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Thaddeus Jimenez, 30, sits with his mom Victoria Jimenez
Thaddeus Jimenez, 30, sits with his mom Victoria Jimenez before reading a statement to reporters on May 4, 2009. His 1993 murder conviction was vacated and he became a free man on May 1, 2009, after serving 16 years in prison.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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‘Motive’ Episode 5: The Fairytale Ending

On May 1, 2009, T.J. became a free man. He won his $25-million lawsuit against the city, found a girlfriend and had two kids. But trouble seemed to find T.J. wherever he went.

In 2009, a judge found T.J. was wrongfully convicted of murder and ordered him released. T.J. was free to go skydiving. He visited Wrigley Field. He settled down with a girlfriend and they had two kids. But there was no fairytale ending for T.J. He blew through a multimillion-dollar legal award, buying a fleet of fancy cars and showering money on a gang. And he created a war.

Or did he? A mysterious source tries to set the record straight.

You can listen to “Motive” wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Motive extra features

Get a look at the real-life people and places covered in this episode of “Motive.” Meet T.J., his mother Victoria and the family members, friends and lawyers who tell his story.

Hill Correctional Center

Hill Correctional Center exterior
Located in in Galesburg, the Hill Correctional Center was T.J.’s home until his release in 2009.
Google Maps

Steven Drizin

Steven Drizin presents the case for executive clemency for William Heirens before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board at The Thompson Center
In this April 4, 2002 photo, Steven Drizin, then an attorney at the Children and Family Justice Center at the Northwestern University School of Law, presents the case for executive clemency for William Heirens before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board at the Thompson Center.
John H White/Chicago Sun-Times

Steven Drizin is the co-director of the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions and led a legal team that researched T.J.’s murder case. The team concluded that T.J. was innocent and persuaded the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to seek his from prison in 2009.

The Exoneration of Thaddeus Jimenez

This video from Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions shows clips of T.J. walking out of prison on May 1, 2009, and hugging Victoria later at her home. Co-director Steven Drizin and his legal team discuss their work to overturn T.J.’s conviction and what it was like to see him walk out of prison a free man.

Brian Nelson

Brian Nelson was the 13th inmate to be sent to Tamms Correctional Center in Tamms, Illinois. Nelson spent 23 hours a day in isolation and during this time he copied the Bible.
Brian Nelson photographed on Friday, February 24, 2012.
Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Media

Brian Nelson was the leader of the Simon City Royals in prison. He spent the last 12 years of his sentence in solitary confinement in Tamms, a super-max prison in southern Illinois. For 23 hours a day in isolation, he copied the Bible. Tamms is now closed, and Nelson now works as a a law clerk at Uptown People’s Law Center.

An email from “Brian Nelson”

In October 2018, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Frank Main started receiving emails from ‘Brian Nelson.’

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