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Man Says Police Frame-Up Cost Him 11 Years

CHICAGO (CN) - Police fabricated evidence to send man to prison for 11 years for a murder he didn't commit, he says in a lawsuit against Aurora, Ill., and seven officers.

Jonathan Grayson sued the city of Aurora, police Sgt. Kearbey, four police investigators and three detectives, in Federal Court.

"Plaintiff Jonathan Grayson, a teenager at the time of his arrest, spent more than eleven years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Grayson's wrongful conviction rested solely on fabricated evidence and false testimony that the defendants secured through manipulation and coercion," according to the complaint.

Grayson claims that in 2000, "two men, both members of the Latin King street gang, decided to 'go out and kill some rival gang members.'

"These two gang members went to a laundromat located in Aurora, Illinois, which had windows positioned in such a way that a person in the rear of the building could see through the business and out the front window onto the street. There, they waited until two rival gang members stopped in front of the building. The shooter then walked from around the laundromat and started firing shots.

"As a result, one of the victims, Shawn Miller, was killed. The other victim, Leroy Starks, was shot, but survived. The shooting, however, has left him paralyzed.

"Plaintiff was not involved in this crime, and had nothing to do with it."

Grayson claims that no physical evidence connected him to the crime, but a witness, Marilou Alvarado, told police that the shooter "looked like Flip, but was taller."

Flip was Grayson's nickname. Alvarado is not a party to the complaint.

"Rather than do the police work necessary to properly solve the crime, the defendant officers immediately seized upon Alvarado's statement that the shooter looked like Flip, and focused their attention on gathering evidence through manipulation and coercion to reach their end goal of making a case that the shooter was in fact Flip.

"For example, one or more of the defendant officers improperly caused the surviving victim, Leroy Starks, to be told while in the ambulance that the shooter was the plaintiff. Starks was familiar with plaintiff from the community and knew what he looked like," Grayson says in the complaint.

He claims that Alvarado denied that he was the shooter, but "the police secured a photo identification from Starks, who had previously been told that the shooter was plaintiff, and relied solely on the resulting improper identification as probable cause for an arrest warrant."

Starks, who was in possession of drugs when he was taken to the hospital, was given a plea deal for naming Grayson as the shooter, according to the complaint.

"One or more of the defendant officers testified falsely at Mr. Grayson's criminal trial about Mr. Grayson's purported guilt and about the veracity of other witnesses' prior statements," the complaint states.

"As a result of the above-described misconduct on the part of the defendant officers, Mr. Grayson was convicted of two counts of first degree murder, two counts of attempted first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm."

He was sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Eleven years later, a confidential informant came forward, prompting the Aurora Police Department to reinvestigate. Grayson was freed in March 2012.

"Jonathan Grayson spent more than eleven years in harsh prison conditions for a crime that he did not commit," the complaint states. "He must now attempt to make a life for himself outside of prison without the benefit of over a decade of life experiences, particularly during his twenties, a time which normally equip adults for that task.

"Additionally, the emotional pain and suffering caused by losing these formative years has been substantial. During his incarceration, he was stripped of the various pleasures of basic human experience, from the simplest to the most important, which all free people enjoy as a matter of right. Mr. Grayson missed out on the ability to share holidays, births, funerals, and other life events with loved ones, the opportunity to have girlfriends, to fall in love, to marry, and the fundamental freedom to live one's life as an autonomous human being."

He seeks punitive damages for violations of due process, failure to intervene, conspiracy, malicious prosecution, negligent supervision and emotional distress.

He is represented by Julie Thompson with Loevy & Loevy.

Aurora, a city of 173,000, is a far west suburb of Chicago.

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