It’s a sad day for justice when the criminal trial of a rogue federal agent accused of torturing American citizens is dismissed, not because he’s innocent of the crimes, but because the prosecuting agents and attorneys were guilty of criminal acts themselves. The result – both the prosecution and defense are accused of criminal activity, all are government agents, and all are going free.
Is torture rampant?
Torture – noun, the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something; verb, to inflict severe pain on.
It was only three days ago that Chicago’s largest independent-leaning newspaper, the Chicago Sun Times, accused Mayor Emanuel and Chicago city officials of not only dragging their feet in bringing the accused police torturers to justice and clear the wrongly-convicted victims, but of making sure the investigation stops completely.
Chicago can find millions for low-income housing for the sons and daughters of rich and powerful Democratic politicians, and billions for Wall Street and organized labor. But as documented by the publication, the city can’t find more than a few thousand dollars to stop the torture and free the torture victims, even after 30 years.
Showing just how rampant the city’s campaign of torturing innocent residents was, the one and only audit ever officially commissioned showed that there were more innocent people on Illinois’ death row than guilty people. It was that incredible revelation that led imprisoned Illinois Governor George Ryan to immediately abolish the death penalty in the state. For his act of humanity, Ryan has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
With Chicago’s era of torture seemingly behind it, residents confirmed what many have suspected for some time - the abuse by authorities is continuing. Although instead of being carried out by local CPD officers these days, it’s allegedly being done by federal agents. In both 2008 and 2010, US Deputy Marshal Stephen Linder was accused by fellow Deputy Marshals of torturing suspects in his custody.
While little has been revealed about the 2008 incident, the more recent accusation has brought back memories that Chicago-area residents know all too well. And the fact that it happened in the notoriously corrupt and violent town of Cicero doesn’t help. If anything, it’s frighteningly similar to the CIA’s documented practice of taking terror suspects to Syria and Afghanistan where torture facilities already exist and politicians and local police routinely look the other way.
The alleged torture continues
That headline would read, ‘The torture continues’, but the case against US Dep. Marshal Linder had to be thrown out of court due to prosecutorial misconduct. But according to the evidence, Stephen Linder handcuffed, and then beat witnesses and suspects in his investigations. In 2010, the abuse was documented when the Deputy Marshal questioned the father of a suspect in the Chicago suburb of Cicero.
Evidence in the case showed that right after the questioning, fellow agent Harry Sims blew the whistle on Linder and accused him in an interagency filing of assaulting the father of a crime suspect while he was handcuffed and being questioned. The evidence also showed that within days, Sims attempted to withdraw his complaint.
When asked why, he allegedly told a fellow agent that he was afraid that if he didn’t document the criminal abuse, he would be considered an accomplice and tried alongside Linder even though he did nothing but witness the assault. “I was scared that if I didn’t file it immediately that I would be accused myself of some wrongdoing” the fellow Marshal quoted Sims saying.
Linder’s civil rights violated by DoJ’s Civil Rights division
That was the shocking reason Judge Virginia Kendall gave on Tuesday when she dismissed the criminal charges against US Dep. Marshal Stephen Linder. Her 109-page ruling criticized both the US Marshal Service and the Justice Department of, “overly aggressive prosecution marked by a federal agent who threatened witnesses.” The ruling also claimed federal prosecutors, “joined in by threatening witnesses who would not provide them with the statements they wanted to hear.”
In an ironic twist, it was the US Marshals' top brass in Chicago that were credited with trying to end the culture of silence within the agency when it came to wrongdoing by agents in the field. Even Judge Kendall confirmed the two top agents had made a, “good faith” effort. Unfortunately, Kendall ruled that effort violated the accused agent’s right to a fair trial.
How it happened
In a blow-by-blow recounting of the events over the past four years, and the two incidents of battering witnesses while handcuffed, a separate report by the Chicago Sun Times shows the following series of events:
- Deputy Marshal Sims files complaint against fellow Deputy Marshal Linder accusing him of violently assaulting a restrained witness. Within days, Sims attempts to withdraw his complaint.
- After news of the complaint leaked out, fellow US Marshals attempted to come to Linder’s defense by submitting official statements saying they never witnessed any assaults, torture or wrongdoing.
- The top two US Marshals in the area, Darryl McPherson and Tim McFarland, warned the agents that they faced departmental sanctions if they involved themselves in the case by speaking to either Linder or his defense attorneys. The Judge ruled this act violated Stephen Linder’s civil rights.
- The court also ruled that Justice Dept. Inspector General investigator Kevin Shirley and DoJ prosecutor AeJean Cha had violated the law in an attempt to convict Stephen Linder.
- Describing the government’s state of mind in the investigation and prosecution, and specifically the actions of DoJ investigator Kevin Shirley, Judge Virginia Kendall called him an, “untrained investigator who developed an unfounded belief that each witness that did not want to volunteer evidence for him must be a criminal who was worthy of federal prosecution.”
With the charges against him dismissed, Deputy Marshal Stephen Linder says he looks forward to getting his job back, even though he wasn’t given the opportunity to clear his name. “This was a heavy-handed and out-of-control investigation,” Linder’s attorney told the press after the ruling, “Steve just wants the US Marshal Service to give him his job back so that he can go back to catching fugitives.”
The question many civil rights advocates are now asking is – will a US Marshal whose been accused of beating restrained witnesses multiple times be given his gun and badge back? While it’s obvious the agency’s brass are against it, they may not have a choice.
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