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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two Decades in the Trenches -- May 3, 2013

Twenty years ago on April 28th, my cousin and I were rehabbing a large older home in Chicago. For lunch we took a break from our work and decided to eat at our grandparents' house which was not too far away. On the same city block lived my cousin's friend and he just happened to be outside. I stopped the car and he asked if we would give him a ride. Scott had poor timing and soon after my cousin let him in the car I noticed an odd white van parked further down the block. It was obviously a stakeout vehicle and I was not surprised it followed us. For the last week there had been continuous news reporting of my former friend's arrest for a murder along with speculation of his involvement in the infamous Browns Chicken Massacre. I was living with my friend at the time of the mass murder and assumed police would want to question me. However, what I did not know was that he and his wife had accused me of those murders and a few others.

I kept an eye on the van through my rear view mirror. Another vehicle seemed also to join in tailing my car, but I was not concerned. I assumed they were just conducting surveillance particularly when I drove from a quiet residential neighborhood into a busy commercial part of Chicago. I was rather shocked when I stopped at a traffic light and saw unmarked squad cars had boxed me in and numerous gun wielding police jumped out. They shouted at us to put our hands in the air and then to exit the vehicle. With a swarm of laser scope dots focused on our bodies, I was not certain what to do: take my hands down to shift my car into park and open the door, or keep my hands up in the air. These cops acted as if they were going to shoot me from multiple directions and reaching for the gear shift knob did not seem like a wise idea. I compromised and opened the door without changing gears. Immediately, I was grabbed and yanked out of my car, thrown face down on the asphalt and handcuffed behind my back. Later, in the back of an unmarked police car, an FBI agent told me I was lucky to be alive. After enduring 20 years in captivity, however, I know now I was not lucky at all.

Two police officers drove me to a secret location in the northwest suburbs to be interrogated. Sergeant John Koziol was a central figure in the Palatine Task Force which had been assembled to capture the perpetrator or perpetrators of the Palatine murders. The last I heard he was Palatine's chief of police, but he has probably retired now. The other man was deputy John Robertson and he was an investigator from the Cook County State's Attorneys Office. He had been involved in other high profile murder cases including the Dowaliby case where a mother and father were wrongfully prosecuted for the killing of their daughter.

I did not know anything about the police driving me out of the city at the time. All I knew was two large sized plain clothes cops were pretending to be my friends and acting like everything was cool. Koziol turned around and addressed me as "Vik," short for Viktor, a name most of my friends called me. He tried engaging me in small talk mentioning things like the Arlington Race Track where my friend Bob loved to gamble. I was also asked where I wanted to stop for lunch. I considered saying, "Yeah, stop at the Brown's Chicken Restaurant. Extra crispy, all white meat m-f-er."

At the Rolling Meadows Police Department, I was put in a small white cinder block interrogation room. It was about the size of my cell and on one wall it had what was obviously a 2-way mirror. I told John Koziol immediately when he was arresting me that I wanted a lawyer, and on the trip out of the city I largely ignored both of them. Their attempts to establish rapport was in vain. I may have autism, but I was not stupid. I knew my constitutional rights and there was no way I was going to waive them. It was apparent by the way I was arrested that they sought much more than background information on my former roommate. These men were not my friends and I had no intention of speaking with them. When they came back in the room with a sandwich and a drink, I told them they could keep it. I was not talking to them and again insisted I wanted a lawyer. The amiable facade quickly went away and I was told frankly by John Robertson in a case of this magnitude I would never see an attorney until they were done questioning me. It was the beginning of a distressing two day interrogation, a long trial, and two decades of incarceration.

