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.

Alexis Pegues

Alexis has been a legal worker for the People’s Law Office for 7 years. She has been a part of and stands in solidarity with various social justice organizations in Chicago. Her work has been centered around Black liberation, prison abolition, indicting the war on drugs, healing justice, and ending the criminalization of Black motherhood. Alexis is not only a legal worker but an avid researcher, shoe collector, and mixologist extraordinaire. She also loves a good disco & Spice girl sing-a-long with fellow staff, Kris.

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.

Representing People Charged with Ordinance Violations or Misdemeanor Offenses in the City of Chicago

NLG Presentation

Updated 2012, 2015 and June 2020

By: Emmanuel Andre, Janine Hoft and Melinda Power

Introduction

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police officers touched off unprecedented global protests against police brutality, anti-Blackness and white supremacy. His murder was immediately preceded by the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Aumaud Arbery. The spark recently ignited by these murders follows the smoldering of the inability to enact fundamental change as previously demanded in response to the outrage expressed after the police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Laquan McDonald and Rekia Boyd in Chicago and so many other victims of racist and brutal murders at the hands of police and white supremacists. Thousands came out into the streets of Chicago to take part in this momentous moment to say “enough is enough.” Chicago Police reacted by arresting an estimated 2000 people, mainly charging arrestees with ordinance violations and misdemeanors. We come together today because we have all volunteered to support those arrested and together defend them to our utmost collective ability against these charges.

The National Lawyers Guild, through its Mass Defense Committee, has represented activists arrested at demonstrations promoting issues of justice for many years. From supporting solidarity with Central America, healthcare and dignity for people living with AIDS, LGBTQ, disabled activists, anti-NATO and Occupy, the NLG has organized lawyers to provide legal defense and representation. The NLG is proud to come forward in this moment to be a part of and support those opposing anti-Blackness and white supremacy. This training focuses on preparing attorneys with little criminal defense experience or those desiring a refresher to feel more comfortable representing clients who are charged with ordinance violations or misdemeanors

This is an unprecedented time both because of the historic scope and reach of the Black Lives Matter protests as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused court procedures and proceedings to be held remotely and for procedures to be subject to change quickly and unpredictably. Accordingly, these procedures outlined are subject to change as COVID-19 recommendations and policies change.

Representing Political Clients

Those arrested during these recent demonstrations and uprisings are entitled to vigorous, creative and supportive representation, recognizing the particular political context and import of their arrests and prosecutions.  Political clients need the same information as to their available options as any other criminal defendants but some may view their involvement in the so-called criminal justice system in a different way than an individual arrested in another context. Some may not want to raise technical defenses and others may have qualms about expressing “guilt.” Others may want to creatively and collectively challenge the issues in the form of unique motions or trial defenses. It is important for attorneys to assist the political client in navigating the system while identifying and respecting an individual client’s unique concerns and goals.

Assignment of Lawyers to Clients

The Mass Defense Committee of the NLG has compiled a list of all arrestees desiring representation and will try to appropriately  match them with available attorneys. The Mass Defense Committee will try toassign attorneys to a particular court date, time and location and provide attorneys in advance of the court date with the names of potential clients appearing, any available contact information and an identification of the particular charges faced by the client. First Steps

  • Attorneys should contact clients in advance to introduce themselves, verify information, review the actual charging document or bond slip and discuss a client’s understanding of the process and their expectations.  
  • We also strongly encourage attorneys to discuss, in person when possible, remotely online, or by telephone, the case with the prospective client.

Get the client’s version of events and get names and contact information of witnesses. t would be helpful to have an idea in advance of the court date whether a client wants to enter into plea negotiations in an effort t to quickly resolve their case, is willing to pay a fine or do community service as part of a plea agreement, or whether the client will only accept a dismissal or wants to fight the charge and proceed to trial.

In taking these initial steps and meeting with the client, it is important to consider and reflect on the racial, social, and economic biases that may be at play in the case. Furthermore, the racial and political nature of these cases make it important for attorneys to also assess their own personal biases and potentially adjust their own actions accordingly to best represent their clients. Recognition of those differences and biases is an important first step and continued communication with the client and other attorneys in this collective endeavor is imperative.

