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Monday, May 14, 2012

19 Years and Still Fighting -- April 30, 2012

On this day 19 years ago, I was sent to the Cook County Jail after being charged with 1st degree murder. Two days prior, I was arrested by numerous gun wielding policemen within the Palatine Task Force including agents from the FBI. This group of law enforcement was brought together to solve the mass murder at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in the suburb of Palatine. For hours upon hours, I was interrogated while held incommunicado at the Rolling Meadows Police Department. My Miranda rights were ignored and I was intimidated, threatened, and struck many times in a determined effort to make me give an incriminating statement. Late on the 29th when this still did not occur, I was regardless charged as a second party to the murder of Dean Fawcett and then taken to the Barrington Police Department. Those days are ingrained in my memory more than any other dates of significance. For me, they are days which will always "live in infamy".

This morning I awakened expecting normal operations at the prison, as did my cellmate, Little Bobby. He was sitting by the cell bars dressed in state-issued blue clothing with a few folders by his side. Monday mornings, C House is scheduled for the law library and Bobby expected to be on the list. My cellmate claims to be on his first post conviction appeal, but I find this difficult to believe considering he has been incarcerated since the 1980s. I speculate he is rather being assisted on a successive post conviction petition by a former attorney who worked on his case while he was facing execution. There are many people fervently opposed to the death penalty and even when the State of Illinois emptied its death row population, some of these attorneys continue to assist their former clients.

A few years ago, a Chicago police office named Jon Burge was investigated for torturing suspects into making confessions. He was not able to be prosecuted for crimes which occurred decades ago, but he was tried and convicted of lying under oath while giving depositions. Since news surfaced of beatings, suffocating, playing Russian roulette, and even giving electrical shocks to suspects in order to get them to falsely confess at Area 3 police headquarters under Burge's supervision or direct participation, many other prisoners have come forward to claim they were also abused. One of those prisoners is my cellmate who says he was held out an upper level window by his feet to coerce him to confess. I have no doubt Jon Burge and numerous other police officers are guilty of abusing suspects particularly in high profile homicide cases, but I am skeptical of all the claims coming forward by men in prison.

Unlike the vast majority of these men, I immediately told numerous people about my abuse at the hands of John Koziol and John Robertson. My claims of Miranda violations are also corroborated by a multiple sources including the Palatine Police Department's own code of conduct directives which state all suspects brought in for questioning must sign a waiver of those Miranda rights. One may think in a mass murder case that these directives would be followed and although there are signed waivers from my co-defendant and the others questioned by the Palatine Task Force, none was obtained from me. Police did not even bother asking me to sign this because while I was being arrested, I told law enforcement that I wanted a lawyer. I also told Koziol and Robertson this at the Rolling Meadows Police Department repeatedly until one of them told me frankly this was never going to happen. Despite this, I continued to ask and was occasionally struck for doing so.

Although police kept me in an interrogation room close in size to my current cell for nearly two days, except when I was taken out for a few hours at night, I rarely said a word. Much of the time was spent with Koziol and Robertson attempting to cajole me to speak, or even look at them. There was a period of time when John Koziol sat directly across from me, inches away from my face. I gather he was trying to make eye contact or intimidate me. He slapped his fist into his hand and made various threats. When he asked a question and I said "I want an attorney," he kicked me in the shins and said, "That's the wrong answer". He told me my frail grandfather would be roughed up and his house destroyed by ransacking police. He also stated my mother would be arrested for lying to federal agents, but if I would speak with them, none of this would happen. At one point, he showed me a pack of papers and said he was holding Robert Faraci's statements. "Do you not want to repudiate any of this?" he asked. He said he thought Faraci was "full of shit," but without me saying anything they "would be forced to believe him."

On the first day of questioning, a blue sheet was put over a two-way mirror to prevent anyone from looking into the interrogation room. This seemed to imply to me that my two inquisitors could act with impunity, although Koziol said he did it so I did not have to worry about others looking in. Both Robertson and Koziol worked trying to coerce me to talk separately and at times in tandem. Although Koziol was a Palatine police officer and I believe he is currently the Chief of Police there unless he has retired, Robertson was an investigator who worked for the State's Attorneys Office. It was him who punched me and cracked me across the face when I refused to respond or made quips about the violation of my rights. He was also the person who made up the story that Bob Faraci told me he was going to kill Fawcett and I lent him my car. Despite the tactics employed by Koziol, I can understand his desire to solve a mass murder. What I cannot understand and find horrendously corrupt is Robertson's willingness to twist my statements and outright fabricate things to serve his superiors in the prosecutor's office.

