Police Cover-Up in the Marcus Smith Case

People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor was on Democracy Now! today discussing the police cover-up and civil case of Marcus Smith, a Black man who was suffering from a mental health crisis, who was brutally and fatally hogtied by 8 white Greensboro NC police officers. Follow the link to listen to the entire interview.

More About the Case:

Read the featured article by the Marshall Project published on May 24, 2021, titled “He Died Like an Animal”: Some Police Departments Hogtie People Despite Knowing The Risks.

Follow the Triad City Beat Newspaper to keep up to date on the important legal and political struggle, spearheaded by an interracial coalition of Greensboro activists, that continues, despite the chilling attacks by the City, its politicians and lawyers, to raise the homicide of Marcus Smith and the official cover-up that followed as an important part of the movement for Black Lives.

Read the Response to the Motion to Seal that was filed by lawyers from our office and Greensboro lawyer Graham Holt on May 23, 2021.

Lawsuit Filed Against Off-Duty CPD Officer For Shooting Unarmed Man and Injuring Another

One of the men was shot in the hand, causing severe injury,
while the other suffered hearing loss and pain in his ear

On the night of December 11, 2020, Chicago Police Officer Kevin Bunge, who was off-duty at the time, fired his gun at two unarmed Latino men who were sitting in a car, posing no risk to anyone.

Today, February 9, 2021, those two young men, Jomner Orozco Carreto and Carlos Ramírez, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Chicago Police Officer Kevin Bunge and the Chicago Police Department.

The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District Court of Illinois on February 9, 2021, by the attorneys Brad Thomson and Jan Susler of the People’s Law Office.

The lawsuit brings claims against Officer Bunge and the Chicago Police Department for excessive force and unlawful seizure, assault and battery, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

The shooting is under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), which today released video and other materials related to the shooting.

On the night of the incident, Mr. Orozco was driving his car through the Irving Park neighborhood, while Mr. Ramírez was riding in the passenger seat and using the GPS on his phone to provide directions. The GPS was giving an estimated travel time that didn’t sound right, so Mr. Orozco pulled over in order to safely check on his own phone, parking his car on the 3300 block of Irving Park Road.

The two men sat in the car and looked up directions. They were legally parked, unarmed, had committed no crime, and posed absolutely no threat to anyone.

Suddenly, Officer Bunge got out of an SUV parked in front of them and quickly approached Mr. Orozco’s car, his hand gun drawn and pointed at the two young men. He began firing from point blank distance.

Officer Bunge fired multiple bullets into the car, shattering its window and striking Mr. Orozco in the right hand. Glass from the shattered window struck both in the face, and the volume of the shots caused Mr. Ramírez pain and hearing loss.

Recognizing that his life and the life of his friend were in danger, Mr. Orozco threw his car in reverse and sped off. Once they had safely escaped they called 911 and went to a nearby store to seek help. Later, Officer Bunge also called 911, recounting a false story to cover up the unjustified shooting, and then completed a false police report to further his coverup.

Adding insult to injury, Chicago police officers placed both men under arrest, despite the fact that they were victims of this unprovoked shooting.

“This use of deadly force against unarmed people is yet another example of the Chicago Police Department’s ongoing pattern and practice of using excessive force in violation of the law,” says Brad Thomson, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys at People’s Law Office. “This egregious example of unconstitutional use of force exposes a systemic problem of police violence that can’t be corrected with nominal reforms or superficial training.”  

Contemplating the life-threatening incident and the civil rights lawsuit, Mr. Orozco says, “I hope no one else ever has to experience what happened to us. The police department needs to control its officers. This should never have happened, and we will fight for justice.”

Mr. Ramírez says of the Chicago Police officer: “He should be fired. He is too dangerous to be a law enforcement officer. I thought we were going to die. I don’t want this to ever happen to anyone else. That really helps me fight for justice.” 

Demanda contra policía por disparar, herir, dos latinos.

     Uno severamente herido en la mano; otro sufriendo dolor y pérdida de audición

En la noche del 11 de diciembre del 2020, el policía de Chicago Kevin Bunge, disparó su revolver a dos latinos, sentados en su carro, sin armas, sin causar ningún problema a nadie. Bunge había acabado de terminar su turno de trabajo, y todavía portó su insignia.

Hoy, el 9 de febrero del 2021, los dos jóvenes latinos, Jomner Orozco Carreto y Carlos Ramírez, radicaron una demanda en la corte federal en Chicago contra el policía Kevin Bunge y el Departamento de Policía de Chicago. Representando los jóvenes son los abogados Brad Thomson y Jan Susler del People’s Law Office.

La demanda incluye unas acusaciones en contra del policía Bunge y el Departamento de Policía de Chicago por haber usado la fuerza excesiva, y por incautación ilegal, asalto y agresión, e inflicción intencional de daño emocional.

La Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) tiene bajo investigación el comportamiento del policía. Hoy COPA divulgó unas grabaciones de video y otros materiales relacionado al caso.

La noche de los sucesos, el Sr. Orozco manejó su carro en la calle Irving Park, y el Sr. Ramírez lo acompaño como pasajero, usando el GPS. Cuando se dieron cuenta que las instrucciones del GPS estaban mal, el Sr. Orozco estacionó el carro para poder usar el GPS suyo. Parraron cerca a la 3300 W. Irving Park.

Los dos, sentados y usando los GPS, estuvieron estacionados legalmente; no tenían armas, no habían cometido ningún crimen, no habían amenazado a nadie.

De momento, el policía Bunge salió de su SUV, estacionado en frente, y caminó rápidamente con el revolver en al mano, hacía el carro de Orozco, donde apuntó el revolver a los dos, y, muy cerca al carro, comenzó a disparar.

El policía Bunge disparó varias veces al carro, rompiendo el cristal, y pegando la mano derecha del Sr. Orozco. Los fragmentos del vidrio chocaron las caras de ambos, y el volúmen del ruido causado por los disparos causó dolor y pérdida de la audición al Sr. Ramírez.

El Sr. Orozco inmediatamente se dío cuenta que, para salvarles la vida, tenían que irse. Dió marcha atrás rápido, y se fueron. Una vez se habían escapado, llamaron al 911 y fueron a una tienda para pedir ayuda. Después, el policía Bunge también llamó al 911, pero recitó una versión falsa para encubrir los disparos injustificados; además llenó un informe oficial totalmente falso para darle seguimiento al encubrimiento.

Y para poner el dedo en la llaga, otros policías de Chicago arrestaron a los dos jóvenes, siendo nada más los víctimas de los balazos injustificados.

“El uso de la fuerza mortal contra personas que no estén armados, es otro ejemplo más del patrón y la práctica del Departamento de Policía de Chicago de usar la fuerza excesiva de forma que viola la ley,” dice Brad Thomson, uno de los abogados del People’s Law Office, representando a los demandantes. “Este ejemplo del uso de la fuerza inconstitucional expone un problema sistemático de violencia policiaca que no se puede corregir con reformas mínimas ni con adiestramiento superficial.”

Contemplando el suceso que amenazó la vida, el Sr. Orozco dice: “Nunca en la vida hubiese podido imaginar, lo que sufrimos. Pensé que ibamos a morir. Tuvimos que huirnos para salvarnos la vida. Espero que ningún otro ser humano tenga que experimentar tanto terror. La ciudad tiene que controlar la policía. Lo que nos pasó a nosotros, nunca hubiese debido de pasar. Vamos a luchar por la justicia.”

El Sr. Ramírez dice, sobre el policía, “El policía que nos disparó debe de estar despedido. Es demasiado peligroso. Cuando nos disparó, pensé que nos iba a matar. No quiero que eso pasara a nadie más. Por eso, estoy inspirado a luchar por la justicia.”

The Assassination of Fred Hampton: A Short People’s History

Fifty-one years ago today, Illinois Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were slain by the Chicago police in a murderous pre-dawn raid. Over the next five decades the Hampton and Clark families, their lawyers, the Black Panther Party, movement activists, honest reporters and documentary filmmakers, and peoples’ historians have waged a continuous battle to uncover and speak the truth about Fred Hampton, the BPP, and the December 4th raid. These intergenerational and interracial efforts have lead to a changing of the historical narrative from a shoot-out between the Panthers and the police, to a “shoot in” where the police fired more than 90 shots to one by the Panthers, then to a murder of Fred Hampton while he slept, drugged, in his bed, and now, to a political assassination orchestrated  by the FBI under its notorious COINTEPRO program.

All of this work has led Hollywood to depict Fred Hampton in at least two major films made by megastar producers. In Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Conspiracy 7,” Hampton the character is fictionalized, a device to a worthy end – – – showing his murder as a significant event that occurred while the trial was happening.

Due out next year is Ryan Coogler’s “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which features a star-studded cast and focuses on, and contrasts, Fred with FBI informant William O’Neal, who set up Fred’s murder. The trailer warns that the movie is “inspired by true events.”

While an historical analysis of these movies must await another day, we must remember that to learn about the real Chairman Fred Hampton, his assassination, and the struggles that were waged to establish the narrative that these movies seek to depict, we must return to the sources that have painstakingly told, documented, recorded, and written about those events.

With that in mind, BAR Reprints an edited version of an article by the author that first appeared in Truthout on December 4, 2017.

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 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.

