Picture of attorney David L. Freidberg,
"I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT HIM..."
"MY SON AND I ARE SO GRATEFUL FOR MR. FREIDBERG AND WHAT HE HAS DONE..."
"DAVID IS A PHENOMENAL LAWYER AND HIS CHARACTER SPEAKS WONDERS..."
"IF YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY IN CHICAGO, I WOULD RECOMMEND HIM IN A HEARTBEAT..."

rawpixel-1055781-unsplash-1-300x201Erick Maya has successfully appealed his conviction by arguing that he suffered from ineffective assistance of counsel. This is despite the fact that he was represented by one of the most highly-regarded criminal defense attorneys in Illinois, George Lenard. Maya was accused and convicted of murdering Romeoville 15-year-old Briana Valle in 2014 in a highly publicized criminal trial. The case brought to light several issues in the age of the internet including Facebook stalking.

According to the prosecution, Valle met the young woman on Facebook when she was 13 years old. The two carried on a romantic relationship of sorts until, at some point, the relationship went downhill. The prosecution accused Maya of threatening to rape Valle and kill her family and then shoot her to death. They say that Maya then hired a taxi driver to bring him to Valle’s home. He got cold feet and left but, later, he went back and carried out his threat. He was charged in the murder of Briana Valle and the attempted murder of her other family members, including her mother whom he shot in the neck.

Attorneys for Maya appealed the verdict, which saw the defendant sentenced to 122 years for the murder and attempted murder. The appeals court has not yet overturned the verdict in the trial nor have they ordered a new trial. They did, however, rule against the circuit court’s decision that Maya received a fair defense.

For the past 28 years, James Gibson has maintained his own innocence. For 28 years he has remained behind bars. This is despite the fact that Gibson ostensibly confessed to the murders of an insurance agent and his friend. Gibson has always said that, over the course of two days, he was beaten by former Chicago police officer Jon Burge and the confession elicited during interrogation was coerced. Burge was accused of torturing confessions out of at least 200 suspects during his 19 years on the force. While the statute of limitations had elapsed on many of Burge’s crimes, he was eventually convicted in 2008 of obstruction of justice and perjury. He was sentenced to four and a half years, but released in 2014 after serving less than three.

As Burge’s crimes became public, Governor George Ryan pardoned four of those who had been convicted of crimes with confessions obtained by torture. Still, there are many behind bars who were convicted on phony confessions. James Gibson is among them. After 28 years, an appellate court threw out his conviction and ordered a new trial. Nonetheless, Gibson will likely remain behind bars until his friends and family raise the $20,000 necessary to release him on bail and will require electronic monitoring for the duration of the trial. 

Gibson Has Always Maintained His Innocence

chris-liverani-552652-unsplash-copy-300x22510 of 12 jurors did not believe that the state had proven its case against Jitesh Thakkar, but the remaining two refused to budge and thus the criminal trial resulted in a hung jury. The federal government had accused Thakkar of “spoofing,” which, in the context of illicit trading and finance, means utilizing algorithms to place trades for the sole purpose of manipulating stock prices. The spoofers place bids on stocks and then cancel the trade. The traders can then time trades to maximize their own profit while disrupting the market.

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, spoofing is defined as “the illegal practice of placing a bid with the intent to cancel before execution.” The legislation outlawing spoofing was passed in 2010 and outlines some of the pitfalls of market trading in a post-machine-learning world that allows algorithmic trades.

Spoofing is closely tied to the practice of layering. As an example, a trader may offer a number of stocks below asking price to drive the cost of stocks down. They repeat this process as the price of the stock becomes lower and lower until they place a legitimate bid at far below the stock’s value.

sawyer-bengtson-279792-copy-200x300While the city is still fuming over the Jussie Smollett plea bargain, four Chicago cops are facing termination after the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. At least part of the accusations surrounding that teen’s death claim that the police officers covered up key elements of the case to clean their hands in the shooting. While shooting deaths of young black men have taken center stage in the media over the past few years, resulting in the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement and riots in both Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, convictions of police acting in the line of duty remain rare.

Five Years Later, an Evidentiary Committee Will Decide Their Fate


While for many, it may appear reassuring that these four officers are being held accountable for the killing, there is an intriguing question as to why the case is being brought before committee now. Laquan McDonald was shot to death in 2014. Part of the reason has to do with whether or not the four officers involved in the shooting lied to investigators and gave false statements. However, five years seems an awfully long time for the officers to remain on the force while the slow wheels of internal affairs built a case against them.

michael-d-beckwith-579345-unsplash-copy-300x253In another case of a high-profile defendant being able to buy his way out of felony charges, Aaron Schock has been offered a plea in which the prosecution will drop all the corruption charges against him if he pays the IRS tens of thousands of dollars and repays his campaign committees. Schock came under fire when he spent what seemed like exorbitant amounts of money redecorating his office in the style of Downton Abbey—a show he must really, really like. He was indicted on two dozen counts of fraud and falsification of election commission filings. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

The plea, which was offered by federal prosecutors, allows them to drop the charges against Schock if he repays the IRS within six months, but also allows them to pursue charges if he does not repay the $68,000 that he owes. Schock failed to report earnings on his income taxes and hence became the target of the IRS. Schock was accused of selling world series and super bowl tickets for $42,000 in profit and misreporting mileage that was a part of his campaigning.

