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The [Thursday] Papers

The defense rested this afternoon in the trial of three Chicago police officers accused of covering up the facts surrounding colleague Jason Van Dyke's fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014. A jury convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder in October.

I don't know if it's just me, or if it's just the slew of news - particularly the mayor's race - happening at the same time, but it seems like this trial hasn't been getting the attention we all thought it would. I'm just catching up with it now. (Maybe it's because it seems so obvious the officers are guilty, or that it's anticlimactic considering the slam dunk of the Van Dyke trial.)

But I'm here now to catch you up.

For a nice overview, turn to this piece in The Economist, which I'll excerpt in part here:

The Chicago Police Department has an ugly history. In its most infamous chapter, in the 1970s and 1980s, officers allegedly tortured suspects. But even then police officers were not put on trial for protecting their own. The trial of three officers charged with lying about the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, by Jason Van Dyke, a white cop with a history of misconduct complaints, is unprecedented. Mr. Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder last month.

On trial are Thomas Gaffney, a CPD officer, Joseph Walsh, a former CPD officer and David March, an ex-detective. Each of the men has been charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice after they allegedly falsified reports and conspired to "conceal the true facts" about what happened when McDonald was shot on October 20th 2014. Prosecutors say their actions are emblematic of the alleged "code of silence" within the police department that shields fellow officers from justice. The trio's defense attorneys maintain the charges should be dismissed because the men are innocent. The Fraternal Order of Police, the powerful police union, claims the cops are "scapegoats."

A key witness of the trial, which began on November 27th, is Dora Fontaine, a female officer. Ms. Fontaine testified that she arrived at the scene just before McDonald was shot and fell to the ground. Mr. Van Dyke pumped 16 bullets into McDonald and continued to shoot after the teenager had fallen. She said she never saw McDonald raise the knife he was carrying toward Mr. Van Dyke or make any "attacking" movements. In his report Mr. March wrote that Ms. Fontaine had witnessed the teenager making threatening moves.

Ms Fontaine's testimony exposed more than what happened that day. After Ms. Fontaine objected to what she considered a false statement in Mr. March's report she says she was ostracized by her colleagues. "They asked me if it would be better [for me] to come in" and work a desk, she testified. "Other officers were calling me a rat, a snitch and a traitor and saying that they would not back me up." Ms. Fontaine has been on desk duty ever since the shooting took place.

Prosecutors argue that, as part of their conspiracy, Mr. Walsh and Mr. Gaffney filled out so-called tactical response reports (TRR) to make it appear as though they and Mr. Van Dyke were the victims of an aggravated assault or battery that forced Mr. Van Dyke to fire his weapon. Video footage of the incident shows that was not the case.

Now let's shift to the Tribune's coverage for a daily recap. The trial opened on Tuesday, Nov. 27. The Tribune reported it this way:

Laquan McDonald appears to be on trial again.

In his opening statement, attorney James McKay, representing former Detective David March, detailed all the alleged offenses the 17-year-old committed before he was shot - including attempted murder, burglary and jaywalking.

McKay also took exception to [special prosecutor Patricia] Holmes mentioning that McDonald was black.

"Race has nothing to do with this case," McKay said. "This case is about law and order . . . It's about Laquan McDonald not following any laws that night. There must be some individual responsibility attached to McDonald."

That's not a strong defense, my friends. It doesn't in any way rebut the glaring fact that the accused officers filed false reports. Somehow, the idea that Laquan McDonald made them do it doesn't wash.


"The case was not initially classified as a homicide . . . Instead, police listed it as an aggravated assault in which McDonald was the offender and Van Dyke, Gaffney and Walsh were listed as his victims.

"In their own reports, the three officers wrote that McDonald battered them - alleging he physically touched or injured them.

"McDonald, however, did not make physical contact with any officers that night, according to the infamous dashcam video of the shooting . . .

"March ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide about a week after the incident, saying Van Dyke shot in defense of his life.

