American Scandal

Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.

Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.

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Encore: The Midnight Crew | United States v. Burge | 4

Encore: The Midnight Crew | United States v. Burge | 4

Tue, 31 Jan 2023 08:01

An official investigation blows the whistle on Chicago PD. Jon Burge faces a day of reckoning in court.

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Hey, prime members, you can listen to American scandal ad-free on Amazon Music, download the app today. A listener note, this episode contains descriptions of racial violence and other graphic material. It may not be suitable for a younger audience. It's early February 1992 in Chicago. Lee Roy Martin steps into a brightly lit auditorium inside the headquarters of the Chicago Police Department. The room is packed with reporters, and as Martin makes his way to the front, he can feel all the journalists turning, watching him, scrutinizing his every move. Martin approaches a podium and straightens his police uniform. He knows he has to look good. He has to appear steady and calm. As superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, Martin is about to address a series of bombshell allegations. And if he doesn't handle this right, the entire department could come under fire. The police department is about to address a series of bombshell allegations. And if he doesn't handle this right, the entire department could come under fire. Martin steps up to the podium, looks out over the crowd of journalists. Thank you, thank you all for coming to this press conference. There's a lot to talk about, so I'm going to get right to it. As you all know, yesterday a report came out after an internal investigation of Chicago PD. It contains a number of very troubling allegations. Perhaps most troubling is the claim that multiple officers led by Commander John Burge were secretly torturing black criminal suspects. According to the report, these abuses span decades. A reporter in the audience raises her hand, but Martin waves it off. I'll take questions in a moment, but for now, I have to stress these allegations are as of yet unproven. Still, we take the matter very seriously, so John Burge and other officers have been suspended without pay. And several days the issue will face a hearing from the police board. As you know, they have the responsibility for disciplinary measures. The hearing will be thorough, and we will get to the bottom of this. I can promise you that. Okay, now I'll take questions. The reporters begin shouting over each other, and Martin points at someone in the back. All right, let's start here. Sometimes, what do you have? I want to ask a question about the timeline. Looking at the report, I'm seeing that there are at least 50 alleged victims dating all the way back to 1973. That's almost 20 years ago. How was this misconduct not noticed and addressed earlier? Yeah, I can't say exactly. I do think we all need to look at this report with a critical eye, because you'll notice a lot of gaps in the data, a lot of inconsistencies, but it's something we've noticed. Are you suggesting this report got the facts wrong? What I'm suggesting is if you read it closely, I think you'll see that the facts don't necessarily support the conclusion that there was a systemic abuse by members of the CPD. All right, I'll take another question. Tribune, please. Well, I also have a question about the timeline. This report was admitted to you in 1990. Why did it take you a year and a half to discipline birch? As I mentioned, the methodology used for the report is flawed and unsubstantiated. Bringing it to serious question the credibility of its conclusions. I need the time to review the facts. Well, sir, if you allow me to ask, what did you do during that time? The report claims that higher ups in the department knew about the abuse. So is that why for a year and a half you didn't punish anyone? Instead, you partnered with the police foundation of private group tasks with discrediting these official findings? Excuse me. If you're suggesting I was part of a cover-up, I'm not suggesting anything. I'm just asking questions. Martin Bangs on the podium as he locks eyes with the reporter. Your implication is a lie, an outright lie. Whoever said that doesn't know what they're talking about. And please, tell us the full story. Martin takes a deep breath. This press conference feels like it could spin out of control. If he doesn't stop it now, he could do some real damage. So Martin straightens his tie and addresses the entire row. Look, I'm afraid that's all the time I have today. Thank you for coming. We'll have more to say after the police board conducts its hearings on John Birch. Martin steps down from the podium and hurries to the exit. A couple of reporters follow the police superintendent, asking additional questions about John Birch and the official allegations of torture. But Martin ignores them. He won't add any fuel to this fire. And as he makes his way back to his office, Martin just shakes his head. This press conference was supposed to steer the narrative to help insulate the department from any more damage. But it's clearly too late for any kind of defensive posture. Because while John Birch used to be a star detective and a decorated officer, Martin can now see the commander has become a liability. And if he's not taken care of, Birch could threaten the entire department. 