Shots Fired

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224You have to be careful about accepting any kind of a plea. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Just ask Jussie Smollett. He may have gotten off with a slap on the wrist, but now the police department is suing him for money related to the investigation and the federal government still wants to press charges. The original sounded too good to be true, which outraged local politicians and law enforcement.

If you want to hear about an even worse deal, ask Terry Allen who was held behind bars for 32 years without ever being convicted or sentenced of a crime. Allen took was is known as a “civil commitment” plea deal in lieu of facing criminal charges on an alleged sexual assault. He was never sentenced to prison. He was never convicted of a crime. He spent 32 years behind bars.

Again, it sounded like a great deal. Allen was facing several years behind bars when prosecutors offered a plea in lieu of a criminal sentence to voluntarily submit himself to civil commitment. Civil commitment is held aside for those who are deemed a threat to themselves or others but also have serious mental illness. However, civil commitment allows for patients to be detained indefinitely pending the results of a psychiatric evaluation.

rawpixel-1055781-unsplash-1-300x201Prosecutors in the Jussie Smollett case opted to offer the maligned Empire actor an alternative disposition sentence of community service and the forfeiture of his $10,000 bond in lieu of prosecuting Smollett on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct. Smollett stood accused of faking a hate crime against himself. Chicago police reportedly began investigating the event as an assault, but the two men who stood accused of the crime claimed Smollett hired them to beat him up. Chicago police then turned their attention to Smollett claiming that his motive for staging the attack was that he was unhappy with his salary on Empire.

Smollett, who is black and gay, earned the ire of just about everyone after evidence came pouring in that the hate crime was staged. Those who were victims of hate crimes denounced Smollett as drawing attention away from a legitimate issue and tinging it with a veneer of doubt. Indeed, the conversation concerning race-related assaults and homicides shifted toward how many of those were fake. Social media pundits seemed to latch onto the event as vindication that the entire dialogue concerning hate crimes is flawed.

Then, after the 16 felony counts against Smollett were dropped, the conversation shifted toward the price of justice in America and how those with money can buy their way out of trouble while those without are forced to stand trial for similar crimes. In other words, it was a departure from the narrative that the courts convict black defendants at a higher rate while giving a pass to white defendants for the same crime. The dichotomy shifted to rich versus poor.

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224If you remember back to the 1980s, there was widespread fear that Satanists were stealing babies, harming women, and otherwise committing mayhem against the nuclear family, God, and the American people. While many of the fears proved groundless hysteria, they were based, as most fears are, on isolated events that shocked the cultural morals of everyday people. One of these Satanic Panic events happened right here in Chicago and now, the killer is being paroled after nearly 35 years in prison.

Thomas Kokoraleis was a member of the Ripper Crew that kidnapped, raped, mutilated, and murdered over 20 women across the Chicago area. As a condition of his parole, however, he has to find a place to live. This can prove troublesome for a man who was convicted of kidnapping young women in their early 20s and then murdering them after raping them. The bodies that police found were sadistically mutilated. When he does find a place to live, he will have to register as a convicted sex offender and alert local authorities to his whereabouts. He will also likely be a prime suspect if any women turn up missing. His will be the first door that they knock on.

The Chicago Ripper Crew

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225In one of the more disturbing criminal trials of late, Kamel Harris will stand trial for the murder and dismemberment of a 2-year-old boy. The boy’s remains were found in the Garfield Park Lagoon. While the prosecution had extended a plea deal to Harris, the family put a stop to it amid concerns that their child was not being served justice.

Many states throughout the U.S. have recently passed some variation of a Victim’s Rights legislation that gives individuals who have been harmed by a defendant or their families more say in how the case is prosecuted. Critics of the legislation noted that defendants have only been accused of crimes, not convicted of them. It remains unclear what sort of impact victim’s rights legislation (Marsy’s Law) will have on the ability of defendants to get fair criminal trials.

What are the Charges?

rui-silvestre-703796-unsplash-copy-242x300Our criminal justice system was founded on the idea that it is better to let a man go free than to imprison him unjustly. For that reason, prosecutors are held to a very high standard of proof. In many cases, this proof is acquired using scientific means. However, sometimes these means are not so scientific and other times the methods of quality control are severely flawed.

In 2016, Judged Stuart Katz dismissed a complaint against a Chicago juvenile when fingerprint evidence was brought against him. The forensic officer involved in matching the prints was castigated in court after the Judge found a number of methodological flaws in the man’s work. The judge accused the Sergeant of being “oblivious” and “not caring about educating himself” in his own field or work. He went onto say that there appeared to be no audits or any method of verification and that they did not follow the basic procedures set forth by the FBI. The judge determined that the entire department needed to clean up its act or they would find it very difficult to enter forensic evidence into the record during future trials.

The FBI is Just as Bad