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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Tue, 10 Jan 2023 18:37
Jon Burge is a star detective in the Chicago Police Department. He's known as a man who can crack the most difficult cases, and send the worst criminals to jail. But underneath his success is a dark secret—one that could shatter the city of Chicago.
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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 depicts racial violence and includes references to suicide. It may not be suitable for a younger audience. It's June 2010. In downtown Chicago, the attorney Richard Buke steps into a large courtroom. Buke runs a hand through his straight brown hair. He adjusts his tie and he begins making his way up to the front to the defense table. As the attorney wins his way through the gallery, he navigates through a crowd of people. Journalists, protesters, off-duty police officers, a grab bag of Chicago residents all gathered to watch the trial that has the city on edge. Buke ducks his head, trying to tune out the noise. There are loud arguments about policing in Chicago, about race and injustice in America. Buke knows this trial has been divisive, has brought out people's passions, but as a defense attorney, he's less focused on theories about right and wrong in the history of America. Only one thing matters to him, and that's winning the case, and moving on to the next one. But winning is not going to be easy, especially with a client like John Burge. As Buke reaches the defense table, he steals a glance at Burge. He's 62 years old, and a former police commander from the South Side of Chicago. Burge is thick set, with a pale and fleshy face, and white hair that's brushed back. He has a hardened look, one you would expect from someone who spent a life working in law enforcement. Normally a client like Burge would appear sympathetic to the jury. He's a lifetime public servant. He spent decades serving the public with countless commendations and awards. But that track record has been overshadowed by a stunning series of allegations. John Burge has been accused of torture. His alleged victims say he suffocated them with plastic bags. That Burge electrocuted them, and threatened them with loaded guns. That Burge committed unimaginable acts of violence, all in an effort to extract criminal confessions. And some of the evidence is overwhelming. All together, more than 100 black men have come forward, claiming they were victims of torture and brutal racism. For Buke, this has been a difficult trial. But in just a few minutes, it's finally going to come to an end. The jury is set to return a Burge. If Burge is found innocent, he'll walk free, and Buke will feel confident that he did his job as an attorney. But if the jurors come back with a guilty verdict, Burge, the former police commander, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Buke is flipping through a series of documents when suddenly he feels his client staring at him. Buke looks up and finds Burge with a cold and menacing look. You know they're going to hang me. John don't say that. There's no reason to think they're going to find you guilty. When you mean there's no reason, you read the papers. You see what people are saying about cops. John, this is a court of law. It's not Facebook or some op-ed. The jury has to be impartial. Tell you, John, have some hope. Burge turns to look at a group of protesters. All day, they've been staring daggers at the defense table. You see those people? They hate me. They think I'm some kind of animal or racist. You know, maybe I got a little rough. I was doing my job. I was taking criminals off the street. It's not my fault they're black. Now they want to put me behind bars. This is the world we live in. John, John, I'm telling you, ignore them. All we care about is the jury. And you think I'm about to be acquitted? I think we put together a solid case. Well, you know what I think. Burge scoots up to his attorney. Close enough that Buke can smell his stale breath. I think you're full of it. Oh, John, come on. I was on the force for over 20 years. And I've done a lot of interrogations. And through it all, you know what I learned? I figured out how to tell when someone was lying straight to my face. And you, the lawyer who's supposed to be fighting for my life, you're a liar. They're about to send me away. Buke's stomach clenches up. He's about to respond to his client. When the bailiff tells everyone to rise, the judge comes striding into the courtroom. And after taking a seat at the bench, he turns to the jury and asks if they've reached a verdict. The head of the jury nods and says they have. As he prepares to read the verdict, Buke takes one last look at his client. These might be Burge's last moments of freedom. The former police commander might soon be locked away in jail, like so many of the criminals burge himself and investigate it. It would be a stunning fall from grace. One that would forever change the city of Chicago. American scandal is sponsored by Zock-Dock. So you've got to worry some mole or a cough that just won't quit. You've Googled, texted your friends, but can't find anything that isn't frightening and probably wrong. You won't get good medical advice from a search engine or TikTok. So turn to the medical professionals on Zock-Dock. Zock-Dock is the only free app that lets you find and book doctors who are patient reviewed, take your insurance, are available when you need them and treat almost every condition under the sun. So go to zock.com slash as and download the Zock-Dock app for free. Then find and book a top rated doctor today. Many are available within 24 hours. That's zoc.com slash as. Zock-Dock.com slash as. From Wondery, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American scandal. In the United States, police departments are entrusted with a sacred duty. Officers are responsible for enforcing our laws. They help maintain order while protecting citizens from those who might do them harm. It is a grave obligation, but at times throughout America's history, police officers have broken their pact with the citizens they serve. Officers have been charged with the same crimes they've been asked to police. And with a legacy of racial profiling, law enforcement has developed a troubled relationship with many people of color. This is especially true for residents of Chicago. Over the course of two decades, members of the Chicago Police Department secretly tortured black citizens who were suspected of crimes. The officer's goal was to get criminal confessions, even if getting those confessions meant breaking the law. At the center of the scandal was a single police commander named John Birch. His crimes were shrouded in secrecy and protected by a code of silence among the city's police officers and elected officials. But these accusations wouldn't remain hidden forever. Civil rights activists let a fight against Birch and his so-called Midnight Crew. It was a long and difficult struggle. And when the truth finally came out, Birch and the police department would face a day of reckoning. This is episode 1, Warzone. It's early 1969 in South Vietnam. About 50 miles southwest of Saigon, a camouflage Jeep comes racing down a dirt road. It kicks up pools of stagnant water. And as it heads west, it passes a row of palm trees and tall grass swaying in the wind. Inside the Jeep, the military police officer John Birch grips the steering wheel. It's another scorching day in South Vietnam. And Birch is ready to get back to camp. The 21-year-old has been out investigating a crime supposedly committed by an American soldier. As a military investigator, it's Birch's job to get to the truth and bring whoever's responsible to justice. But it's been a long and exhausting day. And Birch is ready to find a patch of shade and kick up his feet. But he can't call it quits yet. Birch still has to meet with his boss back at the base. They have to review the investigation. And they have to figure out next steps as Birch continues his hunt for a criminal. So Birch guns it. His Jeep sails down another dirt road and soon he begins approaching the military base. It's a sprawling encampment. Home to some 15,000 Americans, soldiers who've flown across the Pacific in order to fight in the Vietnam War. Birch pulls into the base and lets his foot off the pedal. As the Jeep slows down, Birch passes by a series of barracks and a small power plant. On his left, a group of men are running drills and practicing taking apart and rebuilding the rifles. Birch thinks it's a beautiful sight. He hasn't been deployed that long, but he can already tell that this is the kind of life he was meant to lead. He's always seen military service as a duty, a right of passage, one that gives you self worth an a sense of purpose. But Birch also likes playing a part of a military police officer. He gets to investigate crimes on base and maintain law and order. And if he's honest with himself, he's also drawn to the feeling of action and adventure. He's had the chance to go undercover and stake out criminals. Birch has even rescued fellow soldiers when they've come under attack. And Birch knows he's well-suited for this kind of war. While he's exhausted from his long day, he's still excited to meet his commanding officer to try to make progress on the latest criminal investigation. He knows they're close to making an arrest. A few minutes later, Birch approaches a barracks with a thin metal roof. He steps into the squat building and as he squins, his eyes adjust to the dim light. His commanding officer should be somewhere in the building, but as the room comes into view, Birch notices something strange. His commanding officer is there, standing in a corner with a look of cold fury. The officer is wearing a wrinkled green t-shirt, and on that shirt is the unmistakable splatter of blood. Birch looks left and spots a Vietnamese man, cowering against a wall. There's a gash on the side of his face, and the man has a blue and red flag pinned to his shirt. Birch's mouth goes dry as he realizes what he just stumbled into. This man is a soldier for the Viet Cong. The gorilla force waging a fight against Americans and the South Vietnamese. They've been leading nightly attacks on the base, but this gorilla fighter must have been captured. And Birch's commanding officer appears to be leading a violent interrogation. Birch apologizes for interrupting. He says he wanted to talk about the latest investigation, but that can wait. He then begins to back out of the room. But his boss orders him to stop. Tells him that Birch needs to see this. He has to learn an important lesson. Birch swallows. The steel's a quick look at the Viet Cong soldier. Blood is trickling down his cheek. The man looks terrified. But Birch's commanding officer steps forward and tells him to take a good long look. This man is their enemy. He had valuable intelligence about a forthcoming attack. And at first he did not want to talk. But the officer says all that changed once he was given the proper motivation. Birch nods. He doesn't take an expert to see that this man has been brutalized. Someone say even tortured, all for the sake of a confession. The sight makes a stomach turn. But sensing his discomfort, his commanding officer orders Birch to stay put. He explains that Birch has to absorb this lesson if he wants to be a good detective. When people's lives are on the line, you do what it takes. It doesn't matter if things get ugly. You do whatever you have to do. In order to say people's lives and maintain law and order, you do what it takes. Birch is frozen in place. He doesn't know what to say. But before he can muster a single word, suddenly his officer dismisses him and tells him to get back to work. They'll talk about the investigation later. Birch nods and he turns on his heels and heads back into the blinding sunlight. Once he's out of sight, Birch kneels down and crouches against the stump of a palm tree. He's shaken by the image of that viet-con soldier, looking terrified. But as Birch gazes across the military base at all the American soldiers there, Birch knows that war isn't easy. The moral calculus isn't simple when people's lives are on the line. So maybe his officer is right. When you're in war, you do whatever it takes. You have to protect people's lives. You have to maintain law and order. Even if that means things get ugly. Three years later, John Birch leans against a wall in a cramped living room in Chicago. He lets his arms fall beside his broad chest, and in the midday light his police badge catches the reflection of the sun. Birch exhales and tries to steady himself. Across the room a skinny young woman has collapsed in an armchair. Her eyes are wild and bloodshot. And in her right hand is a 22 caliber pistol that she's aiming at her own throat. Birch takes a breath, trying to stop his heart from pounding. He's in a volatile situation. Ever since he returned from Vietnam, Birch has been working as a patrolman for the Chicago police. He thought he'd be far from the terrors of war, but the city has just felt like another battlefield. Birch grew up in Chicago. It's a city he loves. Still, he can't ignore the way certain neighborhoods have changed, and the way they seem to be spiraling into crime and chaos. Birch also can't help but feel resentful about how different everything looks. He remembers these neighborhoods. They didn't look like this. Now they're full of black residents. The kind of people Birch doesn't like. The kind of people he blames for everything that's gone wrong in Chicago. And now, as a patrolman, Birch has to spend his days dealing with people like Irma Moody, the crazed woman who's sitting across from him, with a gun pointed at her throat. Moody's eyes are darting left and right, and Birch knows he has to do something. He has to take action. It's only matter of minutes before someone gets badly hurt. So Birch squats on the ground, trying to speak with Moody at high level. Alright, Irma, let's talk. I don't want to talk. I don't want to do anything. No one's making you do anything, okay? What do you want from me? Why are you here in my home? Irma, remember we got a call. Saying there's a woman with a gun in front of a drugstore. We showed up, and you said you wanted to go home and check on your baby. We brought you home, just like you asked, and here we are. We got a call and things down a bit, don't you think? I'm still worried about my baby, but you just checked on her, and you said she was doing okay. So maybe we can put the gun down now, please. What Moody cocks the trigger? Jams the barrel into her neck. Irma, come on, set it down. There is no need for a gun. Oh yeah? How come you cops get a gun and I don't? Well, because we deal with some bad people, but you're not a bad person. Still, if you don't put down that weapon, I'm afraid someone's gonna get hurt. You're gonna hurt me? You're gonna hurt my baby. No, nobody's hurting your baby. Get away from me. Irma, I'm asking you. I need space. I need to pray. Moody shuts her eyes and a bead of sweat drips down her forehead. It's then Burge notices her finger drifting toward the trigger. It looks like she's about to shoot herself. Something instinctive kicks in and Burge leaves up from the ground, lunging toward Moody. As he flies across the living room, time seems to come to a stop. Burge is inches away from Moody when the woman's finger reaches for the trigger. Then it all happens so fast. Burge reaches out his arm, his thumb lands in front of the gun's hammer, and before she can fire a bullet, he wrenches away the pistol and saves the woman from taking her own life. For a moment, Burge sits, split on the couch, in shock, but then reality comes crashing back, and Burge pushes himself up and races across the room holding the pistol. Burge's partner shakes his head in disbelief and mutters a curse. He tells Burge he's probably gonna get a commendation for this. He was a serious act of bravery. Burge nods. He probably will get some kind of award, but he's not exactly happy about it, because it didn't feel like bravery. It's not like in Vietnam. There, Burge rescued fellow soldiers, men he thought deserved to live, but in Burge's eyes, this woman is just another low life with a drug problem. She's like so many other people who've overrun Chicago, turning the city into a war zone of crime and disorder. It's not something Burge thinks he can take. Seven months later, John Burge paces inside an interrogation room in a police station on the south side of Chicago. The space is small and boxy, and at the center of the room is a black teenage boy who sits shackled to a steel table. Rodney Mazden is 17 years old, and he still has the face of a child, but Mazden has been accused of crime that almost defies the imagination. People are pinning the blame on Mazden for breaking into a house with his friend and senselessly beating an 11-year-old white boy. The case has become what's known as a heater. It's been dominating the headlines in Chicago. And with the public demanding justice for the 11-year-old, city officials have placed enormous pressure on the police department to solve the crime. That pressure has largely come down on Burge. He was recently promoted to be a detective, but now just months after starting the job, Burge has been handed what might be the most important case of his life. He knows he has to solve the crime. The only way to do that is if he gets his suspect talking. Burge leans forward, letting his face hover right next to Mazden's. He can smell the teenage boy's sweat. He says he knows exactly what Mazden did. He and his friend were trying to break into a house, steal a few things, but they didn't expect an 11-year-old to be sitting home alone. They panicked, and they beat him, leaving the little white boy in a pool of his own blood. Mazden shakes his head. Says Burge has got it all wrong. He didn't do anything. But Burge slams his fist against the table. Tells Mazden to stop lying. Burge talked to all the black teenagers who lived near the scene of the crime. They pointed the finger at Mazden and his friend, said they were the ones who were responsible. Mazden shakes his head again, pleading with Burge, saying it's a lie. He wants to go home. He didn't do anything. Burge bites his lip. He's in a tough position. Everything inside him says Mazden is lying, but he doesn't have any evidence to pack it up. And as if reading his mind, Mazden repeats that he didn't break into a house. He didn't beat up a little white boy. And unless Burge can prove otherwise, he has to let him go. It's the law. Burge swears in frustration. The kid's right. Burge can only hold him for so long. But he also can't believe that a black teenager has the gall to tell him what he can and can't do. A certain anger begins to swell inside Burge, as he thinks about everything that's going wrong in Chicago. The crime, inspiring out of control. The lawlessness that everyone seems powerless to stop. A now a violent criminal lecturing Burge about his constitutional rights. It's enough to cause Burge to lose control. And before he knows what he's doing, he feels the anger taking over. He clenches his fist, comes charging at the teenage boy. Burge almost feels like he's blacked out. But suddenly, he hears Mazden saying something. Burge is right. They did it. They broke in. They beat the kid. He admits it. They committed the crime. His heart racing, Burge steps back. Wipes his fist on his pants. Then he looks at the teenage boy. The blood is cascading down his face. Burge suddenly realizes that he lost control. He could be fired if anyone finds out that he just beat a criminal suspect. But at the same time, he got his confession. The public, the papers, the mayor's office. Everyone is going to be thrilled to see this case come to a close. And while this may not have been pretty, and he may have to cover his tracks, Burge is realizing again that his commanding officer in Vietnam was right. When you're fighting in a war zone, and people's lives are on the line, you do what you have to do. Hi, I'm Lindsey Graham host of Wondry's Business Movers. In our latest series, the leaders of Exxon struggle to respond to a catastrophe of their own making, the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Listen to Business Movers Exxon in crisis on Amazon music or wherever you get your podcasts. In 1848, a worker building a sawmill in California found some strange yellow rocks in a riverbed. And in just a few short years, his discovery would transform the American landscape. Hi, I'm Lindsey Graham, the host of Wondry's podcast American History Tellers. We take you to the events, times, and people that shaped America and Americans. Our values, our struggles, and our dreams. In our latest series, the discovery of gold sends people from around the world flocking to California, hoping to strike it rich. In the ensuing frenzy, San Francisco becomes a boom town, and fortunes are made and lost virtually overnight. But for many of California's inhabitants, the minds of a dark side. Follow American History Tellers wherever you get your podcasts, or listen ad-free on the Amazon Music or Wondry app. American scandal is sponsored by BetterHelp. There's a funny thing about exercise, and maybe you've noticed it too. When you're exercising regularly, it's not that hard to stay motivated and keep your street going. But when you haven't been exercising, it takes real effort to get up and go. Same thing with emotional growth. When you're thinking about your thinking, it's easy to stay level and feeling good. When you're not, maybe you need some help. Therapists are trained to help you figure out the cause of challenging emotions and learn productive coping skills. And just like with exercise, after every therapy session, you feel stronger. And if you're thinking of giving therapy a try, BetterHelp is a great option. As the world's largest therapy service, BetterHelp has matched 3 million people with professionally licensed and vetted therapists available 100% online. Plus it's affordable. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to match with a therapist. And if things aren't clicking, you can easily switch to a new therapist any time. It couldn't be simpler. No waiting rooms, no traffic, no endless searching for the right therapist. Learn more and save 10% off your first month at BetterHelp.com slash AS. That's BetterHelpHELP.com slash AS. American Scandal is sponsored by Audible. Books are amazing, and you already know that podcasts are great. Smash these two together and you've got audio books. And there's no better place to find them than Audible. There are thousands of titles to fit any mood. Need to relax, find some light and breezy fiction. Want to grow, choose an inspiring book on business or personal development. And there's more nonfiction than any curious minded person could ever listen to. Members also get full access to a growing selection of all sorts of audio entertainment like Audible originals and podcasts. Plus the Audible app makes it easy to listen anytime, anywhere, while traveling, working out, doing chores, you decide. And like all Audible members, I get one credit every month good for any title in the entire premium selection of best sellers and new releases regardless of price to keep forever. I'm looking forward to listening to The Bomber Mafia by fellow podcaster Malcolm Gladwell. Listen with me. New members can try Audible free for 30 days. Visit audible.com slash AS or text AS to 500 500. That's audible.com slash AS or text AS to 500 500. It's September 1972 in the south side of Chicago. Inside the Burnside Police Station, Detective William Parker approaches his desk and loads a sheet of paper into his typewriter. He takes a seat on a hard wooden chair and Parker begins clacking away at the keyboard, typing out the details of a recent arrest. But as Parker sits typing, he pauses and looks around the bullpen. It's known usually quiet day at Burnside. All the other officers are sitting at their desk, typing up reports of their own. And that's often what it means to be a police detective. There's a lot of sitting around, filing reports, doing the slow and methodical work of solving crimes. Still, Parker likes the job. He's a veteran on the force. And although he was recently transferred to the station and one of the only black officers, Parker feels a sense of camaraderie with the other members of the force. The police department has always felt like a brotherhood. Parker gets back to typing its report and charting out the details of a recent arrest. But then he hears something. Parker lifts his fingers from the keyboard and waits, listening. A moment later, he hears it again. It sounds like someone crying out in pain. Parker looks at his fellow officers, but no one seems to have noticed. A minute later, Parker hears the shrill cry again. He leaps to his feet and looks around. But for some reason, the other officers still haven't seemed to notice. Or maybe Parker begins to realize they're ignoring it. Parker doesn't wait for someone else to take action. He hurries down a narrow hallway where it seemed like the sound was coming from. And it's then he hears another shrill scream, the unmistakable sound of pain. Somebody must be in trouble. Parker races to the end of the hallway and throws open a door. But when he steps through it, he freezes. A black man is standing handcuffed next to a hissing radiator. His pants are at his ankles and his face is streaked with tears. Standing next to him is a beefy white officer with a jowly face. Parker spots two other white officers at the other end of the room. They move quick, looking like they're trying to hide something. Parker's heart begins to race. With his voice shaking, he asks the thick said officer what's going on. He says they're leading an interrogation. Parker just interrupted them. So he needs to close the door and go back to his desk. Parker locks eyes with the suspect. He looks miserable and defeated. The sides of a black man chain to a steaming radiator makes Parker sick. If he weren't to cop himself, he knows that could very well be him. So Parker announces that whatever is happening here, they need to stop and unchain their suspect. But the heavy said officer shakes his head and says no, that's not going to happen. Parker doesn't know what else to do. He's outnumbered. So he steps forward and demands to know the officer's name. The officer smirks and says sure. His name's John Birch. And he tells Parker that if he knows what's good for him, he should mind his own business and get back to his desk. Birch then nods at the other two officers and they begin to approach. Parker isn't dumb. He knows a threat when he sees one. So he backs out of the room and steps into the hallway. The door slams shut. And Parker stands alone, feeling sick and shocked. Everything inside him wants to go back in to help that man who's being forced to undergo some kind of violent interrogation. The Parker also knows he could pay a heavy price if he does. So he turns and heads back to his desk just like he was told. As he takes a seat, Parker gazes around the bullpen. Most of the white officers have their heads down in their work. They seem to be ignoring the whole event. But a few officers are staring at Parker with a look of obvious hostility. Parker stunned. He hasn't been here long, but it's clear that everyone is in on some kind of terrible secret. Parker can't let it go, which means he has only one option. He needs to meet with a supervisor. Parker has to tell the truth that he just witnessed what looked like torture. And if this is in fact a department of real police, of law enforcement, then someone will take action and make sure this sort of atrocity never happens again. A few days later, Detective William Parker approaches the office of his supervisor. He's had some long, sleepless nights, thinking about John Burge in the incident from the other day. And for a moment, Parker almost found himself backing down. It seemed like it might be better and certainly safer to stay silent. But every time he found his courage faltering, Parker remembered the look in that man's eyes, chained to a radiator. This pants had his ankles. Parker can imagine what was going on. No one should be subjected to that kind of treatment, especially at the hands of law enforcement. So Parker made up his mind. It was time to talk with his boss. Parker knocks on his supervisor's door. Stepping in, Parker finds his supervisor seated behind his desk. He's a lean, middle-aged white man with a neatly trim mustache. Ah, Parker, what brings you in? Well, sir, I witnessed something that I think is serious. Oh, okay. Have a seat. Tell me what's going on. Thank you. Well, a few days ago, I heard what I thought was screaming from here within the building. So I went to see what was going on. This is hard. No, it's okay. Just be honest. Tell me what happened. Well, Detective Burge, he was interrogating a suspect. For on everything I could see, it looked violent. Maybe like torture. Torture. Well, that's a big accusation. Are you sure? Yeah, I am. And you want to go on the record with this? Well, sir, that's my hope. If it was torture, Burge needs to be held accountable. Parker's supervisor shifts in his seat and looks off into the distance. It's too bad that you want to do this. I'm sorry, sir. What do you mean? John Burge clears more cases than any other detective at the precinct. But, sir, you hear what I'm telling you. What I understand is that you're sticking your nose where it doesn't belong. Burge gets results. And I don't care how he does it, okay? You and I both know we're dealing with criminals. Scum of the earth. It doesn't matter who they are. They have rights. And now, Parker, I know when you look in the mirror, you see a black man. And that might make you feel different from the rest of us. But don't ever, ever forget that you are a cop. And a cop is a very different thing than a rat. Parker recoils, feeling stunned. He came to his supervisor to report torture. Instead of having the claim taken seriously, he was told to mind his own business. Parker would keep arguing. But he knows he's not going to get anywhere. So Parker stands and leaves the office. He's heading back to his desk. He notices the other officers staring at him again. If it wasn't obvious before, there's no mistaking it now. He's become a pariah. All for trying to do the right thing. And if Parker has learned anything about law enforcement, it's that once you're now cast, you don't last long on the job. It's the fall of 1972 in a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. A train comes barreling down a set of elevated tracks. It's wheels grinding against metal, letting out a deafening roar. As the train passes by overhead, Chicago police officer William Parker looks up and breathes in the smell of rusted steel. Parker is a long time resident of Chicago. These are all familiar sights and sounds. But at this point, it's not a big deal. At this point in his career, Parker didn't think he'd be spending his weekdays walking around the streets of the north side on foot patrol. Parker was a veteran detective. He had seniority and status. But then he tried to do the right thing and blow the whistle on John Burge. That cost him everything. After reporting that police officers had committed torture, Parker was demoted from detective to patrolman. He was transferred across the city and assigned to walk along the streets like a rookie cop. It was retribution, clear as day. Now, Parker wants more than anything to strike back at John Burge and expose his brutality to get some kind of public recognition for doing the right thing. And Parker has been hatching a plan. But before he can do anything, Parker is going to have to get through another day on patrol. So Parker steps over a pile of trash and crosses a dirty street. It scans Western Avenue, seeing if anything's a miss. And then he and his partner head east and begin making their way toward the lake. Parker is still not quite used to all this walking and is about to complain to his partner when the door to a nearby shop comes swinging open. Two boys burst through the doorway and sprint down the block. Seconds later a man with a red face bolts out after them, yelling at the boys to stop. Parker and his partner exchange a look. And then they take off running. Parker pumps his fists as he chases the boys. They are fast but not fast enough and soon Parker overtakes them and grabs them by the shoulders. Boys look away and fear as Parker holds them close and soon the man from the store catches up his breath wheezing. The storekeeper announces that the boys stole that their thieves. Parker shoots the boys a stern look and says whatever they took they need to give back. The boys are frightened but they remain frozen completely silent. Parker tightens his grip and says he's serious. Whatever it is they have to hand it back over. The boys look at each other and then reach into their pockets and pull out a couple of bars of Hershey's chocolate. Seeing the candy Parker almost rolls his eyes all of this for a couple of chocolate bars. But the store owner remains furious and says he wants the kids arrested. Parker glances at the boys. They're scrawny, wearing ragged jeans. They can't be older than eight or nine. It would be a mistake to put them in handcuffs and drag them away. So Parker sighs and tells the boys to go home. Not to steal again. The boys nod their heads earnestly and take off from the other direction. When they're out of sight Parker hands the store owner a $5 bill. That should cover the man's losses. The store owner protests though saying the kids need to learn a lesson. But Parker stops him in the middle of his tirade. Reminding the man that he should get back to his shop before someone else steals another chocolate bar. The store owner curses under his breath and as he walks away Parker shakes his head. He can't believe he's been reduced to chasing kids who steal chocolate. But his partner shrugs. Reminding Parker that if he wanted to do real police work he shouldn't have ratted on a white detective. He's a black officer in Chicago PD. What did he expect? Parker stares down at the pavement feeling defeated as partners write. John Burge is protected by an entire system. One that rewards officers for hitting their numbers and punishes anyone who raises concerns. Especially if the whistleblower is black. And while Parker has promised himself to keep fighting now he's not so sure. They already demoted him. If he keeps going after John Burge there's no telling what kind of payback you'll face. So Parker adjusts his belt and continues walking down the city street. He's decided he's going to stay silent. He needs to hold onto this job as long as he can. But Parker can hold out some hope. And someday someone will uncover the truth and bring John Burge to justice. It's late 1972 in the South Side of Chicago a state prosecutor steps into the Burnside Police Station. He's young and wearing an expensive dress suit. And as he makes his way through the precinct he can tell he doesn't fit in. All around the prosecutor are police detectives sitting at their desks reading through case files. It's a tough looking crowd. The kind of police officers who've seen it all and decided long ago to play by their own rules. But that cowboy mentality is exactly why the prosecutor is here today. The state is putting into place a new program called Felony Review. With case loads exploding state prosecutors need law enforcement to gather better evidence. It's the only way the prosecutors can put together strong cases and make sure they come away winners in their criminal trials. Before the program to work police detectives have to be willing to collaborate with prosecutors instead of doing things their own way. And sometimes getting police officers to change their habits takes a little arm twisting, which is exactly what this prosecutor is planning to do. In a few minutes he's going to meet with a detective named John Burge. He has an impressive record with Chicago PD, but he's going to have to get on board with Felony Review. Start gathering the kind of evidence the state needs in order to win a trial. The prosecutor continues through the bullpen and finds Burge sifting through a file drawer. Excuse me, detective Burge? Burge shuts the drawer and turns around holding a thick manila folder. Yeah, I called the other day. I'm with the state's attorney office. Okay, what do you want? Well, as you're aware, we're instituting a new policy. We want to make sure our partners and law enforcement are getting us the best evidence and long before we go to trial. You think we're partners? The state prosecutor bites his lip. He didn't expect Burge to start off so adversarial. Well, of course we're partners. You make the arrests and we get the guilty person. Well, if we're partners, why are you telling me how to do my job? Again, detective Burge, we are on the same team. If we don't have the evidence, we lose a trial. If we lose, those guys that you arrest, they go right back on the street. And then you have to start all over again. I'm trying to save you work. Burge squints at the prosecutor. Then he opens the manila folder and takes out a mugshot of a black man. Now take a look. You see this? This piece of work? Robbery homicide? This guy's an animal. Okay, now, now look at this one. Burge takes out another mugshot. And the alleged criminal is also a black man. Are you looking? I'm not sure what you're getting at. Okay, then let me explain something. You don't know how things really are. Well, detective Burge, I'm not questioning your experience. You see these two men? You see what they look like? There's a thousand guys just like him in the city. They're ready to murder, steal, start a riot. And you're worried about paperwork. Let me tell you, police work isn't just about evidence. We keep the city safe. And that means acting on a gut. Well, I hear you. But I'm afraid gut instinct is good enough. Now, if you really want to put away the back guys. Burge glairs at the state prosecutor. And for a moment, the attorney considers whether to turn around and walk away. But suddenly, Burge's expression changes. There are a piece of work. And I respect that. So what do you need? Who want me to get a confession? What's the gold standard? Well, yeah, confession cares a lot of it. Okay, well, if that's what you need, that's what I'll get. So we're on the same team. Yeah, pal, you and me. We're like teammates on the white socks. And you'll see, I only hit home runs. The attorney grins at this sudden turn of events. Police can be tough to work with. If someone like Burge is willing to play ball, then the state prosecutors are going to be in good shape. Sounds like they'll get the evidence they need. And they'll win their cases. And the city officials and the public will see prosecutors as the kind of people who know how to fight crime. Make the city safer place. It's May 29, 1973, late at night at the Burnside Police Station. In a dark and cramped interrogation room. A group of police officers shove a man into a chair. He's muscular, young and black. A pair of officers shackle him to a table. And out of the shadows, Detective John Burge steps forward with a cold look on his face. Burge has been waiting for this interrogation for a while. The man sitting in front of him is Anthony Holmes, a convicted felon with a rap sheet that includes several counts of auto theft and armed robbery. But Holmes is in the interrogation room because he stole a car. There's reason to believe that two years ago, Holmes worked as a getaway driver for a notorious gang. And one night, the gang members shot and killed a man. While it doesn't appear that Holmes himself pulled the trigger, if he drove the getaway car, then in the eyes of the law, he's an accomplice to murder. And as Burge gazes at Holmes, he can tell the man is guilty. It's in his eyes, in his face. Burge doesn't care if that kind of profiling makes him racist. All he cares about is putting the bad guys in prison. But Burge has a problem. So far, the evidence they've gathered doesn't meet the standards of felony review. It won't be good enough for state prosecutors. And if they don't get the evidence, the state may let Holmes walk free. That's something Burge won't let happen. So tonight, he's going to get Holmes talking. When all is said and done, Burge will have a confession. The criminal evidence they need to lock up these men for the rest of their lives. Burge spreads his hands on the cold metal table. He tells Holmes that he's been brought here with a chance to come clean to admit that he committed a crime. They can get it over with quickly. Or, if Holmes wants, they could take another rap. Holmes narrows his eyes. He tells Burge he's not confessing anything. Burge looks at his fellow officers and shrugs. Holmes has made his choice. Now it's time to move the interrogation forward. Burge grabs a paper bag and sets it on the table. He pulls out a black box, its full of wires and clips. He tells Holmes that this is his last chance. It's time to confess. But Holmes just stares blankly. He's not going to talk. Burge shakes his head. Ma is about to experience pain, unlike anything he's ever imagined. It's worse than the beating. Maybe he's worse than getting shot. And when it's over, Burge has no doubt that this criminal will start talking. He'll admit his crime and implicate his friends. And Burge will have all the evidence he needs to meet the standards of felony review. There's even a good chance Burge will earn commendation and awards for his work. His bosses will praise him for solving a difficult case. And most important, no one will ask too many questions. Not when the criminals are sent away to prison. And city officials can stand in front of the public. And say that now Chicago is a safer city. From Wondry, this is episode one of the Midnight Crew from American Scandal. In our next episode, John Burge oversees one of the largest manhunts in Chicago's history. But the search has devastating consequences for the city's black community. Hey, prime members, you can listen to American Scandal ad free on Amazon Music, download the Amazon Music Cap today. Or you can listen ad free with Wondry Plus and Apple Podcasts. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at Wondry.com slash survey. If you'd like to learn more about the Midnight Crew, we recommend the book Beyond the Usual Beating by Andrew Bear and the investigative reporting of John Connolly. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal is hosting, 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 DS, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gade Riven. Executive producers are Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer, Beckman, and Martial Louis for Wondry.