Profile picture
Megan Crepeau @crepeau
, 85 tweets, 12 min read Read on Twitter
Trial begins today for three current/former Chicago cops accused of covering up what really happened the night #LaquanMcDonald was shot. This has kind of flown under the radar compared to Van Dyke’s trial but it is worth your attention.…
Van Dyke was charged in a single shooting that lasted seconds. These three are accused of a conspiracy that lasted for months. Prosecutors have framed this as putting the police “code of silence” on trial.
A few things to look out for over the next week:
It’s not sexy but the whole case hinges on paperwork -- the police reports these men wrote don’t match the video of the shooting, prosecutors say, and that’s the core of the conspiracy/obstruction/misconduct charges. (more on the charges here:…)
There will also be a few key witnesses. Keep an eye out for Dora Fontaine, who could be huge for the prosecution. She says these police reports attribute statements to her that she never actually made. But her credibility has been under attack by all kinds of different parties
It’s too much for a tweet, just read our story here:…
Two of the defense attorneys are particularly colorful. Jim McKay, representing March, got the nickname “Mad Dog” back when he was a Cook County prosecutor. He is aggressive and constantly high-key.
And there’s Tom Breen, representing Walsh. He's a particularly well-regarded local criminal defense attorney. He has an aw-shucks vibe sometimes but he also has a flair for the theatrical. I mean, he’s this guy.
The defense case is likely to begin toward the end of the week; McKay has filed paperwork naming dozens of possible witnesses, including big names like Eddie Johnson and Anita Alvarez.
(Not that either will likely actually be called. That kind of big talk isn’t uncommon in pretrial witness lists.)
And as a beat reporter I gotta say, two things about this case strike me as extremely Cook County
1 - check out this photo. McKay is standing on the left. Right next to him is Domenica Stephenson. They were prosecutors together on a heater murder case in the 90s. Now he’s representing a defendant in this trial and she is the judge on the bench.

That’s never been discussed in open court, that I know of. It’s not unprecedented or anything, it just illustrates how small this world is. 26th and Cal is an odd little fishbowl. Speaking of ...
2 - Will Fahy, another defense attorney, previously represented two cops who are slated to be state’s witnesses. Prosecutors called for a hearing into whether he had a conflict of interest; the judge ruled that he shouldn’t be disqualified. That has raised some eyebrows.
That's a big deal - to represent someone, even in a minor capacity, and then go on to possibly cross-examine them. Or accuse a former client (Fontaine) of being a perjurer. Again, small world, especially when it comes to the set of lawyers who regularly represent police
Opening statements slated to start soon. We could hear from CPD Officers Fontaine and McElligott, familiar faces to those of you who followed the Van Dyke trial.
Livestream/liveblog here…

