The Watch

News and Information for Chicago FOP members.

Time For Investigative Reporters To Look Inward

Better Government Associaton President Andy Shaw Lays an Egg...

As the former research director for his organization faces a massive federal lawsuit alleging false affidavits and bribed witnesses, Andy Shaw has some advice about how to fix the “corrupt” Chicago Police Department.

Shaw is the current President of the Better Government Association (BGA), which bills itself as “a full-service watchdog organization…shining a light on government in Illinois and holding public officials accountable.”

A well-known voice of the anti-police movement, Shaw recently made statements about police accountability in a fawning, obsequious interview on WBBM radio. The interview, which comes right as the FOP and city begin negotiations on a new contract, was stock anti-police rhetoric from Chicago’s progressive media, calling for—drum roll, please—more oversight of Chicago Police Officers.

Here’s what the blog “Second City Cop” had to say about the Shaw interview:

We've heard some political hit jobs before, but Shaw takes the cake with this one. A typical Rahm/Machine move. No one is actually "negotiating in the media" but golly, the City message is certainly getting out there somehow.

Shaw’s watchdogs and shining lights are nowhere to be found in the reporting about the federal lawsuit against David Protess, a former Research Director at the BGA. In fact, one will rarely find any Chicago journalists attending the hearings in which Protess, Private Investigator Paul Ciolino and Northwestern University are accused of framing an innocent man, Alstory Simon, for a 1982 double murder as part of a plot to spring another man, Anthony Porter, from prison.

The aim of that plot was, according to Simon’s attorneys, to end the death penalty in Illinois, which it did. But thanks to the work of exactly no one in the official pool of Chicago journalists, Simon was freed in 2014 by former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who assailed the methods Protess used in freeing Porter.

This is what Simon’s attorneys allege in their lawsuit:

 As part of a Northwestern University Investigative Journalism class he taught in 1998, Protess instructed his students to investigate Porter’s case and develop evidence of Porter’s innocence, rather than to search for the truth. During that investigation, Northwestern, through its employees and/or agents, Protess and Ciolino, intentionally manufactured false witness statements against Simon, and then used the fabricated evidence, along with terrifying threats and other illegal and deceitful tactics, to coerce a knowingly false confession from Simon.

Simon’s attorneys are not arguing that the Simon case was an isolated incident. On the contrary, they are claiming it is part of the pattern of misconduct by Protess.

Protess’ tenure at the BGA took place before Shaw joined the organization. But it is Shaw’s failure to cover the bombshell developments in the Simon case, and its connection to other dubious wrongful convictions, that truly cast a dark shadow on BGA’s shining investigative lights and watchdogs.

If only “investigative journalists” were held to the same standards of truthfulness as that of a patrol officer. If only body cameras, in-car microphones and cell phone cameras recorded the daily actions and statements of Chicago media community, then perhaps there might be some answers to the chilling questions about the integrity of the Chicago media in the Simon case. And others. 

Here’s another issue that Shaw and the BGA have not touched:

A former reporter for the BGA, John Conroy, championed the case of a man on death row named Madison Hobley, convicted of setting a fire in 1987 that killed seven people. Conroy relentlessly pushed the narrative that Hobley, who was set free in 2003 through a pardon by former Governor George Ryan in the wake of the hysteria surrounding the Porter exonerations, was innocent. Ryan pardoned Hobley and three other men shortly before he was sent to prison on corruption charges. In his articles, Conroy argued that Hobley was framed by “Burge detectives.”

But now it is Simon’s attorneys, and not Shaw and his watchdogs, who are the ones shining a light on Hobley case. In a letter to Alvarez, Simon’s attorneys pointed out that a witness in the Hobley case stated:

“Ciolino came to his home with Hobley’s lawyer and told him if he recanted, Ciolino would ensure his daughter received a free college education, and that he would never need to work again.”

Conroy’s reporting of the case is deeply troubling. Hobley, for example, made arson threats against his wife and child a few weeks before they were burned to death in their apartment, a fire Hobley somehow miraculously escaped from unharmed. Those arson threats are barely mentioned in Conroy’s articles, though they were, to the investigators in the case, compelling evidence of Hobley’s guilt.

Earlier this week, President Trump talked about the burden of fake news. Recent polls indicate that public trust of the media is at a record low. All of this points to a central theme Shaw and the rest of the Chicago media should face: Time to turn the spotlights and watchdogs on themselves.