What Began in 1993 Finally Results in Closure in 2016 For A Wrongfully Convicted Man

chicago-heightsIn 1994, Chicago Heights Deputy Chief of Police Sam Mangialardi was indicted after four years of investigation by federal authorities.  He was convicted on 16 counts of corruption that included racketeering, aiding and abetting a drug conspiracy, extortion to allow a drug ring to flourish,  money laundering, theft of government funds, civil rights conspiracy, filing false tax returns, and witness tampering.  Mangialardi accepted $10,000 monthly payments to protect the city’s top drug dealer.

In 1995, Mangialarid was sentenced to 10 and a half years in federal prison, ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution, and fined more than $20,000.  Federal prosecutors described Mangialardi as being a “Godfather” like figure.

Sam Mangialardi, who was 46-years old when sentenced in 1995, was unapologetic and defiant.  At his sentencing, he presented that he was awarded Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the American Police Hall of Fame for exchanging himself for a hostage and then overpowering his armed captor.

Mangialardi was not the only public official investigated, indicted and sentenced.  Then an  Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gallo said that the Chicago Heights Police Department was not run by the mob, but it was run like the mob.   Gallo did not seek the maximum penalty for Mangialardi because Mangialardi promised cooperation with future investigations.

Former Chicago Heights mayor Charles Panici, along with 14 other public officials and 6 Chicago Heights police officers were convicted of federal charges including civil rights violations, racketeering, witness tampering, bribery, extortion, and money laundering.

What does the 1994-1995 events and convictions have to do with today?

With the court’s findings of corruption with Chicago Heights’ officials colluding with gangs to run drugs, even pitting gangs against each other, there were gang members sitting in prison for crimes that they claim they did not commit.  Rodell Sanders was one such former gang member and man sitting behind bars.

Rodell Sanders and his lawyers offer a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 28, after receiving a $15 Million settlement for 20+ wrongful years in prison. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Rodell Sanders | photo by Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Rodell Sanders spent 2 decades behind bars on convictions for murder and attempted murder in Chicago Heights. The situation is somewhat complicated because it involved hits being ordered by one gang against another gang.  A court decision sets forth the history of the case.

While in prison, Rodell had his family purchase legal books, and he studied everyday. Eventually, he prepared and filed his own papers that resulted in him getting a new trial with court appointed counsel.  The jury hung.

In 2013, Rodell’s attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and other members of the Chicago Heights police department and the town, alleging that they violated his civil rights.

That lawsuit was pending when Rodell’s third trial was held.  In July 2014, Rodell was acquitted and released from prison.

On September 28, 2016, Rodell Sanders was awarded a settlement of $15 million for wrongful conviction.  It’s the largest wrongful conviction settlement in the State of Illinois.

His lawsuit alleged:

“There was no physical evidence linking Sanders to the crime. Rather, the only purported evidence against Mr. Sanders were two purchased and patently false witness identifications. These wrongful misidentifications were procured through manipulation and bribes by members of the City of Chicago Heights’s infamously corrupt police department.”

“When police interviewed Armstrong, she named Germaine Haslett as the man who ordered the shooting….”

“Because the defendants were focused on protecting Mr. Haslett, the defendants withheld Ms. Armstrong’s identification of Mr. Haslett by name.  Accordingly, the defendants never memorialized in any police report or otherwise communicated to Mr. Sanders that Ms. Armstrong initially identified Mr. Haslett by name.”

You can read more on Courthouse News, including how Chicago Heights detectives maneuvered a photo line-up and more in framing Rodell.

Now Rodell, who is currently 51-years old and working as a paralegal, is dedicating his life to help others who were wrongfully convicted.


Posted on 09/29/2016, in Cases, civil rights, Cops Gone Wild, Rodell Sanders and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I don’t know if $15M is worth 20 yrs out of your life but I bet it kinda takes the sting out of losing it a lil bit. Good for him, it’s too bad the Chief and the others don’t lose the same amount of time out of their lifetimes as the people who got their lives stolen from them.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hey Jim! The Deputy Chief would have probably gotten more time had he not entered a sentence agreement. That is one thing that might help the feds get information to charge more people, but it doesn’t balance the time that Rodell spent in prison.

      Before the Deputy Chief’s sentencing, others, including detectives, were tried. Two were sentenced to 30 years.

      The linked article reports that a former Chicago Heights police sergeant who headed the narcotics unit, pleaded guilty to federal charges that he planted cocaine on a suspected drug dealer after arresting him in 1989 on a bogus traffic violation.

      I don’t understand the mind and heart that would set-up people to lose their freedom and be placed behind bars.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Mr. Militant Negro

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Two sides to a story

    I can never understand all the effort it takes to live dishonestly when you could apply all that energy to a successful and honest life.

    Liked by 2 people

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