"'Criminal attacked officer,' March wrote. 'Then that officer killed criminal.'"

We all know now that simply isn't true.


On day two, Fontaine took the stand, and her testimony gets to the heart of the department's code of silence - and what happens to officers who dare go against it to tell the truth.

"Chicago police Officer Dora Fontaine says she was horrified on seeing statements that the detective investigating Laquan McDonald's death had attributed to her," the Trib reported.

She maintains she never told him the 17-year-old McDonald raised his arm, moving to attack Officer Jason Van Dyke with a knife.

That denial contradicted the shooting's long-held narrative and eventually helped prosecutors build a case against three officers accused of conspiring to cover up the circumstances of the knife-wielding McDonald's fatal shooting by Van Dyke.

It also made her an outcast among her colleagues, Fontaine said Wednesday as her testimony at the trial of three former or current colleagues went until almost 8 p.m.

Some called her a rat, a traitor and a snitch, she said, and implied they wouldn't back her up on the street. The situation became so fraught, her supervisors pulled her from patrol and assigned her to paid desk duty.

"If I was at a call and I needed assistance, some officers felt strong enough to say that I didn't deserve to be helped," she testified.


The defense? Fontaine betrayed her fellow officers to save her job - which presumes that she, and by inference, the defendants, knew they would be fired for their actions on the case. Actions for which her fellow officers are on trial for today. The defense argues the officers are being politically scapegoated. That doesn't explain the false reports.

March's attorney suggested Fontaine kept her $90,000-a-year job and the benefits that come with it by turning against her colleagues. The 17-year department veteran, 51, needs about three more years on the job in order to receive a pension.

McKay noted Fontaine worked as a Popeye's cashier and for a student loan service before becoming a police officer. She does not have a four-year college degree but has about 60 credit hours from Robert Morris University.

Popeye's-shaming is a low blow from a man of low character. What's scary is this guy was a prosecutor for years. From his law firm bio:

As an Assistant State's Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, Jim's trial experience spanned over 30 years. During that time, he was promoted by all of the different administrations that he served. Most recently Jim was the Chief of the Complex Prosecutions Unit, overseeing all aspects of the County's most complicated cases. His duties ranged from investigation to verdict, including but not limited to maintaining extensive discovery, depositions of witnesses in capital cases, litigating substantive pre-trial motions, jury selection, presentation of evidence including forensic evidence, cross-examination of expert witnesses and other defense witnesses, meeting unusual defenses, drafting jury instructions and delivering closing arguments. Prior to that, Jim served as the Chief of the Narcotics Prosecutions Bureau, Chief of the Felony Trial Division, and several other supervisory positions.

Ironically, when his client gets out of prison, a job at Popeye's might be all he can find.


"Fontaine and her partner, Ricardo Viramontes, were at a Dunkin' Donuts more than a mile away when Viramontes heard a call over the police radio for a Taser and officer assistance. Fontaine testified she did not hear the initial call because she had turned her radio down so she could have a telephone conversation with her husband about their sick child.

"McKay attacked her for making a personal phone call while on duty.

"That is the kind of police officer you are," McKay said dismissively.

"You, Ms. Fontaine, are the kind of police officer who talks to her spouse about your sick child! A disgrace!"

James McKay, you were That Day's Worst Person In Chicago.


On day three, a witness to the shooting testified.

"Moments after watching Laquan McDonald fall to the pavement on Pulaski Road, fatally shot by Officer Jason Van Dyke, bystander Jose Torres encountered another patrolman: this one waving him away from the scene without saying a word," the Trib reported.

"From a distance, he just shined the flashlight and made a gesture to me to leave," Torres testified Thursday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

This gets to the instant realization of officers in and around the scene that something terrible had happened and it had to be covered up. Witnesses were the last people they wanted to talk to. Go away. Nothing to see here.


Why are only three officers on trial? Seems to me it took a police village to cover-up Van Dyke's murder. (I can hear my criminal justice friend in my head saying, "Prosecutors must have thought they could only prove those three officers met the standard needed for a conviction." Perhaps; the city's inspector general recommended that 11 officers be fired.)

