Until now, no Cook County prosecutor has ever faced charges for prosecutorial misconduct in a wrongful conviction case
Misconduct caused Burge torture survivor Jackie Wilson to be wrongfully imprisoned 36 years
CHICAGO – A four-decade saga of police rampage, torture, cover-up and perjury reached a new chapter today when two former Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys were criminally charged for crimes arising out of Jackie Wilson’s 36-year wrongful conviction.
After being tortured into a false confession by Jon Burge and his cohorts, Jackie Wilson endured a 38-year quest for justice. Wilson’s third trial concluded on October 1, 2020 during the examination of Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Nicholas Trutenko. The special prosecutor in Wilson’s retrial abruptly dropped all charges against him when it was revealed that a then-CCSAO prosecutor, Trutenko, testified falsely on the stand and concealed a witness named William Coleman. Coleman is a reputed international con man who repeatedly perjured himself decades ago to secure Wilson’s conviction. Trutenko was immediately fired by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. He has since abandoned his law license.
After the dismissal, Wilson’s legal team sought accountability for the egregious misconduct that led to his wrongful conviction. On October 19, 2020, Wilson filed a motion for sanctions for misconduct that occurred leading up to and during Wilson’s third retrial. On February 22, 2021, Wilson moved for the appointment of a special prosecutor. On June 10, 2021, Cook County Criminal Court Judge Alfredo Maldonado granted Wilson’s and ordered that a special prosecutor investigate alleged criminal conduct by Trutenko, Horvat, and Coleman, citing the “sordid history of the investigation and criminal prosecutions in this case serve as a shameful chapter in Chicago’s history….” The Court ruled that:
The record in this case absolutely calls into question the reasons behind the CCSAO’s decisions and conduct regarding Trutenko. At best, the CCSAO acted in a misguided and inept manner as to Trutenko and the ethical crisis created by his misconduct and trial testimony. However, at worst, the actions of the CCSAO, as to Trutenko, could have been motivated by unethical and, perhaps, illegal reasons to cover up misconduct. Accordingly, sufficient reason exists to warrant an independent investigation into Trutenko’s misconduct and into the actions of the CCSAO, as an institution, related to the substance of Trutenko’s trial testimony and his alleged perjury.
With this historic backdrop, Wilson’s legal team provides a short statement on the issuance of charges:
“This indictment of one of the main Cook county prosecutorial conspirators in the Chicago police torture scandal and perpetrators of the wrongful conviction of Jackie Wilson underscores the fact that the Cook County Board, its President Toni Preckwinkle, and Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx , should immediately stop funding the multi-million dollar defense of these prosecutors in the Wilson civil rights case and award appropriate compensation to Wilson for his 36 years of wrongful incarceration.”
– Flint Taylor, Partner at People’s Law Office
“Today is another important chapter in Jackie Wilson’s quest for justice. Since his exoneration, our team has sought accountability for the egregious police and prosecutorial misconduct that stole 38 years from Jackie’s life. The Special Prosecutor’s investigation and decision to criminally prosecute Nicholas Trutenko is a historic moment for Jackie Wilson and other wrongfully convicted individuals around the nation. The criminal charges against Trutenko send a clear message to prosecutors: your misconduct will someday unravel, and when that happens, the wrongfully convicted will seek to hold you accountable to the fullest measure of the law.”
– Elliot Slosar, Partner at Loevy & Loevy
Time-line of Jackie Wilson’s fight for justice
1966-68 – After washing out of college, Jon Burge served two tours of duty in Vietnam where he worked as an interrogator of Vietnamese prisoners and learned torture techniques that would later become infamous in Chicago.
1972-91 – Burge “either directly participated in or implicitly approved the torture” of at least 118 people in police custody, according the The Guardian. [keep link]
February 9, 1982 – Chicago Police Officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien robbed and murdered.
“[M]ayor Jane Bryne and her police superintendent, Richard Brzeczek, mandated what would become the most massive manhunt in the City’s history. Brzeczek designated lieutenant Jon Burge, who headed up the Violent Crimes Unit at Area 2, to direct the search for the killers…. Under Burge’s command, incensed CPD officers kicked in doors, ransacked homes, beat up numerous residents, and, once suspects were in custody, tortured those Black men they suspected of either being involved in or having knowledge of the crime…. Upward of two hundred complaints were filed with the CPD by abused persons…” Flint Taylor, The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago
February 14, 1982 – Jackie Wilson tortured by Area Two detectives Thomas McKenna and Patrick O’Hara, at the direction and with the participation of Jon Burge. Wilson’s torture occurred with the knowledge and participation of former Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, Lawrence Hyman, and Cook County Court Reporter, Michael Hartnett.
Charged with murder and robbery at age 22, Wilson would not be freed until he was 58 years old.
February 1982 – Dr. Jack Raba, director of medical services at Cook Jail, observes obvious signs of torture on the body of Andrew Wilson, Jackie’s brother, and writes an explicit letter about it to then-Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek, who in turn shared the letter with Major Jane Bryne, the Office of Professional Standards, and then-Cook County State’s Attorney and future Mayor Richard M. Daley
1983 – Jackie Wilson found guilty as police and prosecutors withhold exculpatory evidence, including evidence relating to an eyewitness to the murders, and perjured themselves.
