The Watch

News and Information for Chicago FOP members.

Tribgate: Pattern of False Police Misconduct Claims Emerging at Paper?

In Wake Of Verdict In Conspiracy Case Key Questions Emerge…

 Another Chicago Tribune narrative crumbled under the weight of evidence during a high-profile bench trial last week, when Judge Domenica Stephenson acquitted Detective David March, Officer Thomas Gaffney, and former officer Joseph Walshof conspiring to cover up the fatal Laquan McDonald shooting. 

Stephenson’s ruling undermined a story Tribune reporters Jason Meisner and Megan Crepeau had been pushing with an aggressiveness and bias approaching hysteria.

And Judge Vincent Gaughan’s soft sentence imposed on Jason Van Dyke the following day pointed to the likelihood that even the judge wasn’t buying into the attempts by the Tribune and other media outlets to paint Van Dyke as some kind of racist monster.   

Tribune columnist Eric Zorn was quick to condemn Judge Stephenson’s ruling and the relatively light sentence imposed on Van Dyke. “Wow, this has been a bad week for justice,” Zorn asserted on social media, right about the same time he published a vicious attack on Judge Stephenson for daring to rule that the three officers were not guilty. In doing so, Zorn admitted that Stephenson’s ruling meant that Van Dyke was indeed justified in shooting McDonald:

Stephenson’s unpersuasive, infuriating 28-page ruling, which she read from the bench Thursday afternoon, embraced the idea that Laquan McDonaldposed such a threat to police on a fateful night in 2014 that Officer Jason Van Dyke was justified in firing 16 shots into him. . . .

The dashcam video reveals this assertion as tendentious, police-union nonsense, and Stephenson’s summary illustrates that the blindfold on Dame Justice isn’t always metaphorical.

It is the usual unbridled police-hating diatribe from Zorn in the Tribune, ignoring fact after fact listed in Stephenson’s ruling that there was simply no evidence of conspiracy or wrongdoing by the officers. 

In the coverage by Meisner, Crepeau, and Zorn, one would be hard-pressed to find one inkling of sympathy or respect for police officers, one mention of the fact that four officers died on duty in the last year, the fact that five officers have taken their own lives, or the heroic performance of officers in the Mercy Hospital shooting that likely saved many more lives. One won’t find any mention of the fact that police officers have gone two years without a contract while reporters and editors at the Tribune demanded a new one for their recently unionized workers. 

Forget about the Tribune even addressing the nightmare their uninvestigated articles imposed on three officers with outstanding reputations, officers who would not say much to the media shortly after they were acquitted. Why would they? The distrust and antipathy officers hold toward the Tribuneis intense. 

As it is, the conspiracy case against March, Gaffney, and Walsh more and more resembles other Tribune police misconduct stories that have later imploded in the courtroom under the rules of evidence, like the Nicole Harris exoneration for killing her own child and the Anthony Porter double-murder case. 

But for Zorn, Meisner, Crepeau, and the Tribune, the ruling must be particularly troubling. 

To understand why, one must look at the ominous cases the Tribune refuses to cover rather than the ones they embrace with their chronic hysteria. In doing so, one case rises above all others. 

It is the story of Karen Byron, who was taken to the attic of Stanley Wrice’s home in 1982, gang-raped, then severely burned. Her body was dumped in an alley. She crawled to a gas station. Police took her to the hospital, then she was transferred to the Loyola Burn Center, where she underwent several surgeries and skin grafts that left her permanently scarred.

The offenders were caught and confessed. The worst offender, the one who did the most burning of Byron, according to court transcripts, was Stanley Wrice. He got 100 years. 

But the detectives who investigated the case were “Burge detectives,” men who worked with Burge and had been accused in numerous cases of coercing confessions from innocent men. 

Wrice obtained the services of prominent wrongful conviction attorney Jennifer Bonjean, who claimed Wrice was wrongfully convicted. They said these “Burge detectives” coerced a confession from Wrice. Bonjean got a lot of support, including an amicus brief signed by Patricia Holmes, the same Patricia Holmes who was the special prosecutor against March, Walsh, and Gaffney, and whose case imploded in that trial. 

Bonjean got the courts to toss Wrice’s conviction. He walked out of prison a free man, newspapers like the Tribune calling him “wrongfully convicted.”

Then trouble started for Wrice. A judge rejected Wrice’s petition for an innocence certificate, claiming he thought Wrice was involved in the crime. The judge also cast doubt on the retraction of witness statements that were obtained in the case, calling them suspicious. 

Then, in the course of Wrice’s odyssey from convicted rapist and burner of women into a millionaire folk hero by means of a federal lawsuit, a new witness stepped forward. This one said in a deposition that beginning when she was fourteen years old, Wrice began raping and beating her. She claimed he impregnated her three times through rape. The statute of limitations has run out on the case, so Wrice cannot be prosecuted for such allegations. 

Zorn has written many stories in the course of his career bolstering the claims of Bonjean. But neither Meisner, the federal courts reporter for the paper, nor Zorn has printed one word about the fact that a man exonerated for a gang rape and severe burning of a woman now stands accused of serially raping, impregnating, and beating a fourteen-year-old girl. 

Yet Zorn, Meisner, and the Tribune have the unmitigated gall to accuse the Chicago Police of operating under a “code of silence”?

The Wrice case is only one of many cases revealing evidence that exonerated offenders should not have been exonerated at all, that claims of police misconduct that set them free are bogus. At the heart of many of these now highly suspicious stories is Zorn and his Tribune

One wonders if these potentially bogus police misconduct stories don’t go a long way in explaining the hysteria with which the paper attacked March, Gaffney, and Walsh. One wonders if Zorn and his cabal at the Tribunedidn’t conceive of the conspiracy case against the three officers as a crucial way of preserving their anti-police narrative and deflecting the growing evidence that their mythology of police corruption is highly tainted.

Zorn’s anti-police mythology is falling apart in alleged crimes that make one queasy, like a woman gang-raped and then slowly burned. Like a young girl serially raped and beaten.  

Like a newspaper willing to ignore all of it to perpetuate their crusade against decent, hardworking police officers.