20 March 2014

Crooked City, the interview

Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest famously said, “It's the job of the writer in America to say, ‘Fuck you God, fuck you and the Old Testament that you rode in on, fuck you.’ The job of the writer is to kiss no ass, no matter how big and holy and white and tempting and powerful.”

Chicago cop Marty Preib just published his new book Crooked City. It is a compelling story about a series of murders on the westside in 1982. It includes the violence that took the lives of the Parker family, Chicago Police officers O’brien and Fahey, and a young couple in Washington park. It is a story that the Chicago media are terrified to tell because it doesn’t conform to their ‘narrative.’

Their narrative goes something like this,The police are always bad and pick on people for no reason. The offender is always the victim of police abuse and is not an offender but a victim of ‘the system.’”

(See also Joe the Cop's Ghetto Shooting Template for a more focused reaction).

Sound about right? I wrote the above impromptu but you can read Stokely Carmichael’s speech from 1966 (link here) and recognize the same sentiment. Couldn’t you picture ‘Screwy-Lewie’ Farrakahn or Jesse ‘Jackass’ Jackson saying those exact words at a podium in a Bronzeville basement or in an MB (Make Believe) church at 71st & Prairie? Couldn’t you see Tribune senior editor Gerould W. Kern or Stephen Chapman laying down that bullshit at an editorial meeting with their senior writers? They’d all nod in unison as they sipped their no-fat soy Starbucks lattes while adjusting the hipster “pajama boy” glasses?

Of course you could because this drivel is what gets regurgitated almost daily in this rotten stinking city – through the politicians, and the Old Media.

To go against the media narrative, to confront it, is a big risk. A big, big risk. As the rank & file police officers know, there are no First Amendment protections afforded a police officer. We are guilty until proven innocent. We are not allowed to even voice our opinions or comment publicly unless we clear it through the News Affairs bureau.

That’s the beauty of Crooked City – Marty stands before the ‘Uni-Party-Race-Baiting Combine’ (my words) and boldly gives it the finger.

Marty’s book is a scathing indictment of the Innocence Project and is a lesson on how good intentioned Liberal policies never take into account the unintended consequences of those myopic world views.

Sometimes the consequences are palatable – affirmative action discriminates against a white student. Or sometimes the consequences are deadly – Mary Hutchison gets strangled to death by James Ealy.

In these vignettes from 1982, the consequences were death.

Marty’s book read’s like Capote’s In Cold Blood with the exception that you get insight into the author’s day-to-day strivings and his inner musings. His insights on the city are unique and are tinged, thankfully, with an outsider’s view. I picture Marty’s muse carrying a sword in one hand, and the scales of justice in the other. He stands solidly at the side of the victim’s whose voices were silenced and yet continue to cry for justice.

From the book (page 156) “These narratives [police torture] accomplish their goal by deflecting away from the crime scenes themselves and moving to places like the interview rooms at the police districts. No doubt Andrew Wilson [the killer of O’brien and Fahey] got his ass kicked while in custody. Likely other police killers got smacked around. But systemic torture? Electrocution? What freedom these myths provide to their adherents, what power. Activists like Protess wage any claim whatsoever, no matter how baseless or destructive. Is there nothing now that can’t be claimed or argued? …. But where, in truth, was the systemic abuse and fraud – in the police interview rooms or the law offices, university classrooms and newsrooms? …It’s becoming clear to me why the journey to people like [Ricky} Shaw is so fraught with failure, miscommunications, and menacing threats, whi I feel such hopelessness about it. Did I think it would be a simple task to confront these narratives that had taken hold of the city?

Marty is originally from Michigan and came to Chicago to follow his dream of being a writer. He worked as a doorman for 10 years and then became a Chicago cop because he “needed a good job, and I needed a pension and didn’t like being inside” (I could say the same thing.)