For hours upon hours, the two police investigators attempted to question me in tandem and separately. My refusal to speak and at times to even acknowledge their presence frustrated Koziol and Robertson. They began to use various tactics to coerce me to talk. At times they would tell me it was in my best interests to cooperate. Koziol in one instance entered the interrogation room with a clip board of all my former roommate's changing statements. He did not believe him, but if I did not refute them, authorities would run with it. I was skeptical that Faraci had made such outrageous accusations against me but Koziol let me briefly look at the pages. Still in disbelief, he pointed out his signatures. When such overtures to persuade me to answer their questions failed, they resorted to threats, intimidation, and violence.

A blue sheet was placed over the 2-way mirror to prevent anyone from looking inside the interrogation room. I was asked if I did not care about myself, or my family. I was told my elderly grandfather was going to have his home ransacked and he would be roughed up during interrogation. Furthermore, he said my mother would be arrested for lying to the FBI. However, if I would cooperate, phone calls would be made and none of this would occur. I stared at a wall, refusing to say anything and Koziol sought my attention. He sat right next to me and when I continued to be unresponsive he'd kick me in the shins. At one point, I repeated my request for a lawyer and he told me this was the wrong answer. After making a snide remark about my Miranda rights being violated, Robertson gave me a good shot to the jaw. It was not the only time he struck me when I failed to answer questions. Over the years, I am not so angry about the abuse as I am with Robertson's lies. After failing to gain an incriminating statement from me, he simply fabricated one.

In his testimony to my jury two years later, he manipulated the vast majority of what little and disjointed things I said. The most damaging claim he made was that my roommate armed with a gun told me he was going to kill the victim and I permitted him to use my car after he asked for the keys. I had let my cousin and both of the Faraci's use my car while staying with them. However, never did I loan Bob my car after he expressed an intent to kill someone. This was preposterous and a blatant lie by the detective. Unfortunately, my defense attorney refused to contest Robertson's testimony or put on any witnesses who would discredit him, including those who could place both me and my car about 50 miles away from the crime scene the day in question. Instead, Bill Von Hoene chose to spar with the prosecutors over the law of accountability in closing arguments. With an unscrupulous assistant states attorney willing to lie about the law and a jury believing I let the victim go to his death, I was not surprised by the guilty verdict.

I spent two years in the Cook County Jail awaiting trial and then I was transferred to the IDOC after being sentenced to natural life without the possibility of parole. It was a sentence worse than death and I have regularly regretted not reaching down in my car on the day of my arrest to give police a justification to kill me.  I have spent the past 20 years in the most violent, oppressive, and miserable maximum security facilities in the state. At the jail and the first years I spent in the penitentiary, I faced continuous hostilities. Regularly, I was in danger as a white "neutron" in the concrete jungle where black and Mexican gangs dominated. I lived without fear, however, and welcomed death. As years passed by, the prison system has become less violent, but increasingly more oppressive, austere, and miserable. There are extensively more rules, regulations, restrictions, guards, and security precautions which go beyond absurd.

I was 18 years old at the time of my arrest and now I am an old man. All the best years of my life are gone and I struggle to find a reason to carry on. Even if one day I were to win my freedom, what have I really won? There is less appeal for me to live out the remnants of my life outside these walls and there has never been any meaning to live within them. I have contemplated ending this blog because it also seems to serve no function other than make me brood more about my miserable existence. This week, I spotted my first grey hair and I plucked it out as if this would stop the steady march of time. However, nothing will stop my decline and I will never get to be 18 years old again.

While in the penitentiary, I have sought to have my conviction overturned. However, I have been thwarted by the most incompetent attorneys. My direct appeal was done by a recovering alcoholic with serious personal problems. He failed to raise numerous issues of trial error. After losing, without my knowledge he then filed a post conviction appeal on my behalf. This appeal was deficient in not enclosing the mandatory affidavits and was summarily dismissed. A new lawyer was hired to fight off a wrongful death civil suit by the victim's mother. Although he bungled this and I now owe the plaintiff $5 million, he was permitted to work on my federal appeal. The lawyer filed the appeal without addressing any constitutional violations, but most catastrophically he filed it one day past the one year deadline date. In Modrowski vs. Mote, the district court judge ruled she could not even review the case or allow it to be amended due to the appeal being filed one day late. The judge scolded my attorney and the Illinois Bar Association revoked his law license, but that was the end of my regular set of appeals. The only remaining legal recourse I now have is filing a successive post conviction appeal.

