Medley Files Papers in Federal Court to Clear Family’s Good Name
Vows, “I’ll fight until my last breath”
By Chinta StrausbergAt 88, former CTA board member Howard C. Medley, who is a World War II Purple Heart recipient, Tuesday filed documents in federal court seeking a retrial to clear his family’s good name of charges he never committed.
Filing pro se, Medley filed a petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis at 219 South Dearborn he believes will prove that he was allegedly denied effective assistance of counsel at his first and second trials in violations of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that there was insufficient evidence at his second trial which resulted in his conviction.
The issue is Medley’s reluctantly accepting a $22,500 finder’s fee for identifying a potential buyer for a warehouse located at 4800 South Central Park in Chicago. Bob Sperling and Michael Zavis who were limited partners in G&K and CGV partnerships owned it. The warehouse was heavily mortgaged at the Central National Bank and the partnership had lost the sole tenant. They were looking for a buyer.
The warehouse was sold and after refusing several times, Medley accepted the $22,500 finder’s fee, which was paid to his accountant, John Wilson. Medley paid taxes on and donated the rest to the NAACP, the Chicago Urban League and for tickets to Mayor Harold Washington events.
However, sources told this reporter it was the 18 U.S. Code: 666 that is the real culprit. One source, who is skilled in this area, said, “666 has been criticized and even reversed in certain situations. Medley is an Exhibit A why it should be reversed even though Brian Flisk, a businessman who was president of Metropolitan Petroleum Co. who had a $38 million CTA fuel contract, said during the trial he never bribed Medley. Yet, Medley was convicted for accepting a bribe.
“Medley should become the poster child for abolishing 666, and it should be given retroactive to all those persons who have been aggrieved and unfairly convicted, and this statute that bears the name of the devil should be sent back to hell where it belongs.”
Medley’s attorney, James D. Montgomery, did not return this reporter’s calls. He was Medley’s lawyer during his first trial, which ended in a hung jury. Medley hired attorney Stanley Hill for the second trial where he was indicted. Hill is now a sitting judge.
When contacted, Hill said, “I was the one who got Flisk to admit he did not bribe Medley.” Hill said he could not comment further. However, reliable sources familiar with criminal cases said even though Flisk admitted he did not bribe Medley the state used Code 666 and argued that Mr. Medley received a benefit from Flisk and as a result his conduct was influenced by that benefit in his capacity as a CTA commissioner. He too said 666 should be abolished.
Coming from a humble but religious background, Medley lost his parents in 1930 at the age of 3 and was raised by his grandfather who had a favorite scripture, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Neither Medley nor his four children has ever had a police record.
Upon returning from the Navy, Medley worked for the U.S. Post Office for 14-years then began his own business, Medley’s Moving & Storage.” He began to become politically and civilly active and politicians began to reach out to him for support.
Mayor Richard J. Daley appointed him as Chicago Board of Elections Commissioner. That is where he met two lawyers, Robert Sperling and Michael Zavis from the Katen and Muchin Law firm. They were to serve as his advisers. Medley often had lunch with them and a trusting friendship developed, but, after Washington died, Medley’s troubles began.
Medley, then 62, said he relied on his lawyers to clear his name. In fact, he was frightened of the idea of going to prison especially since he had not committed a crime. Medley said Montgomery assured him that the government “had nothing on” but allegedly told Medley not to testify on his own behalf, and he did not introduce the FBI tapes Medley said, “Would have cleared my name. If he had done that, this never would have gone to court.”
In a letter written on Montgomery’s law firm’s stationery dated January 22, 2004, Montgomery wrote President George W. Bush about Medley’s case explaining that Medley had been charged with perjury and bribery.
“During his first trial, the government’s theory was that $25,000 which Medley received for introducing a seller of a warehouse property to a lessee was a bribe paid by the lessee to Medley.
“Medley’s defense was that the warehouse transaction was a genuine one by which lessee entered into a five-year lease with an option to buy for the sum of $6,200,000. The lessee was directed by the lessors to pay Medley a commission of $25,000 from the proceeds of the $400,000 option price. Medley was unaware of the lessor-lessee negotiations,” wrote Montgomery.