Chicago is a funny place to be an artist because Los Angeles or New York are bustling metropolises with strong creative enclaves. Chicago will still grind you down like LA or NYC but Chicago doesn’t have as many like-minded people surrounding you. I think that’s why Chicago is a creative wasteland.

In 2010 Marty was interviewed by Billy Lombardo and it was shown on C-span. It was filmed in 2010 and about two-thirds of the way through, Marty discusses this project and what drew him into the Wrongful Conviction maze.

At one point he was asked about the craft. Marty’s response was classic: “Writing’s all about getting up every day and staring at a wall.” I laughed out loud. How true.

I read Marty’s book and found it to be a page turner, and very enlightening. I reached out to Marty for an email interview and here is what transpired.

Rue: I thoroughly enjoyed your book and have been showing it, and discussing it, with fellow coppers. I've had about a dozen tell me they're going to buy it. I have seen your c-span interview, and read the Crossing Lines piece you wrote for New City. Very powerful stuff.

Ken Kesey famously said "It’s the job of the writer in America to say, 'Fuck you, God, fuck you and the Old Testament that you rode in on, fuck you.' The job of the writer is to kiss no ass, no matter how big and holy and white and tempting and powerful."

I love the fact that you're giving a big middle finger to the lawyers, the mendacious professors, the corrupt judges, and all those who stand in the way of authentic justice. You clearly stand with the victims and their families. God bless you for that. You've got the balls of 3 men, Marty. I know you wouldn't say that about yourself because your humility is palpable. But it really takes courage to share your story, your insights and your life with the entire world through your writing.

The biggest take away from your book, for me, is how the police have been successfully portrayed as "out of control thugs" and worse. You say that suing the city has become a "cottage industry" amongst several law firms. There are always a few bad apples in the barrel but the police get particularly singled out by the media. A dentist or doorman gets in a DUI crash and there isn't a beep from the media but if the drunk driver is a cop then it rates an "above the fold" front page story. I know the war against the police really kicked off in the 60's with the rise of the New Left. According to Marxist theory the police are the front line 'troops' for the capitalists, who protect the 'exploiters'; and there was a lot of head busting going in the 20's & 30's when Big Labor was in its ascendancy. The radicals were successful in using the '68 convention as an indictment of the Chicago Police department as brutal and violent. Is the animosity simply a holdover from those bygone eras? Any insight into that?

Marty Preib: This is a great question. About halfway through the book I stumbled upon a documentary about the Weather Underground, a group of young people mostly from Chicago who broke off from the Students for Democratic Society to form their own radical, violent group. They went around setting off bombs throughout the 70’s and called themselves marxist revolutionaries. Imagine my surprise when one of them, Bernadine Dohrn, was listed as a professor at Northwestern’s Law School, working on wrongful conviction cases. The media has largely given the Weather Underground a pass. They claim they never killed anyone, but I think that is nonsense. There is a lot of evidence that Dohrn killed a San Francisco policeman in one of her bombings. The San Fran Police Union asked the feds to indict her for this bombing.

But the truth is that the wrongful conviction movement is directly tied to the demonstrations in 1968. Many of these radicals went into higher education, including Dorhn and her husband Bill Ayers. They pushed their radical agenda on the students, mostly in the form of wrongful conviction. When you peel open the evidence in so many of these cases, you see there is very little evidence that these killers are wrongfully convicted or the police did anything wrong at all. No doubt there are police abuses. I'm not denying that. But it is not systemic the way these activists claim. In fact the evidence of systemic corruption is more obvious in their actions, than the cops. The fact is that the wrongful conviction activists have mastered the art of public relations. It helps that they have many allies in the media, who join in on their claims without checking the facts at all. All of this is very apparent in the Porter case. The ties to 1968 are very clear, though, and I plan on writing more about it.