This week I received a letter from my current attorney who has been working here and there on my case for 4 years. All criminal appeals have a minute chance of succeeding, but a second collateral appeal faces even more hurdles. Despite this, I have found numerous case law to permit me to have my case reheard in the courts. A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Martinez vs. Ryan) gives even more support to my contention my successive post conviction appeal meets criteria to be heard on its merits, at least in regards to defense attorneys mistakes at trial and on appeal. The letter I received said she was already aware of the ruling and enclosed another lower court ruling based on it. Despite this, my appeal is not ready to be filed due to lack of progress on investigative matters. By contract, she is not responsible for the costs of any investigation and I am currently seeking out these funds. Private investigators are not cheap and finding Tom Selleck's 1980's character in the TV show "Magnum P.I." is like looking for a needle in a hay stack.

My father refuses to pay for the investigative services I want and it seems as if I am on my own. Despite having little to no knowledge about my case, he has deemed my need for another P.I. as unnecessary and a wasteful use of money. He would rather blame me for my predicament. When I was a teenager, he scolded me for associating with the likes of my co-defendant. Had I listened to him, I would have never been arrested. My father, however, did not like me reminding him that he was the main reason I left home.

Earlier in the week while sick with the flu, I had plenty of time to brood about my arrest, interrogation, and 20 years of incarceration battling for my life. It has been a long, grueling, and miserable struggle. I happened to catch some old black and white World War I footage on TV. The men on the Western front went into battle thinking the war was going to be quick and decisive. They were quickly disillusioned when armies dug in and spent years trying to break the deadlock. Millions died fighting over sometimes nothing more than a few feet of dirt in no man's land. The men lived in an extensive network of trenches filled with mud, the rotting dead, rats, and disease. In fact, more soldiers died of influenza than from exchanges with the enemy. Fighting for your freedom is a lot like trench warfare. I have spent two decades in wretched conditions trying to win a battle in court to no avail. I may spend years more or I may never make it out alive. Even if I make it out, I may not have a life worth living.

27 comments:

  1. Paul, Never give up. Actually your still young at 38, and some of your best years are ahead of you.Also, continue with the Blog as I enjoy reading it. I don't know a way I can help you yet, but I'm trying to figure out a way. Keep the faith.

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  2. I wish I was 38 years old again. I also wish I could write as good as you.

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    1. well
      not good
      speak English

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  3. Calling yourself an Old Man, at 38 is proof that your reasoning is convoluted. It appears you have a supiority complex from interacting so closely with the lowest dregs of society and living among them. You're still to find your faith....you've work to do and growth to accompolish.

    There are fates worse that yours....

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    1. And you sir are an idiot. Screw faith, screw perfect reasoning, and screw the work to be done. Do 2 weeks alone, not surrounded by untrainable beasts mind you, do them alone sleeping on a metal bunk and do this without having killed anyone...and come back and tell me about faith and reasoning and purpose and whatever else you will be able to spit besides "I don't understand!" Paul is right to go crazy, wish he wouldn't, and you are wrong to advice him of anything. the dude never killed anyone. Sure, he should have talked more to the cops and testify at his own neck hanging but it's all over now, time to look ahead. The problem is the well-intentioned and most-likely decent people like you who don't get it: getting overkilled is reason enough to allow someone to be whatever he wants, may it be convoluted reasoning and lack of faith. Paul I'm with you. I have this toothache for 3 days now, I'm full of drugs and the dentist won't touch me til Thursday...She tried poor soul and had to stop because anesthesia must have made my pupils look the worng way or something because she refused to pump some more into me so...antibiotics and pain medicine and waiting. And I'm furious because I didn't do anything wrong to deserve this. And I know my suffering will be over with the root canal done and tooth sealed and I'm still mad while your suffering doesn't have an "Thursday." Somehow I think it does but what I think is irrelevant. So go ahead, be whatever you are, I understand completely and I strongly advise you not to be upset with some comments from nice people...they get furious if the red light stays red 42 seconds while they are in a hurry then get pulled over for talking on the cell phone and have to spit $100...no way they will understand you. I wish them, and you, the best.