From an early age, Hampton was a charismatic speaker and natural leader. At the age of 14, he had organized a student chapter of the NAACP in Maywood, Illinois, and the chapter soon grew to 700 members. He led a march on the Maywood Town Hall and organized to build an integrated swimming pool there. After he graduated from Proviso East High School, the administration asked him to come back to mediate a confrontation between Black and white students, then had him arrested when he did so. Influenced by Malcolm X, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the realities that he observed and experienced in the movement, Hampton consistently spoke out strongly against police brutality. His politics became increasingly more militant.

In the fall of 1967, Hampton enrolled in Crane Junior College, later renamed Malcolm X College, which was a center of radical Black activity in Chicago. He continued his dynamic organizing there, and injected a new militancy into the student body. During 1968, Hampton, Bobby Rush and several others organized the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and opened their offices at 2350 West Madison Street on the West Side of Chicago.

By this time, Hampton had been expressly targeted by the Chicago FBI office, which was already quite experienced in disruption tactics and techniques, having taken several sophisticated actions in the mid-60s that were designed to exploit and exacerbate the political division between Nation of Islam leaders Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammed. Within days of the opening of the Panther office, Chicago’s Racial Matters Squad directed one of its operatives, William O’Neal, to join the Party. O’Neal soon maneuvered himself into a leadership position as chief of security, and served as Hampton’s bodyguard during the early days of the Illinois chapter.

Under the leadership of Chairman Fred Hampton and Minister of Defense Bobby Rush, the Chicago BPP grew into a strong organization. Hampton began to negotiate with Chicago street organizations, attempting to convince them to give up their violent activities and embrace the Panther philosophy. Under his leadership, the Party built the original Rainbow Coalition that united the Panthers, the Puerto Rican Young Lords Organization, the Young Patriots (a group of radical Appalachian whites) and the Students for a Democratic Society.

The BPP opened a Breakfast for Children program at several locations in the city, and fed hundreds of hungry young children before they went to school. Hampton frequently spoke at colleges and high schools and met with a wide range of leaders and organizations. He led by example, starting his day at six in the morning at the Breakfast program, and would never ask someone to do something he would not do, from selling the Panther newspaper to defending the Panther office from police attack.

At the same time, the FBI, both nationally and locally, was increasing its efforts to “neutralize the Panther Party and destroy what it stands for.” Not only had the Bureau targeted the leadership, including Hampton, whom it registered on its Rabble Rouser, Agitator and Security Indexes, but it also specifically set out to destroy the BPP newspaper and the Breakfast program, as well as the Panthers’ liberation schools and health clinics. Under the COINTELPRO banner, utilizing “ghetto informants” who often acted as provocateurs, Racial Matters operatives sought to exploit ideological differences and resultant tensions between the Panthers, street organizations and Black nationalist organizations. In Chicago, RM agents attempted to provoke the Blackstone Rangers to attack Hampton and the Panthers by sending a forged letter to Ranger leader Jeff Fort, that purported to warn him of a “hit” the Panthers had ordered against him — with the stated goal of provoking Fort to physically attack Hampton. Continuing his work as a COINTELPRO operative, FBI informant O’Neal, who later played a key role in setting up the murderous December 4 raid by supplying the floor plan of Hampton’s apartment, blossomed as a provocateur who repeatedly — and unsuccessfully — encouraged the commission of illegal acts.

The local police and prosecutors also sought to destroy the BPP with a vengeance. Panthers were constantly harassed and arrested, often for selling the Panther paper. Hampton had been arrested in Maywood for allegedly taking $71 of ice cream and distributing it to neighborhood children. The politically aggressive Cook County state’s attorney, Edward V. Hanrahan, put Hampton on trial for robbery. In May 1969 he was convicted and sentenced to two to five years in prison. In August, the Illinois Supreme Court granted Hampton appeal bond, and he returned to Chicago to a joyous welcome at People’s Church on South Ashland Avenue. In an inspiring and memorable speech, he told of how he heard the “beat of the people,” and was “high off the people” while he was locked up in a downstate maximum-security prison. Upon his release, Hampton immediately resumed his speaking and organizing at a breakneck pace. His unique leadership skills had been duly noted, not only by the FBI, but also by the national leadership of the BPP, and he was being groomed to be an important national spokesperson.

Three months later, Hampton lay dead on his bed in a pool of blood, assassinated by a Chicago police raider who shot him twice in the head at close range. Hampton was a victim of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program.

As evidence emerged over time, it was established that the 14-man, pre-dawn police raiding party, operating under the direct supervision of State’s Attorney Hanrahan, was armed with O’Neal’s floorplan that marked the bed on which Hampton would be sleeping. They carried a submachine gun, semiautomatic rifles, shotguns and handguns. The raiders were led by Chicago police Sgt. Daniel Groth, a shadowy figure with suspected connections to the CIA, and included James “Gloves” Davis, so nicknamed because he donned gloves before he beat people up.

