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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Illinois Cops Accused of Falsifying Evidence

CHICAGO (CN) - Illinois police and forensics technicians falsified reports to keep a young black man in jail for 1½ years for a sexual assault that DNA proved he did not commit, the man claims in court.

Nakita Ulmer, 26, sued the City of Joliet, Officers Moises Avila, B. McKeon, and Kilgore, unknown officers, the Illinois State Police Crime Laboratory, and its employee Kelly Krajnik, in Federal Court.

"Nakita Ulmer spent 523 days in jail awaiting trial for a crime he did not commit. He was arrested, charged, and continuously incarcerated based on the wrongful and malicious conduct of the defendants. The defendants' actions caused Ulmer to be deprived of his freedom and his family, including his then 5-year-old son, for 17 months," the complaint states.

A 61-year-old woman in Joliet was robbed by a "cleanly shaven African American man" at 3:00 a.m. on April 1, 2009, the complaint states.

She gave the robber $90. He then rummaged through her belongings, found a safe-box, and took 19 Susan B. Anthony coins, according to the complaint.

It continues: "The assailant then twice attempted to sexually assault the victim, but he was unable to achieve an erection.

"Eventually, the victim ran out of the home and into the street. The assailant chased after her, picked her up, and carried her back into the home. The assailant then left."

Ulmer says he was asleep in his home at the time.

The victim told officers she would not be able to identify her assailant because he knocked her glasses off her face. Officers asked her to identify the assailant from two photo arrays, but she declined to do so, according to the lawsuit.

Nonetheless, Ulmer says, defendant Avila asked her to look at a third photo array.

"In addition to setting up the [third] photo array in an unduly suggestive manner, defendant Avila also suggested to the victim that she should select Ulmer," so she did, according to the complaint. Ulmer claims that Avila also "concealed and/or destroyed photo array 1."

After Ulmer was arrested, he claims, it quickly became clear that the false identification was the only evidence against him. Ulmer did not need money, and was in a sexual relationship at the time, according to the complaint.

He was excluded as the assailant by DNA evidence, but police lab employee Kelly Krajnik allegedly "submitted a report falsely stating that Ulmer could not be excluded as a contributor of that DNA."

He was released only after the chief forensics officer at the laboratory, Karl Reich, told the trial court: "The results positively exclude Mr. Ulmer as being a contributor to the questioned sample," according to the lawsuit.

Ulmer seeks damages for concealment of exculpatory evidence, fabrication of evidence, malicious prosecution and emotional distress.

He is represented by Kathleen Zellner, of Downers Grove.

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