Representation of Clients Charged with Offenses

Although many minor charges are dismissed on the first court date, the attorney should be aware of the options available in defending a client. Prosecutors in other cities have announced in advance that they will not pursue the prosecution of lesser charges but the Chicago authorities have been silent thus far.  Representation of a client charged with an offense can be a unique challenge much like unraveling a mystery. An evaluation of each case includes reviewing the specifics of the charge and identifying the police version of events compared with a client’s version. You probably won’t have access to the charging document or the arrest reports until you get to court. 

Here are some questions that you will want to address. Can the prosecutor meet its burden to prove each and every element of the crime charged? Are there technical defenses to the charge, including did the police identify the wrong offense or fail to adequately prepare the charging documents? Is there a factual defense to the charge or can facts be presented that deny the stated offense? Will a bench or jury trial be an appropriate and desirable method to raise issues or present defenses?  Are there witnesses, videos, documents (i.e. medical reports) which corroborate what your client says happened?  Is there BWC (body worn camera) from the police? Unmanned aerial devices or drones? Social media monitoring?

Most of the charges from the recent uprising are being prosecuted in the misdemeanor courthouses rather than the municipal courthouse on Superior Street. Charges may include disorderly conduct as a misdemeanor or a city ordinance violation, curfew violations, criminal trespass or reckless conduct. An arrestee has a right to a jury trial only if the charge carries the potential for jail time and if not a jury trial must be purchased for $250 by paying the Clerk of the Court.  The case will then be transferred to Room 303 at 555 W. Harrison. A trial will not take place on an initial court appearance as generally judges provide each side with one continuance and therefore the defense attorney will have an opportunity to obtain police reports and other documents, visuals, evidence or witnesses necessary for a trial. Knowledge about the judge who will hear the case is indispensable information. Information can be obtained from other attorneys who have experience with the judge and the public defenders in the judge’s courtroom. Prior to the initial court appearance, attorneys will want to review the statutory elements of the charge and may want to prepare certain documents as discussed below.  The Mass Defense Committee has tried to gather information from arrestees as to what they are charged with as well their contact information. 

Potential Charges Generally Anticipated in a Demonstration Context

People arrested in Chicago for what the police consider minor offenses are usually either given a City of Chicago ordinance violation citation or charged with a misdemeanor. Common applicable ordinance violations include parading without a permit, disorderly conduct and pedestrian traffic offenses. There is also an ordinance violation for resisting arrest.[1] In the instant moment, generally folks are charged with disorderly conduct, criminal trespass or curfew violations that are being prosecuted in the state misdemeanor courts. In misdemeanor or Branch courts, there is a state’s attorney who prosecutes misdemeanor violations of state law and a corporation counsel responsible for prosecuting city ordinance violations. 

I.        Representing Client Charged with an Ordinance Violation

With regard to the most recent arrests, ordinance violations are indicated through the code numbers indicated in the charge box on the bond slip arrestees received upon being released from custody. The bond slip also indicates the date, time and location of the first required court appearance. However, due to Covid-19 some court buildings remain closed and initial court dates should be confirmed and verified through the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s web site. (Cookcountyclerkofcourt.org) Attorneys may register to access a portal on the website that provides information.

 An ordinance violation may be issued by the Chicago Police Department for a violation of the City of Chicago Municipal Code in the form of  a “ticket” that looks somewhat like a traffic ticket if they are  charged with an ordinance violation.

The ticket will provide the following information:

Step 1 is in the middle section of the ticket.  On the left hand side of the ticket are pre-printed numbers facing vertically which represent a client’s ticket or case number.  When an attorney files an appearance, this number is put on the right side of the appearance form.

– On the left side of Step 1 are the charge and the Municipal Code violation number.  The Municipal Code number identifies the chapter and subsection of the violation and defines the elements of the offense.  The Code can be viewed by downloading the “Municipal Code of Chicago”. A copy of the Chicago Municipal Code is available on line at http://www.amlegal.com/library/il/chicago.shtml and through the city clerk at www.chicityclerk.com. (See, e.g., Exhibit 1, copy of text of ordinance violation: 8-4-010 Disorderly Conduct).  