13 years ago, in one of the cramped dorm rooms of prestigious Sarah Lawrence College, a nightmare unfolded. The students didn't know it yet, but when a bizarre new roommate moved in, he would change their lives forever. Devil in the dorm, an exclusive new podcast on Wondery Plus, dives into the horrifying story of Larry Ray, who moved into the dorms with his daughter. Shortly thereafter, he started to control, manipulate, and brainwash some of the students. And before long, Ray had amassed what could be best described as a small cult following. Devil in the dorm, a six-part investigative series, draws from transcripts, exhibits, audio files, and video recordings from Larry Ray's federal trial to give listeners unprecedented insight into his heinous crimes, which include extorting millions of dollars through violence, psychological torture, and forced sex work. You can listen to Devil in the dorm, exclusively on Wondery Plus, join Wondery Plus in the Wondery app, or on Apple Podcasts. Hi, I'm Lindsey Graham, host of the Wondery Show Business Movers. In our latest series, an intrepid lawyer turned fast food executive named George Cohan creates an ingenious and wily scheme to sell big Macs behind the Iron Curtain in the middle of the Cold War. Listen to business movers, the McDonald's Invasion on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts. From Wondery, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scan. In the early 1980s, the Chicago Police Department came under fire when activists and civil rights attorneys accused the police of committing torture. Their allegations stemmed in part from a civil lawsuit filed by Andrew Wilson. Wilson was an infamous criminal who was convicted of killing two police officers, but Wilson also claimed that he'd been electrocuted, beaten, and burned by police detectives, all in an effort to extract confession. Wilson's accusations were shocking, but as he pressed his case in court, his attorneys discovered that Wilson was not alone. Chicago police had been accused of torturing dozens of other suspected criminals over the course of decades. Wilson lost his civil case, and while activists like Mary Powers continued to put pressure on the police department, their efforts remained stalled too, meanwhile Commander John Burge went unpunished. But the tide began to shift in the 1990s as a national movement began to take form. Police and Los Angeles had been filmed beating a black motorist named Rodney King. Social unrest began to spread across the country, and in Chicago, the city was forced to confront decades of abuse by its own officers, including the decorated commander John Burge. This is episode 4, United States V Burge. It's early 1992. The attorney Daniel Reedy walks through the lobby of a government building in downtown Chicago. He steps into an elevator, and after hitting the button for the sixth floor, Reedy straightens his tie and glances as watch. He's on time, as usual, and as always, he's come fully prepared for today's meeting, knowing exactly how this sequence is going to play out. In a few minutes, Reedy is going to sit down with a Chicago city official. That official is going to ask him to take on a big case, one involving corruption in the police department. He'll plead and tell Reedy that he's the right man for the job. But Reedy is going to smile, express gratitude, and then politely turn down the offer. It's not that the case is unimportant. Reedy is a veteran lawyer and a former assistant US attorney. Back in the 80s, he led one of the biggest anti-corruption investigations in US history, a sting that took down crooked members of Chicago's judicial system. Reedy has bedrock faith in democracy, and he believes that public servants, like the police, have a sacred responsibility to follow the law. But it can be all-consuming work to hold public officials accountable. And although it's upsetting to read the accusations about torture at the hands of the Chicago police, Reedy knows he's not obligated to take the job. There are plenty other lawyers much more hungry to prosecute such a sprawling legal case. So when he gets the offer from the city official and he knows he will, Reedy is going to be nice, but he'll be firm. He's going to have to pass. The elevator door opens and Reedy heads down along hallway. He opens the door to an office, and when he steps inside, the city official looks up with a grin. Damn, good to see you. And looking at my watch, he'll be on time as always. Yes, I try to be punctual. That's a sign of a man who takes his job seriously. Come on in. Grab a seat. We've got a lot to talk about. Reedy steps into the office and sets down his back. After he takes his seat, he notices a photo on the wall, showing the city official next to Mayor Richard M. Daily. Well, look at that. You and the Mayor. How's it been working for the administration? Well, Dan, it's been good. That's part of what I wanted to talk to you about. This