Ex-cop sentenced to 12 years in SOS probe

September 8, 2011 9:08:10 PM PDT
Jerome Finnigan, who led a gang of corrupt Chicago cops, was sentenced Thursday for plotting to kill another Chicago police officer.

Finnigan apologized and expressed remorse. He has also given prosecutors information they didn't previously have. In a five-minute address to the judge at the sentencing hearing, Finnigan acknowledged that he brought shame on himself and his family, and that stress and greed turned him the wrong way.

Judge Blanche Mannin agreed that Finnigan had done good things, but called his bad acts "unfathomable" and sentenced him to 12 years.

Finnigan was once a highly-decorated officer who solved crimes and saved lives. But at some point, the Chicago police officer went rogue. He became the ringleader of a group of cops who shook down alleged drug dealers, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, and lied in bogus reports. Some of those shakedowns - one of which was caught on a Southwest Side bar surveillance camera - were extraordinarily bold.

"Innocent people -- not just drug dealers, not just bad guys -- but innocent people were hurt and hurt deeply by this," Prof. Craig Futterman, University of Chicago, said.

After his arrest, Finnigan was further charged with trying to set up a hit on a fellow police officer that Finnigan thought might testify against him.

Most of the other cops involved in the shakedowns have already been sentenced. On Thursday, it was Finnigan's turn. Standing before the judge, Finnigan said, "I did become a corrupt police officer. That was not my intention."

At the same time, he said he was proud of he did before he went down the wrong path. He said, "I did more work in one year than some guys do in 30 years."

"My bosses knew what I was doing out there. It was not an exception. It was the rule. You did what you had to," he said, to go after the gangs and make the streets safe.

At the dawn of this investigation, there were predictions that corruption charges would climb the food chain, but prosecutors say the investigation is over.

"We conducted a thorough investigation and there is not enough evidence to try anyone else," said Brian Netols, assistant U.S. attorney, said.

I don't think the fundamental problem has been changed," Craig Futterman, said. Futterman has monitored civil rights issues in the police department over the years. He thinks there are still big holes in police supervision.

"SOS guys-- 50, 60 complaints of official misconduct. Never challenged, never flagged, never counseled. That's how it happens," Futterman said.

The Special Operations Section that Finnigan and his corrupt colleagues were part of was abolished four years ago. The department says it has instituted new steps to insure proper supervisory oversight. Finnigan has already served four years in what his attorney regards as quite punitive isolation in the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Victim describes intimidation by ex-cop

On an August night six years ago, Jose Fematt and his then 4-year-old sister were in their pajamas watching TV. Mom was at work.

Jose heard noises on the lawn. Within minutes, the front door was kicked in. A half dozen or more cops entered screaming with guns drawn.

"He just told me - throw myself on the ground and put my hands behind my back," said Jose.

Now 19, Jose remembers being terrified that night by the cops who tightly cuffed him, drove him around in a squad, demanding that he tell them about his upstairs neighbor. He says he could tell them nothing because he knew nothing. The officers ransacked the house, then left, with a warning - say nothing.

"Because if I did, something really bad was going to happen to me and to my family," he said.

The cops in question that night were part of a crew that had Finnigan as its ring leader. Their modus operandi: shakedown alleged drug dealers from whom they stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Jose Fematt never said anything about that night six years ago until earlier this year when he filed a civil rights suit.

"A 13-year-old boy should be viewing a police officer as a hero and as someone he can look up to as a role model, and this is the exact opposite message," said Torri Hamilton, Fematt attorney.

Jose says he knows the action of those cops six years ago is the exception, but he still doesn't trust cops.

"In my head, not able to trust them again, to feel protected, feel safe around them," said Jose.

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