Man sues City of Chicago, police officers over wrongful conviction

By Jonathan Bilyk | Mar 7, 2014

A man who spent 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit is suing a group of Chicago police officers he claims framed him for the crime.

Alprentiss Nash filed suit March 3 in Chicago's federal court against the City of Chicago and eight of its police officers – Michael Baker, David Fidyk, John Ford, Joel Howard, George Karl, Thaddeus Macudzinski, John Solecki and Neil Spencer – alleging the officers fabricated evidence, destroyed or suppressed other evidence, badgered witnesses and otherwise concocted a case against him that led to his conviction in the 1995 murder of Leon Stroud.

His conviction was overturned in 2010 after DNA testing on a mask found at the scene of the murder pointed to a different suspect. He was declared innocent in 2012 and freed, but not before spending 17 years – from April 30 , 1995 to Aug. 30, 2012 – in prison as part of an 80-year prison sentence.

Nash is being represented by attorney Kathleen T. Zellner of Kathleen T. Zellner & Associates P.C. in Downers Grove.

His nine-count wrongful conviction and civil rights suit stems from the April 30, 1995 murder of Stroud.

On that date, witnesses told police they saw as many as three masked men gather and enter the home of Stroud, a known “bootlegger” and crack cocaine dealer, in the 11000 block of Wentworth Avenue in the Roseland Neighborhood on Chicago’s far South Side.

Stroud was robbed and shot to death at about 1:45 p.m. that day. The assailants then fled the scene, but the man later identified as the shooter left his mask in Stroud’s home.

Officers, including the eight named in the suit, arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and began investigating the incident and interviewing potential witnesses.

Ultimately, the officers’ interest came to bear on three witnesses, identified in the civil suit as Matthew Rollins, Paul Harris and Alvin Wyatt.

The complaint alleges that Harris and Wyatt were two of the three masked assailants in Stroud’s home.

Nash alleges that the investigating officers sought “an opportunity to quickly resolve a case involving the death of a bootlegger in a poor neighborhood,” so they pressured the witnesses to state that there was only one assailant and to point to Nash as that shooter.

According to the suit, the witnesses, under pressure, initially identified the shooter as a man known as “Moose,” a nickname applied to another man, identified in Nash’s complaint as Demetrius Loggers.

But the complaint alleges that the investigating officers badgered the witnesses into later claiming that “Moose” was actually Nash, despite knowing that Nash was actually known in the neighborhood as “Lemeke.”

They also manipulated a line-up and either withheld statements and evidence from prosecutors  or suppressed it, Nash alleges.

Among other evidence wrongly withheld, Nash claims the officers refused to inform prosecutors of statements from witnesses who backed his alibi that he had been selling drugs shortly before the murder, and at the time of the crime, had used his cash from that day’s sales to shop for clothing at a store on Maxwell Street.

The complaint alleges the officers also testified falsely that they had no knowledge of Nash’s activities that day.

The complaint alleges that officers pushed hard to pin the crime on Nash because he had a year earlier had a run-in with allegedly corrupt police officers who had allegedly robbed him and warned him not to tell others.

Nash was tried, convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison. He continued working to prove his innocence, and in 2007, a state appellate court agreed to allow the mask recovered at the scene of Stroud’s murder to be tested for DNA.

The tests cleared Nash and indicated the mask had been worn by Loggers. He was released from prison in 2012 and granted a petition for certificate of innocence from the state.

Nash is seeking unspecified damages from the officers and the city of Chicago.

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