administration is serious about this whole torture scandal. They want to take care of it. Do things the right way. Well, that's good to hear. I was hoping you'd say that. Because I want to ask you something. I'm assuming you're familiar with police boards. Yes. Yeah. If you're going to a discipline officer, you have to have a hearing at the board. Their own version of court. Yeah, that's exactly right. And I know I've been a little cagey about this, but now that we're in person, I wanted to talk to you about something coming up at a board hearing. Yes, I've guessed you want me to be the special prosecutor for the John Birch hearing. The city official smiles. Yeah, that's what I'm asking. So what do you say? It's a flattering offer and a really important case. Oh, no, I don't like where this is going. I'm sorry. I promised myself I was done with these kind of cases, especially in Chicago. You know things get really ugly, really fast here. But, Dan, that's why we need you. You know the ins and outs of the city of the police department. Back in the day, it was you who nailed those seven policemen. Eight. Eight. Case in point. But I was 27 then. I was young and hungry. And that's what you need. You don't need someone like me who's tired and worn down. Oh, worn down. Dan, just tell me, are you familiar with John Birch? Hmm, I don't know everything, but I know the allegations will here. Take a look. The official slides over a dossier with summaries of the case. Burge and his men, they call them the Midnight crew. They beat and electrocuted suspected criminals, suffocated them with plastic bags, burned them on radiators, pointed guns at their heads. All of the suspects were black men. All with the same story. Burge wanted them to confess. Yes, it's very disturbing. No, no, but what's worse is that Burge got his confessions and the department just looked the other way. They even gave him accommodations. Yes, I know. Two decades, Dan. You went on for two decades. Read E. Gritch's teeth, trying to hold back his emotion. Dan, you tell me you're past your prime. You feel like you can't take on such a big case. But I can see it in your eyes. You understand why we have to get justice? This isn't about a couple bad cops. This is about the legitimacy of government. The whole thing. This is about restoring the public's trust. And you're the only one good enough, talented enough to get John Burge fired. He's gotten out of other cases. You know that. It's time to put an end to this nightmare. Read E. pauses, looks down at his hands, and then something clicks, and it turns back to the city official. You know, when I stepped in your office, I had this whole conversation game down. I usually do. I knew what you were going to offer, and I knew I was going to turn it down. But you're right. This is much bigger than a couple of bad apples. Is that a yes? I'm breaking and promise myself. But yeah, it's a yes. Read E. and the city official shake hands. And soon the former federal prosecutor exits the government building and steps out into the busy street in downtown. As he stands at the crosswalk, reading marvels at the way the city is teaming with life, men ensued chatting about business deals, children laughing as they cross the street, a pack of tourists staring up at the skyscrapers. This city can get ugly. Read E has seen it all. But he also believes that Chicago is a beautiful place that it deserves better than a corrupt and abusive police force. So read E is going to grab some coffee and then prepare for a long day of work. He's going to begin building a case against John Burge and his midnight crew. Several weeks later, Andrew Wilson takes a seat in an auditorium in the headquarters of the Chicago Police Department. As he looks around a large space, Wilson blinks and disbelief. He can see the towering buildings of downtown, a giant blue sky and trees swaying in the wind. For Wilson, it's a bit surreal. He's a convicted murderer and spent most of the past 10 years in a small prison cell, about 100 miles away from Chicago. It's a punishing life at the Pontiac Correctional Center. And Wilson knows he sealed his own fate after killing two police officers during a traffic stop. But Wilson also knows that what happened after he was arrested was far from OK. In the hands of John Burge and his fellow officers, Wilson was violently tortured. And even though it's been a decade, Wilson can't let go of the nightmares or the memories of the unspeakable horrors. Wilson tried suing Burge for his crimes in a civil case and he lost both times. But despite the stinging defeats, Wilson knows there's still more he can do. He still has the chance to hold a police commander accountable for his crimes. So in just a minute, Wilson's going to testify in another hearing about Burge. This time he's speaking to Chicago's police board, the group responsible for punishing officers who break the law. It's a much different set of circumstances than his criminal trial or his civil trials. And that gives Wilson some hope. There won't be a bias judge or jury. And the board has access to a recent official report revealing the scope of abuse that took place inside the police department. With such damaging details