Unsealed FBI report alleges police fed statements to ‘Englewood Four’

SHARE Unsealed FBI report alleges police fed statements to ‘Englewood Four’

Terrill Swift sits next to his mother, Carleane Swift, on Nov. 16, 2012, in Woodridge. He was a member of the so-called Englewood 4, who were exonerated two years ago, and has sued the city of Chicago for wrongful conviction. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

A newly unsealed FBI report alleges Chicago police fed information to suspects in a notorious 1994 murder as they gave their statements to prosecutors.

But attorneys for one of the prosecutors say the document is simply part of a bid to “use the media” to influence the outcome of a wrongful conviction case. And the prosecutor named in the report told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday that any allegations of misconduct it contains against him are simply “false.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Jr. unsealed the contentious 6-page document Wednesday afternoon. A short time later, City Hall lawyers asked for a conference to discuss a settlement in a group of lawsuits brought by members of the so-called Englewood Four. Their convictions for the murder of Nina Glover were overturned by a judge in 2011 after they spent 16 years behind bars.

Peter Neufeld, a New York-based attorney for one of the men, says the document is evidence of “systemic misconduct” inside the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office prior to the administration of Kim Foxx. He said a commission should be empaneled to look for similar conduct. One of the prosecutors named in the report later became a high-level staffer.

“There’s no reason that the misconduct we see in this case would be limited to just this case,” Neufeld said.

The city’s law office and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment Wednesday. But in court filings, they have pointed out that, after the FBI provided voluminous records in the case, members of the Englewood Four did not seek to unseal their own FBI interviews, in effect “hiding their own conflicting testimony.”

Instead, the report details the interview of former Cook County prosecutor Terence Johnson. Lawyers for the police officers named in the lawsuit have alleged that Johnson was convicted in 2000 on two counts of felony aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a child and has been disbarred.

Fabio Valentini, a former Cook County prosecutor also named in the document, flatly disputed the report’s contents.

“Anything in that report that alleges any misconduct on my part, whatsoever, is a false statement,” Valentini said.

The Englewood Four — Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames, Harold Richardson and Terrill Swift — were teenagers when they were arrested for Glover’s murder. Her naked body was found Nov. 7, 1994, in a dumpster behind the Family Super Mart Liquor Store at 1400 W. Garfield, wrapped in a bloody sheet. She had been strangled.

After their exoneration, the men filed lawsuits alleging police and prosecutors ignored evidence that linked Johnny “Maniac” Douglas, a career criminal, to the crime.

Federal authorities looked into the matter in 2012 and interviewed Johnson, who worked in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office between 1990 and 2000, the FBI report shows. Johnson told the FBI he always felt the Glover case was “going to come back,” and that detectives showed an unusual amount of enthusiasm for solving the murder of a woman like Glover, who is described in the FBI report as a “prostitute/drug user.”

Johnson worked in the felony review unit at the time, where he told the feds his boss pressured him to cooperate with detectives. As a black prosecutor, he also said he had to combat suspicions he might “go easy” on black defendants, according to the report. He described how Detective Kenneth Boudreau wanted a suspect to rehearse his answers in the Glover case. Later, he said Boudreau corrected the suspect’s responses. Johnson also said he eventually realized those corrections “made the facts more consistent with the other statements,” according to the FBI report.

During his interview with the FBI, Johnson said Valentini, who was called in to help him on the case, also had misgivings. At one point, Valentini allegedly told Johnson, “I can’t believe these detectives.” Valentini would later serve as chief of criminal prosecutions in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, leaving the office just last January.

Johnson told the feds that police brought a document to a motion to suppress hearing that detailed what the police and prosecutors should say when questioned about the Glover case. One officer, James Cassidy, allegedly told the prosecutors, “this is what we do.”

Johnson told the FBI he decided not to testify to the document. But Valentini allegedly told him it might be career-ending to report the incident, and Johnson said Valentini told him he would use the time line it contained.

Still, Johnson said he felt pressure not to report what happened during the motion to suppress hearing — which he felt was “rigged” — even after he left the felony review unit, according to the FBI report. That’s because the trial division “still needed cops and the word got around if they were not team players.”

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