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Homan Square Lawsuit: Chicago Police Allegedly Abused & Framed Black Men for Drug Offenses

Three black men from Chicago sued police officers and the city of Chicago for detaining them at Homan Square and subsequently framing them for manufacturing and delivering heroin.

The lawsuit, which the People’s Law Office filed on October 19 [PDF], is one of a handful of complaints brought against police over allegations of off-the-books detention and interrogation at the center since The Guardian first called attention to the compound.

Atheris Mann, Jessie Patrick, and Deanda Wilson each allege Chicago police rounded them up on October 21, 2013. Police drove the men to Homan Square where they were subject to strip searches, handcuffed for hours in dark rooms, denied food, water and access to bathrooms, and denied requests to contact their lawyers and family. Wilson specifically claims an officer held a knife to his throat.

The men were subjected to racial epithets and threats to their families. Police informed them if they provided information on certain individuals they would be released. However, neither had any information to offer so they remained in detention until they were brought to the 11th District Police Station and charged with drug offenses.

The charges led to false imprisonment for 15 months until Cook County Judge William O’Brien issued a directed finding of not guilty after the state of Illinois presented its case. O’Brien found officers “were so thoroughly impeached that the state was unable to meet its burden of proof.” This was in addition to the fact that false reports, statements, and testimony were used to prosecute the men.

In a stunning report, The Guardian revealed over 7,000 people have been “disappeared” at the off-the-books warehouse known as Homan Square. Between August 2004 and June 2015, there were nearly 6,000 black individuals—which is “more than twice the proportion of the city’s population”—brought to the facility. Only 68 were permitted to contact their lawyers or publicly notify someone of their whereabouts, according to police records.

(Note: In May 2012, TarheelDem, a Firedoglake correspondent, was detained in Homan Square before the large Occupy-inspired protests against the NATO meetings held in Chicago that month.)

Mann, Patrick, and Wilson were three of those nearly 6,000 black individuals detained.

As the filed complaint describes, the men were subject to “unconstitutionally coercive and tortuous tactics.”

Sgt. Frank Ramaglia and Officer Kevin Connolly pulled over Patrick and Mann in a vehicle on the 900 block of North St. Louis Avenue. The police allegedly had no “reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe” either of the men had committed any crimes. Yet, the officers approached the vehicle, took their ID, conducted pat down searches, and handcuffed their hands.

Nearby police had arrested Anthony Speight for possession of heroin with intent to deliver. Neither Mann or Patrick had any involvement in illegally possessing or delivering heroin, however, Speight was put in the same vehicle with Mann and Patrick.

Wilson was at a nearby store buying a soda when he was detained by Officer Alejandro Miranda. He was handcuffed and thoroughly searched when police allegedly had no “reasonable suspicion” to stop him.

All three men were transported to Homan Square. When Mann and Patrick arrived, Ramaglia subject them to a “full strip search.” Mann asked to be able to call his attorney, but his request was denied. Similarly, Patrick asked to call his mother and had his request rejected.

The complaint indicates Mann and Patrick were led to separate dark cells, where they were handcuffed to walls and left alone.

When Wilson was removed from a police transport and brought into Homan Square, Ramaglia allegedly attempted to plant narcotics on Wilson. Miranda intervened to stop the drugs from being planted.

Wilson was brought to a dark cell, handcuffed to the wall, and left alone like Mann and Patrick.

Ramaglia allegedly entered Mann’s cell later the same day and told Mann to help himself. He interrogated Mann about someone named Shardell Green. If Mann had any information on Green, he would be allowed to go free. Mann had no information and was attacked with insults, racial slurs, and threats while being interrogated.

Another sergeant, Brian Kane, entered Mann’s cell and allegedly grabbed him by the collar and “threatened his family.”

The police moved on to Patrick. He was allegedly told to help himself by providing information about illegal guns in Patrick’s neighborhood. Patrick had no information and was attacked with insults and threats as well.

Later the same day, Wilson was advised to provide information on illegal drug sales if he wanted to go free. He, too, had no information to offer so he remained in detention. Wilson needed to use the bathroom, but officers ignored his request.

At one point, according to the complaint, Ramaglia entered Wilson’s cell and declared, “Give me something and I’ll let you go.” Wilson asked for his attorney again and to use the bathroom.

Ramaglia approached Wilson and allegedly held a knife to his neck. Ramaglia took the knife and cut strings hanging from the neck of Wilson’s sweatshirt.

Wilson continued to make demands that officers allow him to use the bathroom. He eventually urinated on himself because no officer would take him to a toilet.

Police and the city are accused of violating the Fourth Amendment rights of Mann, Patrick, and Wilson. They are accused of fabricating evidence and suppressing evidence, which could have shown they were innocent.

Attorneys allege the men were maliciously prosecuted and victims of a conspiracy. They demand judgment against the police and city of Chicago and that damages be awarded to Mann, Patrick, and Wilson for the abuse they endured.

Martin Luther King gestures with his hands as he speaks at a press conference on November 6, 1964. (Wikimedia Commons / Library of Congress / New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection)
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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."