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Tag: Chicago

Stejskal: Discovery Channel TV Series on Unabomber Disrespects The Investigation’s Achievements

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. Stejskal was the case agent on the UNABOM  bombing that targeted Michigan Prof. James McConnell in 1985, and investigated Kaczynski’s time at Michigan as a grad student.

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

The Discovery Channel TV series, “Manhunt Unabomber,” disrespects achievements of  the “Unabom” investigation by creating a predominantly fictionalized story.

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

One of the shows I watched in my youth was “The Untouchables.” I was about ten when it premiered in 1959 on TV, and it was one the things that inspired me to want to be a G-man. The first episodes of “The Untouchables” were based on Eliot Ness’ book by the same name that he wrote with Oscar Fraley a sportswriter. (The book was published in 1957 less than a year after Ness’ death.) Those early episodes closely followed the book and were presented as a true story. It is very good story – a crusading lawman puts together a team, a group of incorruptible agents who take on Chicago’s biggest crime lord, the ruthless Al Capone, and topple his empire that was built on the manufacture and sale of beer and liquor during prohibition.

The problem is some of the key parts of the story aren’t true.

The Untouchables didn’t topple Capone. They did raid and destroy some of Capone’s distilleries and breweries. This diminished Capone’s bootleg income and inconvenienced him financially, but it was the IRS agents working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that toppled Capone. The IRS agents and U.S. attorneys built a strong tax evasion case against Capone independent of Ness and the Untouchables. Capone was convicted of five counts of tax evasion and no violations of the Volstead Act (the illegal manufacture and/or sale of alcohol for consumption). Capone was sentenced to 11 years, most of which he served at Alcatraz off the coast of San Francisco.

Ness Never Met Capone

Unlike the TV series or the subsequent movie, which was even more fictionalized, Ness and Capone never met. There was no dramatic confrontation.

Ness and Fraley in writing the book embellished the truth regarding Ness’ role in the demise of the Capone empire, and the TV series that followed solidified that fiction. Those IRS agents and US attorneys who successfully prosecuted Capone are forgotten. (For the record, the Chicago U.S. attorney who prosecuted Capone was George E.Q. Johnson, and the lead IRS agent was Frank Wilson – lest we forget.)

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That brings me to a series currently running on the Discovery Channel about the “Unabom” investigation. The show makes the usual claim/disclaimer that it’s based on a true story. Unfortunately, it’s more fiction than truth. The series makes a large departure from the truth – it portrays a minor player on the Unabom Task Force (UTF), Jim Fitzgerald, an FBI profiler and forensic linguist,  as the investigator who broke the case and was involved in key aspects of the case. It then builds on that fiction by depicting a relationship between the Unabomber/Ted Kaczynski and Fitzgerald that never happened.

The Unabom (FBI shorthand for University and Airline Bomber) investigation began in 1978 with the first bomb and continued until the Unabomber was identified, arrested and prosecuted in 1998. (The last bombing was in 1995.) The investigation was the longest and most expensive in FBI history. Many people were involved in the investigation from different agencies. Some spent a substantial portion of their careers on the investigation. All kinds of investigative techniques were utilized, huge data bases were built and countless leads were followed only to what seemed to be dead ends.

In the later years, a Unabom Task Force was formed in San Francisco. The lead agency was the FBI, but there were representatives from the U.S. Postal Inspectors and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). San Francisco had been the mailing origin for some of the later bombs, and the San Francisco Chronicle was one of the newspapers that Unabomber had chosen to communicate through with law enforcement.

Finally, the big break came when the Unabomber claimed that he would discontinue his use of bombings to kill if his 35,000-word manifesto were printed in a major newspaper. (He did reserve the right to commit acts of sabotage without targeting people.) It was decided that the publication could lead to identifying the Unabomber, but a major newspaper had to be persuaded to publish it.

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal

The Attorney General, Janet Reno, the then Director of the FBI, Louie Freeh, the San Francisco Special Agent in Charge, Jim Freeman, the Assistant SAC, Terry Turchie and Kathy Puckett, an FBI agent and a member of the UTF with a psychology background (PhD), met with and persuaded the very reluctant editors of the NY Times and the Washington Post to publish the manifesto. It was decided that the Post would publish the manifesto in its entirety, and the newspapers agreed to share the immense cost of the publication. (Jim Fitzgerald had no part in this process.)

Publication Triggers Suspicions

The publication led to David Kaczynski and his wife’s realization that David’s brother, Ted, was probably the Unabomber. (David’s wife had suspected that Ted was the Unabomber for a while.) They reached this conclusion by comparing some of Ted’s early writings with the manifesto.

Read more »

Chicago Tribune: Trump Must Abandon ‘Immigration Stunt’ Against Sanctuary Cities

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel took Chicago’s legitimate defense of the sanctuary city concept to court Monday, challenging the Trump administration’s effort to compel Chicago cops to cooperate with the feds on immigration investigations.

This fight has been building since President Donald Trump took office, issuing intemperate warnings of “bad hombres” and drawing excitable connections that do not exist between immigrant populations and crime problems in Chicago and elsewhere.

We’d like to think that the sooner the sanctuary city sideshow is cast aside by the courts, the sooner Congress might take up the substantive issue of immigration reform, which would bring millions of people out of the shadows. But we’re not in the business of handicapping the courts, or Congress. All we can do is hope logic prevails, and the Trump administration is forced to abandon this immigration stunt because it’s not a recipe for making Chicago safer.

