The [Tuesday] Papers
A so-called jailhouse informant testified on Monday in the Jon Burge trial that a former cellmate admitted making up abuse charges against the former Chicago police commander and encouraged others to do so to jump on a gravy train that would surely include book and movie deals.
Given the paucity of interest in Burge over the years by the media, it's hard to believe anyone would think Hollywood was calling. Ricky Shaw's credibility was soon destroyed.
"During cross examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weisman pointed out that Shaw has been disciplined for lying at the various prisons he has been incarcerated in across the United States," the Sun-Times reports. "In 2000, he was reprimanded for giving false information to an employee, telling officers about a hit that never panned out, Weisman said.
"Two other times, he lied about staff smuggling in contraband into the jail, Weisman said."
Nonetheless, headlines like this are de rigueur.
Of course, it's not that Shaw's testimony - or any testimony favorable to Burge - shouldn't be reported. But the depiction of the trial so far has been one of a he said/he said nature. And if that's the picture the jury is getting, that's important to note. But for readers and citizens, the absence of context is stunning: the evidence against Burge is voluminous, to say the least.
If you don't believe me, start with "House of Screams" and then proceed to the rest of John Conroy's stories as well as the Goldston report and even the wimpy Egan report. (See also this timeline and the rest of this University of Chicago archive. I wonder how many reporters - and perhaps more importantly, how many editors - have really read through the material.)
Whether the jury will find Burge guilty of perjury is another matter. But no one should be mistaken about what happened at Area 2 under Burge's command - and how many people knew about it and did nothing.
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For example, former assistant state's attorney Larry Hyman is taking the Fifth.
"Hyman, the assistant state's attorney who took Wilson's confession, did something bizarre in taking Wilson's statement," Conroy writes at Vocalo. "He failed to ask if it was being given voluntarily . . .
"Did he forget? Not likely. Hyman was no rookie - he was the supervisor of felony review, the group that takes confessions, and he taught others how to do it. This was the most important case of his career - the whole city had been following the hunt for the killers of the two officers. That manhunt included scores of complaints of police brutality administered by outraged officers, so there was all the more reason to ask questions that would protect the confession from being undermined by such accusations. Furthermore, on that day, Hyman took three statements. He took Jackie Wilson's confession and did not ask the voluntariness questions, he took a witness's statement and did ask them, and then he took Andrew's statement and once again failed to inquire about coercion . . .
"There are larger questions here. Did Hyman make the decision to omit the voluntariness question or was he ordered to do so by a superior who knew the score? Certainly the strange document must have been talked about afterward at the highest levels in the county prosecutor's office, which was then led by current mayor Richard Daley. Daley's top assistants were Richard Devine (who served as State's Attorney from 1996 to 2008) and William Kunkle (who prosecuted Wilson and is now a Cook County Judge). Such strange behavior by a felony review supervisor, coupled with Wilson's obvious injuries, should have prompted an investigation. What does Hyman recall about his superiors' inquiries or lack thereof?
"This jury will never know. Neither, it seems, will we."
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Conroy reported in a 2006 Reader story that Hyman "had gone to the Illinois Supreme Court in an attempt to derail the release of the special prosecutor's report on Chicago police torture - or at the very least keep his name out of it . . .
"The special prosecutor's report justifies Hyman's fears: 'In our judgment,' it says, 'Hyman did not tell the truth when he denied [in testimony] that he had been told by Andrew Wilson that he had been tortured by detectives under the command of Jon Burge. His false testimony stands as corroboration of Andrew Wilson.'"
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Much of today's reporting also plays up the fact that Burge named his boat "Vigilante."
"Burge, now retired in Florida, confirmed it was but said he made that choice when he bought the boat in 1986 because he wanted a unique name," the Tribune reports. "He settled on Vigilante after checking a computer-generated list of names given to him by a friend.
"'It was the only one I never heard before,' he said."
I guess I Like To Attach Electric Alligator Clips To Men's Balls And Shock The Hell Out Of Them was taken.
But the important thing isn't whether he chose the name from a computer-generated list; that could very well be. He still chose the name Vigilante.