Step 2 section lists the alleged action done by the client which formed the basis for the arrest.

The bottom of the ticket states the date and time of the court appearance.

Court Location and Filing Attorney Appearance

Municipal Administrative Hearings are held at 400 W. Superior just west and north of the Chicago Loop. [Note, meter parking is available on Chicago Avenue and nearby cross streets.] Sometimes in mass arrest situations, an attorney can contact the city prosecutor in advance in an attempt to resolve cases prior to the first court appearance. Unlike in misdemeanor court, the ticket or charging document is prima facie evidence of the offense and a complainant police officer is not required to be present in order for the city to prosecute the case. Arrestees may also negotiate the resolution of a case through an attorney and avoid a personal appearance.  

When arriving at 400 W. Superior, everyone, including attorneys, must go through a metal detector.  The courtrooms are located to the left and the particular courtroom number will be identified on the client’s ticket.  In the hallway outside the courtrooms sits a clerk at a desk who can provide attorney appearance forms that must be completed and returned to the clerk.   A copy of the appearance should then be brought into the courtroom.

Courtroom Proceedings

In the courtroom there will be an office right off the courtroom where the Corporation Counsels are located.  Check in with them first. Sometimes they come in and make an announcement and collect a copy of everyone’s ticket and attorneys provide their appearance forms with a client’s ticket to the Corporation Counsel. Ask theCorporation Counsel ifthey plan to proceed with the client’s case.  If they don’t, the case will be called and they will let the administrative law judge know and a printed order will be generated indicating the case is dismissed.

If the City plans to proceed, they will make an offer to resolve the case.  Generally, the offer is a monetary fine up to around $100.00.  Alternatively, a client can do community service through the City but there is an additional administrative cost.  The defense attorney may know in advance whether the client wishes to resolve the case by a plea and if so is able to pay a fine or do community service through the City. If the Corporation Counsel wishes to proceed with the case, ask what is being offered in exchange for a plea and then you can communicatethe offer to the client and a decision made about whether the offer is acceptable to the client.  Unlike Cook County courts that allow community service to be completed at any not for profit organization, the community service must be done through the City.

If the client wishes to contest the charge, they have a right to a trial or may request a continuance. The trial will take place in the hearing room and the burden is “a preponderance of the evidence.”  The Hearing Officers are practicing attorneys and not full time judges.  They are appointed by the City and generally are unfamiliar about protest type cases.  The City can proceed by the sworn allegations on the ticket and need not present a live witness.  The defense can present live witnesses, visuals and documentary evidence to overcome the preponderance of the evidence standard.

Spectators can be in the courtroom.  At the conclusion of the trial, the Hearing Officer will make a finding and generate a printed order. If the finding is guilty, the hearing officer generally will assess a fine and court costs.   An attorney can try to negotiate with the corporation counsel about the penalty, either by negotiating a reduction of the fine or requesting community service. If the client is found guilty, and is ordered to pay a fine or fee, it can be paid by credit card at a machine located further north of the metal detectors at the entrance of the building. An attorney may be able to negotiate a time period within which the fine and costs must be paid.

An attorney may also try to negotiate a resolution of the case before court by contacting the Corporation Counsel’s office at 400 W. Superior if the client indicates in advance they are willing to enter into a plea. A continuance may be requested, without the client’s appearance, if the client is unable to attend court. An arrangement may be worked out in advance and possibly obviate the need for the client to appear.  The attorney would still go to court, file an appearance and tell the Corporation Counsel that an agreement was reached in advance.  A printed order will be generated as discussed above identifying the agreement that was reached to pay a fine and/or complete community service.