"In one instance, the paperwork shows Sgt. Daniel Gallagher and Lt. Anthony Wojcik - neither of whom were criminally charged with wrongdoing - allegedly planned to clear Van Dyke early in the investigation.

"Gallagher wrote to Wojcik that 'we should be applauding (Van Dyke) not second-guessing him' and suggested that McDonald 'chose his fate. Possible suicide by cop.'"

Gallagher, by the way, has been named in two misconduct lawsuits that cost taxpayers $5,099,000 - though, to be fair, one of those, the one costing $5 million, was the Laquan McDonald settlement.


On day four, the prosecution rested. But McKay did not!

"The state wants you to criminalize police reports!" McKay yelled at one point as he stood just a few feet from the judge. "They want to criminalize the opinion of an experienced police detective who can only garner information by doing interviews."

Your boys are going down, Jimmy. There's nothing I can do about it.


"Among the last evidence entered was a series of e-mails exchanged by Chicago police supervisors in the days and months after the McDonald shooting that allegedly showed the effort to justify Van Dyke's actions ran deep and wide.

"The first e-mail, dated two weeks after the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting, came from a sergeant who supervised March and wrote to his superior a lengthy explanation for why McDonald posed a deadly threat.

"'Offender takes aggressive stance, hikes pants, whips knife open, starts hopping continues advancing toward officers,' Sgt. Daniel Gallagher wrote from his personal e-mail account to Lt. Anthony Wojcik, according to the exhibit submitted into evidence by prosecutors.

"Several portions of Gallagher's e-mail misstated facts about the shooting, including that Van Dyke was aware that a 911 caller had reported McDonald attacked him with a knife in a truck yard before police arrived. In fact, Van Dyke and other officers at the scene had been informed only that the teen had been caught trying to break into trucks and 'popped' the tire on a squad car with the knife.

"In an apparent justification for the number of shots fired by Van Dyke - as well as the fact that McDonald was shot after falling to the street - Gallagher wrote: 'Can't overkill a person who is still alive at the hospital.'

"Everything Van Dyke did was reasonable and in accordance with his training, Gallagher wrote in the e-mail."

Gallagher resigned after the IG recommended he be fired, and that was Gallagher's greatest service to his city.


"In March 2015, Ron Hosko, a former FBI boss who now runs a legal defense fund for police, wrote an e-mail to Wojcik in which he attached a PDF of an article titled 'Police Officer Reaction Time to Start and Stop Shooting.'

"Wojcik, in turn, forwarded the e-mail to Gallagher, who sent it from his official Police Department address to his personal address.

"To assist in his review of the case, Hosko was provided police reports as well as the dashcam video - even though it had been held tightly under wraps by the city, according to the email exchange. Later, as the criminal investigation into the shooting heated up, Hosko emailed Wojcik again.

"'Tony, any luck making the case go away?' Hosko asked."

Case closed.


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Any candidate that texts me instantly loses my vote from r/chicago



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It's so easy to get lost in the ornamental details of this place. I have more questions than answers about this portrait on Yerkes Observatory: surrounded by fanciful fruits and vegetables, encircled by a code of x's, m's, crescents and squiggles (and resting above two angry fish I've cropped out) this little guy has a nifty toque and an hourglass. He's just above the southern entrance so he's definitely pointing towards Chicago (or would be if he hadn't lost his pointer finger). Who is he? Why's he there, pointing and timing? What's the meaning of the marks around him? Absolutely it's a portrait (the first president of the University of Chicago is believed to be represented elsewhere there). I do know that it is made of terra cotta from the American Terra Cotta company in Terra Cotta Illinois. #savingplaces@atlasobscura#architecture#facade#detail#sculpture#terracotta#wisconsin#henryivescobb#universityofchicago#yerkesobservatory#chiarchitecture#travel

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Posted on December 6, 2018

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