research Assistant, a Lawyering Fellow, and an elected SBA  representative for the Experiential Education and Assessment Committee. Additionally, she participated in the American Bar Association’s Judicial Clerkship Diversity program and was also awarded a Davis-Putter Scholarship. Prior to law school, Christian was a Resident in Social Enterprise, a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow. She brings a wealth of experience in community organizing, including working with Street Level Youth Media and Assata’s Daughters around issues including access for young people, divestment from Black communities, bail reform, and prison and police abolition.

#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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