II.      Representing Client Charged with Misdemeanor Offenses

          A misdemeanor offense is a violation of state law for which the maximum penalty upon conviction is no longer than 364 daysin jail. Misdemeanors are classified according to the maximum penalty with a Class C misdemeanor carrying a maximum 30 days in jail and $1500 fine, Class B misdemeanor carrying a maximum 6 months in jailand $1500 fine and Class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum of 364 days in jailand a $2500 fine.  Fines are generally not imposed in misdemeanor cases. Periods of deferred prosecution, supervision or probation  may be available dispositions of misdemeanor cases except for certain identified offenses, including a charge of resisting arrest. If supervision is an available disposition then the charge is technically dismissed after a period of time and may be expunged from your arrest history. 

          Ordinance violations prosecuted in state court generally follow similar procedures although the potential penalties are less and the prosecutor is a corporation counsel and not a state’s attorney,   

Preparing for Initial Court Appearance

The bond slip given to a client when released after their arrest contains helpful information. The following information may be found on the bond slip (see attached Exhibit 2):

On the upper right hand, the bond will have either the letter D or I.  A D bond indicates that money, usually $100.00, has been paid to be released from custody.  An I bond means that the arrestee is released on his/her own recognizance and no money has been paid for her/his release

In the middle of the bond slip is a section entitled Court Appearance.  It will identify the address of the court, the branch number of the court and the date and time for the court hearing. 

Right above that is a box which contains the charge.  It will refer to the State of Illinois criminal code and begin with the chapter number 720 followed by numbers which refer to the specific charge. A review of the annotated statute identifying the criminal charge and related case law yields a wealth of information.

Note, when a person is on bond, they are not permitted to leave the northern district of Illinois.  If a client is planning on travelling somewhere, they may inform you of that.  There is a procedure by which a person can file a motion to advance the court date and get a written order “enlarging” the bond or permitting a person to leave the jurisdiction of the court.  It is time consuming and of questionable necessity.  If the client wants to do that, we suggest you let them know they can go to room 1006 of the Daley Center, prepare and file a motion to advance their case for a date convenient to them, and go to their assigned court that day and get an order expanding the bond. 

Initial Court Appearance and Court Location Information

An attorney who shows their bar card and Cook County identification card at the misdemeanor courthouse will not need to go through the metal detector or be searched.  The attorney will want to find out if the client is present, and then file an appearance form with the clerk in the courtroom. (See attached Exhibit 3).  Appearance forms are found in the area of the clerk’s desk or may be located by asking a public defender or sheriff in the courtroom if the clerk is not around. An attorney may also prepare his or her own version of the appearance form in advance. The court case number may be found on a call sheet which is either in front of the clerk’s area, posted outside the courtroom or can be obtained by asking the sheriffs or the public defenders for the call sheet.

 There are advantages to arriving 10-15 minutes before the scheduled court call.  An attorney who arrives prior to the time of the court call may request to see the court file before the case is called.  The file should contain the Complaint, or formal charge and the attorney is entitled to a copy, but at the very least it is important to carefully review the complaint to determine the specific conduct the charge alleges your client engaged in.  You need to ask the clerk for a copy of the charge.  If there is more than the original of the charge in the file, the clerk will generally give you a copy of the charge.  However, if there is only the original, you have to ask if either the clerk will make you a copy or let you take the original and make a copy in the clerk’s office.  Also, the arrest report should be in the file which will include a narrative of the police version of what happened and the basis of the charge, which you will also want to review. Often the PD has the arrest report, so you can check with the PD in the courtroom to see if he/she has your client’s paperwork.   An attorney must file an appearance and tell the clerk that the case is ready in order to have it called.

Another advantage to arriving early is that as soon as you tell the clerk that you are ready to have your case called, it will be put in the pile of cases to be called.  Private attorneys’ cases are generally called first, so the sooner you tell the clerk you are ready, the sooner your case should be called. 

On the Arrest Report in the upper right hand corner are the following #s which are useful to obtain subpoenaed material or to get the Office of Emergency Management Communication[2] recordings and the body worn camera videos (BWC).

They are:

The CB(Central Booking) # and the IR (Individual Record) # may be used to obtain the criminal history of your client generally for purposes of expunging a client’s record, the RD (Records Division)# and Event # may be used to get reports, O.E.M.C. recordings and subpoenaed material.