The raiders burst in the front and back doors of the tiny apartment, and Davis killed Mark Clark, who was just inside the front door, with a shot through the heart. They then charged into the front room, shooting Brenda Harris, a 17-year-old Panther who was lying on a bed next to the wall, and “stitched” that wall with machine gun and semiautomatic fire. These bullets tore through the wall and into the middle bedroom, where three Panthers were huddling on the floor, and many of those high-powered bullets continued through another wall into the bedroom where Hampton and his fiancé, Deborah Johnson, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, were asleep. The trajectories of many of these bullets were toward the head of Hampton’s bed.

In the back bedroom, the mattress was vibrating from the gunfire as Panther occupants Louis Trueluck and Harold Bell were unsuccessfully trying to wake Hampton. The raiders burst through the back door, firing at the bedrooms. They then took Bell, Trueluck and Johnson out of the back bedroom into the kitchen, leaving Hampton alive but unconscious on the bed. In the front, the officer with the machine gun had moved to the doorway of the middle bedroom and fired several machine gun blasts at the defenseless occupants. Ronald “Doc” Satchel was hit five times, while Blair Anderson and another terrified teenager, Verlina Brewer, were also shot.

In the kitchen, Johnson and Bell heard two shots ring out from Hampton’s bedroom, and heard a raider say, “He’s good and dead now.” The toxicological evidence strongly suggested that O’Neal had put secobarbital in Hampton’s Kool-Aid hours earlier so that he would not wake up.

Hampton’s body was dragged from the bloodstained bed to the hallway floor, to be displayed as the raiders’ trophy, while the seven survivors were physically abused, subjected to threats and racial epithets, and then jailed on charges of attempted murder. The raiders then rushed from the apartment to the state’s attorney’s office where they appeared with Hanrahan at a press conference. There, Hanrahan described a fierce gun battle initiated by the “vicious” and “criminal” Black Panthers, during which his raiders acted “reasonably” and with “restraint.”

As we now know, the official version was a false narrative, a lie. Over the next decade the full truth was brought to light, thanks to Chicago’s Black and progressive communities, the families of Hampton and Clark, and the survivors of the raid, their lawyers, and their Panther comrades. With the awful truth on the public record, it is important to consider the present moment with that history in mind.

Flint Taylor is a founding member of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, and one of the lawyers for the Hampton and Clark families. He is the author of “The Torture Machine,” which documents the Hampton assassination in its first chapter. He also recommends “The Assassination of Fred Hampton,” by his longtime law partner and fellow Hampton lawyer Jeffrey Haas, the Mike Gray documentary film entitled “The Murder of Fred Hampton,” and the PBS Documentary “Eyes on the Prize Two, A Nation of Laws?” 

Protesters Against Police Violence Sue Chicago Police for Racially Motivated Police Violence

November 19, 2020

Protesters Against Police Violence Sue Superintendent Brown, CPD and City of Chicago for Racially Motivated Police Violence

60 People – – including members of Black Lives Matter, #LetUsBreathe Collective, GoodKids MadCity – – join together to file an unprecedented lawsuit seeking justice after they were viciously attacked by Chicago Police Officers at the historic protests against racist police violence this summer. 

60 protesters have joined together to file a civil rights lawsuit against Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, other Chicago Police Officers and the City of Chicago for the violence they all endured when they were exercising their constitutional rights protesting anti-Black police violence at the protests in Chicago this summer. 

The Plaintiffs filed a 200+ page legal complaint in federal court alleging they were repeatedly attacked by Chicago Police Officers who unjustifiably beat them with batons, tear gassed and pepper sprayed them, tackled them to the ground, and kettled them on public streets without giving them the required orders to disperse. The Plaintiffs alleged they were attacked and beaten in strikingly similar ways at eight different protests that occurred over the summer, in the Loop, Hyde Park, Grant Park, Uptown, and Old Town, on May 29-31, June 1, July 17, and August 15, 2020.  

The Plaintiffs are represented by People’s Law Office attorneys Joey L. Mogul, Ben Elson, Janine Hoft, Jan Susler, and Brad Thomson, along with Vanessa Del Valle of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center; Sheila A. Bedi of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law; Brendan Shiller, Sierra Reed, Tia Haywood, and Wayne Slaughter of Shiller Preyar Jarard & Samuels. 