The city’s lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, challenges the Justice Department‘s attempt to, in effect, deputize the Chicago Police Department as part-time U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants police to identify and hold onto anyone they come across who appears to be in the country without permission, until ICE can investigate. When we say Sessions “wants” Chicago’s help, actually he’d be requiring cooperation in exchange for financial assistance. Unless the city agrees, the Justice Department says it will withhold federal grant money that can be used for a broad array of local crime prevention programs.

That money comes from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, a longstanding federal initiative created by Congress to support law enforcement. Chicago has used annual Byrne money for things like new police vehicles and community policing outreach. This year the city plans to apply for $3.2 million, but the Trump administration has changed the rules. To get the money, the Justice Department will now require the city to share information on the immigration status of arrestees and hold those people for 48 hours to give immigration officials a chance to intervene. As part of the new arrangement, the feds would be given unlimited access to local police stations and other law enforcement facilities for interrogation.

To read more click here.

Chicago to File Suit Over Threat to Withhold Federal Funds to ‘Sanctuary’ Cities

Chicago cityscape, via Allen McGregor on Wikipedia.

Chicago cityscape, via Allen McGregor on Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The city of Chicago plans to sue the Justice Department today over threats to punish municipalities that don’t assist federal immigration officials.

The decision comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said so-called sanctuary cities will lose federal grants if they don’t turn over names of undocumented immigrants to the feds.

“Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate,” Chicago Mayor Ram Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune. “Chicago will not let our residents have their fundamental rights isolated and violated. And Chicago will never relinquish our status as a welcoming city.”

The city plans to file suit “first thing on Monday morning,” officials told the Tribune.

Teen Charged in Chicago with Stealing FBI-Issued SUV That Contained Guns, Tactical Gear

fbigunbadgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A 17-year-old boy has been charged with stealing an FBI-issued SUV after an agent left the vehicle running at a gas station in Chicago early Monday.

When the white 2014 Chevrolet Equinox was stolen from a gas station on the Near West Side at 1 a.m., the SUV contained several firearms and tactical gear, including a bulletproof vest.

The teen was charged as a juvenile with possession of a stolen motor vehicle, aggravated battery to a government employee and vehicular hijacking, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Later Monday, police tracked down the SUV after it received a parking ticket parked less than a half-mile away from the FBI Chicago Field Office.

A tow truck removed the SUV, and some of the stolen gear was found in another vehicle earlier in the day.

Police arrested the teen about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday.

FBI Agent Carjacked in Chicago; Thief Takes Off with Guns Inside

fbigunbadgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An FBI agent who left his car running at a gas station on Chicago’s west side was carjacked early Monday morning.

The stolen white Chevy Equinox contained several guns, including an M4, Glock 27 and a Glock 22, according to ABS Eyewitness News.

Authorities are hoping surveillance cameras at the Shell Gas Station near Morgan Street and Jackson Boulevard captured the carjacking, which happened around 1 a.m.

It’s unclear why the agent left the car running, especially since there were multiple guns inside.

Police are investigating and declined to provide more details early Monday morning.

One of FBI’s Top Most Wanted Expected to Arrive in Chicago on Numerous Charges

Fidel Urbina, via FBI

Fidel Urbina, via FBI

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI and local police had been looking for Fidel Urbina since 1998, when he is accused of bludgeoning a 22-year-old woman while he was on bond on charges of kidnapping, beating and sexually assaulting a different woman in Chicago.

Urbina was placed on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list in June 2012, prompting Mexican authorities to arrest him in September in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, The Chicago Sun-Times reports. 

Urbina is expected to arrive in Chicago on Tuesday after the extradition process is complete.

He is charged with sexually assaulting both women and murdering Gabriella Torres.

“Many family members have waited a long time for this day to come and they deserve the opportunity to face the accused in a court of law,” Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Chicago Field Office, said following the arrest.

Judge Fatally Shot Outside Chicago Home; FBI Offers $25,000 Reward

Cook County Associate Judge Raymond Myles

Cook County Associate Judge Raymond Myles

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for the information leading to the arrest of the gunman who shot and killed a judge outside his Chicago home.

Cook County Associate Judge Raymond Myles, 66, was fatally shot while heading to the gym, police told Fox News. 

A 53-year-old woman who was with the judge was shot in the leg and expected to survive. Police believe the woman was the judge’s girlfriend.

According to the woman, she was shot by a man holding a gun near the garage of Myles’ home. When Myles heard the gunshot, he went outside and exchanged words with the gunman, who shot the judge several times.

Authorities believe the motive may have been robbery.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, Myles also “may have been targeted for one reason or another.”

New ATF Chief in Chicago Focuses on Fighting Gun Violence

Celinez Nunez, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Chicago office.

Celinez Nunez, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Chicago office.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Celinez Nunez may have one of the more challenging law-enforcement positions in the nation.

The 41-year-old woman recently was named the special agent in charge of the ATF’s Chicago office at a time when the city is struggling to curtail a rising number of murders, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. 

In 2016, more than 760 people were killed, marking the highest murder rate in Chicago in decades. 

President Trump has claimed Chicago has done an inadequate job handling murders. According to sources, dozens of ATF agents are likely to be added to the ATF office to fight gun violence.

Nunez said she plans to meet with the acting U.S. attorney to discuss how to increase prosecutions of murderers.

“I am going to look at the cases my agents are putting together, too, to make sure they’re meeting the requirements of the U.S. attorney’s office,” she said. “I will make sure my agents are working solid cases so that when they take it to the U.S. attorney’s office for prosecution, they should not be turned down.”

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