CHICAGO (STMW) — Earl Hawkins is a convicted killer whose lawyer once bribed a judge to try to beat a double murder case. State and federal prosecutors vowed that he wouldn’t get out of prison until he was in his 70s.
But after the El Rukn gang member in May helped the City of Chicago defend a lawsuit brought by his wrongfully convicted former buddy, Hawkins on Tuesday walked out of prison a free man — at just 59.
Lawyers for the former El Rukn pal he turned against, Nathson Fields, say they smell a rat.
And they say they have evidence that state and federal prosecutors secretly teamed up with the city and a dirty Chicago cop to spring Hawkins from behind bars in return for his crucial cooperation.
While such deals between authorities in criminal cases are commonplace, Fields’ attorneys suggest the alleged deal was improperly hidden from jurors in Fields’ civil case.
Neither the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office, nor attorneys for the cop commented on the allegations Thursday.
Fields, 60, served 18 years behind bars, including 12 on Death Row, for a 1984 double murder before he was finally cleared at a retrial in 2009. He sought an $18 million payout for his “ordeal.”
Though a federal jury in May found that he’d only been convicted at his first trial in 1986 after Chicago Police Sgt. David O’Callaghan either withheld or fabricated evidence in his case, it awarded Fields just $80,000 in damages.
Jurors likely awarded the paltry sum because they were swayed by Hawkins’ testimony that Fields was in fact guilty, Fields’ attorney Candace Gorman said Thursday. Hawkins testified at the trial that he was with Fields when they killed Jerome “Fuddy” Smith and Talman Hickman.
Jurors were told that Hawkins wouldn’t be eligible for parole until 2027 and that he was testifying without the promise of a reduced sentence, she said.
But just two months after the trial, O’Callaghan wrote a letter to the U.S. Parole Commission, urging it to release Hawkins, court records filed this week show.
Praising Hawkins for his cooperation in murder investigations, but declining to mention Hawkins’ role in helping him defend himself in his civil trial, O’Callaghan wrote that “I believe that Earl Hawkins, as he as aged, would no longer be a threat to society.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney William R. Hogan also wrote a letter of support for Hawkins in July. Hogan mentioned Hawkins “exceptional” cooperation but also argued that Hawkins deserved a break because he had testified on behalf of O’Callaghan and other Chicago cops at the civil trial “despite being under no obligation to do so.”
Other cops named in the lawsuit also wrote letters of support, as did assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Brian Sexton, records show.
Sexton last year successfully argued in state court that Fields should not be granted a “certificate of innocence” for the 1984 murders. In doing so he told Cook County Judge Paul Biebel that Hawkins and another witness who testified against Fields, Derrick Kees, “won’t be out until they are in their 70s.”
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan ordered Hawkins’ release on Friday, Gorman’s filing states.
Prosecutors and the police continue to insist that Fields is guilty of the murders, a position they maintained even after a long-missing police file connected to his case was “discovered” after he was finally cleared, buried in an old filing cabinet in the basement of a South Side police station.
Police and prosecutors for years denied the file existed; Fields’ lawyers claimed it was hidden on purpose because it held evidence that might have cleared Fields far sooner.
Gorman’s filing alleges that the U.S. Attorney’s office has deliberately withheld documents connected to Hawkins’ parole request from Fields’ legal team until after Hawkins was released.
For example, in a recording of the parole hearing, Hawkins refers to a U.S. Attorney he says he wants to represent him, but the attorney’s name is redacted in the version that was provided to Gorman, she wrote.
“It is clear… that the DOJ has been complicit in hiding the materials,” she added, urging U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly to order prosecutors to turn over all documents connected to Hawkins’ parole.
“That the individuals discussed herein were engaged in a conspiracy is clear. The complete scope of that conspiracy is not clear.”
Speaking Thursday, she told the Sun-Times she hopes the disclosures will bolster her calls for a re-trial of Fields’ civil claims.
“Hawkins was the main witness for the city,” she said. “Their crucial witness was paroled just months after they said he wouldn’t be, with their help.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)