We suggest you ask the state’s attorney if they plan to proceed with the case or argue why the charge should be dismissed.  They may know whether they plan to proceed or they may say they will see if an officer checks in or what the officer says about your client. Generally, if the police officer is not present in court and hasn’t notified the state’s attorney with a good reason for his/her absence, the court will dismiss the case. If the case is dismissed or “stricken on leave to reinstate” (SOL-ed) an attorney should file a written trial demand. (See attached Exhibit 4) When the case is first called, the judge generally looks to the state first and if the state wishes to proceed they will ask the judge to pass the case in order to “pre-try” the case with defense counsel. The state should then tell you what the offer is and you can negotiate and argue with them for a resolution more beneficial to your client, if your client is interested in resolving the case by way of a plea on the first court appearance.  

Possible Offers from State’s Attorney to Resolve Charge

Deferred Prosecution which is the best alternative to an outright dismissal or a victory at trial.  It’s given for first time offenders, and the client doesn’t have to admit or stipulate to any facts.  Community service at a not-for-profit may be required.

Community service at any not-for-profit in exchange for dismissal.  Upon completion of the community service, the client will need to get a letter from the not-for-profit verifying that he/she completed the required number of hours.  The client will need to bring this letter to court. The case will not be dismissed until the letter is presented to the court. Judges have allowed clients to present the letters without their attorney’s presence and have waived the client’s presence if the attorney presents the letter.

Supervision which lasts from one to twelve months.  During that time, the client is not supposed to break the law.  If the client successfully completes the supervision, two years from the termination of the supervision, the arrest can be expunged.  Supervision does not count as a conviction under Illinois state law but a supervision finding will have immigration consequences for an undocumented client. Supervision may be used in subsequent sentencing determinations within the two years and pursuant to federal sentencing guidelines.

required. 

          –Conditional Discharge for one to twelve months.  Unlike Supervision, upon completion of the conditional discharge your client may never expunge their arrest and a conviction is identified on their record. Client does not need to report to any agency during the term of the Conditional Discharge.

-Probation or Jail Time generally is not an appropriate or acceptable plea agreement for a misdemeanor charge.

An arrestee who is charged with most misdemeanor offenses as a result of political expression or activity generally can get supervision  or deferred prosecution unless they have a significant criminal background.

Creative Motion Practice

Prior to trial, a criminal defendant may bring a motion to dismiss. Depending upon the facts of the case, such a motion may be appropriate to avoid a trial. In the Occupy cases, a motion to dismiss the park district ordinance violations based on the First Amendment was successful in avoiding trials. See, e.g. 725 ILCS 5/114-1.

Trial of Misdemeanors

If a client wishes to proceed to trial, it is important to file a discovery motion. (See attached Exhibit 5). [3]  The client can request a bench trial, which is a trial with a judge at the branch court where the case is first held.  The trial is generally continued for another date so that both sides can get needed discovery. Alternatively, a jury trial can be requested.  If a jury trial is requested, the case will be sent to room 304 at 555 W. Harrison.  A court date within a week or more will be given.  The client will need to understand that it may be several months before the trial is actually held due to obtaining discovery and court back log and may require multiple court appearances before a trial actually commences. Additional plea negotiations may take place during these interim appearances. An attorney should be prepared to subpoena records and evidence for a trial. A subpoena can be prepared for additional documents that the police maintain but do not place in the court file. (See Exhibit 6, copy of subpoena for documents in a misdemeanor case). A subpoena, in addition to uncovering additional information, can send a message to the prosecutor that the defense of the case will leave no stone unturned and will require the expenditure of the state’s resources. It is essential to serve the subpoena as soon as possible but in any casewithin 30 days of the event prompting the client’s arrest to assure that all available documents and evidence will be preserved. Additionally, a court order to preserve and turn over any 911 calls or O.E.M.C. can be entered on the first court date and then served on O.E.M.C, within 30 daysof the date of arrest to preserve any audio communications regarding the case. (O.E.M.C. order, Exhibit 7).

Trials may be consolidated with other related cases and more experienced criminal defense attorneys are available for consultation about, preparation for and conducting a trial. NLG attorneys will work together with you if you have questions and to help you defend clients and create trial strategies.

