Justice was turned upside-down in the Aldo Brown case.
Brown, a former tactical officer with the Chicago Police Department, was sentenced last week to two years in prison for beating a man during an arrest in 2012.
The victim, Jecque Howard, had an illegal gun in his pocket. And he was in possession of illegal drugs when he was arrested at the Omar Salma store in South Shore, which had been the source of numerous nuisance complaints before it was shut down.
Brown and his attorney, Dan Herbert, don’t know why the feds chose Brown to prosecute on civil rights violations.
The officer, who’s black, spoke with me Friday about the prosecution and what he thinks it means for policing in high-crime neighborhoods.
He pointed out there have been several notorious cases involving white police officers accused of killing unarmed blacks in which those officers weren’t sent to prison.
“I don’t use the race card and don’t like to use the race card, but I honestly felt like I was being discriminated against,” he said.
“Anybody in law enforcement should have been able to look at that video and, after finding out the facts of the case, say this guy had a gun, this officer was in a threatening position, he had to do what he had to do to save his life,” Brown said. “But they just threw me under the bus.”
The federal indictment is surprising, especially since advocates are still trying to get the feds to indict Dante Servin for the 2012 killing of Rekia Boyd.
Servin is the white police officer Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez charged with manslaughter for firing into a crowd, allegedly because he thought someone had a gun.
In a bench trial, a judge ruled that Servin was indicted on the wrong charges, and the police officer walked free.
You also have to ask yourself this: If Brown can go to prison for two years for excessive force when the suspect had a gun, then why would other cops aggressively pursue gun-toting criminals?
A video — recorded by the store’s surveillance camera and then re-recorded by unknown persons and posted on YouTube — went viral.
A couple of days later, police brass told Brown he and his partner were under investigation.
“I just thought it was the craziest thing in the world,” Brown told me. “I felt like they wanted to make me a fall guy, like the token guy who is going to answer up for all the things that’s been going on with the police department for years.”
When Brown walked in to the federal courtroom nearly four years later to answer to the charges, there was no blue wall of officers showing support.
In the interceding years, Eric Garner happened. Michael Brown happened. Sandra Bland happened. Tamir Rice happened.
Even though the allegations against Brown were minor compared to those police-involved homicides, Aldo Brown was on his own.
“If I had been a white guy, somebody would have stood up and said, ‘We aren’t going to let you do him like that,’ ” Brown said.
But blacks don’t have “leadership” within the police department, he said.
“Black leadership is absent on the Chicago Police Department,” he said. “A lot of officers should have spoken up. They knew it was wrong. Justice was not served in this case.
“Anytime you let someone get away with illegal guns and drugs, especially when the complaint came from the people in the community, no, justice has not been served.”
After Brown was relieved of his duties, the gun charges against Howard got quietly dropped.
“I mean, if the FBI was really doing its job, don’t you think they would have went after a criminal who had a gun in a store?” Brown said.
How his case was handled could have an impact on policing in neighborhoods on the South Side and the West Side for years to come.
“It sends a terrible message to the community,” Brown said. “It sends a terrible message to the police department. The same thing that the community is complaining about and want justice for, the justice system is upholding.
“I’m a family man. My kids are on the honor roll. I’ve been in the military. I’ve done a good job all my life. I come from a tough community. I beat the odds. I became a police officer. I’m a business owner. Why would you take somebody like me and try to make an example out of me. For what?
“I have no reason but to feel that they did it because I’m black.”