Crooked ex-cop wants out of prison early for informing on others

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Ex-Chicago cop Jerome Finnigan | Sun-Times file photo

Corrupt former Chicago cop Jerome Finnigan says he has fed the government details about crimes involving a variety of people — from other cops to a U.S. border agent to a doctor — since he was charged almost a decade ago for plotting to kill an officer he feared would expose his own misdeeds, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Finnigan and 10 other Chicago Police officers have been convicted in connection with crimes they committed while they were members of the department’s now-defunct Special Operations Section before the scandal broke in 2006.

Finnigan, 53, is serving a 12-year federal prison term in Colorado. He’s asking U.S. District Judge John Darrah to give him a break on his sentence because of his cooperation with the FBI and IRS. Prosecutors have until Oct. 7 to respond to Finnigan’s request.

In letters to federal prosecutors in Chicago and Washington, a lawyer for Finnigan listed his “substantial cooperation,” saying he:

  • Identified two Chicago Police supervisors who participated in warrantless searches and filed false reports.
  • Told about a Chicago Police officer working with a federal border agent to rip off drug dealers.
  • Tipped the feds about a mob-connected Florida man’s tax-evasion scheme.
  • Warned law-enforcement officials about a Polish motorcycle club’s plot to attack Jewish schools and synagogues.
  • Let the feds know about a doctor involved in an illegal “pill mill” on the Southwest Side.
  • Provided information about a Chicago cop and his relationship to Mexican cartel associates Pedro and Margarito Flores.

There’s no evidence from the public record that any of those tips has resulted in a criminal prosecution.

In April, Finnigan wrote a handwritten letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Netols, the lead prosecutor in the case, saying, “any time off would be greatly appreciated, six months, a year? I did my best to help you Brian, I have served way more [prison time] than anyone else.”

Finnigan also wrote a letter to the court saying, “The U.S. attorney is going to use some of my information to prosecute individuals.” He added that prosecutors chose not to seek a reduction of his prison sentence “because of the political climate and my former position as a police officer.”

Finnigan then filed a formal motion with the court seeking a lower sentence, saying he was suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure and had demonstrated his desire to become a productive citizen by taking horticulture and computer classes, and working as a janitor for five years.

Finnigan pleaded guilty to a murder-for-hire scheme and tax evasion in 2011. At his sentencing, he said, “I did become a corrupt police officer” and “my bosses knew what I was doing out there.”

At the time, U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning shaved a year off Finnigan’s maximum possible sentence because he cooperated with federal authorities. He also received credit for the nearly four years he spent in jail before his sentencing.

In May, Darrah took over Finnigan’s case from Manning, who is on “senior status,” records show.

Finnigan — who once won the police department’s highest award for valor — is being held in a low-security federal prison in Littleton, Colorado. He’s scheduled for release on Feb. 21, 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

His partner, Keith Herrera, wore a hidden microphone that captured Finnigan discussing a plot to kill an officer he thought was cooperating with the feds. Herrera got a major break for helping the government. He was sentenced to only two months in prison for the crimes he committed while he worked with Finnigan in the Special Operations Section.

At Finnigan’s sentencing, Netols said prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to charge any high-level bosses with crimes in connection with the case. Still, former police Lt. John “Jake” Blake, who supervised Finnigan and other officers in the Special Operations Section, was sentenced to probation in 2012 for filing a false tax return in an unrelated case.

Blake had failed to report income from his window-installation business between 2003 and 2006 while he was also working for the police department. Netols had prosecuted that case, too. Blake retired from the department in 2006.

Most recently, Finnigan gained renewed negative attention last year when the Sun-Times first published a photo of Finnigan and another officer, Timothy McDermott, posing with a young black man on his belly with deer antlers.  McDermott lost his job as a result of the photo. The young man in the 2002 photo was eventually identified by family as Michael Spann, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2007.

Chicago Police officers Jerome Finnigan (left) and Timothy McDermott with Michael Spann. | Photo from court file

Chicago Police officers Jerome Finnigan (left) and Timothy McDermott with Michael Spann. | Photo from court file

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