After a period of time passed and no announcements were made over the cell house loudspeaker for law library, details, or anything else, I realized the prison was on lockdown. The night before I had overheard a cell house worker speaking about a nurse losing some hypodermic needles and if they were not found inmates would be kept in their cells until an investigation was conducted. Unaccounted for syringes are considered a major problem in prisons due to the large number of men who are drug addicts. From what I am told, the old Jamaican nurse has lost or misplaced needles before while making insulin rounds early in the mornings. I suspect these men who take insulin will have their cells searched and the nurse will probably not be allowed to work in the prison any longer. However, it is possible the Orange Crush special tactical unit will be used and all cells will be ransacked. Hopefully, this is not the reaction of administrators. It is a costly and heavy handed approach which usually nets little or no results except to intimidate and disrupt the lives of inmates.

After researching defensive stocks for a bear market in the utility, food, and tobacco sectors, I put on a sweatshirt and tried to take a nap. When the prison goes on lockdown and there is no movement, the cell house tends to be quieter, particularly during the day. Despite this, I wore my earplugs to muffle what noise there was. I do not usually take naps, but I was feeling rather lethargic and glum. I have spent 19 years as a captive and there were no prospects for a better future. My appellate attorney seems to care less about making any progress with my appeal. I would have tried to hire someone else if I had the money. I have even considered filing my appeal pro se, but I need some investigative work done. Furthermore, I could not effectively deal with the litany of motions that would be filed by the prosecutor to have my appeal dismissed before obtaining an evidentiary hearing. Any public defender assigned to my case will probably have even less zeal than my current lawyer.

I did not fall asleep but just laid down thinking about the events which took place 19 years ago. My bunk is only 6 feet in length and I alternated from one angle to another before deciding to just keep one knee bent and my other leg to the corner. I recall when I was free I slept on a queen sized bed where I could roll over throughout the night without falling off the side as I often did at the Cook County Jail when assigned to a cell with one of those small bunks. However, my first couple of weeks at the jail were spent at the jail hospital where I was given a large room with an adjoining private bathroom and a spring mattress. After my arrest, the news media reported endlessly about me and the suspicion of my involvement in the Palatine massacre. Due to the enormous inflammatory and super hyped reporting, I could not be sent to general population and was kept at Cermak Hospital.

On May 30, 1993, my day began in a jail cell at the Barrington Police Department. During the night, I was transferred there from Rolling Meadows where I had been held secretly. The news media was told of my new location and in the morning they were camped outside the front of the building. The Barrington Police Department has a long flight of stairs to the street where the media could have ample time to film and take photos of me before I was placed in the back seat of a squad car. It was a well staged event and it was meant to be so. The purported villainous mass murderer had been captured and the prosecutor's office wanted to gloat. It meant nothing. I was not charged in the Brown's Chicken killings nor had I ever been to the town of Palatine. All that mattered was appearances and the States Attorney was a skilled magician. Although it was a bright and sunny morning as I walked down those steps, the crowd of reporters may as well have been in a dark room full of smoke and mirrors.

Being processed at Cook County Jail was a terrible experience. Cook County Jail is probably the largest jail in the U.S. and holds close to 10,000 people in 14 buildings mostly connected by underground tunnels. The jail processes over a hundred men and women daily and the large open area I was taken to was incredibly noisy, dirty, chaotic and crowded. It was worse when detainees were being sent out to the various court buildings Monday through Friday, however, I had yet to experience this until my arraignment. The large processing and court writ area has a number of "bullpens" which are basically holding cages with concrete sides and a fence over the front. I was placed in a small one by myself and as the hours passed by every now and then a curious jailer would look in at me. I was not processed until late when I was able to go through the maze by myself. Most of the people had an assembly line mentality but other staff were hostile. The worst part of booking was being forced to be tested for gonorrhea where a long Q-tip was shoved into my urethra. I was threatened to be beaten and tied down for this test if I did not cooperate.

My room at Cermak Hospital was empty except for a bed, a sink and toilet in the bathroom. The room did not even have a door and I was free to walk out if I wanted to, but where was I to go? There was a dayroom down the corridor and a guard's desk on the other side. A telephone was outside my room and I made a couple of collect calls to family members. Otherwise, I spent my time alone with the lights off inside the room thinking about what had just occurred and trying to make sense of it. Once in a while a Caucasian man who worked in the kitchen stopped by to see how I was doing. He offered me cigarettes, coffee, candy bars, and other things. I told him just to give me a couple extra trays which seemed to surprise him because of how terrible the food was. I knew I had to keep my strength up, however, and was going to be denied bond.

During my stay at Cermak Hospital, I rarely ever spoke and was withdrawn. Other than the kitchen worker, a couple of jailers tried to make small talk with me. One told me the room across from mine was once where John Wayne Gacy was held. When he left, it was made into a storage room for books. He commented that maybe a storage room will be made of my quarters as well. Since my arrest, I had not seen or read anything in the news media. I was not aware of the around the clock blanket news coverage nor its severe bias against me until a guard said, "Come with me. You have to see this." He brought me to the room where all the other detainees were watching television. We sat in the back waiting for the 4 p.m. news to come on. The first thing shown was my perp walk down the steps of the Barrington Police Department and then film footage of the dead bodies being brought out of the Brown's Chicken restaurant in body bags. Other men in the room looked back at me with astonishment and maybe as if I was the Devil incarnate.

