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Thaddeus ‘T.J.’ Jimenez, ‘Motive’ podcast figure who got millions for wrongful conviction, charged in jail fight

The Chicago gang figure was featured in the serial podcast last fall from the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ Chicago.

Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez celebrates his freedom in 2009 after winning release for a killing he said he didn’t commit.
Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez celebrating his release from prison in 2009 for a murder he swore he never committed.
Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez — who was awarded a fortune in a wrongful-conviction lawsuit only to return to jail over a shooting recorded on a cellphone camera — now faces a new felony charge stemming from a jail fight.

Jimenez — who was the key figure in the Chicago Sun-Times / WBEZ Chicago “Motive” podcast last fall — and five other inmates were charged with mob action over a brawl Jan. 8 in a maximum-security unit of the Cook County Jail.

Two inmates were fighting, and Jimenez, 40, and the others joined in before a correctional officer stopped it, authorities say.

They say no one was seriously hurt, no weapons were found, and it’s unclear what started the fight.

The other inmates charged in the fight included four men facing trial in murder cases and another in jail on an aggravated criminal sexual assault charge.

Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez was caught on a cellphone video shooting Earl Casteel in the legs on Aug. 17, 2015, in Irving Park. The video, which went viral, was shown during Jimenez’s trial in federal court.
Thaddeus Jimenez is shown in an image from a video shooting Earl Casteel in the legs on Aug. 17, 2015, in Irving Park.
U.S. District Court

He was charged with murder at 13 and spent 16 years in prison but was freed in 2009 after a witness admitted he lied when he told the police Jimenez was the killer. Jimenez sued the police for wrongful arrest, and a jury awarded him $25 million. He squandered most of his money on his gang.

In 2015, Jimenez was driving a convertible Mercedes when he stopped and fired a handgun at a man’s legs. He was riding with a fellow gang member who recorded the shooting on his cellphone. Officers recovered the phone after Jimenez crashed in a chase.

The video was played at a federal trial in which Jimenez was sentenced to nine years for illegal possession of the gun. He’s still awaiting trial in state court on a charge of aggravated battery in the same shooting.