The Watch

News and Information for Chicago FOP members.

Time For Zorn, Tribune To Come Clean On Boudreau Cases

Newspaper Silent On Key Ruling…

It was November 2017 and Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn had a stern message for newly elected Cook County prosecutor Kimberly Foxx. That message:

We elected you to push our progressive agenda, particularly our war on the Chicago Police, and we expect you to come through for us. 

It was a long dormant commentary on a murder case by Zorn, the columnist who is, in many ways, the face of contemporary journalism in Chicago, one that can’t be bothered by tedious lines separating reporting from editorializing, opinion piece from hard news. Long dormant because in the months before the column was written, Zorn had toned down his commentary on wrongful convictions after the seminal exoneration of Zorn’s career—the 1999 release of Anthony Porter—imploded under renewed scrutiny. 

That exoneration begged a litany of questions about the other exonerations and other police misconduct claims Zorn and his paper had supported for three decades. Fortunately for Zorn, a powerful code of silence in the Chicago media never asked these questions of him, and so he has remained at the paper utterly unfettered by what could very well be one of the biggest scandals in Chicago journalism. 

So, what was Zorn’s message to Foxx in 2017? It was a blunt demand that she release Nevest Coleman from prison for the rape and murder of Antwinica Bridgeman in 1994. Bridgeman’s badly decomposed body was found with a brick in her mouth and a pole thrust into her vagina. From Zorn’s column:

Memo to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx:

If we’d wanted a top prosecutor who dragged her feet on apparent wrongful convictions and stubbornly refused to heed the demands of justice, we would have re-elected Anita Alvarez.

You ran as a reformer against Alvarez in the March 2016 Democratic primary, reminding voters that “trust in our criminal justice system has been broken” and promising fairer outcomes.

Voters believed you. You thumped Alvarez in the primary and cruised to victory in the general election a year ago.

Yet you’re allowing Nevest Coleman and Darryl Fulton to continue to rot in prison in the face of overwhelming new evidence that they are innocent of a 1994 rape and murder in the Englewood neighborhood.

Zorn went on to praise the “investigative” work by Tribune journalist Gregory Pratt on the case, claiming that a DNA sample taken from Bridgeman’s undergarments came back to another person, a serial rapist. That, according to Zorn, Pratt, and the Tribune, was evidence that Coleman was innocent, despite his confession. 

But like Zorn and the Tribune’s reporting in the Anthony Porter case and a host of others, so many simple questions are left unaddressed in the Tribune articles about Coleman that these stories appear, once again, to be little more than public relations pieces for the lawyers who stand to make millions from the federal lawsuit that Coleman would and did file after getting out.

Here’s an example: How could it be that Bridgeman was last seen with Coleman and then was found dead in Coleman’s basement in the same clothes that she was last seen wearing? So much for investigative journalism. 

But there is another possible reason Zorn climbed out of the woodwork to write an impassioned demand that Foxx release Coleman. 

The Coleman case was investigated in part by a former detective who has been in the crosshairs of the Chicago Tribune since 2000. His name is Kenneth Boudreau, and, despite being a highly decorated veteran and police officer, and highly respected by his colleagues, Zorn and the Tribune have gone to great lengths to vilify him and build a “pattern and practice” claim that Boudreau was running around coercing confessions from innocent people for several decades. 

Zorn and the Tribune have pushed this theory against Boudreau even though the paper’s credibility has nosedived in the wake of the paper’s coverage in other cases, coverage revealing an “ends justify the means” approach to covering police misconduct cases, beginning with the infamous Anthony Porter case. 

Zorn’s pressure on Foxx ultimately worked. She let Coleman out and he filed his lawsuit, which is pending in the federal courts, a major score for Zorn, the Trib, and their civil rights attorney overlords. 

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the wrongful conviction carnival. The Fraternal Order of Police has had enough of Zorn, the Tribune, and the claims against Boudreau and his partners. 

Many of the cases against the former detective are handled not by Foxx, but by a special prosecutor, Robert Milan. One Boudreau case Milan is handling is the exoneration of Arnold Day for a 1991 murder in which Day, like Coleman, confessed. 

The FOP let Milan know the Lodge was angry Milan didn’t contest the release of Day when his case resurfaced in the courts based on claims Boudreau coerced his confession. The FOP let Milan know they expected him to fight the granting of a certificate of innocence to Day, a certificate that would make a large settlement to the once-convicted killer all but certain.  

“We can think of no logical reason why you would not at the very least oppose the certificate of innocence. The reading of the case indicates that there were two eyewitnesses to the murder, Mr. Day’s confession had been deemed voluntary and freely given, and a jury and many judges have agreed his confession was not the result of coercion. As you are aware, the certificate of innocence allows Mr. Day access to civil remedies that place our members in a legally and financially precarious position, which they do not deserve. We therefore implore you to oppose the certificate of innocence in this case,” Second Vice President Martin Preib wrote to Milan. 

Milan refused to contest the certificate, so FOP attorney Tim Grace filed a motion opposing it. The judge rejected it, saying the FOP did not have standing in the case. But then city attorneys stepped in and contested the certificate, and just a few weeks ago Judge Leroy Martin vacated it. Both the FOP and city attorneys argued that Day should never have been released and argued that there was no evidence of his innocence to grant him a petition. 

Zorn and the Tribune’s coverage of this key ruling?

Not a word. 

In the Day case is a compelling possibility for the police officers and citizens of Chicago who have doled out so many millions of taxpayer dollars to so-called exonerated killers and rapists that so-called journalists like Zorn and Pratt have championed: The claims against Boudreau are totally bogus. 

The Coleman and Day murder cases pose an ominous question: Either Kenneth Boudreau has been pushing a completely bogus narrative about these murder cases for three decades or the Chicago Tribune has. 

The FOP believes Boudreau and wants his cases reviewed in a legal proceeding under the rules of evidence, not by a blowhard huffing-and-puffing newspaper columnist with so much evidence that his other wrongful conviction claims are little more than fantasies.