* * *
I didn't see this anywhere but from Conroy:
"Prosecutor David Weisman resumed his cross-examination of former commander Jon Burge yesterday morning, drilling in on how Burge handled or mishandled his weapon. Earlier in the trial, Burge was accused of putting a revolver to Shadeed Mumin's head and playing a sort of Russian Roulette, and Andrew Wilson has claimed in previous testimony that Burge put a gun in the cop-killer's mouth, but under questioning from the defense, Burge has portrayed himself as a responsible handler of his weapons who would never be so stupid as to engage in such reckless behavior. Weisman, however, asked about an incident the jury hasn't heard about before, a 1982 incident in which Burge allegedly pointed his weapon at the back of a detective who had fallen out of favor with a good number of his fellow detectives at Area 2. Burge denied he'd ever done anything of the sort, but Weisman may have a card up his sleeve."
Read the rest of the post to find out just what that card is. Then come on back!
Second, the most dramatic day of testimony in the Blago trial unfolded on Monday with all sorts of goodies.
"Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday was portrayed as a man who would shake down then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, leverage $2 million in school funding for campaign contributions and order a racetrack owner extorted for cash," the Sun-Times reports.
"And that was before the biggest witness of the day even took the stand.
"That witness, former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, lodged another potentially lethal salvo: that Blagojevich gave him a list of firms he wanted Harris to hit up to find a job for the then-first lady of Illinois, Patti Blagojevich.
When two firms failed to come through, Blagojevich ordered they be cut off from state business, Harris testified."
Of course, had Neil read the actual indictment and paid attention to the witness list and news reports, he would have known this was coming on the very day he complained that prosecutors had yet to produce a smoking gun.
* * *
Missing from the local coverage of the alleged Rahm shakedown, though, is how Rahm reacted.
"President Barack Obama's chief of staff, then a congressman in Illinois, apparently attempted to trade favors with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to newly disclosed e-mails obtained by The Associated Press," the AP reports.
"Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, agreed to sign a letter to the Chicago Tribune supporting Blagojevich in the face of a scathing editorial by the newspaper that ridiculed the governor for self-promotion. Within hours, Emanuel's own staff asked for a favor of its own: The release of a delayed $2 million grant to a school in his district."
* * *
This squares with earlier reporting about, for example, Blago holing himself up in his Ravenswood home instead of conducting state business.
"Rod Blagojevich may have been governor of Illinois but often appeared to do everything but run the state, dwelling instead on his political fortunes and his family's finances, two former top aides to Blagojevich testified at his political corruption trial on Monday," the Tribune reports.
"Bradley Tusk, once Illinois' deputy governor, said Blagojevich quickly grew detached after taking office in 2003. The governor was rarely in the office, hard to track down and even tried to shake down his political pal Rahm Emanuel, Tusk said.
"Blagojevich was frequently unavailable when crucial decisions needed to be made on signing or vetoing bills, Tusk said. The responsibility for giving an up or down to legislation, said Tusk, often was ceded to him, even though he was all of 29 years old. 'He wasn't always engaged in the process,' said Tusk, adding that he once had to hunt down the governor at his tailor."
As I noted a year ago, Elizabeth Brackett reported in Pay-To-Play that:
- Blago's staff had trouble getting him to the [Democratic National] convention and even out on the stump because he lacked self-confidence - even though he was great once he got out there.
- Blago never held a staff meeting in entire time as governor.
- Blago not only was largely absent from Springfield, he rarely showed up to his Chicago office. Said Brackett: 'He ran the government out of his house on speaker phone.'"
* * *
This one is new, at least to me.
"Meanwhile, John Harris, the chief of staff arrested with Blagojevich in 2008, said the governor in his last months as the state's chief executive was busy plotting his escape from elected office, weaving personal moneymaking schemes and ordering retribution be served on those who declined to help.
"Harris, testifying under a plea deal with prosecutors, said Blagojevich spoke of packing the University of Illinois board of trustees so it would one day hire him as an adjunct professor."
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Finally, new haircuts by defendants and/or witnesses and/or defendants' spouses don't just happen by accident. It's an appeal to the jury as well as a media distraction on a day that Blago needed it. I just wonder if any smoking guns fell out.
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Posted on June 22, 2010
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