Chicago Police Caught In A Lie At Trial. Defendant Acquitted
“The linkage between racism and CPD did not just bubble up in the aftermath of the release of the
McDonald video. Racism and maltreatment at the hands of the police have been consistent complaints from communities of color for decades. And there have been many significant flashpoints over the years—the killing of Fred Hampton (1960s), the Metcalfe hearings (1970s), federal court findings of a pattern and practice of discriminatory hiring (1970s), Jon Burge and his midnight crew (1970s to 1990s), widespread disorderly conduct arrests (1980s), the unconstitutional gang loitering ordinance (1990s), widespread use of investigatory stops and frisks (2000s) and other points. False arrests, coerced confessions and wrongful convictions are also a part of this history. Lives lost and countless more damaged. These events and others mark a long, sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color.”
The above quote is from page 7 of the 22 page Police Accountability Task Force Executive Summary that addresses problems and makes suggestions for the Chicago Police Department. While the Task Force was gathering data and making suggestions, Chicago had the case of Michael Williamson. The Williamson case demonstrates that false arrests, and coerced confessions are not just history, but ongoing in Chicago.
It was New Year’s Day, January 1, 2014, at about 2 a.m.. Brothers Princeton and Michael Williams had gone to a cousin’s house to bring in the new year. Michael was in the Navy where he had served 8 years. They stepped outside on the back porch for a smoke. The police alleged that the brothers fired a gun into the air. Chicago Police Tactical Officer Wilfredo Ortiz, in plainclothes, heard the shots and came to the alley next to the home in the Roseland neighborhood in Chicago. It has not been reported whether Ortiz was on or off duty.
Ortiz opened fire, unloading 11 rounds. Michael Williamson was hit in the right shoulder, right hip, and twice in the back. His younger brother was shot in the stomach, the right leg, and twice in the bladder. Kierra, his sister, was inside of the house in the kitchen. Ortiz shot Kierra in the stomach. There was an unnamed man present who sustained a graze wound to his face.
Enter Brian Johnson, a 19-year department veteran who, since this case began, has been promoted to sergeant. Johnson claimed to have taken a hospital beside testimony from Princeton, who has just come out of surgery for the gunshot wounds.
Johnson alleged that Princeton gave a statement from his hospital bed saying that Charles Lewis fired the gun into the air and handed it to him and his brother to fire off rounds. Charles gave an interview saying that there was no gun in the house. Charles stated that upon the first shots fired by Ortiz, the people on the porch ran into the house and Ortiz followed, entering the door of the house as he continued firing his weapon.
Both Princeton and his brother Michael were arrested on assault and weapons charges. Lewis was not charged. Ortiz claimed that Michael pointed a gun at him and refused to drop it, so he opened fire in fear for his life.
Michael’s trial was last week, and it was then that the Chicago Tribune learned about Princeton’s trial that was held in January 2015.
Trial Number One
Brian Johnson testified that Princeton was alert and didn’t appear to be in pain as he talked openly about what led to his shooting. Two nurses however, challenged that testimony. They testified that Princeton was in so much pain from an open stomach incision that he was on a continuous, intravenous morphine drip. One of the nurses testified that Princeton was under such effects of the medication that she had to communicate with him by having him squeeze her hand to answer “yes” or “no.”
Cook County Judge James Obbish expressed doubts that any confession was given, saying, “I have to seriously question whether Mr. Williamson ever did anything but maybe grunt or even knew who he was talking to.” Judge Obbish called Johnson’s testimony “garbage” and threw out the statement. Prosecutors dismissed the charges.
Trial Number Two
More than a year after the charges against Princeton were dismissed, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez went forward on trial against Michael. Before the same judge as his brother, last week, Judge Obbish acquitted Michael on aggravated assault and weapon charges, saying the officer’s story had changed on a key detail.
The brothers are represented by Attorney Michael Robbins in a case against the city and others, filed in federal court. Robbins stated that in attempt to strengthen their case, Chicago police routinely charge those who are shot by officers. He noted that the man who the brothers say was responsible for firing a shot into the air was not charged. No gunpowder testing was done of his hands or clothes. In other words, Ortiz made sure that the brothers, who miraculously survived the gunshot wounds, were the only people charged. “If they shoot you and you live, you’re going to be charged.”
A question is, why has Ortiz not been charged, and why is Brian Johnson still working after testifying “garbage”?
This case reminds me of the 2005 Howard Morgan case. After being shot 28 times, Howard was charged, tried, acquitted on some counts and the jury hung on other counts, and he was tried again and sentenced to 40 years in prison. In 2015, outgoing Illinois Governor Pat Quinn commuted Howard’s sentence.
Posted on 04/14/2016, in Uncategorized and tagged Attorney Michael Robbins, Cook County, Howard Morgan, James Obbish, Michael Williamson, Officer Wilfredo Ortiz, Princeton Williams. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.