Chicago's Dirty Little Federal Secret
A battle is taking shape throughout the country over the federal justice system.
The Left is claiming that President Trump is interfering with the Russia probe to deflect any legal actions against him and his administration.
The Right is claiming that the Russia investigation against Trump is a sign of how the Department of Justice became “politicized” during Obama’s administration.
From Fox News:
Former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom told FNC’s Maria Bartiromo on “Sunday Morning Futures” that “high-ranking people throughout the government . . . had a plot to not have Hillary Clinton indicted so that she could remain the flawed candidate that she was.”
Kallstrom said the “plot” to fix the 2016 election goes “right to the top,” meaning President Obama and former CIA director John Brennan . . .
But for the people who live and work in Chicago, particularly the police, a politicized justice system is a sad fact of life. It is, in truth, a fundamental component of the city’s corruption.
The signs that Obama would impose a corrupt, politicized justice system at the federal level were apparent even before he took office.
It begins in 1987 when Obama was working as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side.
In that year, a man named Madison Hobley was involved in a bitter dispute with his wife, Anita Hobley, that had turned violent and compelled Anita at one point to take their child, Philip, and leave Hobley. Anita and her son moved in with a friend.
The dispute between the couple arose from an affair Madison Hobley had started with another woman. According to court and police records, Madison had fallen for this woman and Anita had found out. Torn between his love of his mistress and his duty as a husband and father, Hobley was tormented.
While they were separated, Hobley threatened violence. Calling the home of the friend where Anita and Philip were staying, Hobley demanded that they return to him. When the friend wouldn’t let Hobley speak to his wife, Hobley reportedly chucked a brick through her window. The friend called the police. After the police arrived, the phone rang. The friend asked the police to listen in on another line. The officer heard Hobley make arson threats against the woman.
Hobley and his wife reconciled enough that she and the baby returned to live with him.
But Hobley was still tormented. A few weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, a fire was set outside Hobley’s apartment when he was supposedly not at home. A neighbor quickly extinguished it.
Six days later, gas was poured outside Hobley’s apartment door early in the morning. A trail of gas went down the apartment stairs. The fire was lit, causing an inferno that rushed up the hallway and spread smoke and heat in what investigators called a “chimney effect.” Anita and her son, Philip, were among the seven bodies recovered; many more were injured trying to escape.
Detectives—surprised that Hobley had survived the inferno when so many others, including his wife and child, had died—approached Hobley as a witness at his mother’s nearby house. It didn’t take long for Hobley’s story of escaping the flames to fall apart.
Hobley eventually confessed twice to the arson. A gas station owner said he observed a man who looked like Hobley purchase gas in a can shortly before the fire. Another man who worked at the station also said he saw Hobley buy the gas. He said Hobley even spilled some on his truck. Later, the same witness noticed Hobley at the crime scene.
Hobley was tried and convicted, then sentenced to death. Though he had no previous criminal background, the magnitude of his crime compelled the worst possible sentence. He was sent to death row.
But while Hobley was sitting on death row, a mythology about wrongful convictions was taking place. One man already on death row when Hobley got there was Anthony Porter.
While Hobley and the other inmates sat and watched from death row, in 1998 “investigators” from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism—that is, a group of twenty-something college kids—began reviewing Porter’s conviction for a double murder in 1982, eventually claiming that Porter was innocent and that another man, Alstory Simon, was guilty of the double homicide. They claimed that Porter’s conviction was the result of police misconduct. Harnessing the power of Chicago’s powerful media machine, the Northwestern fledgling investigators got Porter exonerated from death row, and he walked free.
Other inmates, like Hobley, saw the first possibilities of freedom for themselves. They, too, claimed they were the victims of police abuse. For Hobley, such allegations were particularly suspect. There was so much evidence against him, and then there were his two confessions. Nevertheless, law firms took up his case.
Then something incredible took shape. Former governor George Ryan, facing a 21-count indictment for corruption during his tenure as secretary of state, announced in 2003 that he was pardoning Hobley and three other inmates also convicted of murder, four years after Porter was let out of death row. It was the first time that a governor had pardoned inmates with no new evidence of their innocence. Ryan cited the Porter case as a main reason for pardoning the men.
The decision, celebrated by the wrongful conviction advocates in Chicago, was assailed by prosecutors and the family members of victims.
From the New York Times:
Richard A. Devine, the Cook County state's attorney, issued a statement this afternoon calling the pardons “outrageous and unconscionable.”
“These cases against these men are still before our courts, and it is the courts that should decide the issues in these cases,” Mr. Devine said, referring to pending appeals. “By his actions today the governor has breached faith with the memory of the dead victims, their families and the people he was elected to serve.”
Devine wasn’t the only one upset about the pardons. After Ryan himself was sent to prison, federal investigators took up the Hobley case.
On August 25, 2008, the Chicago Tribune published this story:
Now, more than five years later, Hobley finds himself back under investigation for the fire—and this time by federal agents and prosecutors under U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald. Ryan is in prison himself, having been prosecuted for corruption by Fitzgerald’s office and convicted.
Murder by arson is a federal offense, and Fitzgerald has stated that if his office believes there is sufficient evidence to prove a case against someone for starting the blaze, it would not be relevant whether that person was “charged or convicted or pardoned” in state court. Fitzgerald made that remark almost 11 months ago as he responded to questions about the fire probe without mentioning Hobley by name.
The entire case file on the fire has been reopened, but sources say its focus is whether Hobley committed the crime.
So in August 2008, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was reportedly looking into recharging Hobley. Investigators close to the DOJ investigation believed Hobley would be recharged with the crime.
Then, in November 2008, President Obama was elected.
As the Obama DOJ took shape, the Hobley case went through what you could call a “Chicago transformation.” Obama appointed Eric Holder as his attorney general. Then, suddenly, the move toward re-indicting Hobley screeched to a halt. It went nowhere.
Even investigators at the DOJ were dumbfounded. One federal agent who worked on the Hobley case was Jim Delorto, who was in the ATF. Here is what he said about the arson:
The evidence in the Hobley arson case is so overwhelming and of such specific detail and volume that no jury in any court would not have found him guilty beyond any doubt. In my eight years as supervisor of the ATF federal bomb and arson task force, there has never been a clearer case of guilt. For the federal government not to have pursued this case, in which seven African Americans were burned to death, was unconscionable and unprecedented.
All of this brings us back to the role of Obama’s DOJ in the Russian interference case.
For many people, the notion that a presidential administration could gin up a false warrant to spy on a political opponent would seem like the stuff of a spy novel. But for Chicago Police Officers who watched Madison Hobley go from convicted mass murderer to folk hero, eventually paid $7 million with Chicago tax dollars for his “wrongful conviction,” it’s nothing unusual.
It’s the City of Chicago gone federal.