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    2. Fates worse than Paul's? Not many. Paul should consider himself to be above the trash he is forced to live with. Get real.

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    3. 38 is not the new 28. Many of you are trying to find a silver lining in what is an inescapable dark and gloomy future. However, there is nothing positive to look forward to after losing 20 years.

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    4. So do you want to stay in prison then? If you were exonerated tomorrow, would you stay in your cell and say "there is nothing positive to look forward to after losing 20 years, I think I'll stay kthanxbye"

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    5. Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk accross because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.

      In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman ?”

      The elder monk answered “yes, brother”.

      Then the younger monk asks again, “but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside ?”

      The elder monk smiled at him and told him ” I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”

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  4. Yes Paul, 38 is not old. Even if you are in your 40's when you get out there is still good life left. I would take either again myself. Just make the best of the time you have always, wherever you are. That's all anyone can ever do.

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  5. Letter to Paul from regular reader: You're probably clinically depressed, with good and understandable reason given your circumstances, but still... As others here have said, your reasoning and thinking seems to be (or is becoming) somewhat strange. By any rational standards, no one in today's regular society considers a 38-yr old man to be at an age where he is completely washed up and done for, his whole life lived, nothing more left to do or achieve. Many men are just getting married and starting off in their mid- or late-30's nowadays. I could see that thinking if you were perhaps 78 or 80 yrs old. Not 38. You've got arguably half or perhaps more than half of your life still head of you; though much of the first half has been very messed up by this long imprisonment granted. If you were to be released somehow, even at 45 or 46, you could still do many things such as find a woman, have a child or children (men don't have the same kind of "biological clock" as women), start some kind of career, leave the whole area if you wish and start a whole new life in another state or something. It's far from being unheard of.

    What you need is competent and more efficient legal representation, and I understand you can't afford that nor can your family apparently. Thus you're in the same sort of situation as many of the others, minority or not, in the penal system. But personally if I were you I would look firstly into taking my mental health into (or back into) my own hands. Seek out a prescription antidepressant perhaps, from the prison psychiatrist. Apply yourself to some real therapy sessions (instead of just looking down your nose at it and at the doctor and everyone else). Perhaps even consider some kind of spirituality. I know from your posts you seem to despise religion. I'm not saying to become a Bible thumper. But then being a cold-blooded atheist has apparently not gotten you very far in life, emotionally or physically, either, has it??

    Not to be rude, but your attitudes frequently are extremely negative about almost everything (and worsening it seems). You do not come across as a friendly or very likeable person whom most people on the outside would be extremely inclined to help, reading many of your comments in many of your posts. Even the comment you note you wanted to make to the arresting officers about taking you to Brown's Chicken display a hard-heartedness that is frankly unappealing, to say the least.

    I am not saying whether I myself could or could not do better in your situation, but I know others in these situations have been more productive and certainly much more positive-minded with their prison time than you seem to be, whether justly imprisoned or not. You control how you feel and how you continue to evolve with and react to all of this. It sounds currently as though you have chosen more or less to just fall back and wallow in it and just write yourself off as a young "old man" who is "buried alive" and has zero hope. If that's what you decide in your heart, then that will be your fate. I hope and pray you will not decide that however.

