Alstory Simon settles malicious prosecution suit against Northwestern, professor Protess

By The Cook County Record | Jun 6, 2018

CHICAGO – Alstory Simon, a man prosecutors say was framed and wrongly convicted of double murder, has settled a malicious prosecution suit against Northwestern University and journalism professor David Protess. 

On June 1, in U.S. district court, lawyers for Simon, Northwestern, and Protess filed a stipulation to dismiss the action. 

In a separate document, they reported a settlement agreement. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Simon spent 15 years in prison for double homicide. He was freed in 2014 by then-Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who found Protess and private investigator Paul Ciolino fabricated evidence and coerced a confession. 

Simon sued Northwestern, Protess, and Ciolino in 2015. 

He claimed they framed him to reverse the conviction of Anthony Porter, who faced execution. Simon's lawyers alleged defendants intended to make Porter a poster boy for abolishing the death penalty. 

In 2016, U.S. District Judge Robert Dow ruled Simon could proceed on claims of malicious prosecution and conspiracy. 

Dow wrote that Porter was convicted of the murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green in 1983, and in 1998 Protess and Ciolino began an investigation. 

“Just months after that investigation began, Porter was released from prison and plaintiff was arrested and charged with the murders,” Dow wrote. 

He wrote that according to Simon, defendants fabricated four pieces of evidence and disseminated the evidence to the public and that defendants garnered tremendous prestige such as book deals, a made for TV movie and sizable donations. 

Dow found it reasonable to think they would be eager to continue the success. 

“It is also reasonable to think that defendants, who allegedly used ethically questionable tactics in their previous investigation, would continue down that path in securing their third in a string of successful exonerations,” Dow wrote. 

He found Simon’s malicious prosecution claim plausible on its face. 

After that, Northwestern and Protess litigated quietly. 

Ciolino didn’t. 

He filed a counterclaim alleging defamation against Simon, his lawyers and investigators, Alvarez, and Whole Truth LLC, producer of a documentary. 

Simon moved to dismiss the counterclaim, and Dow granted the motion in 2017. 

“Compelling a single trial here would unduly and unnecessarily complicate the litigation,” Dow wrote. 

He wrote that Ciolino could bring his claims in state court. 

Ciolino did that earlier this year, claiming defendants possessed a high degree of awareness that Simon was guilty. 

On the day that Simon, Northwestern and Protess stipulated to dismiss the action in district court, Simon moved to voluntarily dismiss Ciolino. 

Simon himself signed the motion. 

Terry Ekl of Lisle and James Sotos of Itasca represent Simon. 

Terry Mascherin of Chicago represents Northwestern. 

Matthew Piers of Chicago represents Protess. 

Jennifer Bonjean of Brooklyn represents Ciolino.

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Organizations in this Story

Northwestern University. State of Illinois/Cook County

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