The Crusader Newspaper Group

Crusader enters legal battle to unseal document in Maggette case

Photo caption: Dashonn Maggette

The Chicago Crusader has retained an attorney to ask an Illinois Appeals Court to unseal a document that could clear a wrongfully convicted man who alleged two Chicago cops framed him by planting a gun on him during a scuffle in 2017.

The document is a ballistic test report that could clear Dashonn Maggette and expose alleged wrongdoing and collusion in a criminal case at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

The case involves Cook County Associate Judge Lawrence Flood, prosecutors and Chicago police officers Patrick Forbes and Michael Hudson. With a critical document under wraps, Maggette’s relatives believe Judge Flood, prosecutors and the police officers engaged in collusion and rigged Maggette’s trial, leading the jury foreman to call the proceedings “a coverup.”

Two months after Maggette was found guilty of two crimes that could put him behind bars for life, Judge Flood is about to make another move. With the ballistic test sealed, Judge Flood is preparing to hold a September 28 hearing where relatives fear he will sentence Maggette and move him to a prison far away from Chicago while concerns swirl that Judge Flood prepares to retire.

But last week, a Crusader journalist retained Attorney Charles Snowden to file a motion asking an appeals court to unseal the ballistic test report that Judge Flood kept under wraps throughout the case. With public interest and constitutional issues on the line, the document impacts the case of a wrongfully accused man and the efforts of the press to investigate the questionable actions of two police officers who have a history of civil rights’ complaints on their records.

It’s a story that the Crusader has written about since May, when relatives said Maggette has been held in Cook County jail for six years without a trial for a crime he didn’t commit.

Maggette had been there since 2017, after he was arrested after fighting Forbes and Hudson at an apartment building in Chatham. It happened on a Saturday night after officers drove past a group of men hanging out near the building. Maggette, who was violating a curfew, ran into the building before the officers went after him. Three gunshots were fired. Maggette was shot in the elbow and the shoulder. One bullet grazed his back. Hudson was shot in his hand.

Hudson alleged Maggette shot him with a black 9MM semiautomatic gun. But Maggette maintained he did not have a gun that night and that the officers planted the weapon on him. In 2022, Maggette said Karin Talwar, his public defender, told him that a ballistic test had ruled out that Maggette had a gun. But when Maggette filed a written request for that report from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), he was denied. He learned that Judge Flood, who served as a Chicago police officer for 14 years, had the report sealed so that he, the Crusader and the media couldn’t view it.

Last June, the Crusader filed a request for the ballistic report under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). That request was also denied in a decision backed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s Office of Public Counsel.

To this day, Maggette does not have a copy of the document that he is legally entitled to have as a defendant and now a wrongfully convicted man.

The report remained sealed throughout Maggette’s trial last July. During the trial, a ballistic expert testified that the gun could not be tied to Maggette. But during the trial little was said about the content of the ballistic test report.

During the proceedings, Judge Flood often sided with prosecutors’ objections even when Talwar cross examined the officers when their accounts of the incident were different from the ones they gave in COPA’s official report. Three times Talwar requested a mistrial, but Judge Flood denied her each time. Near the end of the trial, Talwar called the proceedings “tainted.”

According to data the Crusader obtained from COPA through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Forbes, since 2017, has received five civilian complaints, including two that occurred on the same day.

COPA data also shows Hudson has received four civilian complaints since 2017, including one still under investigation.

On June 29, Maggette was convicted of being an armed habitual criminal and of battery of an officer, even though jurors learned that no fingerprints were taken from the gun that prosecutors and officers alleged Maggette had during the scuffle. However, jurors failed to find Maggette guilty of attempted murder of a police officer and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Hours after the verdict, Oscar Morales, the jury foreman, called a Crusader journalist at 3 a.m. to say that he felt “guilty” for voting to convict the man after holding out for hours with another juror. He said after reading the Crusader article about Judge Flood sealing the ballistic test report, he called the trial a “coverup” and said Judge Flood rushed the proceedings that led to Maggette’s conviction.

There was talk of prosecutors wanting to retry Maggette on the attempted murder and aggravated battery charges, but there has not been any discussions of this in recent hearings since the partial mistrial.

A hearing on Maggette’s future will be held on September 28. Talwar will be there after Judge Flood demanded that she have her motions filed by that date. There is a concern that Judge Flood will deny those motions and send Maggette to prison. Maggette’s relatives said they were told that Judge Flood will retire days later, after 22 years on the bench. But Mary Wisniewski, spokesperson for Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ Office, said she couldn’t confirm Judge Flood’s plan to retire.

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