Chicago Tribune Stories Rejected in Federal Court

July 22, 2021
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Conflicts between federal court cases and stories peddled by Tribune reporter Greg Pratt explain why so few trust media

Lately, it is becoming more evident that two vastly different Chicago’s are taking shape, one in the media and the other in the federal courts.

The disparity emerges at the same time a report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University concluded only 29 percent of the public trusts the media, the lowest of 46 countries reviewed. For many of Chicago’s residents, police, prosecutors and true public servants, distrust is an understatement.

To understand why, reviewing the disparity in coverage of police by Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt in two stories is illuminating. Pratt was one of the few reporters who did not leave the paper in a recent buyout after the paper was purchased by Alden Publishing.

One story garnering media hysteria by many journalists in Chicago, including Pratt, is about the errant execution of a search warrant served on the home of Anjanette Young in 2019. A regrettable police error, officers involved with the operation burst in on Young while she was unclothed. Faulty intelligence from the officers’ confidential informant led them to the wrong address. The intended target of the warrant was a man on electronic monitoring, an important part of the story. Sources are claiming officers attempted to clarify the address of the target with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the home monitoring program, but the sheriff’s office refused to confirm intelligence obtained by police.

The imagery of the police bursting in on a naked woman, obtained from notorious CBS anti-police newsreader Dave Savini, became a media sensation, despite the fact that some of Savini’s claims about the incident were wrong and others highly suspicious.

Indeed, like so many anti-police narratives, much of the claims against the police in this instance are, at best, hyperbole. More and more frequently, the warrant story seems as if it may join a host of stories that appear manufactured by media. Evidence abounds in case after case that the Chicago media has taken the Democratic dictum once articulated succinctly by former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — that “You never let a serious crisis go to waste” — to another level. The Chicago media, as the PR firm for the new, radicalized Democratic Party, should now read “You don’t even miss an opportunity to manufacture a crisis, which you then never let go to waste.”

The truth is that the officers involved in the search warrant quite likely did not act unlawfully and did not break any police policies. When officers realized they had the wrong dwelling, they apologized and covered Young. The warrant narrative has served its purpose, generating story after story from a media chronically patting themselves on the back and claiming they are on the vanguard of revealing the city’s dark corrupt secrets through their “community journalism.”

The city caved quickly, adopting new policies that will only further handcuff the police and increase the carnage in a city already reeling from violence. The simple solution of compelling the Sheriff’s Department to provide electronic monitoring information thereby diminishing the chances similar errant searches was ignored by a media that makes up its own stories.

The entire theme driving the warrant story is that Young was humiliated when the police entered her home. But there is another, far darker story about the police walking in on a naked woman that has generated an ominous silence by the Chicago media, in particular Greg Pratt. It is worth taking a close look at.

In 1994, police were called to a murder scene on the south side by Nevest Coleman and another man, who reported a terrible odor emanating from the basement of an Englewood residence where Coleman lived. Once inside the building, police found Antwinica Bridgeman’s decomposed body; Bridgman’s head had been bludgeoned with a block and a metal pipe had been thrust into her vagina by her killers. Witnesses told police that Bridgeman was last seen leaving a party with Coleman several days earlier. In time, Coleman and another man, Darryl Fulton, confessed to the crime.

The last hours of Antwinica Bridgeman’s life were nothing less than a horror film, a level of violence and cruelty unimaginable. That Bridgeman was last scene with Coleman, her decomposed body was then found in his basement, and the fact both Coleman and Fulton eventually confessed to the crime was evidence enough, but there was much more to the story.

Coleman eventually jumped on bandwagon comprised of activists, attorneys, and media claiming he was the victim of abuse and that he had been coerced into confessing to the crime. The basis of Coleman’s claim of police coercion were found in two ideas: First, the detectives who worked the Bridgeman case had been in the crosshairs of the Tribune for decades, facing relentless attacks of coercing confessions in one case after another. Second, new DNA tests that revealed the semen taken from Bridgeman’s undergarments belonged to another man, a serial rapist.

The DNA test and the pattern argument of misconduct allegations against the detectives compelled Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to free Coleman from prison. This “exoneration” was widely covered by the press, including Pratt. His colleague, former Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, virtually demanded Foxx release Coleman. Claiming in a 2017 column there was “overwhelming” evidence that Coleman and Fulton were innocent, Zorn said setting people like Coleman free was why so many supported Foxx in her bid to become State’s Attorney:  

"Yet you’re (Foxx) allowing Nevest Coleman and Darryl Fulton to continue to rot in prison in the face of overwhelming new evidence that they are innocent of a 1994 rape and murder in the Englewood neighborhood."

