CHICAGO (CN) - A homeless, mentally ill veteran spent 11 years in prison after Chicago police withheld exonerating evidence and coerced him into confessing to a rape in a downtown courtroom that never happened, the man claims in court.
Carl Chatman sued Chicago, 15 police officers, Assistant State's Attorney Brian Holmes, and others, in Federal Court.
"Carl Chatman spent more than eleven years in prison for a rape he did not commit," the complaint states.
"Not only did Mr. Chatman not commit the rape for which he was wrongfully convicted, but the rape never even occurred at all. The purported victim made up an account of having been raped in Chicago's Daley Center so that she could bring a lawsuit for money damage against the company responsible for the building's security.
"This marked the second time this same woman had fabricated rape charges in order to bring a legal action against a building security company for illicit financial gain.
"After the purported rape victim made up the story of having been attacked in the Daley Center, the defendants proceeded to 'solve' the crime. Specifically, in their zealousness to obtain a swift conviction in a high-profile case, the defendant Chicago police officers took advantage of Mr. Chatman's mental instability and coerced him to falsely confess to a crime that never actually happened."
Chatman, now 59, is an Army veteran who in 2000, had "fallen on hard times. He was an easily confused and extremely vulnerable man," according to the 48-page lawsuit filed by Chicago attorneys Loevy & Loevy.
Chatman went to Chicago's Daley Center, a hub of government offices, to learn how to file a small claims suit in 2002. There, he accidentally walked into Judge Ronald Bartkowicz's courtroom, where he ran into Susan Riggio, who worked as a scheduling clerk for a judge.
"After a very brief interaction, Mr. Chatman left without incident. At the time, he was wearing a Blackhawks jacket and street clothes.
"Based on this encounter, defendant Riggio knew what Mr. Chatman looked like, and also knew that he was a defenseless and guileless individual, who would not fare well if falsely accused. He was, in short, the perfect target for her plan," the complaint states.
It adds: "At the time, Defendant Riggio was also under severe financial pressures. She and her husband had been gambling heavily, and had experienced over $500,000 in losses in the year 2000 alone. Defendant Riggio was also intent on divorcing her husband.
"Faced with these financial pressures, defendant Riggio concocted a plan to falsely claim that she had been raped inside the Daley Center, thereby enabling her to sue various entities responsible for the Daley Center's security.
"Defendant Riggio had engaged in the exact same scheme some 20 years earlier. In 1979, facing different financial pressures, defendant Riggio falsely claimed that she was raped inside a downtown office building in the early morning hours, before anyone else had arrived to work. Defendant Riggio then sued the building's management and received a cash settlement.
"Having succeeded in the 1970s with a bogus civil suit against a building manager based on a false accusation of rape, defendant Riggio decided to pull the same scam all over again. This time, Mr. Chatman was her victim."