Former prosecutor Nicholas Trutenko was fired in the midst of Jackie Wilson’s third trial after Trutenko testified that he had an ongoing personal relationship with a jailhouse informant who helped convict Wilson at his second trial.
A Cook County judge Thursday ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the state’s attorney’s office and a former employee who allegedly lied on the witness stand during the third trial of a man who was eventually cleared of murdering two Chicago police officers.
Former prosecutor Nicholas Trutenko was fired in October in the midst of Jackie Wilson’s trial after the then assistant state’s attorney testified that he had an ongoing personal relationship with a jailhouse informant who helped convict Wilson at his second trial.
Wilson, who has said he was tortured by police and forced into confessing to the murders of Officers William Fahey and Richard O’Brien in 1982, walked free when all charges against him were dropped shortly after Trutenko’s revelation.
Judge Alfredo Maldonado Thursday said he found sufficient evidence that Trutenko may have committed perjury and that other current and former members of State’s Attorney’s Kim Foxx’s office may have tried to cover for him.
“Obviously, as to Trutenko, there is no question that sufficient grounds exist for a criminal investigation,” Maldonado wrote in his order, calling for a special prosecutor.
The judge also noted Trutenko is accused of erasing contents of his office-issued cellphone before turning it over.
“The record in this case absolutely calls into question the reasons behind the [state’s attorney’s office’s] decisions and conduct regarding Trutenko,” Maldonado said. “At best the [state’s attorney’s office] acted in a misguided and inept manner as to Trutenko … at worst, the actions of the [state’s attorney’s office] … could have been motivated by unethical and, perhaps, illegal reasons to cover up misconduct.”
Wilson’s lawyer, Elliot Slosar, said Maldonado’s order was “a major step forward in Jackie’s fight for justice.”
“It’s a day of reckoning for prosecutors … who have committed misconduct without fear of being held accountable for their misdeeds,” Slosar said in a statement. “Instead of holding her employees accountable, over the last eight months, [Foxx] has defended the actions of several employees implicated in this scandal.”
Foxx spokeswoman Sarah Sinovic said the office “welcomes” the investigation.
“The State’s Attorney is committed to transparency and accountability in this and all matters, and looks forward to cooperating fully with the special prosecutor ultimately appointed in this case,” Sinovic wrote in an emailed statement.
Who will be appointed special prosecutor has not been decided. The court will reach out to other state’s attorneys and the Illinois attorney general’s office to see if any of those officials are willing to take on the task.
If none of those lawyers are available, Maldonado will appoint a private attorney as the special prosecutor.
Wilson spent 36 years in prison for the murders of Fahey and O’Brien, who were shot during a traffic stop by Wilson’s brother, Andrew, who died in prison in 2007.
Wilson, who said he had no idea his brother would shoot the officers, was accused of being a getaway driver in the double murder.
At Wilson’s second trial in 1989 William Coleman, a British con man with a lengthy criminal record, testified that Wilson admitted his role in the crime while they were incarcerated together.
Slosar said Coleman’s testimony was false and orchestrated by Trutenko in exchange for reduced drug charges that were pending against Coleman.
Wilson’s attorneys learned last year that Trutenko had remained close with Coleman and even traveled to England to be Coleman’s daughter’s godfather. Trutenko admitted on the stand he still communicated with Coleman but said he had not revealed the relationship to the special prosecutors who were trying Wilson before Judge William Hooks in 2020.
However, those special prosecutors told Hooks they had discussed Coleman with Trutenko. They also said other state’s attorney’s office employees had warned them against asking about Trutenko’s relationship with Coleman.
Maldonado’s order tied to Wilson’s case marked the second time that a special prosecutor was requested to investigate the state’s attorney’s office during Foxx’s tenure.
In 2019, special prosecutor Dan Webb was appointed to investigate the office’s decision to drop charges against former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett who was accused of staging a hate crime near his Streeterville apartment.
Webb did not find evidence to support criminal charges against any prosecutors, including Foxx, though he reported uncovering “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures.”
Webb’s report remains under seal and has not been made public.
Smollett was re-indicted for allegedly lying to police about being the victim of a homophobic and racially motivated attack detectives said was fake.
That case is pending.