* Fran Spielman reports on Latino politicians who have turned against Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez…
On Monday, vanquished mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and six of the City Council’s 10 Hispanic aldermen demanded that Alvarez resign for taking 13 months to charge a white Chicago Police officer with the first-degree murder of the African-American teenager.
“As we seek now to heal our city and our county, and as we as a society seek to enact long-overdue reforms of our criminal justice system, we need law enforcement officials who are honest, fair, and professional,” Garcia said.
“Too much is at stake to allow Anita Alvarez to continue in the position of Cook County state’s attorney, and accordingly, we call on her today to resign immediately.”
Joining Garcia at the news conference were four aldermen: Susie Salowski Garza (10th), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Gilbert Villegas (36th) and Ricardo Muñoz (22nd). Two other Hispanic aldermen — Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Proco Joe Moreno (1st) — also joined the call for Alvarez’s resignation, but did not attend.
“Ms. Alvarez’s record as the county’s chief prosecutor has been replete with actions that show a disdain for restorative justice and a petty vindictiveness wholly inappropriate for her office.”
Alvarez’s office later issued a written response to the latest demand for her to leave:
“I am a professional prosecutor and I am not driven by politics. I offer no apologies for enlisting the FBI to investigate Laquan’s murder because obviously the Chicago Police Department could not investigate themselves in this case. And I certainly do not apologize for conducting a meticulous and thorough investigation to build the strongest possible First Degree Murder case against Officer Van Dyke.”
Garcia did not call for the resignation of Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, however, saying he wanted to let a Chicago city council hearing into the matter play out first.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday called for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to step down and for Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to be ousted because of their handling of the investigation into the shooting of an African-American teen by a white Chicago police officer.
“I’ve had no confidence in (Alvarez’s) leadership for a very long time,” said Preckwinkle, who is backing her former chief of staff, Kim Foxx, over Alvarez in the March 15 Democratic primary election. “I think the way she has run the office is disgraceful.” […]
Preckwinkle said McCarthy either knew or should have known months ago that 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was not lunging at police when Officer Jason Van Dyke shot him 16 times in October 2014. […]
Alvarez released a statement saying she would not be “driven by politics” or “bullied by politicians who do not have a full understanding of the facts of this investigation.”
* And the Chicago Tribune, which has stubbornly defended McCarthy against aldermanic demands for his head, now wants an independent investigation…
Who failed Chicago and how? That question demands an answer, not a scapegoat. It demands an investigation independent of the political stakeholders in the Police Department, the state’s attorney’s office or City Hall.
Since April, the U.S. attorney’s office has been conducting an investigation of the McDonald shooting. We don’t know the nature or scope of that investigation; we do know the feds have a formidable track record for prosecuting wrongdoing that other agencies have dismissed or discounted. This is the place for an investigation of all the circumstances around this shooting.
There will be no accountability until Chicagoans know the truth about what happened to Laquan McDonald — and about what happened next.
* Frankly, getting rid of Alvarez and McCarthy and investigating this particular cover-up isn’t gonna do much to change things if this story is true…
If you did think an officer was lying, even in the most egregious cases where there was a dead suspect, reporting such behavior was met with severe consequences like taking cases away from young prosecutors, marginalization in the office and yelling and reprimand.
In my interviews with more than two dozen prosecutors and former prosecutors, they revealed that management did not support the attorneys who came forward; instead, they acted as henchmen at many levels of command, thwarting and even threatening whistle-blowers.
One prosecutor described a killing hauntingly reminiscent to the shooting death of LaQuan McDonald and how it may have played out if a prosecutor tried to investigate Officer Jason Van Dyke. As this assistant State’s Attorney explained:
A police officer killed a guy and they said he was shooting at them at the time. I could tell that didn’t make much sense, but I put the blinders on. [I got conflicting stories from police officers that came in at two different times]. I told my supervisor, and he asked why I had had them come in separately (I hadn’t, they just came in that way) and told me that I should have them get together and straighten it out. He got mad at me. [I went up the chain of command with the complaint, and didn’t get a response]. One supervisor told me, “You’re a prosecutor, not a defense attorney.” One supervisor got so mad that he threw an ashtray against the wall and broke it. They wouldn’t let me see Daley (State’s Attorney and Former Chicago Mayor) about it. They took the case from me and gave it to another lawyer…
Go read the whole thing.
…Adding… State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago)…
To be effective, our outrage must be focused, our demands specific and sharp. Charging Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder is not enough. There was a cover-up, and anyone involved in it must be held accountable. If we do not tear down the blue curtain of silence once and for all, Laquan McDonalds will continue to die in our city. We must never forget that the video – and the truth – were not simply handed to us. Instead, they were ripped from reluctant hands by journalists, citizens and the courts.
Policing reform legislation I co-sponsored this year provides a pathway to the appointment of a special prosecutor in cases such as this one. The law takes effect in January, and it must be used to help bring to justice rogue cops and those who cover for them. In the meantime, we need a fresh start. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez must step down. She has failed in her responsibility to timely, openly prosecute a heinous crime that not only took a life but betrayed the public trust.
I am immensely proud of all who have protested peacefully in Chicago, and on Friday, I was honored to march alongside young people and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement alike on Michigan Avenue. I am more confident than ever that apathy and self-absorption will not succeed in suppressing the human bent toward basic fairness. Not only people of color, but all people who respect justice should be outraged and engaged, and that is the unity I have witnessed since the release of the video last week.
But if these protests do not result in top-to-bottom change, we will be here again – perhaps a month from now, maybe six months or a year from now. Our voices must not die away. We must not stand by while police officers act as judge, jury and executioner on our streets. We will remain united for justice.