Miracle Boyd, a member of GoodKids MadCity, is one of the Plaintiffs who was viciously attacked when punched in the face by a Chicago Police Officer causing her to lose two teeth, when attending the Black, Indigenous Solidarity Rally (Decolonize Zhigaagoong) in Grant Park on July 17, 2020, said “CPD used violence to try to stop our movement. But we won’t be silenced. This lawsuit is about holding police accountable for all the harm they inflicted on us this summer. But it’s also about the righteousness of our demand to defund CPD. We need to invest in our communities, not police who beat young people trying to remake their world.” 

Many of the protesters suffered concussions or broken bones after being repeatedly hit with batons on their heads and other parts of their bodies, requiring medical treatment. Several Plaintiffs needed stitches to bind the gaping wounds in their heads and on their bodies. Others sustained bruises that lasted for weeks.  [See the complaint for pictures of injuries].

“Chicago Police Officers used lethal force, time and time again this summer, when they repeatedly hit protestors on their heads with their batons.  This excessive force was not only unconstitutional, and illegal, but violates the CPD’s own policies regarding the use of “impact weapons,” said Plaintiff’s lawyer Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office.   These officers need to be fired from the CPD so they cannot harm any others, and the City needs to compensate people for these substantial injuries. 

Adding insult to serious injuries, many protesters were also falsely arrested and charged with crimes or violations of Chicago municipal ordinances based on false allegations, resulting in their prolonged detention in CPD lock ups amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  All the charges/violations brought against these plaintiffs have been dismissed. 

The complaint also alleges that the CPD effectuated racially motivated arrests of protesters, even though the protests were attended by multi-racial crowds of people, the majority of whom were white.  According to CPD records, during the initial weekend of protests (May 29 – 31), CPD arrested 2,172 people and 70% of those arrested were Black, even though Black people compromise only 32% of the City of Chicago.

“During this summer’s uprisings, CPD used every tool they had to beat us, detain us, to punish us for demanding a world without police. Police officers brutalized me, pushed around my children, and left my friends laying in the street covered in their own blood. said Amika Tendaji, Lead Organizer for Black Lives Matter Chicago. This kind of violence can’t be reformed. This isn’t about a lack of training. It’s about policing being rotten to the core.” 

Chicago Police Officers also regularly took or destroyed protesters’ personal property, including their bicycles, cameras, eyeglasses, goggles, backpacks, and phones.  Some were deprived of medication while locked up resulting in further unnecessary injuries.

An astronomical number of complaints alleging Chicago Police Officers engaged in brutality and misconduct at the summer protests have been filed with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (“COPA”). Of the 520 complaints received, 58% of those complaints alleged Chicago Police Officers used excessive force and 9% alleged verbal abuse. The number of protest complaints is so large that COPA formed a specialized team of investigators solely dedicated to investigating these allegations.  As a result of COPA’s preliminary investigations into the protest complaints, it referred 5 officers to state/federal law enforcement for potential criminal prosecution and has recommended that 8 officers be assigned to modified duty and/or be relieved of police power, but no other officers involved in protest-related abuses have been disciplined thus far. 

“These systemic and ongoing violations continue unabated and undeterred despite the City of Chicago being subject to a Consent Decree for almost two years.  CPD’s failure to comply with the Consent Decree deadlines coupled with its consistently illegal and violent response to the summer 2020 protests demonstrate that the Consent Decree has entirely failed to create any meaningful change in the CPD,” said Sheila A Bedi, one of the lawyers representing the Plaintiffs.

This past summer tens of thousands of people coalesced to protest the unrelenting anti-Black police violence plaguing Chicago and the nation. In doing so, they made history by joining the largest social justice movement the U.S. has ever experienced. The complaint alleges that the CPD and other City agencies responded to these demonstrations with brutal, violent, and unconstitutional tactics that were clearly intended to injure, silence, and intimidate Plaintiffs and other protesters from protesting CPD and other police officers’ racially motivated violence. The CPD also consistently targeted protest leaders, marshals, legal observers, medics, and individuals recording the demonstrations with unlawful, retaliatory, and lethal force.

The lawyers argue that CPD’s response to the summer 2020 protests is consistent with the CPD’s long-standing policies and practices of using abusive tactics and excessive force against protesters for progressive social change.  The lawsuits notes the violence protestors suffered at the hands of Chicago Police Officers when they demanded fair labor practices in 1877; spoke against racism and segregation prior to the 1919 race riots; protested the Vietnam war at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; opposed housing discrimination in 1977; opposed the Gulf War in 1990; acted up for people with HIV/AIDs in 1990s and early 2000s; opposed the Iraq War in 2003; and held a counter demonstration to then Presidential candidate Trump’s scheduled rally at UIC in 2016. 

