Carl Chatman sits in a Dixon, Ill. medical security facility. Before that, he was locked up at Statesville Prison in Joliet for a 2002 rape he says he didn’t commit.
The 2003 trial and conviction of Chatman, 53, for the alleged aggravated sexual assault of a Daley Center employee seemed like a relatively straight forward case.
A woman claimed she was assaulted and battered in a courtroom of the Daley Center, 625 N. Michigan, on May 24, 2002.
The jury deliberated for about a half hour and rendered a guilty verdict, sentencing Chatman to 30 years in prison.
Since his conviction, his sister Theresa Chatman has been working with defense attorneys, the news media and anyone else she can think of to free her brother, who she said suffers from a mental illness and was homeless at the time of the alleged rape.
“Their case was based on the fact that my brother suffered from a mental illness and the fact that, quite honestly, the alleged victim was a white woman,” said Theresa, who’s working with a new batch of lawyers on her brother’s appeal.
Theresa plans to file a post-conviction brief next Tuesday that would allow evidence not heard by the jury in the first case to be brought forward.
She said there were holes in the original case and that there’s evidence the victim has a history of making false claims of sexual assault and seeking money afterward. The victim’s name has never been released because of “shield laws” that protect the identity of rape victims.
The Austin Weekly News was unable to reach prosecutors.
Inconsistencies in the case
According to the prosecution, Chatman crept through the Daley Center halls shortly before it closed and slept all night under one of the benches in courtroom 2101.
The victim arrived to work the next morning at around 7:45, prior to the public opening of the center.
Prosecutors said Chatman beat and raped her, and then fled. Chatman, according to court documents, was picked up by police less than six blocks from the Daley Center. He later signed a confession 15 hours later.
But no physical evidence was found linking Chatman to the crime, Theresa and her lawyers said.
There were no bruises on the victim and no eyewitnesses. No videotape from the Daley Center showed Chatman leaving the building after the alleged rape. No semen, hair or other fluids from the victim was found on Chatman.
Theresa’s lawyers said when the woman was examined, there did not appear to be any sign of an assault or struggle. The only physical evidence that Chatman came in contact with any woman was a hair found on his clothes, but it did not belong to the victim.
Court documents said Chatman was taken into custody wearing a Blackhawks jacket and a “shiny belt buckle on black pants.”
Theresa, who saw her brother days before the alleged crime, said he did not have nor did he own such items.
Carl Chatman had told police that he spent the night at a shelter, but court documents state that police could not corroborate his alibi.
Theresa said her brother suffers from schizophrenia and at the time of his arrest, was not taking his medication.
She said her brother was homeless and that she was trying to help him pull his life together. Her brother’s original lawyers, she added, did not handle the case properly.
“It was a grave miscarriage of justice,” she said of her brother’s conviction. “It didn’t help either that the lawyer that represented him during the trial cared more about doing crossword puzzles than defending my brother.”
Part of the reason for filing the post-conviction brief, Theresa said, is to bring forward information she and her attorneys discovered about the accuser.
A prior claim of rape
Chatman’s attorneys said the victim reported a similar rape 22 years ago against a Polish immigrant that allegedly occurred at 625 N. Michigan. The immigrant, who worked as a janitor at the Michigan building, fled the country and was never prosecuted. But two years later, the victim sued the building’s owner, management company, security company and janitorial company. The case settled for an undisclosed amount of money.
“She is no stranger to filing rape charges,” said Russell Ainsworth, an attorney with Loevy & Loevy, who is representing Carl Chatman. “This same thing happened 22 years ago when she claimed she was assaulted by a Polish immigrant janitor in similar fashion at the same Daley Center location.”
Ainsworth said she sued for $1,000,000 and for punitive damages in the amount of $250,000. That case, much like the Chatman case, had many inconsistencies, Ainsworth said.
“She said that the man spoke perfect English, and demanded she follow him into the washroom and remove her clothes. However, when she identified the janitor as the perpetrator it was discovered that his English was not very good at all. In fact, the few words he did speak were thickly accented. She never said anything about an accent. She said she could understand him clearly.”
Ainsworth said they’ve learned that the victim is attempting to sue the Daley Center and similar entities as in the case 22 years ago.
As for Carl Chatman, Theresa said her brother was recently moved from Statesville to the medical wing of the Dixon Correctional Center. She said she’s not going to stop until her brother is freed.
“I am going to continue to fight for my brother and be his voice on the outside because I know he is innocent,” she said.