Nevertheless, the chances that Bridgeman was last seen leaving a party with Coleman and then found murdered in his basement and another man was wholly responsible for the murder was never truly explained. Nor was the fact that so many people close to the case, including the prosecutor who put Coleman in prison, did not believe he was innocent.

From the beginning, many people close to the case argued the DNA test did not conclusively exonerate Coleman.

It’s compelling to observe the rosy coverage of Nevest Coleman as an innocent man in the Tribune with the documents of the detectives’ investigation of the case. Commenting about the Coleman case, Pratt wrote:

"Before Coleman was arrested in 1994 for a rape and murder in Englewood, he was a well-liked and respected 25-year-old groundskeeper at Comiskey Park with two young children."
"At the time, Coleman worked for the White Sox as a respected member of the grounds-keeping crew at Comiskey Park. Although he had no criminal record, Coleman said he was affiliated with the Gangster Disciples."

The Gangster Disciples? A gang that has been murdering, raping, robbing, stealing for decades?

Detective reports containing interviews with witnesses in the case paint a far different picture. These reports indicate that the detectives spoke to two witnesses, two women, twice about the murder. The second time detectives spoke to these two witnesses, the witnesses told the detectives that they had withheld information from the first interview. In the second interview, the witnesses said they withheld information because “they were extremely afraid for their safety and that this is the reason that they never told anyone that Coleman had left the party with the victim. They both were afraid they that would be the next victims.”

Coleman and his supporters marched into federal court seeking the final transformation of a once convicted killer turned into a millionaire. What unfolded there is nothing short of chilling. In their arguments and motions, attorneys representing the City of Chicago seemed to further reject Coleman’s claims of innocence, positing a mass of possibilities for the presence of the DNA on another individual that did not mean Coleman was innocent.

More than that, city attorneys have attacked the decision by Foxx’s top prosecutors to free Coleman and not retry him. Their attack took the form of even deposing these top prosecutors. In the end, they argued that even these prosecutors did not believe Coleman was innocent. The defense attorneys allege that top assistant prosecutors in Foxx’s office initially wanted to retry the men for the murders, despite the fact that DNA tests on the victim’s undergarments came back to another offender.

From the motion:

"Eric Sussman is the former First Assistant to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (“CCSAO”). Mark Rotert is the former Chief of the CCSAO’s Conviction Integrity Unit(“CIU”).  Both played a pivotal role in the CIU’s re-investigation of the cases against Plaintiffs  and  the decisions by  the  CCSAO to  vacate  Plaintiffs’ convictions  for  the brutal  rape  and murder  of Antwinica Bridgeman and dismiss the charges. Following a thorough re-investigation by the CIU of the 1994 homicide investigation, Rotert recommended that Plaintiffs’ convictions be vacated and that Plaintiffs be retried for the same crimes. Sussman appears to have initially agreed with this recommendation."

It gets worse: Attorneys representing the City of Chicago specifically suggested media pressure from the Tribune as a potential factor in the decision by prosecutors not to retry Coleman and Fulton.

“The CCSAO (Cook County State’s Attorney) suddenly reversed course and dropped the charges in the midst of intense media pressure, primarily from the Chicago Tribune,” city attorneys stated in their motion."

Would that be Zorn’s column and Pratt’s one-sided coverage? Would it be ignoring witness statements from people who knew Coleman and feared they “would be the next victims?”

Such questions likely won’t be asked by Pratt. One can rest assured that CBS' star newsreader Dave Savini will never be found in the federal court building covering this story. Indeed, since the city attorneys began assailing the Coleman narrative, a virtual news blackout on the story has ensued, particularly from Greg Pratt.

There is an even more compelling subplot to this tale. These same city lawyers lambasting the exoneration claims in the Coleman-Fulton case are attacking similar claims against the detectives in a raft of other cases, raising the troubling specter that undermining the exoneration of Coleman would be a proverbial can of worms for the Chicago media. How many claims in federal court against these detectives may be false? How many of them were influenced by media pressure?

The disgusting disparity in coverage between the warrant served on the wrong home whose owner was disrobed and the brutal rape and savage murder of Antwinica Bridgeman begs its own compelling questions for the entire media establishment in Chicago: Why so much media attention over the warrant story yet such silence over the heinous rape and murder of Antwinica Bridgeman? To what length will the Chicago media go to keep their anti-police narrative alive?

The coverage of these two stories paints a vivid picture of why public trust in the media is so dismally low. It suggests that despite the chronic storyline from the likes of Greg Pratt and Eric Zorn calling for police reform and accountability, the spotlight for reform should be shifting to the Chicago media.

They are the ones who have lost the public trust, despite all the prattle about community journalism.

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