2 former assistant state’s attorneys charged in botched prosecution of alleged Burge torture victim

Nick Trutenko and Andrew Horvat are accused of lying about Trutenko’s relationship with a key witness against Jackie Wilson, allegedly tortured into confessing to the 1982 murders of two Chicago police officers.

SHARE 2 former assistant state’s attorneys charged in botched prosecution of alleged Burge torture victim
Jackie Wilson, center, flanked by his attorneys Flint Taylor, left, and Elliot Slosar, right, in October 2020 after his murder and robbery charges were dropped.

Jackie Wilson (center) is flanked by his attorneys Flint Taylor (left) and Elliot Slosar in October 2020, after his murder and robbery charges were dropped.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Special prosecutor Lawrence Oliver II on Wednesday unsealed charges accusing longtime prosecutors, Nick Trutenko and Andrew Horvat, of lying about Trutenko’s decadeslong relationship with a key witness against a man accused of the 1982 murders of two Chicago police officers.

Jackie Wilson’s case, and that of his brother, Andrew Wilson, was marred by some of the first documented allegations of torture by disgraced Chicago Police Department Cmdr. Jon Burge and would see Wilson stand trial for the killings of Officers William Fahy and Richard O’Brien three times.

In 2020, Wilson’s third trial collapsed after Trutenko, who led the prosecution team in Wilson’s second trial in 1989, took the stand and revealed he had a longstanding relationship with William Coleman, a key witness against Wilson. Oliver said Trutenko had gone to the United Kingdom in 1992 to serve as godfather for Coleman’s child and had talked to Coleman only a few days before testifying at Wilson’s trial in 2020.

“There are two travesties that are juxtaposed here,” Oliver said. “You have Jackie Wilson, who was tried three times, 1982, 1989 and 2020, and he never received a fair trial in any of those trials. ... Equally tragic, the people of the state of Illinois, the taxpayers of Cook County, never received a fair and clean prosecution of the Wilson brothers.

“We should demand more from our public officials. We should have them follow their oath. We’re talking about two Chicago police that were murdered in 1982, and 41 years later, accountability still eludes us all.”

Oliver said his investigation, which began in 2021, did not find evidence that other staff of the state’s attorney’s office committed illegal acts, and no other indictments were planned. A report on the probe will be made public soon, Oliver said.

Trutenko was fired the same day he testified, according to Oliver. In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Horvat was fired in 2021.

“The CCSAO has reviewed all other cases where Mr. Trutenko has served as a notifier or documented witness statements and has found no other incidents of misconduct,” the statement read.

The revelation that Trutenko had not told his peers in the prosecutor’s office, the special prosecution team handling Wilson’s case in 2020, or Wilson’s lawyers about his ties to Coleman — even as they tried to locate Coleman and had assumed Coleman was dead — prompted special prosecutors to drop all charges against Jackie Wilson.

Trutenko also testified falsely that Coleman’s name had never come up when lawyers on the special prosecution team prepped him for his testimony days before taking the stand, Oliver said.

Judge Alfredo Maldonado in July 2021 appointed Oliver as special prosecutor in response to a request from Wilson’s lawyers, who called for an investigation into allegations of perjury and other misconduct by Trutenko and other staff in the state’s attorney’s office.

Horvat, who had been assigned to represent Trutenko while Trutenko was serving as a witness, allegedly warned a special prosecutor not to ask Trutenko about his relationship with Coleman, saying, “It’s not illegal or unethical, it’s just weird,” Oliver said.

“Well, that was not true,” Oliver said. “It was both illegal and unethical.”

Trutenko, who was fired hours after taking the witness stand in Wilson’s 2020 trial and deleted information from his county-issued cellphone before returning it, faces counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, official misconduct and destruction of records.

Horvat faces charges of official misconduct. In a statement issued Wednesday, Horvat’s attorney, Terry Ekl, called the charges against his client “a travesty of justice.” Horvat, Ekl said, had been appointed by the state’s attorney to represent Trutenko.

“The special prosecutor’s attempt to scapegoat Mr. Horvat is legally erroneous, factually misguided and attempts to criminalize a central tenant (sic) of the legal profession — the attorney/client privilege,” Ekl wrote. “To be certain, Mr. Horvat, a decadeslong public servant, has at all times acted ethically and legally in maintaining the confidences of his client, even while under the threat of criminal prosecution.”

The Wilson brothers had long claimed they were the victims of torture at the hands of Burge and his “midnight crew” of detectives. Andrew Wilson won a second trial on the basis that he confessed only after hours of torture that included being beaten, burned on a radiator and electrocuted. He was convicted in a second trial and died in prison in 2007.

Jackie Wilson won his second trial after an appeals court ruled that he should have been tried separately from his brother, but he was convicted again in 1989. His third trial was awarded by Judge William Hooks, who ruled that allegations of torture by Burge were credible, and Jackie Wilson’s confession was inadmissible.

After prosecutors dismissed the case against Wilson following Trutenko’s bombshell testimony, Hooks granted Wilson a certificate of innocence.

Burge was fired from CPD in 1993. He was indicted on federal charges in 2008 for lying about abusing suspects during a deposition in a civil lawsuit and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. He died in 2018 at his home in Florida. In the decades since the Wilson brothers’ case brought torture allegations against Burge into the headlines, the city has paid out tens of millions to defendants who claim to have suffered similar abuse.

Wilson’s lawyers on Wednesday said the indictment marked the first criminal charges brought against prosecutors involved in one of Burge’s cases.

“The criminal charges against Trutenko and Horvat send a clear message to prosecutors: Your misconduct will someday unravel,” Wilson attorney Elliot Slosar wrote in a statement. “And when that happens, the wrongfully convicted will seek to hold you accountable to the fullest measure of the law.”

The Latest
A man, 29, was in the 3500 block of West 73rd Street about 8:09 p.m. when two men approached him and shot at him with handguns, police said.
A 16-year-old boy got into a ‘verbal altercation’ with someone in the 6500 block of South Racine Avenue about 6:38 p.m. Saturday, police say. The other person then shot him in the chest and legs with a handgun.
Nearly a dozen protesters were taken into custody about 2:41 p.m. Saturday after they allegedly held a demonstration on Franklin Street, police say. Earlier, vandals dropped red dye into Buckingham Fountain and painted pro-Palestinian messages there.
The Eenigenburgs, descended from Gerit Eenigenburg and Jennetje Ton, who landed in the U.S. in 1849. They were among the first people to settle Roseland. One branch of the family was active in the Underground Railroad.