Will Alderman Osterman Finally Be Accountable?
New Allegations from City Attorneys Compel Osterman to Consider Officers Are Falsely Accused . . .
Will new evidence bolstering claims of misconduct in the industry of suing police officers compel city aldermen to reconsider paying out millions of taxpayer money?
The question arises as new evidence of false claims against the police emerge in the federal courts. This time, though, the allegations are not being made by the police, prosecutors, or the Fraternal Order of Police. This time, they are being alleged by attorneys working for the city itself.
The claims by the city-hired attorneys arise in the civil lawsuit by Armando Serrano, who claims he was coerced into confessing to a 1993 murder by retired detective Reynaldo Guevara, other detectives, and former prosecutors. Serrano got his conviction tossed, in part because there is a line of attorneys representing “exonerated” criminals making the same claims about Guevara. Some of these once-convicted men have already garnered multimillion-dollar payouts under the Rahm administration. But as Serrano seeks his own mega-million payday through his civil lawsuit, his claims are unraveling in federal court. And not in a small way.
Last month, attorneys for the detectives filed a motion calling for sanctions against Serrano and his “agents,” claiming that they hid or destroyed evidence that pointed to Serrano’s guilt in the murder. Those agents working with Serrano include a former professor from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, David Protess, and the school’s Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC).
Here’s what the attorneys for the accused detectives had to say about Serrano and his agents and the missing evidence:
In 2004, Medill succeeded in extracting [a witness’s] recantation. But discovery has revealed that prior to recanting, Plaintiffs’ gang, the Imperial Gangsters, threatened [the witness’s] life because of his testimony against Plaintiffs. Thereafter, and in consideration for his recantation, both Plaintiffs offered [witness] protection from assassination, and along with Medill, offered him other hidden incentives, including a prison transfer and a fortune (described by Plaintiff . . . as “ching-ching”) from the proceeds of Plaintiffs’ anticipated civil lawsuits. . . .
But Defendants discovered that Plaintiff Serrano’s agents deliberately destroyed and/or intentionally lost inculpatory audiotapes, memos, and notes relating to key witness interviews…
Such allegations of misconduct in wrongful conviction cases has been alleged by the FOP and others for years, particularly those claims coming from Northwestern University. In fact, three federal lawsuits have made such allegations against Northwestern.
In the wake of all these allegations, the FOP ridiculed the decision by the city to pay out $30 million to four men, known as the Englewood Four, who were “exonerated” for the 1994 rape and murder of Nina Glover, whose body was found in a dumpster. The investigation that led to the release and payout to these men originated at Northwestern University.
In a speech before the city council, the FOP assailed the city for ignoring so much compelling evidence that the men were in fact guilty. The FOP argued that the city should have gone to trial on it. Only Aldermen Sposato and Napolitano voted not to settle.
Despite these pleas by the FOP not to settle the Englewood Four case, not to make millionaires out of men who may very well have raped and murdered a woman, members of the city council not only ignored the FOP, some attacked the FOP for daring to make them.
Consider what Alderman Harry Osterman, 48th Ward, said about the FOP’s comments in this Tribune article:
North Side Ald. Harry Osterman, 48th, said it was counter-productive for Preib to make such comments while representing the police union.
“I find [the comments] rather unbelievable as we, as a city, are trying to do everything in our power, and every single community that’s represented on this council, to bring the city together to improve the relationships between the African-American community, the Hispanic community, the police, to try to make this city whole and safe,” Osterman said. “To have those comments come before this body, where we have to pay out $30 million to four men whose formative years were taken from them, I think it’s going to further divide our city.”
Unbelievable? Formative years?
Aren’t Osterman’s very own city attorneys now echoing the FOP’s claims about Northwestern and wrongful conviction cases? How much evidence does the city council need before it starts fighting these cases rather than paying out taxpayer money on them? More and more, the evidence reveals it was Osterman’s vote and his response to the media about the FOP that was unbelievable, that it was Osterman and the other aldermen who utterly failed to represent the police and the citizens of Chicago in the Englewood Four settlement.
Now that even more evidence is being leveled in federal lawsuits that allegations against police officers are false, can Chicago citizens count on representatives like Osterman to step to the plate and actually call on the city to delve deeper into these cases, to see just how many payouts on so-called wrongful convictions are legitimate, rather than just squander millions of the already-depleted public coffers?
It’s doubtful. Aldermen like Osterman obviously prefer the ease of pandering rather than representing, even when it comes to murder victims and falsely accused cops, even when one of the accused cops in the Englewood Four case is a decorated military veteran who traveled to New York and volunteered to work at Ground Zero after 9/11.
No, it’s doubtful. Accountability for the city’s elected officials, unlike the manic, biased oversight of the police, is fleeting and arbitrary. And there is another reason. Osterman and the rest of the city council have one powerful force that will help prevent accountability: the corruption of the Chicago media, which is wholly in the back pocket of the wrongful conviction movement.
Proof of this? Not one media outlet in the city covered the new allegations against Northwestern. Not one. The media is far too invested in the police misconduct mythology to change their tune now, so they have opted for not only a code of silence, but a vicious media attack on anyone who calls them out on their fraudulent stories.
Nevertheless, the sorry, dismal fact that Chicago’s media honors the obligation and duties of journalism more like a department of propaganda in the Soviet Union than a robust republic does not justify its elected officials doing the same. They, like police officers, have a profound duty as public servants.
For the city council and aldermen like Osterman, it would be a long and difficult journey from rubber-stamping police misconduct payouts to truly reviewing their legitimacy on behalf of the taxpayers. It would require completely new strategies and hard work, an era that, if it were ever to come true, could be accurately described as the city’s “formative years.”
Right, Alderman Osterman?