MITCHELL: Hard luck pays off for former El Rukn gang member

SHARE MITCHELL: Hard luck pays off for former El Rukn gang member

Former El Rukn gang member Nathson Fields during a press conference at Loevy & Loevy, 311 N. Aberdeen, after a federal jury awarded him $22 million in his lawsuit over wrongful prosecution. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Nathson Fields, a former El Rukn member, has hit the jackpot the hard way.

Last year, a jury awarded Fields $22 million — a little more than $1 million for each year he was in jail — believing the former high-ranking gang member was framed for a 1984 double murder.

And now a federal judge has ordered the city to pay another $5.57 million to Fields’ lawyers.

Although a spokesman for the city said it intends to appeal the judge’s ruling on the basis that the “fees are excessive,” I’m sure Fields’ lawyers aren’t worried.


Just a couple of weeks ago, the city’s law department was forced to withdraw a motion seeking to file a lawsuit against Quintonio LeGrier’s estate alleging the teen was responsible for the death of Bettie Jones, a tenant who let the cops into the building.

Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo claimed LeGrier, 19, swung a bat at him and the officer opened fire. LeGrier and Jones, 55, were both fatally shot.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel moved quickly to nix the proposed lawsuit, calling it “callous.”

Meanwhile, the criminal injustice lottery rolls on. In November, criminal charges against 15 former inmates were thrown out in what was called the first mass exoneration in the history of Cook County.

The men had claimed former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and his crew of crooked police officers framed them with false arrests and planted evidence.

Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

Chicago has paid a “staggering sum — about $662 million — on police misconduct since 2004,” Crain’s reported in 2016.

But this isn’t just about money.

When innocent people are getting locked up, the criminals are running loose on the street.

It’s been more than 30 years since two masked men gunned down Jerome “Fuddy” Smith and Talman Hickman outside 706 E. 39th Street, one of CHA’s Darrow Homes high-rises that were torn down in 2000.

That’s a long time for the families of these young men not to have received the justice they are owed.

Fields’ legal victory may be cause for him to celebrate, but it literally means the real shooter has gotten away with murder.

Additionally, exonerations put the families of homicide victims back to square one of a cold case.

Fields would have been running the streets with the El Rukns about the same time Noah Robinson Jr., the half-brother of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson Sr., was building up his empire.

Robinson was also twice convicted of murder-for-hire charges, racketeering and narcotics.

“As long as I live and breathe, I will be fighting this injustice,” Robinson told a Washington Post interviewer in 1992, while he was at the Metropolitan Correctional Center awaiting his second trial.

At that time all kinds of shenanigans were going on involving El Rukn prosecutions.

At one point, U.S. District Judge James R. Holderman threw out the convictions of three El Rukn drug suppliers, claiming prosecutors turned a blind eye to drug use by witnesses.

But Robinson, who is currently serving a life sentence, wasn’t one of the lucky ones.

Fields is a lot luckier.

In his original trial, the judge hearing his case pocketed a $10,000 bribe, allegedly paid by an El Rukn general, then gave it back when he realized the feds were on to him. That resulted in a new trial.

Fields lucked up again when a missing file cabinet containing evidence helpful to his case suddenly showed up.

Now that Fields has hit the criminal injustice jackpot, I hope he’ll find a way to restore a community that his ilk pretty much helped to destroy.

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