The State must prove each and every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain a conviction.[4] Carefully consider whether the State can technically prevail on each element and creatively argue that the burden has not been met on each element. Any element including language such as “unreasonable” or “without authorization” should be analyzed in the context of the facts of each case. Many times police arrest individuals although they are acting reasonably and within their rights.

Affirmative Defenses

Consider any potential affirmative defenses to the charge. 720 ILCS 5/3-2. For example, political defendants have had success raising the defense of necessity in Illinois. Illinois law specifically provides for the defense of necessity. 720 ILCS 5/7-13. The statute sets forth:

Conduct which would otherwise be an offense is justifiable by reason of necessity if the accused was without blame in occasioning or developing the situation and reasonably believed such conduct was necessary to avoid a public or private injury greater than the injury which might reasonably result from his own conduct.  

          The defense of necessity is not always favorably accepted by judges but can have an important impact on juries if allowed. NLG attorneys were first educated on this defense by activist clients. Defendants have been able to introduce testimony and evidence as to why they took the actions they did and why it was reasonable and necessary for them to do so. The advantage of this defense is you could argue that you should be able to present evidence as a part of your defense, for example, on the facts and history of racism and anti-Blackness, police brutality, as well as the efficacy of protests in changing public opinion and the law as part of your defense.  This defense requires a significant commitment from the attorney, the client, potential witnesses and overall resources.  But, the use of the defense can make an impact on you, your client, court personnel and the public.

Good luck, thanks for your commitment and willingness to support your clients!


[1] Additionally, but not applicable to these arrests, certain offenses committed on federal property, such as blocking the doors of a federally owned building or trespassing on federal property may be similarly charged by Federal Protective Service Officers (FPS) as violating federal codes. The FPS can process these federal charges or relinquish jurisdiction and request arrest by the CPD. Common applicable misdemeanors include state disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, resisting or obstructing, mob action and reckless conduct.

[2] O.E.M.C. recordings include any 911 calls or police messages pertaining to the arrest and the incident leading to the arrest.

[3] We also suggest that you prepare a subpoena to the City of Chicago police department asking for arrest reports and supplemental reports.  If your client claims injuries, also subpoena officer battery reports (if applicable), TRRs, and color arrest photos of the client.  Subpoena forms can be obtained online at the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s website. The Office of Emergency Management and Communications can also be subpoenaed. https://oemcsubpoena-chicagops.govqa.us/WEBAPP/_rs/(S(dz2vk3lisrzk02fb2malqznh))/RequestOpen.aspx?rqst=13&sSessionID=67167244194I[HUHGBGLONUYSWNNTWPZ[PBMLIPI

[4] A corporation counsel must prove each and every element of an ordinance violation by a preponderance of the evidence. 

Exhibit 1 City Disorderly Ordinance

Exhibit 2 Bond Slip

Exhibit 3 Appearance

Exhibit 4 Trial Demand

Exhibit 5 Discovery Motion

Exhibit 6 Subpoena

Exhibit 7 OEMC Order

FOIA Documents Maintained by Departments

People’s Law Office Remembers Rafael Cancel Miranda

Puerto Rican National Hero and internationally respected freedom fighter Rafael Cancel Miranda has joined his revolutionary ancestors on March 3d. In an audacious act of militancy, Rafael along with Lolita Lebrón, Andrés Figueroa Cordero and Irvin Flores, attacked the U.S. Congress in March of 1954, spraying bullets down into the House of Representatives, to bring to the world’s attention the efforts of the U.S. government to cover up the colonial subjugation of the Puerto Rican people.

Along with Oscar Collazo, who attacked the Blair House in 1950, the then temporary home of President Truman, the four became among the longest held political prisoners in U.S. history. An international campaign, led by the people of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in the diaspora, obtained their unconditional release from President Carter in 1979. The five had refused to seek parole or to accept any conditions on their release. They insisted that they were not criminals and the U.S. had no right to treat them as such.

The People’s Law Office, with Michael Deutsch taking the lead, had the honor to also play an important role in the campaign for the release of the five Nationalists, challenging their isolation in U.S. prisons, helping to get an earlier medical release for Andrés, and coordinating with lawyers from Puerto Rico to help support the campaign.