1987 – Wilson’s first wrongful conviction reversed by the Illinois Appellate Court and remanded for a new trial
~1988 – Assistant State’s Attorney Nicholas Trutenko and jailhouse informant William David Coleman fabricated a false story that falsely implicates Wilson in the crimes against Fahey and O’Brien.
1989 – Wilson’s retrial, during which prosecutors introduce Wilson’s false tortured statement, the Trutenko/Colman fabricated evidence, and false testimony coerced out of DeWayne Hardin. William Kunkle helps Trutenko and Coleman suppress the fact that Coleman’s story was false, manufactured, and purchased by County and City monies. Wilson found guilty.
May 2015 – The Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC) returned Wilson’s case to the Cook County Criminal Court for a hearing on the issue of whether Plaintiff’s confession was tortured from him.
January 2017 to June 2018 – Wilson’s case was referred to court for further review after Illinois’ Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC) found there was sufficient evidence that he was tortured. After eighteen months of litigation and a four-day evidentiary hearing, Circuit Court Judge William H. Hooks issued a 119-page opinion that found that Wilson’s false confession should be suppressed and ordered a new trial. In doing so, Judge Hooks opined:
“There is more than enough to surmise what happened in the investigation and interrogation of Jackie Wilson was not good – instead, very bad and ugly. The conduct of those involved in this most serious of investigations, which involved attempting to discover and ethically prosecute the murderer or murderers of two Chicago police officers required more. Much more was required of the Chicago Police Department, the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney, our courts, the private and public defense bar, and indeed, our federal government…The abhorrence of basic rights of suspects by Mr. Burge and his underlings has been costly to the taxpayers, the wrongfully convicted, and worst of all, the dozens of victims and their families who have suffered untold grief – in many cases, a 30-plus year horror story.”
June 2018 – After 36 years in maximum security jails and prisons, Wilson is finally freed on a recognizance bond.
September 2020 – The Cook County Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) subjected Wilson to yet another retrial, with its primary evidence being the false, manufactured and fabricated 1989 testimony of William Coleman. During the third trial, Andrew Horvat joined and participated in Trutenko’s continuing effort to withhold critical and material exculpatory evidence that would have unraveled Trutenko’s continuing illicit relationship with jailhouse informant Coleman. Horvat and Trutenko not only withheld this exculpatory and impeachment evidence from Wilson and the OSP, but he also actively concealed this evidence from the OSP and urged OSP to not inquire into it.
After a two-week bench trial before Judge Hooks, the OSP dismissed all pending charges against Plaintiff with prejudice. In doing so, OSP informed the Court that Trutenko suppressed the fact that he had a continuing relationship with Coleman and committed perjury on the witness stand.
October 1, 2020 – The special prosecutor in Wilson’s retrial abruptly dropped all charges against him when it was revealed that a then-CCSAO prosecutor, Trutenko, concealed a witness named William Coleman. Coleman is a reputed international con man who repeatedly perjured himself decades ago to secure Wilson’s conviction.
December 18, 2020 – Jackie Wilson’s petition for a Certificate of Innocence is granted by Judge William H. Hooks, whereby the State of Illinois officially recognizes him to be an innocent man. Hooks commented,
“[T]he Cook County justice system itself has been tortured. Jackie Wilson has also been physically tortured by a brutal electrical box torture ritual and has already wrongfully served a sentence that has taken roughly 70 percent of his life. Jackie Wilson will never be able to recoup the value of his life lost to the living hell he experienced at the hands of his government. While Jackie Wilson extraordinarily deserves and has earned this Certificate of Innocence, others deserve to pay for that they have so unjustly caused both directly and indirectly.”June 10, 2021 – Cook County Criminal Court Judge Alfredo Maldonado ordered that a special prosecutor investigate alleged criminal conduct by Trutenko, Horvat, and Coleman, citing the “sordid history of the investigation and criminal prosecutions in this case serve as a shameful chapter in Chicago’s history….”
“Because of the actions of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office before, during and after Trutenko’s testimony, a sufficient basis exists to investigate whether any persons, including but not limited to current or former members of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, engaged in criminal conduct….”
“The record in this case absolutely calls into question the reasons behind the CCSAO’s decisions and conduct regarding Trutenko. At best, the CCSAO acted in a misguided and inept manner as to Trutenko and the ethical crisis created by his misconduct and trial testimony. However, at worst, the actions of the CCSAO, as to Trutenko, could have been motivated by unethical and, perhaps, illegal reasons to cover up misconduct. Accordingly, sufficient reason exists to warrant an independent investigation into Trutenko’s misconduct and into the actions of the CCSAO, as an institution, related to the substance of Trutenko’s trial testimony and his alleged perjury.”
This is the first-ever appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute members of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for misconduct in a wrongful conviction case. This is also the first referral for an investigation of Cook County State’s Attorneys for criminal misconduct in their duties as prosecutors since the federal ‘Operation Graylord’ prosecution in the 1980s.