now in the public record, Wilson believes he stands a real chance of getting John Burge fired. And finally, finding a little piece of justice. Wilson settles in at the witness table and looks up as the prosecutor Daniel Reedy approaches the stand. Reedy trains his gaze on Wilson. Speaking with a note of compassion, he asks Wilson to tell his story to explain how John Burge shattered his life. Wilson nods and right away the memories come flooding back. Wilson can almost feel the pain again, the relentless punches to his stomach, the kicks to his body. The smell of his own blood and burned flesh as he was pressed against a radiator. Wilson begins telling the story, trying to hold himself together. He promised he wouldn't cry. And after a decade he could recount the nightmare without emotion. But Wilson should have known better. Because soon a tear escapes from the corner of his eye. And then Wilson begins sobbing as he recounts the horrors of his abuse and torture. The prosecutor Reedy tells Wilson to take his time. They don't have to rush if he's feeling overwhelmed. But Wilson wipes away the tears and vows to keep going. He has to get out the truth. Wilson explains how he was beaten and burned as John Burge and his men demanded a confession. And then Wilson describes the most excruciating part of that day, the black box with its wires, the jolt of electricity to his ears and mouth and genitals. Wilson begins sobbing again, wiping his nose with the sleeve of the shirt. He's told this story so many times. But even though it's been years, the event at the police station still feels like it was yesterday. Wilson knows that may never change. But as he looks up at the prosecutor, Wilson again feels a glimmer of hope. Maybe this is it. Maybe this guy Daniel Reedy is going to get something done. And maybe John Burge is finally going to be brought to justice. It's late March 1992. In the auditorium of the Chicago Police Department, Daniel Reedy paces near the prosecution table and takes another look at his notes. They're neatly typed and well organized. But at this point, Reedy doesn't need to review anything he's written down. He knows it all like the back of his hand. As the prosecutor leading the charge against John Burge, Reedy has presented a compelling case. He's shown how Burge and his associates systematically broke the law and shattered the lives of dozens of black men. Burge did take the stand and he denied all wrongdoings. But with the evidence he's presented, Reedy believes those lies won't stand up. Not this time. Now Reedy has just one last task. He has to give his closing arguments to convince the police board to fire John Burge. Reedy checks his watch. And when the hearing is called back into order, Reedy sets down his notes and gets ready to speak. Pacing the auditorium, Reedy begins with an invocation of the United States Constitution. Prosecutor reminds the police board that it's their obligation to uphold the sacred requirements written in that document. And that includes restrictions on cruel and unusual punishment. Reedy reminds the board that criminals like Andrew Wilson may have been guilty of terrible crimes. And they deserve to go to prison. But the law does not allow torture, even if officers like John Burge may refer to criminals as garbage. The costs of misconduct like this are not acceptable, Reedy says. Adding we cannot have guardians that have to be guarded. Because when public servants break the law, they shatter the public's trust. And in the end, the lifeblood of a democracy is trust. Reedy pauses. And then he delivers his final instruction to the police board. John Burge should be fired and permanently barred from working as a police officer. With that, Reedy returns to a seat and silently exhales in relief. At this point, Reedy has done everything he can. He's led a relentless prosecution. But now the decision is out of his hands. All Reedy can do is hope the police board makes the right call. And holds John Burge accountable for his crimes. It's the summer of 1992 in Chicago. Mary Powers turns a knob on the kitchen stove and shuts off the gas. Embending her knees, she lifts up a giant pot of vegetarian chili and begins making her way back into the living room. There, she sets down the chili, runs a hand through her silver hair, and announces that lunch is served. There's a round of cheers and applause, and Powers takes a joking bow, and she waves over her fellow activists. They have a lot to get through, and people can't be hungry, so it's time to eat. As the activists get in line, grabbing bowls and spoons, Powers allows herself a satisfied grin. This is what life is all about. The 69-year-old spends her mornings, days, and nights working alongside fellow organizers, leading the fight against police abuse in Chicago. She's been at it for years. And right now, she and her fellow organizers have a lot of issues to tackle. Perhaps most important is John Burge. The police commander is at the tail end of a hearing at the police board, and soon that board will decide whether to fire Burge and cast an official judgment on his guilt. But that decision is in the hands of police department officials, so there's not a lot that Powers can do