I am responding to Michael Miner's November 29 column [Hot Type]--specifically to comments he attributed to me which I feel were taken out of context. Miner and I spoke for at least a half hour regarding Rene Brown's role in the Ford Heights case, and about David Protess's contribution. He quotes me quite accurately about Brown.
On the other hand, Miner didn't use any of the positive things I said about Protess--and didn't seem to want to hear them. It's obvious that he has some real issues with Protess that sound like professional jealousy.
Let me ask your readers a question: Which Chicago journalist leads the pack in getting people out of prison who were wrongly convicted of murder? Answer: Protess. Who are the grateful former prisoners? Answer: David Dowaliby, Kenneth Adams, Verneal Jimerson, Willie Rainge, Dennis Williams, Steven Linscott, and others. Did Protess do all this by himself? Of course he didn't. But did he help put together the legal investigative and journalistic teams to get it done? You bet he did.
Did he then give away over $150,000 from his book and movie rights to the people he's gotten out of prison? Yes, again. Did any of the lawyers, investigators, journalists, and students give money to any of these victims? No, they did not.
Now should Protess be vilified as some kind of glory hound because a never-licensed amateur investigator, Rene Brown, is really pissed about not getting what he believes to be adequate credit? What did Brown do with the information he claims to have had since 1980? Get real. This isn't about Brown's supposed quest for "truth," as he tells Miner. This is about envy and an inability to cash in.
I also talked to Miner about Protess's former students, who I met several times during the investigation. These are disgruntled rich kids who've worked harder at finding an agent (they're on their third one already) and getting a movie deal than they ever did on this case. What miscarriage of justice have they helped with since they took Protess's course?
I have worked with Protess on criminal cases for many years, beginning with the wrongful charges against day-care-center owner Sandra Fabiano. The fact is, Protess has done more than any journalist, locally or nationally, to fight injustice. I defy anyone to show me that he has enriched himself on the back of anybody else. I defy anyone to show me he has ever done anything other than the right thing.
In closing, I really wonder why Miner has chosen to go after someone who is a Chicago institution, and who has always gone above and beyond the call of duty to help the people society has turned its back on. I mean, what is your point?
Paul J. Ciolino, CLI, CFE
Paul J. Ciolino & Associates, Inc.