Former federal prosecutor Lawrence Oliver was appointed Wednesday to investigate the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and a former employee who allegedly lied on the witness stand during the third trial of Jackie Wilson, who was eventually cleared of murdering two Chicago police officers.
Oliver, who was named special prosecutor by Judge Alfredo Maldonado, will investigate perjury allegations against former Assistant State’s Attorney Nicholas Trutenko and whether other current and former members of State’s Attorney’s Kim Foxx’s office may have tried to cover for him.
Trutenko was fired in October on the same day he admitted, during Wilson’s third trial, that he had an ongoing personal relationship with William Coleman, a jailhouse informant who helped convict Wilson of the 1982 murders of Officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien at his second trial.
Oliver will have authority to convene a special grand jury to investigate and potentially bring criminal charges against Trutenko, as well as probe the operations of Foxx’s office for evidence of a coverup.
“Whatever investigation happens, happens,” Maldonado said during the brief on-line hearing Wednesday. “Now that this investigation is ongoing, this investigation goes wherever it goes.”
Wilson’s lawyer, Elliott Slosar, seemed satisfied with Oliver being named special prosecutor.
“We are pleased the court has undergone such a thorough search and found a well-qualified special prosecutor,” Slosar said. “We know that what we’ve uncovered is only the tip of the iceberg. We know that the special prosecutor will find out whatever was going on behind the scenes in the state’s attorney’s office.”
In an emailed statement, a Foxx spokesperson said the office would cooperate with the special prosecutor.
“The State’s Attorney is committed to transparency and accountability in this and all matters, and the office will fully cooperate with the review of this case,” the statement said.
Oliver’s appointment marks the second time the state’s attorney’s office has been investigated under Foxx’s leadership. In 2019, special prosecutor Dan Webb was appointed to investigate the office’s decision to drop charges against former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett who is accused of staging a hate crime near his Streeterville apartment.
Webb did not find evidence to support criminal charges against any prosecutors, including Foxx, though he reported uncovering “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures.”
Webb’s report remains under seal and has not been made public.
Oliver spent four years as a federal prosecutor before joining Perkins Coie law firm, where he headed up the firm’s white-collar criminal practice. He was appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate alleged beatings by guards at the Cook County Jail in 2003, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Oliver was also appointed to the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois in the wake of an admissions scandal in 2009, and to former Gov. Pat Quinn’s Reform Commission, which recommended policy changes in state government after the indictment of Quinn’s predecessor, Rod Blagojevich.
Oliver spent 16 years as chief counsel-investigations for Boeing, although it was not clear if he still works for the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer. He did not immediately respond to a call from the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday.
Maldonado ordered the special prosecutor investigation in June, after Wilson’s lawyers petitioned the court to investigate Trutenko for perjury and to probe how the state’s attorney’s office handled Wilson’s case.
Trutenko was a prosecutor in Wilson’s second trial. Wilson won a third trial in 2018, after Judge William Hooks ruled Wilson had been tortured into giving a confession by detectives working under of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
During the third trial, special prosecutors said Coleman could not be found and likely was dead, and therefore, they said, they intended to use Coleman’s testimony from the second trial as evidence against Wilson.
But when Trutenko was called to the stand midway through the last trial, he admitted to a long-running friendship with Coleman and said he had recently communicated with Coleman by email. Trutenko said he had not been asked about his ties to Coleman by the special prosecutor, a claim the special prosecutors said was false.
Wilson walked free when all charges against him were dropped shortly after Trutenko’s revelation. Wilson’s brother, Andrew Wilson, who was twice convicted of gunning down the two officers, died in prison in 2007.