about it. But as grassroots organizers, she and her allies can continue to push for police accountability, and maybe even secure a criminal investigation of John Burge. The group of activists finish serving up the chili and return to their makeshift seats. It's time for today's meeting to begin, and Mary Powers has a long agenda to get through. But right as she's about to launch into it, the front door bursts open. Powers turns and sees another one of her fellow activists standing in the doorway, looking pale. The activist says she's sorry to interrupt, but she has some news. The woman then reaches into her purse and pulls out a clipping from a newspaper. She announces that they've been played again. A state senator who used to be a member of Chicago PD introduced a bill to the General Assembly. And without any real public scrutiny, the legislature passed it. It's now heading to the governor's desk. Mary Powers frowns. She doesn't know what this is all about. She asked her an explanation. Why should they be concerned about this bill? The activist says the bill matters because it could insulate John Burge from any criminal prosecution. It's known as SB1789, and it creates a three-year statute of limitations on charges of excessive force against police officers. Hearing this, Powers drops her spoon, feeling the lies seep away from her. Now she gets it. And this is a disaster. If the governor signs the bill, John Burge will never be held accountable by the criminal justice system. His torture took place more than three years ago. But the bill would wipe away accountability for all those abuses. He could never be prosecuted. The room goes quiet, and Powers sinks into her chair. It's true that Burge could lose his job, and that would be a minor victory. But he and others torture dozens of men. Burge can't be allowed to walk free. Powers feels deflated and says they should consider calling off today's meeting. But the woman holding the article tells Powers that's a bad idea. Now is exactly when they need to work together and figure out a plan. Shaking her head, Powers laughs bitterly. There is no plan. The governor is going to sign the bill, and that will be that. Burge is going to walk free. But the activist steps forward, determined. And she reminds Powers that she spent a lifetime going up against people in power. Now is not the time to give up. And even though the bill passed by a sweeping margin, the governor could still issue a veto. There is still reason to hope. Powers nods, it's true. The bill has not been officially signed into law. They could still do something. And her fellow activist is right. Now is not the time for disillusionment or despair. So Powers turns to the room and asks if anyone has contacts in the governor's office. They have to move fast. One of the other activists says she does know someone, one of the governor's aides. She could possibly get a meeting. Powers nods. This is the approach. They're going to have to make it down to the Capitol. And they're going to have to move fast. But they may still have a shot of holding John Birch accountable for his crimes. It's August 1992 and a warm summer day in Springfield, Illinois. Mary Powers wipes the sweat from her forehead as she makes her way across a wide grass lawn. It's a different world out here in the state Capitol. Springfield is quiet with a low skyline. There are trees everywhere in the insects, chirp, and a deafening chorus. And unlike Chicago, here in Springfield, there's only one building that really catches the eye. The state Capitol with its Greek columns and a dome that looks like something out of the Renaissance. But it's in this building that Powers has some business. In a few minutes, she's going to sit down with one of the aides to Governor Jim Edgar. She's going to try to convince the aide to sway the governor and get him to veto Bill SB1789. It's crucial for the Bill not to become law. Because if it does, John Birch will never face any criminal prosecutions. He may still lose his job, but he'll be able to retire somewhere warm and rest easy, knowing he'll never face real consequences for committing torture. Powers knows her effort is a long shot, but she has to try. So she picks up her pace and makes her way toward the center of Illinois politics. Powers and her fellow activists enter the Capitol building. And as they make their way through the lobby, Powers looks up at a stunning side. The stained glass at the top of the rotunda is an incredible work of art, and a testament to the highest aspirations of democracy. Powers takes a deep breath, suddenly feeling driven to get the job done. As she and the other activists head down the hallway, the crowd begins to thin, and Powers reaches her destination. Powers opens the door to a small office and finds a clean cut man and a suit sitting behind a desk. You must be Mary Powers. Yes, and you are our direct line to the governor. Only when the governor wants to listen, but please, come on in. I know it's a long drive from Chicago. Powers and the other activists shuffle into the office. As they all take a seat, Powers launches into her pitch. Well, I appreciate you meeting with us, and I know your time is limited, so I'll tell you why