Man to be freed in 2002 Daley Center rape case
State's attorney's Integrity Unit finds evidence lacking
By Steve Mills, Chicago Tribune reporter
September 10, 2013
A homeless man in prison for raping a clerk at the Daley Center will have his conviction set aside in a case in which his lawyers argued on appeal that the alleged victim fabricated the assault in a scheme to sue the county.
The assertion that she had fabricated the Daley Center rape was central to the appeals by Chatman's attorney, Russell Ainsworth, who argued that the rape claim was prompted by thousands of dollars in casino losses and an Internal Revenue Service notice of an audit just weeks before the supposed attack.
"There was no rape. This never happened," Ainsworth said. "This was fabricated by a vindictive woman who did this for monetary gain."
Prosecutors also planned to dismiss a separate case Tuesday, according to sources.
It is not clear what turned the Daley Center case. But a recently disclosed sheriff's office report of an internal investigation done in the weeks after the alleged rape might have been a factor. That report, which prosecutors did not have at trial, disclosed that a sheriff's deputy was sleeping in the courtroom next to where the rape allegedly occurred and did not wake despite the woman's claim she fought loudly with Chatman and screamed for help.
Prosecutors, according to sources, came to doubt the woman's claim that she had been sexually assaulted.
The woman's husband was outraged by the decision and said that he and his wife were exploring their legal options.
"To let this man go is wrong. He was convicted and he deserves to be in prison," said the husband, who the Tribune is not identifying to avoid identifying his wife. "It's infuriating when you have a victim who's been assaulted more than once. This is absolutely infuriating."
Cook County prosecutors, according to sources, also investigated the woman's claim that she was raped in October 1979 at an office building at 625 N. Michigan Ave., where she worked. But, the sources said, they could not come to any conclusion regarding that claim.
In both instances, the woman said she arrived at work early and was sexually assaulted by a man. In the 1979 case, the suspect, Edward Szymczak, was a janitor in the building and allegedly confronted her in a bathroom and threatened her with a knife. A Polish national, he fled before trial but wrote a letter to the judge in his case asserting his innocence and saying he was fleeing only because he had no money to mount an aggressive legal defense.
"If she only made this whole thing up to make some money, she should earn money honestly and not like this," Szymczak's letter said.
His sister, Janina Hapaniewski, said in a recent interview that the rape charge against her brother, who was 31 and had not been in America for long, devastated the family.
"We went through hell," she said.
Chatman was arrested May 24, 2002, just after the woman said she was raped on the 21st floor of the Daley Center. It was there, on the Friday before Memorial Day, that she said she came in early to work on scheduling, even though the judge she worked for had been away. Chatman, she said, had been in the courtroom earlier in the week. She said he came back and threatened her with a pair of scissors, then brutally sexually assaulted her.
No physical evidence tied Chatman to the crime. Although the woman said she bit Chatman's Chicago Blackhawks jacket, no DNA was recovered. Foreign hairs on him did not belong to her, Ainsworth said, and Chatman's DNA was not recovered from the woman.
The alleged victim, now 62, identified Chatman after he was arrested walking near the Daley Center. Chicago police obtained a confession from Chatman, although with his low IQ and significant mental illness he was susceptible to making a false confession.
The case raised questions about security because Chatman, who supposedly slept in the building overnight and committed the assault before the building opened, walked out of the Daley Center and was not seen by deputies or caught on a video camera.
"He smelled. He smelled terribly," said Ainsworth, who is with the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School. "And nobody noticed him. He's supposed to be there all night, and none of the guards or the janitorial staff ever noticed him."
The woman sued the county building commission and a private security firm that guarded it at night. Attorney Daniel Gallagher, a lawyer on the defense side of the case, said the woman sought millions of dollars but settled for less — several hundred thousand dollars, according to sources. Gallagher said the attorneys concluded the woman made a false accusation but were never able to prove it. "It's possible that she could be the unluckiest woman in the world," he said.
"It just seemed odd that both rapes were under almost identical circumstances," he said.
Chatman's sister, Theresa, said she was excited but a bit overwhelmed by the news that he will soon be coming home.
"My brother's a strong man," she said. "He stuck it out. He is my hero, and I love him."
When her brother gets to her house, she said, he will have to resume his old chore of cleaning her stove. But, she said, it will be worth it.
"You know how you have everything on the table at Christmas? Rolls, dressing, macaroni and cheese — the whole thing," Chatman said. "We're going to cook and eat like it's Christmas, and we'll have all our friends and family and anybody over."
Mitch Smith contributed.
||Truth in Justice