And follow along with me and the rest of the Tribune trial reporters: @StacyStClair @jmetr22b @ChristyGutowsk1
Trial slated to start at 11. It is standing-room-only in this tiny tiny courtroom gallery. FOP President Kevin Graham, activist Will Calloway, Father Pfleger in attendance.
Except Pfleger and several others just had to step outside because they couldn’t find seats.
Stephenson’s courtroom is what’s known as a “fishbowl” - maybe 1/3 the size of the courtrooms on higher floors, with thick angled glass separating the court and the gallery.
Prior high-profile/multiple-defendant cases in fishbowl rooms have been moved to bigger courtrooms. And in Van Dyke's case there was even a separate overflow room. Nothing like that here. It is cramped. Visibility poor.
Judge just called the case. Defendants David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney walking into the well.
The judge plans to take formal jury waivers from each defendant but before that, she granted prosecutors' request to give Dora Fontaine immunity. Fontaine can't be prosecuted for anything she says on the stand - as long as it's truthful.
Defense for March has issued subpoenas for journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman - indicating they may be called to the stand depending on what two prosecution witnesses, Jose and Xavier Torres, say.
having some real Internet issues here. Another casualty of the fishbowl courtroom.
back up and running, for now. First prosecution witness is Joseph Perfetti, director of CPD's record services division,
Seems to me he is going to be a foundational witness -- someone who can vouch for when and how the police reports in question were submitted, someone to say under oath this paperwork is all official CPD record.
Prosecutors getting on the record that March reported McDonald "committed aggravated assaults against the three officers" and forced Van Dyke to shoot McDonald in defense of his life.
For homicide, paperwork is retained indefinitely, Perfetti said. For something like an assault the records would be kept for seven years.
Prosecutors distributed big thick binders of all the relevant exhibits to the attorneys in the room so everyone can follow along. Told you this is a paperwork case.
Fontaine's initial police report classifies the incident as an aggravated assault to a police officer, not a homicide, Perfetti testifies. Victims are listed as Gaffney, Van Dyke and Walsh.
Van Dyke is listed in the report as "injured by offender." Prosecutors expect Fontaine to testify - perhaps as early as today - that March told her to write the report that way.
Prosecutors are basically walking Perfetti through each of the relevant reports, page by page. almost line by line, it seems like.
If you want to follow along, a lot of the paperwork can be found here:…
The common threads here are that March's paperwork consistently identifies McDonald as the offender and Van Dyke, Walsh, Gaffney and McElligott as victims.
“criminal killed by police officer … criminal attacked officer then that officer killed criminal," one report reads.
We’re getting into the Tactical Response Reports filed by Walsh and Gaffney. Those are meant to be completed when an officer uses force, which neither officer did.
Prosecutors say since they did that paper for no reason, it’s an attempt to bolster the narrative that McDonald was attacking/posed an imminent threat.
The defense has said they needed to fill out the TRRs simply in order to get to the Officer Battery Reports in CPD’s computer system. Prosecutors say it’s the exact opposite, you can’t fill out a TRR unless you do an OBR first.
Again, the whole overarching code of silence allegations rest in no small part on ... who checked what box, and in which order police must fill out certain reports.
That’s particularly true for Walsh and Gaffney. March filled out much more voluminous reports over the course of months, and prosecutors have got Fontaine slated to testify in person against him.
(These last few tweets are mostly me trying to situate Perfetti’s testimony in context, it’s not what attorneys are saying right now. Perfetti is still on the stand, going through the reports line by line. He’s nearly coming up on the 90-minute mark now.)
Perfetti has moved on from reading aloud the police reports and is now being asked to quote from CPD rules, specifically the ones prohibiting false reports.
The rule requiring officers to promptly report wrongdoing dates to 2015 — defense objects, saying it’s after the fact. McDonald was shot in 2014. But to this day the defendants have not reported the false information in their police reports, prosecutors say.
Lunch break.
And we're back. Prosecutors' initial questioning of Perfetti is finished, and McKay starts in with cross-examination.
McKay showing Perfetti documents establishing that March's supervisor, Sgt. Gallagher, asked him to indefinitely retain records related to the case.
Perfetti now reading paperwork showing that March inventoried video of the shooting - I imagine this is part of the larger defense argument that March couldn't have tried to cover anything up when he was the one who secured the footage.
March also inventoried 911 audio and extensive video footage. McKay hit on this in his opening statement, the argument that March conducted a thorough investigation that lasted for months and went beyond the dashcam video.
(McKay also argued that March acted as, essentially, a reporter, repeating what other people told him, and so he shouldn't be held responsible for any possible discrepancies in the paperwork. Hard to reconcile those two.)
McKay noting that Rudy Barillas, the person McDonald tried to attack in the truck yard that night, is listed as the first victim in the initial paperwork. Hinting at the argument that McDonald acted unlawfully, posed a genuine threat that night.
"Would it surprise you, Mr. Perfetti, that nowhere in David March’s reports did he use the word 'lunged'?"
Todd Pugh cross-examines for Walsh. Having Perfetti go over the OBR and confirm that it can be submitted when an officer is the victim of -- not just a battery -- but also an assault.
(refresher: under Illinois law battery requires actual physical contact between the aggressor and the victim, whereas assault = the threat of that kind of harm)
Perfetti says he has no specific knowledge of how these OBRs and TRRs are actually generated.
On questioning by Gaffney's attorney he confirms that they're automatically generated after an officer fills them out on a computer but doesn't seem to have much direct knowledge beyond that.
Prosecutors on redirect trying to establish that there is "not a single report" in any of the files that March or Walsh went back to correct.
Perfetti is off the stand, nearly four hours after having first been called. (there was an hour break for lunch. But still, that was a LOT of paperwork testimony.)
Sounds like next up is a Cook County ME investigator. Prosecutors have said March told him McDonald lunged at officers with the knife; March's attorney is objecting to him taking the stand altogether.
McKay seems to be saying March isn't specifically charged with telling the medical examiner investigator this; it's not in the indictment but it is in the prosecutors' document outlining support for the overall conspiracy.
"He's not charged with making a false statement to the medical examiner's office," McKay says. Trying to argue it's irrelevant.
"Defendants are charged with furnishing false information, that is false information," prosecutor Brian Watson shoots back.
Stephenson noting that this allegation is in fact included in the indictment -- the indictment states that investigators furnished false information, and the statement to the ME would fall under that umbrella.
If they wanted to bar this witness's testimony they could have tried to do so in writing far in advance of trial, Stephenson said. So the ME investigator will testify.
So. Second witness of the day is Earl Briggs, an investigator at the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. Not a pathologist, but he assists the pathologists.
Briggs, a former Berwyn cop, got the call from March the night McDonald died, including information about the deceased and a brief narrative. He confirmed with March over the phone that what he had written was accurate.
Defense objecting to the statement's introduction, saying it's hearsay -- defined roughly a secondhand statement offered to prove the truth of the matter.