we're here. The governor has to do the right thing with SB1789. It's a dangerous piece of legislation, and the governor needs issue of veto. Well, you know, it passed unanimously in the Senate. It was 98 to 7 in the House. There's a lot of bipartisan support for this. That's true, but the legislature is wrong. The bill would protect people who don't deserve protection. People like John Burge, the governor's age shifts in his seat. Well, you know, I know a little bit about that case, and from what I can tell, things don't seem to be going too well for Burge. Yes, he could get fired. But is that enough? I mean, if the police board fires him for committing torture, surely he's guilty of a crime. He needs to be held accountable and sent to prison. But if the governor signs this bill, Burge will never face any kind of real, real punishment. Well, I mean, I see your point, Mrs. Powers, I do. But this is not just about John Burge. Under current law, police officers are badly exposed. They won't be able to do their job if they're worried about something that happened 20 years ago. Well, with all due respect, police officers have always received deference from our legal system. This bill wasn't intended to protect the good cops. It was written to protect the bad ones. And that's not just morally wrong, it isn't smart. Look at what happened in LA. When those officers were acquitted for beating Rodney King. Are you suggesting there could be riots if we don't veto this bill? What I'm telling you is that if Burge is protected from criminal prosecution, people will be furious. And with that kind of anger, there could be an uprising in Chicago. This is something way bigger than what happened in LA. And there are parts of that city that burned to the ground. It's a real possibility. So if the governor is actually serious about law in order, he'll veto this bill. He won't let the bad guys get away. The governor's aide stares at powers for a moment, and then nods. He says she's raised some good points, so the next time he sees the governor, he'll relay the message. Powers thanks the aide for his time, and then she and her fellow activists exit the office and walk out of the Capitol. Powers knows there's no guaranteeing anything, and she and her allies will need to keep up the public pressure on the governor. But still, after this meeting, powers feels optimistic. The governor could still do what's right, and the Chicago police department may still face a day of public reckoning. Several weeks later, Mary Powers sinks into a wooden chair in the headquarters of her group's citizens' alert. It's early September, but still hot in Chicago, and Powers is feeling drained. For weeks, she and her fellow activists have been keeping up the pressure on Illinois's governor, trying to get him to veto Bill SB1789. Powers and other activists have been leading protests in Chicago. They've been holding press conferences to alert the public, and they've even gotten support from the local paper, the Chicago Sun Times. Some powerful voices have raised their support for the activist campaign, and has become clear the governor is under real pressure to veto the bill. But as an activist, Powers knows the work never ends, so she sits up and opens her notebook. She continues working on a speech she's going to give at a rally in a few days. Powers is editing the end of her speech when there's a knock on the door. She looks up and finds one of her volunteers standing in the doorway, with a grin that stretches from ear to ear. Powers furrows her brow and asks what's going on. With a giddy squeal, the volunteer hops in the room and says there's news out of Springfield. The governor listened. He vetoed the bill. Powers sets down her pen and leans back with a smile. As a lifelong activist, Powers has gotten used to losing. People in high office almost never do the right thing. So when the victories do come, there's nothing sweeter in the world. As she savers the moment, suddenly Powers begins to cry. This was a hard fought campaign, all of them are. But this one moved public policy. They got the governor to override a supermajority in the legislature. That kind of victory doesn't come often. Still as sweet as the moment may be, a quiet voice inside Powers reminds her that the fight is not over. Police everywhere need to be held accountable for their crimes. And whether or not John Burge is ultimately fired, Powers and Chicago's activists are going to continue their campaign. They cannot let up. Because there won't be any justice until prosecutors bring criminal charges against Burge and his midnight crew. It's February 1993 in Chicago. It's a cloudy winter day, and the temperature is having risen above 20. But outside a tall building near downtown, Albert Mall stands by himself getting some fresh air. Mall checks his watch. In a few minutes, he's going to have to get in front of a room full of reporters and lead a difficult press conference. Mall is the president of Chicago's police board. And after months of testimony, the board finally made up its mind about John Burge and his fellow officers. Now as one of the public faces of the police department, it's Mall's responsibility to share the decision with the