However, it was Medley who told Zavis that he did not need a finder’s fee and that his business was prospering. Zavis insisted that Medley take a finder’s fee and suggested he give it to charity or a political action committee. In an effort to get away from Zavis, Medley finally said “OK.”
“He did not owe me, nor did I want a commission for telling someone about his building he had for sale,” Medley said. Each year, Medley gave away huge amounts of money to civic and charitable organizations.
When Medley received the check for $22,500 from his accountant, he deposited it in his bank, “applied it to my income tax and purchased tickets from the NAACP, Urban League, Mayor Washington” and other civil rights organizations.
Medley said later Zavis and Sperling subsequently “admitted to the government prosecutors and the FBI that” Medley “did not want a commission.”
In Montgomery’s letter to Bush, he explained that the lessee was Brian Flisk who was president of a petroleum company that had a $38,000,00 fuel contract with the CTA. Medley was a CTA board member.
“It was this relationship, coupled with Medley’s investigation (at Flisk’s request) of claims in the media that Metropolitan had a phony minority subcontractor and was delivering watered-down fuel that aroused the government’s suspicion that the ‘commission’ must have been the quid pro quo for Medley’s requesting a thorough investigation which led to Metropolitan’s vindication,” wrote Montgomery.
“At the conclusion of the government’s case, Medley rested his case without putting on any witnesses or evidence,” said Montgomery. “We felt that the government’s case was clearly inadequate to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury agreed and was unable to reach a verdict. They voted 8-4 for acquittal on the bribery charge and 11-1 for acquittal on he perjury charge.”
Not satisfied, the government retried Medley. Montgomery wrote that Medley “made the mistake of engaging a lawyer “whose legal experience and fee was substantially less than mine. It was a costly mistake. On the second trial, Medley was convicted of bribery. Unfortunately, the new lawyer failed to produce secretly recorded conversations with Brian Flisk which would have impeached Flisk’s trial testimony and exculpated Medley.”
However, in Medley’s initial trial, Montgomery failed to introduce the FBI tapes as well, and after Medley was released from prison Montgomery asked again to try and get an appeal.
“Unfortunately, Medley had already served his sentence,” wrote Montgomery who said he found new witnesses and transcribed the secret recordings then filed a second petition “in the nature of writ of Habeas Corpus.”
Montgomery explained that “the government prevailed and the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the Petition. Unlike the Ninth Circuit court of Appeals, the Seventh Circuit will not permit a wrongfully convicted person to challenge his conviction when he is not incarcerated, on probation or suffering a ‘civil disability.’”
Montgomery told President Bush, “There is no question about Medley’s innocence….” “The courts have closed the door to his presenting evidence that would clearly vindicate him. It is my considered judgment that Medley’s indictment and conviction was a deliberately contrived, miscarriage of justice perpetrated by the Government. I further believe that given access to the courts, Medley would be exonerated.”
The FBI tapes clearly has Flisk talking to Buzil saying, “what did I tell ya? Medley didn’t get paid off in this…. The man didn’t get paid off…. Yeah, we paid someone off on the Board. You know that and I know that the only time I went to Medley and asked him for a favor is to get our ass from some unjust charges.”
In an “Anatomy of a Miscarriage of Justice: The Trials of Howard Medley, Montgomery concluded, “Clearly, Medley’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice.”
Professing his innocence, Medley said he never took a bribe of $22,500 adding “That is an insult to me and my family. I have more than that in my petty cash fund…. The U.S. Attorney should not be allowed to withhold exculpatory evidence in order to get fame or monetary rewards.
“The judge said the feds gave the tapes to my lawyer. Why didn’t he submit them? I wrote U.S. Attorney Eric Holder about my case and he said the government was not at fault; rather it was with my attorney. If the government knew I did not commit a crime, why was I indicted”?
Medley said he served 10 months of his 30-month sentence in Duluth, Minnesota where he got a “botched up, unnecessary operation and tainted blood. I am still suffering from that operation,” he said. “I’ll probably be taking that for the rest of my life.”
And, until he draws his last breath on this earth, Mr. Medley said, “I am innocent, and I will fight this unjust conviction to clear my family’s good name.”