I could not believe I was the focus of the media and how far they went to villainize me. The news coverage went on and on straight through till 5:00 as if there was not another thing occurring in the Chicago area. The TV news, desperate for any type of information about me or the case, even interviewed students I had went to high school with. Few had anything good to say about me including a former student at Westmont High who said I used to beat and bully him during my freshman year. Scott was a stoner, and we never got along. He failed to inform the reporter that I was only 14 when he was 18 and constantly threatening me.

At my arraignment, I was finally able to meet the Public Defenders who would initially represent me until my parents foolishly replaced them with the prestigious, although civil, law firm of Jenner & Block. If I had to do it all over again, I would have kept the attorneys from the Capital Litigation Division who had tremendous experience, if not the clout and resources of the Chicago law firm. Dale Coventry was the supervisor of the Public Defender's Unit of Cook County which handled death penalty cases. He was not assigned my case, but chose it, along with Deborah Grohs, another excellent attorney. Coventry knew the case against me was empty and politically motivated despite my crucifixion in the media. He also was able to surmise from the very beginning that the prosecutor's case hinged on my alleged statements to police. Although no judge will throw statements out despite how blatant the violation of my Constitutional rights were, he told me he would eviscerate detective John Robertson's testimony. I have no doubt that had I stayed with my original trial attorneys, I would not be here 19 years later.

Before my arraignment, I was able to receive visitors. I was surprised the first person to come to see me was not my attorney nor anyone from my family, but a girl I dated years earlier. I met Diane when I was 15 and lost contact with her when my family moved to the southwest suburbs. She told me she had tried to get in touch with me but my friend Jerry liked her too and refused to tell her where I had moved. Diane continued to come to visit me even after I was convicted. Finally, while at Pontiac Correctional Center, I had to correct her belief that a life sentence was parolable after 11 years. She did not understand that "life" in Illinois literally meant life.

While I was thinking about those first visits I received at CCJ, my name was called over the loudspeaker for a visit. The prison was not technically under lockdown but what is called "restricted movement," and this can be any type of quasi-lockdown the warden sees fit to have. In the visiting room, I was not met by any surprise ex-girlfriends. Those have ceased to see me for some time, although on occasion I will get a brief email message. My sister and mother were there to visit. Bernadette was particularly happy to spend some time with her brother, but unfortunately despite her attempts to cheer me up, nothing could unburden me from the heavy sorrow and despondency I felt. The 28th and 30th of April are days I associate with my death. If I could have those Task Force police shoot me from every direction during my arrest, I would do so rather than have my family and others visit my tombstone.

After our visit, I swallowed a few Ultram pain killers so I could work out. I was set upon doing an extra intense exercise regimen. I had a tremendous amount of rage pent up brooding about the injustice dealt to me. Nineteen years have been stripped from me. Nineteen years I have suffered and endured. I have lived longer as a captive than as a free man and I will probably die here. During the cardio part of my workout, I did various martial arts and was surprised to see blood splattered on the wall as I threw punches. Apparently, I had grazed the bars and split the skin on the knuckles of my left fist. I wrapped some toilet paper around my hand and continued exercising. As Jesse Ventura in the movie Predator said, "I don't have time to bleed."

Later in the evening, I wrote a letter to my brother-in-law. Over the years, my parents have hired the most incompetent attorneys and have apparently given up. They are now both retired and their mental and physical faculties are deteriorating. I told Ron that I can file my appeal myself and have counsel appointed by the court to deal with the attempts by the prosecutor to dismiss it on procedural grounds if I must. However, what I do need desperately is a private investigator and not your run of the mill P.I., but one who is motivated, skilled, resourceful, and has connections. Other than the character "Magnum P.I.," I thought I needed a former or retired police officer. What better way to fight fire but with fire?

Not long ago, I went to the law library and was digging through my legal box when I came across some interesting newspaper articles from years ago. In one Chicago Tribune article it said, "Sources inside the Palatine Task Force say the suspect is refusing to cooperate." Someone other than John Robertson and Koziol knows what took place in that interrogation room 19 years ago. Even if Robertson never told anyone about how he falsified his report, I know police are aware my Miranda rights were violated. Police, or other staff, who were not willing to talk then or were never approached when I was a suspect in the massacre may now be willing to come forward. There are a number of leads I have to substantiate my appeal based on actual innocence, but I can't do it from inside these prison walls.

Also of interest looking through those old newspaper articles was one dated April 28, 1995. I was coincidentally sentenced and sent to the penitentiary almost precisely 2 years after my arrest. In the article it quotes the judge saying he is giving me the same hope I gave Fawcett, and that is no hope. The judge may have condemned me to die in prison, but until I die, I will continue to fight for my freedom.