Thursday, August 30, 2007

Incredible: Anti-Brutality Activist Sentenced to 30 Years

Aaron Patterson was charged in 1986 with a double murder of an elderly couple. Arrested by the Chicago police, he was beaten, suffocated with a plastic typewriter case, handcuffed to a wall and beaten, and told at gunpoint to head to sign a confession. After 25 hours of this plus threat of torture, he signed.

After 17 years in jail, Patterson watched as Jon Burge, the detective presiding over Patterson's beating-confession, was the subject of an inquiry that concluded he had tortured* over 100 black men in Chicago from the mid-1980's to the early 1990's (!!). Patterson was granted a pardon by the Governor of Illinois, and was offered a $4 million settlement by the police department. Patterson refused this money and instead vowed to spend his life crusading against police corruption.

He has performed well. The Chicago police force is increasingly the subject ofunwanted attention and rumors are afoot of an inquiry into a "pattern" of police brutality. This is where the story turns ugly.

In 2005, after already having spent 17 years in jail for being framed, this man of principle was arrested again. This time for drug and weapon charges. While in jail again he was offered freedom in exchange for a promise that he would not pursue any charges of torture against police or otherwise pursue anti-brutality activism on behalf of others. Patterson refused the deal and the charges went forward.

Unbelievably, today Patterson has been found "guilty" and sentenced to 30 years in prison!!! This time, alluding to Patterson's horrific past, prosecutors and judge both claimed that Patterson hoped the past injustice he suffered would make him "bulletproof" because "any police action against him would be seen as revenge." On this ridiculous theory, Patterson intentionally used his ordeal of horrific injustice, "as cover [or an alibi] for a life of crime".

So say prosecutors from a department tied to over 100 wrongful convictions due to torture that put a third-world nation to shame.

To top it all off, the purported reason Patterson turned to "gang life" was not for money but to be "influential and powerful in his community". Apparently, being sentenced to jail for 17 years for a crime he didn't commit, then devoting his life to fighting police brutality afterward wouldn't earn him sufficient status in a black community ravaged by police violence....

Contact the Illlinois Governor's office and inform him that this is unacceptable.

*(Note: "Torture" here means "beatings with bats and sticks", "burning with cigarettes and radiators", "electric shocks to the genitals with cattle prods", and Russian Roulette).

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