Over the last 40 years since his release, Rafael has been a critical voice in support of Puerto Rican independence, writing, speaking and marching to expose U.S. colonial control over Puerto Rico. He has written several books of prose and poetry, and has been an enduring symbol of the spirit and commitment for freedom of the Puerto Rican people. His love for his people was a inspiration to all who fight for liberation. His spirit lives on. Presente!

50 Years of People’s Lawyering Forum

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A Forum Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of People’s Law Office (PLO), 1969-2019

Panels, presentations and conversations between movement leaders, PLO lawyers, former political prisoners and current and former PLO clients.

12:10-12:30: The Founding of People’s Law Office and the Legacy of Fred Hampton

Former members of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party (TBA) in conversation, moderated by PLO co-founder Jeff Haas

12:40-1:40: Solidarity with Political Prisoners and Prisoner-led Struggles

Speakers:
•Zolo Azania: New Afrikan and former Death Row prisoner
•Nancy Kurshan: long-time activist, co-founder of the Yippies and author of “Out Of Control: A 15 Year Battle Against Control Unit Prions,”
•Mike Africa Jr. of the MOVE Organization and son of two recently released MOVE 9 members
•Ricardo Jimenez: former political prisoner of the struggle for liberation of Puerto Rico
•Benny Lee: One of the “Pontiac Brothers” of the Pontiac Rebellion and activist working with former prisoners
•Dennis Cunningham: PLO co-founder

Facilitated by PLO attorney Brad Thomson

1:50-2:50: Legal Support for Struggles Against Colonialism and Occupation

Speakers:
•José Lopez of Puerto Rican Cultural Center
•Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal
•Hatem Abudayyeh of U.S. Palestinian Community Network
•Alberto Rodriguez: former political prisoner of the struggle for liberation of Puerto Rico and retired PLO paralegal

Facilitated by PLO attorneys Michael Deutsch and Jan Susler

3:00-4:00: Justice for Survivors of Chicago Police Torture

Speakers:
•Anthony Holmes: one of the first police torture survivors and member of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) and Board Member of Chicago Torture Justice Center (CTJC)
•Alice Kim: Co-founder of CTJM and Co-Director of Community Building for Prison + Neighborhood Art Project
•Darrell Cannon: police torture survivor, member of CTJM
•Aislinn Pulley: Co-Director of CTJC and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago.

Facilitated by People’s Law Office attorneys Joey Mogul, John Stainthorp and Flint Taylor

4:10-5:00: Lessons of Movement Lawyering: For Today and the Future

Speakers:
Damon Williams of #LetUsBreathe Collective, Page May of Assata’s Daughters, and more TBA, in conversation with Christian Snow: Organizer and attorney with PLO

Light lunch and refreshments to be provided.

Janet and Janine Africa of MOVE 9 Released From Prison

May 25, 2019

People’s Law Office and the Abolitionist Law Center are proud to share that Janet Holloway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa of the MOVE 9 have been released from Pennsylvania state custody after more than forty years of incarceration. Earlier this morning, the MOVE sisters were finally released on parole from SCI Cambridge Springs and are now with family and friends. The sisters have been battling for their freedom after being consistently denied parole for a decade despite an impeccable disciplinary record and extensive record of mentorship and community service during their time in prison.

Janine Africa (left) and Janet Africa (right) of the MOVE 9, shortly after their release from prison

Following their 2018 parole denial, attorneys from Abolitionist Law Center and People’s Law Office filed petitions for habeas corpus seeking their release from prison. The habeas petitions challenged their parole denials on the grounds that the decisions were arbitrary and lacking in any evidence that Janet or Janine presented a risk to public safety. Under pressure from litigation and with a court date for May 28 looming, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (board) granted Janet and Janine parole on May 14, 2019, just one day after the anniversary of the notorious May 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE home.

