Four men cleared in a 1994 rape and murder in Englewood are on track to receive a $31 million settlement from the city, and likely more from the county, as aldermen on the city’s Finance Committee approved the payout Monday. Their favorable vote was made despite reservations from a spokesperson from the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7, who said a cottage industry of attorneys were working the system to gain city payouts, and that there was compelling evidence against the four men.
Attendance: Chair Ed Burke (15), Proco Joe Moreno (1), Pat Dowell (3), Sophia King (4), Leslie Hairston (5), Gregory Mitchell (7), Michelle Harris (8), Patrick D. Thompson (11), George Cardenas (12), Marty Quinn (13), David Moore (17), Ricardo Muñoz (22), Mike Zalewski (23), Michael Scott (24), Walter Burnett Jr. (27), Jason Ervin (28), Ariel Reboyras (30), Gilbert Villegas (36), Nick Sposato (38), Marge Laurino (39), Pat O’Connor (40), Anthony Napolitano (41), Tom Tunney (44), Harry Osterman (48), Deb Silverstein (50),
The so-called Englewood Four–Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames, Harold Richardson and Terrill Swift–confessed and were convicted of the rape and murder of Nina Glover, whose naked body was found in a dumpster in Englewood in 1994. All four were teenagers at the time and spent 16 years in jail. They later alleged they were coerced and threatened into confessing by Chicago Police detectives and Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys.
One of those attorneys, Terence Johnson, later described collusion between police and prosecutors in the felony review unit. DNA evidence and a police report also linked a different individual, Johnny Douglas, to the crime. He was a serial rapist and convicted murderer known for targeting sex workers. His DNA was found on Glover, a sex worker and drug addict. Douglas was shot and killed in 2008.
Cook County commissioners approved a $5.6 million settlement to Terrill Swift in July.
“We believe a jury is likely to conclude, as the circuit court did, that plaintiffs are innocent,” deputy corporation counsel Jenny Notz told aldermen. “They are also likely to conclude the confessions were false and unlawfully obtained.”
Of the nine attorneys named, two are still active on the force.
“Two are deceased, five are retired, and two are still on the force,” Notz said. The two still on the force “were fairly junior detectives at the time and were minor players in the lawsuit. I’ve been told there is a COPA investigation pending.”
Based on DNA and Douglas’ history, the Circuit Court vacated their convictions in 2011. The State’s Attorney dropped charges in 2012, and each man was given a certificate of innocence.
The city is responsible for the first $15 million in the settlement. It is self insured for the rest. The city has several such insurance policies for large settlements, a law department spokesperson said.
Asked to preview other large settlements aldermen might be voting on, Notz did not elaborate, but said there are hundreds of pending police cases against the city at any time.
FOP second vice president and spokesperson Martin Preib said aldermen should instead be focusing on corruption in the wrongful conviction movement. “Like any movement there are those within it who are well-intentioned. Unfortunately, this movement has morphed into something altogether different, motivated by garnering settlement money from the city of Chicago.”
“Civil rights lawyers have carved out a cottage industry in the name of wrongful convictions. They look to this chamber as their blank check. Do people who have been wrongly convicted deserve redress? Yes. Is that what’s taking place in Chicago? Absolutely not. I am no apologist for corrupt police officers,” but he said he is disgusted by false narratives against police, and that the murder is still considered unsolved.
There is “powerful evidence” the four were involved in this crime, Preib said, including a confession from one of the men they disposed of a mop and shovel in a nearby lagoon from the murder. He urged aldermen against frivolously tossing detectives’ reputations under the bus.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48) called Preib’s comments unbelievable, especially while the city was attempting to heal relationships between police and communities of color. “To have those comments come before this body when 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. I would ask the FOP to take that into consideration.”
Aldermen approved that settlement and three others by voice vote.
Water Refund for Laundromats Delayed
Chairman Burke delayed consideration of an ordinance from Ald. David Moore (17), O2017-7815, that would refund some water costs to self-service laundromats. The refund would be equal to any increase in the water tax rates made after June of 2016.
Burke said the ordinance is “not in proper form,” and could not be voted on, but still allowed laundromat owners to testify. All said they are struggling under the city’s property tax and water rate hikes, and are forced to pass on costs to their customers, who are generally low- and moderate-income earners.
Richard Jenkins owns a 4,000 square foot laundromat in Pilsen. He described the rate hikes as crushing. “This is $7,000 or $8000 a year. That’s 30,000 quarters. It’s so much money we’re going to have to pass along to our customers. These are people who give us pennies, nickels, quarters,” to wash clothes. “Every time we raise prices, our customers go down. I think it’s a law of unintended consequences. I know we didn’t see it coming.”
Vehicle Terrorism Task Force Approved
Officials from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) endorsed a resolution from Ald. Burke and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30) to convene a task force to strategize ways to prevent terrorist attacks by large vehicles in the city. The Chicago Police Department would lead the task force alongside OEMC, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
“This world has changed, has it not?” Burke said. “In an increasingly dangerous world, the perpetrators of mass murder and terrorism have found a much simpler method of spreading their hate and violence. It’s not a question of if, but of when.”
The meeting came hours after a man detonated a pipe bomb during rush hour in New York City. Burke and Reboyras introduced the resolution, R2017-911, after a truck drove onto on a bike path in Lower Manhattan on Halloween, killing eight people and injuring more than a dozen. The resolution mentioned eight other attacks, including the 2016 incident in Nice, France, where 86 people were killed and 458 were wounded in a truck attack.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48) pointed out the Las Vegas shooter had also booked a hotel room overlooking Grant Park during this summer’s Lollapalooza festival.
OEMC’s Alicia Tate-Nadeau, who was tapped for her ability to handle terrorist attacks, weather emergencies, and climate change, told aldermen Monday that the city plans for these types of incidents year round. The city has trained 2,500 people on suspicious activity reporting training. “Anytime we see this, we evaluate it as if it occurred in Chicago,” she said.
“We need to be proactive because so much of these plans and preventative approaches depend on cooperation on a metropolitan basis,” Burke said. “A truck or a van could very easily be rented outside the corporate limits of the city of Chicago then brought into the city.”
The task force must report back to City Council with its recommendations in 90 days.
Little or No Discussion on Chinatown SSA, Changes to Waste Brokers
A scope of services, budget and management agreement for a new Special Service Area that some Chinatown residents blasted last month passed without comment or question Monday. Some complained the additional property tax levy to help pay for security, cleanup, beautification, and marketing is unnecessary, and only further burdens overtaxed small business owners. Ald. Danny Solis (25) spoke out in favor of the new SSA 73 at the hearing in November, but was not present Monday.
Aldermen were similarly silent on a plan to remove Fulton Market from the Enterprise Zone 4 development incentive program. Local objectives for economic development have been accomplished, the planning department says. The change is expected to net the city millions, since enterprise zones offer exemptions on sales taxes for building materials, utility costs, and real estate transfer taxes.
Aldermen delayed consideration of an ordinance that would require waste brokers to apply for a city license and disclose all subcontractors was delayed. Burke said he wanted to wait until the city’s new Streets and Sanitation Commissioner, John Tully, was settled into office.