Prosecutors are saying this statement is in fact being offered to prove the falseness of the matter.
Briggs was allowed to testify that March told him about the lunge. Now prosecutors want the report Briggs wrote, with that statement included, to be officially admitted into evidence. Stephenson is considering it.
Stephenson allowed the report into evidence. This is apparently the only paperwork connecting March to a statement about "lunging."
Having failed to exclude Briggs's testimony, McKay on cross-examination is pointing out that Briggs had never met March before and didn't know his voice -- hinting that it could have been anyone on the other end of that phone.
again, McKay trying to say that it wasn't March at all who made the phone call. "This call, whoever truly made it, was never audio recorded."
Testimony about the computer system Briggs used to document the call, the dropdown menu he used. I honest to god never thought I'd hear a criminal case that depends so much on government bureaucracy software.
Briggs concedes that after he submits his reports someone else can go in and edit them. McKay pounces. "if a caller comes in and says something to you, whatever he says could be edited by somebody in your office?? … in general your reports aren’t that accurate."
Briggs bristles, saying he stands by his report. Loudly.
5 pm and we're maybe halfway through cross on the second witness of the day. Gonna be a long trial, folks.
McKay is going through Briggs's report, basically line by line, trying to poke holes. "Are you telling us that Det. March or whoever claimed to be Det. March said 'on or about'"? Trying to get Briggs to say he paraphrased some of the narrative.
"Are you telling us that this person who claimed to be Det. March used the word 'lunged'?"


"You did not put the word 'lunged' in quotation marks, did you?"

Some allusion to when and where exactly McDonald died, and we all flash back to the endless Van Dyke pathologist testimony.
"If the real Det. March was still at the scene at 11:51 p.m. how in God's name would he know all this information?"

McKay is just not letting go of this theory that someone besides March actually made this call and, I guess, impersonated a detective.
McKay noting that in none of March's police reports does he use the word "lunge."
Briggs has been on the stand for an hour to testify about a phone call that lasted, I would say generously, maybe 10 minutes.
McKay asking if Briggs knew about the press conference then-FOP spokesman Pat Camden gave from the scene that night, saying McDonald lunged. Hinting that Briggs could have gotten that word from someone other than March. But Briggs says he didn't know about the presser.
Redirect from prosecutors is simpler.

"Is there any doubt in your mind that Det. March told you that on Oct. 20 2014?"

"There is no doubt."
Briggs is off the stand and that's it for today.

(Only got through two witnesses on the first day, I have a feeling this trial is gonna last longer than expected.)
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Megan Crepeau
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!