The lawsuit also documents how costly police violence is for the City of Chicago and how much taxpayer money is expended to compensate people for their pain and suffering and wasted paying law firms to defend the indefensible. The most recent civil rights class action brought on behalf of those beaten and detained en masse at the infamous anti-Iraq war demonstration on March 20, 2003, cost the City of Chicago approximately $15 million, with the plaintiffs receiving over $6.4 million in settlement awards. Around $9 million was paid to attorneys for the plaintiffs and outside counsel hired by the City to defend the CPD and City in fees and costs.  

You can read the complaint here.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Challenging Illegal Detention of People in the Winnebago County Jail

On Sunday, August 2, 2020, five people incarcerated in the Winnebago County Jail filed a class-action lawsuit alleging widespread and systemic violations of the Fourth Amendment rights of people accused of felony charges in Winnebago County. Adults with pending felony charges who are arrested on Friday evenings or on weekends are incarcerated in the Winnebago County Jail and routinely denied required probable cause hearing until the next regular business day. The lack of weekend bond hearings in Winnebago County results in extended detentions without any hearing before a judge and violates the Fourth Amendment. Four of the five named plaintiffs were arrested at demonstrations on Friday, Juy 31 and Saturday, August 1, organized by the May 30th Alliance demanding that charges against Black Lives Matter demonstrators arrested after the police murder of George Floyd are dropped.

The Supreme Court has held that anyone held in police custody must be brought before a judge within 48 hours for a determination of probable cause to detain. By failing to hold any hearings for people facing felony charges on weekends, the 17th Judicial Circuit Court is flagrantly disregarding these people’s constitutional rights.

It is deeply disturbing that this flagrantly unconstitutional practice has been taking place in Illinois’ second largest county jail. People across Illinois have been demanding reforms to the pretrial justice system because of the impact of jail on our communities, yet Winnebago County is not even following existing laws. No one should be incarcerated for days before seeing a judge–especially while they are presumed innocent. A weekend in jail can have serious impacts on a person’s life and cause lasting negative effects. That is why there must be protections in place before someone is jailed while awaiting trial.

The lawsuit names Eugene G. Doherty, the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Winnebago County, as a Defendant and seeks an immediate injunction ordering Chief Judge Doherty to begin holding probable cause hearings for individuals arrested on the weekends. The suit also names Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana for his role in turning a blind eye to the unconstitutional detentions at his facility.

People’s Law Office attorney Brad Thomson along with attorney Adele Nicholas filed this case yesterday. It was brought to their attention by our friends at the Chicago Community Bond Fund.

Lawsuit Filed Today to Stop the Deployment of Paramilitary Federal Agents to Chicago.

People’s Law Office attorneys along with lawyers from Loevy & Loevy, Shiller Preyar Jarard & Samuels, Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago School of Law filed a lawsuit today against the Trump administration to stop the deployment of paramilitary federal agents to Chicago. Read the entire lawsuit here and watch the press conference here.

Victory in Chicago Freedom School’s Lawsuit Against the City of Chicago

Today, we are proud to announce a victory in Chicago Freedom School’s lawsuit against the City of Chicago.

Today, the City of Chicago rescinded the cease and desist order it issued to the Chicago Freedom School on May 30, 2020!

On May 30, CFS, located in the South Loop, opened its space to provide support (including take-out pizza and store bought snacks for free) and rides home to Black and Brown young people protesting the racist police murders in downtown Chicago.

CPD officers and members of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) showed up at CFS’s door and aggressively demanded to search the premises asserting that CFS was “housing and feeding protestors,” insinuating that was a crime which it is not.

After searching the premises, BACP members issued CFS an illegal “Cease and Desist” order falsely claiming the CFS was “preparing and serving food” on its premises without a commercial Retail Food Establishment License. CFS staff were threatened with arrest and the CFS fined if they continue to provide youth participants commercially prepared food, thereby shutting down this not for profit organization.

Joey Mogul of People’s Law Office and Sheila Bedi of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic of Pritzker Northwestern School of Law filed a lawsuit in federal court on June 25, 2020 challenging the violations of CFS’s, Executive Director Tony Alvarado-Rivera’s and Wellness Director Jacqulyn Hamilton’s constitutional rights and demanding a preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of this illegal cease and desist order.

Today, the BACP formally rescinded the cease and desist order.

Check out CFS’s statement about this victory.

We are proud to represent CFS and we are inspired by their work in supporting young Black and Brown people in the City and their courage in standing up to the City of Chicago, CPD and BACP to demand respect for their rights and work.

Chicago Freedom School files lawsuit against City of Chicago, Chicago Police Officers and City Officials after retaliatory raid, “cease & desist” order, and threats of arrest.

On May 30, 2020, the Chicago Freedom School, located in the South Loop, opened its space to provide support (including take-out pizza and store bought snacks) and rides home to Black and Brown young people protesting the racist police murders in downtown Chicago.