“The release of Janet and Janine is a victory not only for them and their loved ones, but also for the MOVE Organization and the movement to free all political prisoners,” said attorney Brad Thomson of People’s Law Office. “Janet and Janine were excellent candidates for parole. They have been described by DOC staff as model prisoners and neither of them has had a single disciplinary incident in over twenty years. While in prison, they have participated in community fundraisers, and social programs, including training service dogs. They are remarkable women and they deserve to be free.”

Janine Africa (left) and Janet Africa (right) with People’s Law Office attorney Brad Thomson (center)

Like Debbie and Mike Africa, who were released last year, Janet and Janine are now able to experience holding their loved ones outside of prison walls for the first time in decades. The release of Janet and Janine after forty years is the culmination of the MOVE organization, public support, legal action, and policy changes.

Three other members of the MOVE 9 remain incarcerated (Chuck, Delbert and Eddie Africa), while two others (Merle Africa and Phil Africa) died in custody. Abolitionist Law Center and People’s Law Office represent Chuck, Delbert and Eddie in the struggle for their freedom. To support the fight, you may donate to the MOVE9 Legal Fund.

Press Contact:

Mike Africa Jr.,MikeAfricaJr [at] gmail.com

Brad Thomson bradjaythomson[at]gmail.com 773-297-9689

People’s Law Office Obtains Certificate of Innocence for Torture Survivor Alonzo Smith

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Alonzo Smith with People’s Law Office attorneys Brad Thomson (left), Joey Mogul (second from left) and Flint Taylor (right)

Today, Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Erica L. Reddick granted Alonzo Smith’s petition for a Certificate of Innocence. Mr. Smith was represented by a team of attorneys from People’s Law Office, led by Joey Mogul, along with Ben Elson, Flint Taylor, and Brad Thomson.

Mr. Smith has consistently and persistently contended he was tortured by Detective Peter Dignan and Sergeant John Byrne, members of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s notorious Midnight Crew. Burge threatened Alonzo, telling him they has ways of making people talk. After they brought Alonzo to the basement, Dignan and Byrne handcuffed him behind him back and repeatedly suffocated him with a plastic bag and beat him about his body with a baton and flashlight while they made racist comments and laughed at his pain. Bloodied, bruised, and fearing for his life, Alonzo relented and falsely confessed to a murder and robbery he did not commit, the details of which were fed to him by Dignan and Byrne.

The tortured confession was then used to secure his wrongful conviction and close to 20 years of incarceration, separating him from his wife and four young children.

In 2013, attorneys from the People’s Law Office filed an amended post-conviction petition on behalf of Mr. Smith, setting forth a wealth of newly discovered evidence to corroborate his torture allegations. This evidence consisted of reports, testimony and court decisions which unequivocally established that Burge and the men under his command systematically tortured and abused suspects and witnesses at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters from 1972 through 1991. The new evidence also demonstrated that Dignan and Byrne have been accused of torturing scores of Black people, just as they did Mr. Smith at Area 2.

In 2015, attorneys from our office represented Mr. Smith in an evidentiary hearing before Judge Reddick to determine whether police physically coerced Mr. Smith into making a confession. Judge Reddick ruled that the police violated Mr. Smith’s constitutional rights, finding that the evidence showing he was tortured was “staggering.” With her ruling, Judge Reddick granted Mr. Smith’s post-conviction petition, vacated his conviction and ordered a new trial. The State subsequently dismissed all charges against Mr. Smith.

Our office then filed the petition for a Certificate of Innocence, which we have aggressively litigated for over a year and a half. Today, announcing her decision from the bench, Judge Reddick ruled that the evidence showed, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Smith was innocent of the crime he was convicted of committing.

Our office also represented Mr. Smith in a federal civil rights lawsuit against Burge, Dignan, Byrne, former Mayor, Richard M. Daley, the City of Chicago and Cook County for their roles in his torture and wrongful conviction. We recently obtained favorable settlements in the case, totaling $5.55 million from the City of Chicago and Cook County.

Mr. Smith was thrilled with the Court’s ruling and relieved he now has proof his innocence. Our legal work to vindicate Mr. Smith is part of People’s Law Office’s decades-long commitment to fighting against racially motivated state violence, including Chicago police torture and representing those who have been wrongfully convicted.

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.