Suspicious IPRA, Media Collusion Emerging Again in Police Conspiracy Trial?
A Chicago reporter named as a defendant in a case alleging that the city’s police oversight agency engaged in a broad conspiracy to frame a police commander is now covering another criminal case against three officers.
And once again, WBEZ Public radio reporter Chip Mitchell seems all too willing to ignore evidence of potential misconduct at the former police oversight agency, IPRA, as Mitchell pushes the narrative that three officers conspired to cover up the shooting of Laquan McDonald.
In an amended lawsuit filed earlier this month, attorneys for Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans claimed Evans was the victim of a conspiracy by IPRA and the media. The lawsuit—which also names IPRA investigators and top officials, as well as the City of Chicago—claims the defendants ginned up false allegations against Evans based upon a 2013 arrest Evans made in an abandoned building after Evans observed an offender with a gun and gave chase.
“[IPRA personnel] knew that WBEZ reporter Chip Mitchell had published stories favorable to the current administration and that Mayoral aides used Mitchell, with his cooperation and knowledge, to plant narratives in the media with the intention of influencing public opinion,” the lawsuit alleges.
Evans maintained from the outset that the allegations of abuse in the 2013 arrest were bogus. Part of that setup, his lawsuit alleges, was the illegal release of an Illinois State Police DNA report to Mitchell that revealed the arrestee’s DNA on Evans’s pistol.
“Knowing that the false charges might not succeed in removing Commander Evans, [IPRA personnel] leaked confidential information to Mitchell to both damage Commander Evans’ reputation and to convict him in the court of public opinion,” the lawsuit reads. “Mitchell and WBEZ knowingly and recklessly published false information about Commander Evans at the behest of [IPRA personnel].”
Mitchell’s release of the bombshell state DNA report was a media sensation. Reporters throughout the city published the story, also claiming that the DNA test was indicative of Evans’s guilt.
But when Evans went to trial, experts testified that the DNA test was no smoking gun against Evans. They argued that it could merely be “touch” DNA. Circuit Court Judge Diane Cannon acquitted Evans of all charges. What remained of the case was a large body of evidence indicating that IPRA investigators had indeed engaged in nefarious tactics to gin up a case against Evans.
Despite all this evidence and the fact that an innocent police officer could have been sent to prison, there has been no indication that WBEZ is willing to take a second look at Mitchell’s coverage. Nor has there been any response from Chicago’s media community—the one that alleges almost weekly a “code of silence” in the police department—to take a second look at WBEZ’s reporting, either.
Now Chicago’s media community, including WBEZ, are heavily pushing the conspiracy claims against three officers, ex-Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh, and Officer Thomas Gaffney,who worked the Laquan McDonald shooting. WBEZ, along with the Chicago Tribune, has published a podcast about the shooting entitled 16 Shots. This coverage, though, is starting to mirror Mitchell’s coverage of the Glenn Evans case: promoting only “evidence” that bolsters the case against the officers and ignoring evidence against IPRA.
The most striking evidence tying the two cases together is the issue of media leaks: Was confidential information from IPRA illegally leaked to the media? The evidence is overwhelming that they did.
Jamie Kalven writes for a notoriously anti-police publication called the Invisible Institute, funded by law firms specializing in claiming wrongful convictions through police misconduct.
In a breakout story published in February 2015 in Slate magazine, Kalven claimed to have discovered a new witness, Jose Torres, who, Kalven claimed, contradicted the police narrative:
I recently spoke with a witness, who asked that I not use his name for fear of police reprisals and who has also reported his story to IPRA.
(Wait a minute. Torres was afraid of police reprisals? Like what? Is the public supposed to believe that Torres was afraid the police would come to his house and threaten him for being a witness? Does Kalven believe that detectives or police would hunt Torres down and intimidate him out of his statements about the case?)
Torres was surprised when Kalven showed up at his house on November 24, 2014, to ask about statements Torres had made to IPRA about the shooting, according to court documents. Torres was reportedly upset that these statements had been leaked so that Kalven could track him down. Torres called IPRA to complain.
Kalven obtained this secret witness, according to a New York Times article, from Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago and fervent critic of the police.
The New York Times:
. . . [Kalven] received a tip from a source, passed along by Craig B. Futterman, a former public defender who runs a civil rights clinic at the University of Chicago.
Mitchell and the rest of the media does not seem willing to investigate these elemental questions.
This sordid chapter in the Laquan McDonald shooting has never garnered much investigation by the media. Nor have they been willing to tie it to a larger pattern of possible misconduct at IPRA, like the Evans case.
But there is an even darker theme about the charges against the three officers. It is the evidence suggesting that IPRA knew of a witness but kept investigating detectives in the dark about it.
Here is the passage from a police report:
The assigned personnel also became aware of an article written by Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, citing the existence of an unknown witness to this incident. Futterman was contacted on Thursday, 12 March 2015, in an attempt to interview this witness. Futterman stated that this witness had already been interviewed by the Independent Police Review Authority and Futterman did not know if the witness would be willing to be interviewed by the Chicago Police Department. Futterman said he would contact the witness and provide him with contact information for the assigned personnel.
So, not only did IPRA leak the information about the witness to Futterman and/or Kalven, but they might have kept the information hidden from investigating detectives? Under what authority is IPRA withholding such information from detectives? Why are the detectives learning about it from magazine articles? Is IPRA now the law enforcement agency of Chicago investigating crimes and they don’t even have to report to the police? And in the course of their investigations, they are free to leak confidential information to the press without fear of reprisal?
Equally important, why is Futterman not cooperating with detectives and producing the identity of this witness? Doesn’t Futterman have an obligation to reveal such evidence to detectives? And when Futterman is asked to produce this witness, Futterman refuses?
Why, then, is Mitchell not questioning the conduct of IPRA, Futterman, or Kalven in this case? Isn’t this one-sided attack on the police while ignoring the suspicious actions of IPRA exactly what Mitchell is accused of doing in the Evans case?
One wonders: If the Evans case goes to trial, will Mitchell and WBEZ’s coverage of the second Laquan McDonald trial be introduced as a pattern of conduct against Mitchell?
The special prosecutor and her media allies are alleging conspiracy against the three police officers in the Laquan McDonald case, but more and more the conspiracy seems to be going into unforeseen, unplanned destinations.