At 11 p.m., several Chicago Police Officers and members of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) showed up at CFS’ door and aggressively demanded to search the premises asserting that CFS was “housing and feeding protestors.”

“Many youth who had just experienced police violence while protesting said violence, came to CFS to use the bathroom, drink water, and get connected to a ride home – since the Mayor had just instituted a curfew, raised the bridges, and shut down the CTA.  We chose to open our doors for immediate safety because we are dedicated to young people’s well-being,” says Wellness Director Jacqulyn Hamilton. “The City & Police colluding to search CFS that night, without a warrant, and threaten to arrest staff present, including myself, for daring to serve pizza – was in character for how this City and police treat Black & Brown young people – with disdain.” 

After searching the premises, BACP members issued CFS a “Cease and Desist” order falsely claiming the CFS was “preparing and serving food” on its premises without a Retail Food Establishment License. The order directed the CPD to arrest CFS employees if they continue to provide youth participants commercially prepared food and fine CFS $500-1,000 each day it continues to provide food, thereby effectively shutting down this small, not-for-profit organization.

“We appreciate the love & support we have received from our community, in light of our mistreatment at the hands of the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department. We are bringing this lawsuit to ensure that none of our programs, young people, or staff are at continued risk, and to affirm our support for the righteous protests against police violence against Black people and for the defunding of police,” says incoming Executive Director, Tony Alvarado-Rivera.

Chicago Freedom School Executive Director, Tony Alvarado-Rivera addressing the media.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the City from enforcing this order. The suit also seeks vindication and damages as the search and order are attempts by City and CPD officials to retaliate against the CFS for exercising its 1st Amendment rights to support young people and to support the protests against racist police violence. Read the filed complaint here.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys are Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office and Sheila Bedi of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

People’s Law Office summer 2020 intern Avneet Chawla, legal worker Kris Clutter and attorney Joey Mogul. Photo by the wonderful Debbie Southorn

“We are outraged that the CPD and BACP illegally raided the CFS’s premises and issued an illegal, unconstitutional, and frankly bogus, cease and desist order to the CFS” said Joey Mogul and Sheila Bedi. “The Chicago Freedom School provided critical support to young Black and Brown people on May 30th. They should be revered for their work, not threatened with arrest and being shut down.”

The Chicago Freedom School is a non-profit organization, inspired by the Mississippi Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights era, which provides a space where young people and adult allies can study the work of past movements, deepen their understanding of current social problems, build new coalitions, and develop strategies for change.  Learn more at ChicagoFreedomSchool.org

Cook County Public Defender, Community Groups, and Defense Attorneys File Lawsuit Against City of Chicago for Denying People in Police Custody Access to Counsel and Phones

The Cook County Public Defender on Monday joined a broad coalition of community groups, activists, and attorneys in filing a lawsuit against the City of Chicago for denying people in police custody access to counsel and phones.

The lawsuit further states that the City’s history of unlawful refusals became more widespread following the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent citywide protests over police brutality and racism. Follow the link to view the filed lawsuit.

“Since 1963, the law has required that every person arrested is entitled to communicate with their loved ones and counsel,” said Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli. “For seven decades, Chicago police have not been held accountable for this systemic violation of human rights. If the police just followed the law, we would no longer be the false confession capital of the world and communities would have greater trust for and cooperation with the Chicago Police Department.” PD QUOTE

Under Illinois law, people who are arrested have the right to communicate and consult with an attorney and the right to make phone calls within an hour of arriving at their first place of custody.  However, the Chicago Police Department has a long history of depriving arrestees access to a phone to reach out to counsel or loved ones.

On Friday, May 29, and throughout that following weeks, more than 2,600 demonstrators were arrested by CPD and many were denied access to counsel. The lawsuit details how CPD systemically impeded attorneys from finding and talking to their clients.

In filing the suit, the Public Defender joins a coalition that includes Black Lives Matter Chicago, Stop Chicago, #LetUsBreathe Collective, UMedics, and GoodKids MadCity. Each organization has members who were detained and denied their right to make a phone call and contact their attorneys. The National Lawyers Guild Chicago, also a plaintiff in the suit, has been denied access to clients in police stations, including during the recent protests. 

”On Sunday May 31st, I was slammed to the ground and beaten with batons by CPD while trying to protect my brother and his fiancée, #LetUsBreathe co-founders Damon Williams and Jennifer Pagán, and our comrade Christopher Brown,” said Kristiana Colon of the #LetUsBreathe Collective. “Horrified by the excessive force and unjust targeting of my family and fellow organizers, I did my best to intervene and was injured in the process. When I arrived at 51st & Wentworth to try and locate them, the supervising officer told me they weren’t there. I asked again if he was telling the truth and he said he had no reason to lie to me. After several hours of fear and confusion, it turned out they were there after all, but were denied access to counsel for several more hours. Our organization supports mutual aid efforts across the South & West sides, and had to redirect our time and resources to a rapid response rally to get our people out of jail. This is one of the many ways superfluous police encounters are a theft of the energy that should be spent on keeping people safe.”