public and try to manage the fallout. It's going to be a hard act to pull off. Mall himself is black. And when he first learned about John Burge's crimes, he felt sick to his stomach. But today isn't about Mall or his feelings. It's about getting out the news and protecting the department. So Mall breeds in the frozen winter air and checks his watch again. And he nods. It's time to go. Mall steps back into the building and enters a large room where dozens of reporters have gathered. He approaches the podium as newspaper photographers race forward taking pictures. When he reaches the mic, the chatter dies down. Good morning, everyone. After months of testimony and thorough deliberation, a Chicago police board has made a decision about John Burge. In fact, immediately, Commander Burge has been fired from Chicago PD. We've also suspended two officers for failing to stop Burge when the commander mistreated Andrew Wilson. Those suspensions will last 15 months. Now, we've got a 59-page report, and it includes all the relevant details. But I'm here right now to take your questions. The room explodes with reporters shouting out, Mall points to one reporter in the front. Thank you. When the board was making its decision, what was the most important factor at play? I would have to say the most convincing evidence was Andrew Wilson's burn marks. A corroborated his testimony, the Burge had pressed him against a hot radiator. Did you feel pressure from activists like Mary Powers, and did that figure into your decision? Well, for better or worse, the activists do deserve some credit. They kept the issue of torture front and center for sure. Next question. Mall points to a reporter in the back. Some people are going to be outraged that you sided with Andrew Wilson, convicted cop killer, and John Burge is a decorated officer. What do you have to say to that? Well, I'd say that's the wrong way of looking at it. We're not siding with Wilson. Fact is there were too many other allegations from too many credible sources. Well, if the allegations were that widespread, what does that say about the department as a whole? Now, listen to me. This is not an indictment of the entire Chicago Police Department. Let's be clear on that. This is about a few lone wolves. A few lone wolves over two decades and dozens of men who are abused. Yeah, the answer to that question and probably all the rest is in the report. And that's all I'm going to say for now. Thank you. Thank you for coming. If you have other questions, you can go to the press office. Mall steps down from the podium, begins making his way out of the room. Well, what about Burge? Is this really justice? Have you done enough? Mall hurries down in the room and rushes to the exit. He needs some fresh air. So he pushes open the front doors and steps outside. With snowflakes falling on his shoulders, Mall shakes his head. He tried to keep a straight face in there, but this whole case has been haunting. And that reporter's last question gets to the heart of it. Firing John Burge was a big step. No question. The Mall is not sure it's enough. Burge's victims deserve justice. They do deserve more. But Mall doesn't have the power to do much more. But he hopes someone does, and that John Burge will finally be forced to answer for his crimes. It's June 28, 2010, 17 years later. In a federal courtroom in Chicago, John Burge sits waiting at the defendant's table. His lawyer is sitting beside him. As he fidgets in his seat, Burge keeps glancing across the room, waiting for the jury to return. He sighs and stares down at the floor. For the last month, he's been fighting federal charges that he lied under oath. Charges stem from a civil trial seven years ago when Burge got on the stand and claimed he never tortured anyone. Burge wasn't worried about making that claim. Over the years, he's been sued plenty of times by convicted felons. And in every instance, he'd stuck to the script and beat the charges. Things seemed to be going just fine. Burge had managed to recover after getting fired from the Chicago PD. He moved to Florida and got a job as a security guard, and he was still able to collect his pension. It was a good life all told, but everything changed in 2008 when federal agents came to Burge's house and arrested him on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. The resulting criminal case has dragged out over the last two years, and has taken a real toll. But today, Burge is finally about to get some answers. The jury is set to return with his verdict. If he's found guilty, he could be sentenced up to 40 years, spending the rest of his life in prison. But if he's found innocent, Burge can once again return to the sunshine of Florida and get back to his life. Soon, the jury re-enters the courtroom, and Burge takes a deep breath. This is the moment of truth. The judge asks the jury for its verdict. As the former rises, he bows his head and says the jury has found the defendant, John Burge, guilty, on all count of obstruction of justice and perjury. John Burge shuts his eyes. He can't believe it. This is what he gets for serving his country, for serving his city. A repudiation of years of good work keeping Chicago safe, maintaining law