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    1. A well thought out comment (above), but I take exception to parts. You seem upset at Paul's thoughts (which he didn't have to share) about the cops who had just pulled him out of his car, thrown him face down onto the street, stomped him and handcuffed him. Oh, yeah, guess you also forgot they had guns aimed at his head and allowed his car to roll out into a busy intersection to be smashed! Now these cops were pretending to be his buddy, and you expected Paul to say what??? Be real! Have you ever paused to wonder what YOU would be like after living in a cage for over 20 years?

      Personally, I think Paul has held up quite well for all he's been through. This blog is a wonderful forum for him to share his life with strangers and give us an honest look into what prison life is really like. It also provides him with more help than any prison psychiatrist ever could!

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    2. Easy now...cops behaved like they were supposed to behave. You don't want to live in a society where cops go "would you care to put your hands up you dear tax-paying great citizen?" Nor do you want them not to be trigger-happy when dealing with lowlives, and that's what Paul was at that time...a lowlife as cops had no facts, just the order to arrest the most-likely suspect in the Brown's Chicken tragedy. Then they tried pshycholgical stuff on him, of course, nothing wrong with that. It's the State Attorney and anyone else who had all the facts and still went ahead asking for life in prison who should be cursed not these street cops who just followed orders. But I appreciate you understanding Paul...living in a cage does wonders, the bad ones, to one's brain...you are one sharp dude...and courageous too to state it.

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    3. "Easy now...cops behaved like they were supposed to behave", beating an unarmed, handcuffed 18 year old for asking for his attorney instead of answering their questions... do they still teach that at the police academy?
      How about just making up a statement when Paul wouldn't provide one, i guess its all in a days work and they all get bonuses and promotions.

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    4. Strap: I do not mind being threatened, denied my Miranda rights, and roughed up by police. They were trying to solve a mass murder. What I do mind is fabricating and manipulating my statements. I never told John Robertson I knew my friend was going to kill the victim and I thereafter lent him my car. His false testimony is what caused me to lose my life and I simmer in animosity.

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  6. Referring to atheists as "cold-blooded" is pretty negative language and makes me even happier than I already was to have nothing to do with the church. Paul does not delude himself into believing in fantasy, however, it could be that he would be better off since it is a form of self-medicating. Religious people want the respect of non religious people, and the freedom to practice their religions (there are sooo many), but are so disrespectful towards those who do not choose to do so. Not very nice, preach love, practice hate. Cold blooded is more correctly applied to the church.

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    1. It is sad, Leah (and Paul), that you cannot or do not believe in God. Yes, many believers show disrespect to atheists, but I doubt it is because they don't believe! Most Christians pray for atheists to open their hearts and minds to the One who created them!

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    2. Don't be a tool. I want Paul to have salvation in this life. Not the imaginary next life.

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    3. I am a christian and I want Paul to have deliverance in this life too.

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    4. I agree. While I believe there WILL be justice in the next life, we are to fight for justice in this life too.

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  7. Paul I am grateful for your willingness to share your story.

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  8. Did anyone know where you were during those 2 days?

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    1. Only the Palatine Task Force, FBI, and police working at the Rolling Meadows P.D. knew where I was. They did not want my interrogation being interrupted. It was essential that an incriminating statement be squeezed out of me and when this did not occur after two days, a cop (John Robertson) from the D.A.'s office simply made one up.

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  9. No one knew other than all the cops on the Palatine Task Force and the IL States Attorney!
    Paul's parents called every police department in the NW suburbs, an FBI agent who wanted to search their house, and a few lawyers. The police all lied and said they never heard of him, the FBI agent said he'd try to find out, and the lawyers foolishly told them to be patient, insisting that Paul would be allowed to make a phone call soon!
    The news media camped in front of the family home, swarmed the front and back yards, and kept knocking on their door. Again, no one knew where Paul was taken or being held.

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  10. How was your father the reason that you left home? Was he abusive?

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  11. I'm sorry you are in jail.

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  12. 40 isn't old. Silly.

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