“I sat in the hospital handcuffed to a wheelchair for nearly 8 hours before I saw a lawyer,” said activist and artist Damon Williams, who was arrested following a protest on May 31, 2020. “I hadn’t slept. I thought I was alone. I was afraid I would be locked up with no end in sight. I wasn’t the only person in custody crying out for information and asking to talk to my lawyer. I have nightmares about being in custody and terrified that I’d be locked up without any explanation or contact with the outside world.”

The City and the Chicago Police Department has cynically used  the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to deny people their rights while under arrest.  After Gov. Pritzker issued his stay-at-home order on March 20, the Public Defender was forced to curtail in-person attorney-client visits, and informed CPD that all attorney-client conversations would take place by phone until further notice. CPD refused to coordinate mandatory confidential telephone visits for clients in custody unless and until the Public Defender agreed that CPD would not be liable if they overheard any attorney-client conversations. The Public Defender alternatively asked for virtual visits with clients, similar to the system used by the Cook County State’s Attorney to talk to its witnesses. That request was denied.  

Between April 16, 2020 and June 5, 2020, the Public Defender’s Office surveyed 1,468 people in bond court. Nearly a quarter (23%) stated that CPD never offered them access to a phone at any point while they were detained at the police station. Those who were allowed phone access were forced to wait an average of 4.2 hours.

“Denying phone access is a key CPD scare tactic to impede access to counsel,” said Alexa Van Brunt of the MacArthur Justice Center, which represents the plaintiffs. “The result is that detainees are cut off entirely, without legal guidance or protection from police coercion.”

The recent practice is just an exacerbation of the decades-long practice to deny arrestees access to attorneys and phone calls. It is a practice that was called out by the current Mayor when she was part of the Police Accountability Task Force that formed following the shooting of Laquan McDonald.

“We had documented for decades how the denial of phone access leads to false arrests, false charges and wrongful convictions, and costs the City money,” explained First Defense Legal Aid Executive Director Eliza Solowiej, who served on the Task Force with the current Mayor, and was part of the team that found that requiring access to phones with in a hour of arrest (as required by state law) would be one of the foundational reforms to ending police misconduct.

Plaintiffs have filed a writ of mandamus in the Circuit Court of Cook County Chancery Division to force the City to comply with Illinois law governing access to counsel and to phones.

Plaintiffs are represented by Brendan Shiller of Shiller Preyar Jarard & Samuels, Craig Futterman of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, Alexa Van Brunt of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Sheila A. Bedi of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Joey L. Mogul of the People’s Law Office, and Daniel Massoglia of First Defense Legal Aid


Today, May 6, is the 5th anniversary of the Reparations legislation. This unprecedented legislation providing reparations to Chicago Police Torture (Burge) survivors passed Chicago’s City Council on May 6, 2015.  The legislation provides concrete, redress for the two decades long pattern of racially motivated police torture committed by and under the command of notorious former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters from 1972 to 1991, including:

·a formal apology for the torture

·the creation of a history lesson about the Burge torture cases taught in Chicago Public schools to 8th and 10th graders;

·the creation of the Chicago Torture Justice Center in Englewood, Chicago that provides specialized counseling and social services to the Burge torture survivors, family members and all impacted by police violence;

·the creation of a $5.5 million Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims that provides financial compensation to 57 of the Burge torture survivors who are still with us;

·free enrollment in Chicago City Colleges for the Burge torture survivors, immediate family members and their grandchildren recognizing the legacies of harm caused by the torture and decades of incarceration suffered by the Burge torture survivors and families; and

·the creation of a public memorial to the Burge torture survivors.

The legislation was the fruit of decades of litigation, independent journalism and organizing, which included a concerted grassroots campaign led by Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), Project NIA, We Charge Genocide and Amnesty International, USA, during the midst of #BlackLivesMatter movement of 2014 and 2015. We are grateful to Black People Against Police Torture for their work in sounding the initial demand reparations.

We are proud of our work in representing survivors of police torture at the hands of Burge and other Chicago officers in civil rights litigation and post-conviction proceedings. We continue that work to this day as People’s Law Office continues to fight for the freedom of police torture survivors who remain incarcerated and are now at serious risk due to COVID-19.

We are also grateful to have had the opportunity to work, build relationships and struggle alongside so many police torture survivors, their family members and other organizers.

This video, by Tom Callahan, is a small encapsulation of these decades of work. Click the link here.