Mitchell: Police misconduct claims surface in petition for pardon
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The man convicted of one of the most heinous domestic-violence-related murders in recent times is claiming he was wrongfully convicted.
A jury convicted Kevin Williams 13 years ago of killing Traci Todd, a gregarious United Airlines flight attendant who grew up on the city’s South Side.
Todd’s body was dismembered and buried in the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s Beaubien Woods.
Her death became a big news story in part because the Chicago Police Department came under fire for the way it handled what began as a missing person’s case.
It was days before Todd’s family was allowed to file a report, even though the family was convinced she had met with foul play.
Todd and Williams had a longstanding romantic relationship, but at the time of her death rumors were circulating that he had married another woman.
Three months after Todd went missing from her South Loop apartment, her dismembered remains were discovered.
Williams was sentenced to 60 years in prison for Todd’s murder and five years for concealing the homicide.
Now, in a petition for executive clemency, Williams says the police fabricated evidence and coerced and threatened witnesses who testified against him.
The state’s Prisoner Review Board will hold a public hearing on Williams’ petition in Springfield on Oct. 12.
Williams’ claims of a frame-up wouldn’t be worth noting except that Illinois has a reputation for wrongful convictions. And the city of Chicago has paid nearly $500 million over the past decade to settle police misconduct cases.
In Williams’ 73-page petition, he makes several accusations against the police department’s handling of the investigation into Todd’s death.
Williams said he was held in a police interrogation room for “more than 16 hours; was illegally arrested without a warrant, and detained in excess of 48 hours without a judicial probable cause hearing.”
The petition accuses the lead detective in the case, Thomas Flaherty, of preparing and signing a “false arrest report.”
“During lead detective Thomas Flaherty’s grand jury testimony, he knowingly and intentionally mislead [sic] the Grand Jury into believing he had evidence he did not actually have. (i.e., eyewitnesses, admissions, confessions, physical evidence, DNA, official cause and manner of decedent’s death,)” Williams asserts.
Flaherty, who is now a sergeant, was named in two misconduct cases that cost the city $1 million.
He was accused with four other officers of wrongfully arresting Jose Lopez in the 2002 murder of Gabriel Solis in Little Village. The officers were accused of manipulating witnesses and fabricating evidence to implicate Lopez. The city settled the case for $750,000.
Flaherty also was named in the infamous David Koschman case, along with 20 other Chicago cops, accused collectively of taking steps to keep Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew from being charged for a decade in Koschman’s death. The city paid $250,000 to settle that case.
Williams also says that a police officer knew of threats supposedly made by other officers against Ivan Duncan, one of two friends who testified against Williams at his murder trial.
In 2013, Williams tried unsuccessfully to have Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s Conviction Integrity Unit re-examine his case. It took less than 30 days for prosecutors to decide Williams’ claims were without merit.
While it isn’t likely he’ll get much further with his clemency petition, the fact that he is seeking a pardon has renewed the pain the Todd’s family experienced.
Worse yet, in the unlikely event that Williams does prevail, it would once again raise serious questions about the competence of Illinois’ criminal justice system.Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST