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Aaron Patterson Targeted in Police and Fed Frame-up

By Caryl Sortwell |
October 1, 2004
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Chicago, IL - When ex-death row inmate Aaron Patterson was pardoned by Illinois Governor George Ryan in January, 2003, he came out of prison vowing to fight for justice. Within hours of his release, Patterson spoke at a Chicago anti-war rally. The next day he was a featured speaker at an anti-police frame-up community forum hosted by Comite Exigimos Justicia. In the months since his release, Aaron Patterson has proven to be a tireless and inspiring leader in the struggle against Chicago police misconduct, brutality and torture. He emerged as the city’s single most important leader of this fight. This made Patterson an irresistible target for the Chicago police and the U.S. Justice Department.

On Aug. 5, Aaron Patterson was arrested by the Chicago Police Department and Federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents. Patterson was charged, along with Isaiah Kitchen and Mark Mannie, with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and firearms. Patterson is not charged with possession of drugs or guns, rather the prosecutors are alleging that he intended to become involved in illegal activities. According to the federal government, it is involved in this case because it is able to seek sentences that are much greater than those administered at a local level. Aaron Patterson, if convicted, could face life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

The source of the government’s evidence against Patterson is derived from an informant who is known by the street name of Fox. Fox was arrested in November 2003 for possession of over $100,000 in drugs and was facing a possible 30-year prison sentence. Yet Fox never went to prison, because he told authorities he could deliver Aaron Patterson to them. In March, under guidance from the Justice Department, Fox initiated contact with Patterson and taped a series of conversations with him, for which Fox was paid $6000 by the government.

According to Patterson, he knew all along that he was being targeted and taped by the government through Fox. At the same time that Fox was taping Patterson, Patterson was taping Fox. He was trying to trap the government agents who were trying to entrap him. As he told the Chicago Tribune, “I got videotapes, I got license plate numbers of undercover cars. Serial numbers for all the money. Everything.” Whether Patterson’s evidence of his entrapment will be helpful to his defense is unclear, since federal agents removed loads of evidence from his mother’s home the day of his arrest.

From his jail cell, where he sits after his bail was denied, Patterson was asked what his goal was when trying to document the police corruption surrounding his arrest. “It was to expose. Let’s do something real and get it on tape. The stunt was not to get locked up. The stunt was that I wanted to do something that would put them on the spot.”

Aaron Patterson’s arrest took place just 24 hours after a federal judge in Chicago ordered former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge back to Chicago to testify. Jon Burge is alleged to have tortured or to have supervised the torture of 108 Black and Latino suspects while he was a detective in Chicago Police Area 2 and commander of Area 3. Burge and the detectives working under him are accused of using electric shock and suffocation with typewriter covers to extract confessions. One of those tortured suspects was Aaron Patterson, who has a pending civil suit against Burge.

Aaron Patterson has survived police torture and years spent on death row for a crime he didn’t commit and he came out swinging against a corrupt and racist criminal justice system. By targeting him, the Chicago Police Department and the U.S. Justice Department are trying to tell victims of police and prosecutorial misconduct to suffer in silence. Anti-police corruption activists will not stay silent. Instead we will raise our voices to denounce this latest frame-up and to demand the immediate release of Aaron Patterson. Patterson’s next court date is Oct. 8. For more information, please email CEJchicago ( at ) worldnet.att.net.

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