and order. It's unthinkable. It's an outrage. And yet, somehow Burge knew it was going to come down to this. The world has changed. People like him don't have a place in it anymore. Maybe they never did. Several months later, Anthony Holmes limps into a courtroom in Chicago. He takes a seat in the witness box, and he looks out at the crowd of spectators. Most of the people here are friends and family. Like Holmes, they're black Americans, people who've lived their lives in a country that's always seemed a little hostile to people with darker skin. As Holmes looks around, he also spots a couple of white friends. There's the civil rights lawyer, Flint Taylor, the activist Mary Powers, allies who've stood by him for years. Holmes takes a deep breath and prepares his thoughts. Soon John Burge is going to be sentenced for his crimes. And as one of Burge's former victims, Holmes has been given the chance to make a statement, to tell his story, before the judge hints down a sentence. Holmes is 65 years old. He's been waiting for this moment for decades. And he almost can't believe he finally has the chance. For so long, he's been ignored. But not today. When he's called on, Holmes stands and tells the courtroom how when he was 28 years old, he was arrested by John Burge. He was taken into police custody. After demanding a confession, Burge started to beat him, savagely. Burge went on to suffocate Holmes with a garbage bag. And after that, he electrocuted Holmes repeatedly, until Holmes finally broke and confessed. Holmes tells the courtroom that the trauma has never faded. And it's left a lasting imprint on his life. His wife divorced him, and Holmes has a hard time connecting with his children. It's been nearly 40 years, but Holmes still has post-traumatic stress. He can't imagine it'll ever go away. Then Holmes stops and chews on his lip. He's been trying to hold himself together, but he feels a lump forming in his throat, and before he can stop himself, Holmes lowers his head and begins to cry. The courtroom goes silent. After a few moments, Holmes regains his composure, and the tears stop. Looking up at the courtroom, Holmes sees he's not the only one crying. Crowd is full of weeping spectators, friends, and family moved by his story. Holmes sniffles. And as he finishes telling his story, something strange happens. Holmes suddenly feels light and free. He wipes his eyes. Maybe this is what it takes to lift the weight. Maybe it's public recognition, and ability to share the truth, to hear people's stories. Maybe that's how you move on, Holmes thinks. Maybe that's how the world gets a little bit better. On January 21, 2011, John Burge was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. He served less than four, and was released on October 3, 2014. The following year, in 2015, the city of Chicago established a $5.5 million fund for John Burge's victims. The civil rights attorney, Flint Taylor, praised it, calling the fund a beacon for other cities grappling with a history of violence and racism in their police departments. Today, Taylor still practices civil rights law, and his ally, Mary Powers, remained active as an organizer up until her death in 2016. After his release, John Burge returned to Florida, where he lived until his death in 2018. Andrew Wilson went on to sue John Burge in another civil lawsuit. After his first two failed attempts, Wilson finally won his case, but died in prison in 2007. Many observers believe John Burge's sentence was not enough, considering the scope of his crimes. It's estimated that Burge and his so-called midnight crew tortured at least 100 black criminal suspects from the early 1970s until 1991. Many of those suspects went to prison for decades, and some were sent to death row. Others were later found to be innocent and granted their freedom. But it's believed that as of recently, 20 African American men remain in prison, convicted based on confessions extracted by torture. From Wondery, this is episode 4 of the midnight crew from American's Cannell. In our next episode, I speak with William Jones, a historian at the University of Minnesota. We'll discuss how police unions shape law enforcement across America, and potentially shield officers from claims of misconduct, and we'll look at how cities have begun responding to widespread demands for reform. Hey, prime members, you can listen to American scandal Add Free on Amazon Music, download the Amazon Music Cap today, or you can listen Add Free with Wondery Plus and Apple Podcasts. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at slash survey. If you'd like to learn more about John Burge and the midnight crew, we recommend the book Beyond the Usual Beating by Andrew S. Bayer and The Torture Box by Flint Taylor. This episode contains reenactments and traumatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all of our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsey Graham for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barons, music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Christina Malsberg. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon. The executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman and Marsha Lewey for Wondery.