Rue: In the book you wondered out loud why the local media chose, and still chooses, to ignore stories like this. You describe Chicago as a "city that has perfected its own evil - it does so by capturing people's imaginations." (I love that turn of phrase by the way). Why do you think they turn a blind eye to stories such as this and refuse to dig deeper? Why wouldn't the Tribune or Sun times do an expose on Porter or Ealy? On some level do you think it's due to Benjamin Plotinsky's view that we're being brainwashed into believing "black = good, white = bad" by our media? (see http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_2_liberal-enthusiam.html)

MP: Journalism schools have become hotbeds of radical activism, particularly Northwestern. Journalists like Eric Zorn and Steven Mills echo the claims of these professors without any fact checking whatsoever. Whoever questions them, they assail. Former Tribune journalist Bill Crawford, who broke the Porter case, is a perfect example. When Crawford was trying to get people to listen to him, Zorn and Chicago Reader writer Mike Miner wrote articles about Crawford being unreasonable, volatile, crazy even. Now, all of Crawford’s claims have proven completely correct, but they still vilify him. It’s as if anyone who violates the party line is assailed.

Another reason is that the newspapers and other media have dug themselves a huge hole in covering these cases. You have to remember that the Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize in large part because of their coverage of the Porter case. How is going to look when it comes to light that they won a Pulitzer for a case they got completely wrong, for a case in which they were journalistically negligent? Many of the editors and journalists wish this whole story would just go away.

I don’t know much about Plotkinsky’s theory. It’s just all very depressing. I think these radicals are fanning the flames of racial hatred rather than addressing them as they claim. It’s one of the dark ironies of these stories that these activists are foisting killers back upon the minorities they claim they are helping. They really aren’t helping anyone. They are undermining the justice system. I would like to hold out hope that the racial tensions simmering in these cases will be alleviated. More and more I think Chicago is a hopeless place. This sentiment took over as I researched these cases.

Rue: You described Officers O'brien and Fahey's last day, and how they were murdered by Andrew Wilson on that fateful day February 9, 1982. You also write eloquently in recounting Officer Doyle's encounter with Edgar Hope - and that Hope and Wilson were friends. You point out, and I'm sure most people don't know, that the day that O'brien and Fahey were murdered, the Wilson brothers were "gunned up" and heading to Cook County Hospital to spring Edgar Hope. You wrote on page 46 [Prior to the O'brien/Fahey murders] "In that year, 1982, these police murders were hanging over the heads of every officer, not just as reminders to be careful and events of aching sorrow, but as indications that something fundamental had changed. There was some shift in power they could not fully measure, as if some fate in the city now operated on behalf of the sociopaths, giving them more power. It was not a transient shift, or temporary one, but a shift for all time" --- that is a spot on assessment and it was clearly a shift in the direction of anarchy, not justice. A shift away from a civil society toward a new tribalism. Can you elaborate on that? Who or what was bending the curve in favor of the sociopaths?

MP: I think it was Chicago’s corruption that laid the foundation for this change for the worst. I think the revolution that took shape in 1968 by the activists never faded. It just took new forms. In many ways, they gained more strength and became more organized as they moved off the street into universities, newspapers, law firms and other professional jobs. But it was the weakness inherent in Chicago’s institutions that gave them their real power, the fact that the political establishment tried to buy them off rather than fight them. When Mayor Daley fired Jon Burge, he gave life to this movement that was, up until that point, a kind of laughingstock in the city. Daley threw the police under the bus because he was the state’s attorney when all these allegations against Burge took shape. He did what so many people in power in Chicago do: He made someone else the fall guy so he could preserve his power. So the groundwork was laid long before the wrongful conviction activists became organized. In short, it’s the fact that Chicago is one party political syndicate that gave power to this new chaos. It’s very depressing.

Rue: It's particularly galling that you point out that in 1999 the Tribune ran a bunch of articles assailing the criminal justice system and the Tribune held out the Porter case as an example of righteous injustice. That the law firms (leovy & leovy, et al) began suing the city, prosecutors and police - winning up to $70 million. This may speak to my first question but the Tribune was cheerleading for convicted murderers, rapists and felons and they couldn't be bothered to boil down the facts? Have you had a conversation about this with John Kass? If so, what's your consensus? To what end is the press taking the side of offenders?

