General Counsel Exits For Prosecutor's Office
Charise Valente Leaves, But Members Probably Haven’t Seen The Last of Her…
Rumors abound that Charise Valente, General Counsel for the Chicago Police Department, is headed back to work at the Cook County State’s Attorney under Kimberly Foxx.
And, given her record, working for a prosecutor who has transformed her office into a machine for the anti-police movement, that seems like the best spot for Valente.
Well, consider her record in a key criminal trial against three officers who either worked on or investigated the Laquan McDonald shooting. In the wake of the acquittal of the three officers accused of conspiring to cover up the shooting, questions are emerging about the legitimacy of the investigation by the City that led to the officers being charged to begin with.
Judge Domenica Stephenson acquitted former detective David March, Officer Thomas Gaffney, and former officer Joseph Walsh in January, undermining the claim by special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes and her media allies that the three men conspired to cover up the 2015 shooting of McDonald.
In acquitting the three defendants, Judge Stephenson declared:
“It is clear from the testimony in this case that an officer could reasonably believe that an attack was imminent based upon McDonald’s actions. Only the officers involved in the incident know what their belief was at the time of the incident. We cannot now view the actions of the officers with the benefit of hindsight as to what they should have believed.”
Despite their acquittal, the three men paid a heavy price: they endured several years of media and legal attacks, and they have lived with the threat of conviction and possible imprisonment. Two of the men, Walsh and March, resigned in the wake of the accusations.
But questions are now surfacing about the legitimacy of the investigation by the City that paved the way for criminal charges in the first place. What is emerging in this investigation is powerful evidence that the City violated the civil rights of the officers by sacrificing the officers to the media frenzy generated around the shooting. And one wonders, where was the General Counsel of the police department during this public-frenzy sacrifice of the officers?
Nowhere is this evidence of potential civil rights violations more compelling than the manner in which the Inspector General “investigated” allegations against the lead detective in the shooting, David March. In compelling exchanges between FOP attorney Jim McKay and Peter Neumer from the Inspector General’s office, McKay argued that the Inspector General was conducting a criminal investigation of March, not merely an administrative one.
The accusation is crucial because in claiming his investigation was administrative, Neumer was then legally able to compel March to testify and not invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent:
MR. McKAY: Let me ask this, Mr. Neumer: On behalf of the Inspector General for the City of Chicago, do you believe these allegations indicate that a criminal prosecution is probable against Detective March?
MR. NEUMER: So we are conducting an administrative investigation, and we are not working with any other bodies and take no view as to the question whether criminal charges are probable against Detective March. This is an administrative investigation.
MR. McKAY: Mr. Neumer, what do you mean you take no view regarding whether criminal charges are probable?
MR. NEUMER: This is an administrative investigation. We’re not working with any other bodies on this investigation.
MR. McKAY: Your allegations, sir, include language such as, “witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and providing false statements.” This language is consistent with violations of Illinois criminal law. As such, I’m advising my client not to answer this—strike that—not to answer your questions unless ordered to do so by a superior officer. Further, Mr. Neumer, I’m asking that you, as the Assistant Inspector General conducting this statement, advise Detective March of his Constitutional rights pursuant to Miranda versus Arizona. Will you do that?
MR. NEUMER: No. This is—again, as this is an administrative investigation, it’s not a criminal investigation, and OIG is under no obligation to provide Detective March with any sort of Constitutional rights advisement.
MR. McKAY: Thank you. Mr. Neumer, I note in your Advisement of Rights that you just read to Detective March that the Inspector General may consider that Detective March’s statements may constitute an official police report. Can you please reconcile for me how you may consider Detective March’s statements to be possibly a police report, yet, at the same time, you deny the existence that criminal charges could be probable against Detective March?
MR. NEUMER: Sure. Again, this is an administrative investigation, and as is set forth in the Advisement, it says that any statement made by Detective March during this interview and the fruits thereof cannot be used against him in a criminal proceeding.
March was interviewed three times by the Inspector General’s office, twice in April 2016 and a third time in July 2016. Days after March’s July testimony, a special prosecutor was appointed and criminal charges were filed against March.
It wasn’t just the way the IG compelled March to testify that casts a dark shadow on the IG investigation. March alleged in a 2016 grievance that the City was violating the Lodge’s contract because there were no listed complainants against March, with no signed affidavits.
Civil rights violations? Contract violations? Where was Valence during any of this? Why was the claim by March’s attorney during IG inquisitions that these forced statements violated the officers’ Fifth Amendment rights not addressed by the top lawyer for the department? Why did she stand idly by? How badly does this treatment of the officers appear in their wholesale acquittal in which none of the allegations against them rose to any criminal level whatsoever? It’s almost as if the City trumped up charges against the members by coercing statements . . .
One wonders: Where is the American Civil Liberties Union in this instance? Where is the City’s social justice crusading media? Where is Lori Lightfoot? Toni Preckwinkle? And what about these officers now? Now they must live with the ignominy of the case, the relentless media attacks, and the fact that two of them felt the need to resign in the wake of the charges.
What does the top attorney in the department have to say about that?
The evidence of potential civil rights violations against the officers takes on an even more ominous glow as the City ramps up a litany of anti-police measures and stances, including increased civilian oversight and a federal consent decree based on allegations of police misconduct. Is the kangaroo court of seemingly ginned-up allegations against the police, constitutionally suspicious investigations, politically motivated prosecutions, and the coordinated media hit jobs giving all of it life the new norm in Chicago?
As for Charise Valente, good riddance for now.
But officers have likely not seen the last of her.