MP: Kass has not spoken to me directly about these cases, though I believe strongly that he suspicious of them. I get the feeling that everyone at the Tribune has been told to keep quiet. The Trib is almost bankrupt as it is now. There are journalists who hate these wrongful conviction cases, who know what really happened. They just can’t say what they think. It took me five years to get one article about the Porter case published, Five years, despite the fact that so much evidence old and new shows clearly the Porter was the original killer. And the response to my article: No one will say a word. My former publisher, the University of Chicago Press, praised my book, but the editor told me over lunch he could never get the board at the press to publish a book saying what I am saying about the wrongful conviction movement. What does that say about how political correctness controls publishing? I was flabbergasted when the editor told me this. My first book was the bestseller for them that year. We got good reviews in several major newspapers and they just tossed me aside saying good job, but no thanks.

Rue: I think you’re right about that because a friend of mine who was a reporter for the Tribune told me that stories he submitted were reviewed by up to 10 different people before being published. He says that sometimes he didn’t even recognize his own writing because it had been so sanitized prior to publishing.

You also discuss the Howard Morgan incident when he tried to kill your friend Officer Wrigley, and Wrigley's partners that night. You describe very accurately just how most of us felt hearing this offender shooting at the police and then lying about it in court. I remember the acrimony raised by Morgan's family; how they whined at any press person with a microphone about how Morgan "used to be" the police, implying that Morgan was innocently driving down the street and the "racist" cops stopped him and just started shooting. The hysteria and race-baiting hijinks that accompanied this incident was truly disturbing on so many levels. A judge let Morgan out on bond even though he was charged with 4 counts of Attempted Murder of police officers. A "media disinformation" campaign was launched to discredit and smear the cops, and to bolster Morgan's case during jury selection. I was glad that Wrigley got a chance to say something to Morgan at the hearing (from Wikipedia: "You shot me, Morgan. You came very close to taking my life... you slandered our reputations as police officers. ... you are a fraud." But activist Ted Pearson compares the shooting to an Alabama lynching. The hyperbole is so outrageous - do you see any hope that the Race Hustlers will some day be marginalized and shown for the degenerate creeps that they are?

MP: The Morgan case was an example of this wrongful conviction nightmare moving into my own life as I was writing about it. It was very painful to watch a close friend go through this process, especially as I have interviewed dozens of really great detectives describe the same nightmare emerging in their own lives, merely for catching and prosecuting a killer.

They are very well organized and tenacious.

Of course I hold out hope that the race hustlers will lose out in the end. I couldn’t do this job or write if I felt as if it were hopeless. But Chicago is sort of the bottom of this hell, where these tactics originated and perfected. Sometimes I just want to get the hell out of Chicago, though. I’m sick of the racial hatred and the corruption here. I’ve always wanted to capture the real cost of the corruption in Chicago and I think these murder cases give form to it.

Rue: Sadly I share your misery and cynicism - as many of our brethren in law enforcement do. We see it every day in court rooms, read it every day in our newspapers.It's nauseating to see cold-blooded murderers get released back on to the streets to kill again.

To wrap up, I know you're a big William Kennedy fan and you speak eloquently about his influences on your writing. After finishing your book I couldn't help but think of Steven Pressfield's seminal book on writing The War of Art, and how at the very end he asks the question of The Ages:

“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace?

In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.

Don’t cheat ous of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.“

Thank you Marty for standing up for what’s right, for having the courage and tenacity to fight-the-good-fight and for giving us a truly remarkable gift.

I urge all my readers to buy this terrific book. You will be surprised at what you don't know.


Thomas McDonagh said...

Good stuff Rue. Ordered the book late last week. Looking forward to a good read.

Anonymous said...

Crooked City is outstandingly good. It's far more than just a police procedural about murder. It deserves to be a bestseller, and would be if it toed the PC line.

pathickey said...

Martin Prieb has picked up the banner from Bill Crawford and placed it high on the horizon. For the first time a serious writer has examined the mythopoeic nonsense that is the Wrongful Convictions Industry.

Anonymous said...

Rue St. Michel was the entire case against Commander Burge circumstantial? Where was the hard evidence?

Anonymous said...

This was a good read. Especially because Preib put the media in the correct context by asking simple questions.

I'm still amazed that the media had no qualms with college students solving murder investigation, regardless of their competence.

I remember when the Chicago Reader wrote about Aaron Paterson. Never in my life did I think anyone in the media would believe Paterson's bullshit and lies, but they did, and they helped get him out. I thought it would all end after that debacle.

Good job officer Preib.

Rue St. Michel said...

Rue St. Michel was the entire case against Commander Burge circumstantial? Where was the hard evidence?

23/3/14 3:30 PM

Where is the "hard evidence" that any torture took place? The quick answer is there is none. Marty's book highlights the immense problem with this kind of Witchhunt - it is based on rumor, speculation, innuendo and the testimony of hardened criminals.

Marty is quick to point out that sure, some arrestees got slapped around (esp. Andrew Wilson, the murderer of Officers O'brien and Fahey) but systemic abuse? Hardly and it is frankly a tremendous miscarriage of justice that Burge spent even one day in jail.

This Innocence project has achieved its goals: A chilling effect on law enforcement, and a warm fuzzy feeling for having "emancipated" convicted murderers.

It is immoral, wrong and thank God we still have people like Marty willing to take a stand and tell the truth.

You won't see the local media doing this even though it was right under their noses the whole time - and continues unabated.

Anonymous said...

I've read both of these books. I share the disgust at murderers being cut loose on bullshit technicalities and the stretching of interpretations as to what constitutes an arrest. However I disagree with the author pointing the finger at Daley; et al. Especially in the Burge matter. Was it not the responsibility of the Superintendent of Police (Bryczek) to foreward his suspicions to the Office of Professional Standards with his suspicions of police brutality. Or was it his personal animus of Daley, after losing the election to the states attorney's office (he ran as a republican). Brcyzek sidestepped his own police department and the mechanisms within to throw this matter in Daley's lap. The police department was his responsibility. But Brcyzek was Jane Byrne's appointment as superintendent. And Byrne despised Daley. So to base your hypothesis on Daley and political corruption is kind of bullshit. I worked the west side during this time (015 Austin) and I know the passions were running high during this sad time. Most of us were amazed the Wilsons were taken into custody without being executed. But I would say I'm grateful that some medium has been brought forth to show what a bunch of phony bastards the Northwestern University Innocence project is and how so much political correctness easily blends into pandering to the black masses.

Anonymous said...

In Feb. of 1975 the Wilson brothers and three others robbed a Sambo's Restuarant in Dolton shots were fired inside the Sambo's by the offenders. After a short chase by Dolton and South Holland units the bad guys were cornered by the police. One of the Wilsons (andrew) got the drop on a So. Holland officer and took his gun. Several shots were exchanged as the bad guys fled. A short while later all of the bad guys were caught.The Wilsons were the only ones to go to trial, and recieved a 7 yrs. sentence with 2 yrs. time served. Shortly after they got they killed Fahey and Obrien. I wish I was a better shot.
Retired Dolton P.D.

Anonymous said...

Whats the deal with the quote at the beginning of the post? Don't get it.

In the years to come we shall see those alleged "exonerated" murderers were in fact guilty. The police-hating attorneys who took there cases did so primarily for monetary reasons.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rue, Is this book gonna be available at Barnes and Noble? Thank you in advance. The Wagon was such a good book!