A retired Chicago police officer wants justice for seven fellow officers who he contends were wrongfully convicted in a 1996 police corruption investigation.

At a Friday, Dec 20, press conference at New Tabernacle of Faith Church, 531 N. Kedzie, Otha “T.C.” McCoy alleged that the investigation of seven Austin police officers was a “shame” perpetuated by the F.B.I. and the Chicago Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division.

McCoy is calling for a special federal prosecutor to investigate the incidents that led to the arrest and the eventual prosecution of seven 15th District tactical officers, since known as the “Austin Seven.”

McCoy wants the special prosecutor to look at all aspects of the investigation, including the prosecutingU.S.attorney at the time, Jim Burns. McCoy alleges that prosecutors were aware that the corruption investigation was a fraud.

“If we allow this to happen to these officers who were protecting their communities with their blood sweat and tears… then what will they do to you,” McCoy said at the press conference held 17 years to the day of the officer’s arrest. The case became known as Operation Broken Star. It was a year-long undercover operation aimed to weed out suspected dirtyChicagocops.

“The people of the Austincommunity was devastated by a lie that was told to them by the Chicago Police Department [that] seven officers were out robbing dug dealers and adjudicated their responsibility to the community, to self-serve themselves,” McCoy said.

The seven Austin officers were arrested in December 1996 for allegedly shaking down undercover FBI agents posing as drug dealers. According to the FBI at the time, the officers conspired to rob and extort $65,000 from the undercover agents.

The officers arrested were Edward Lee Jackson Jr., Gregory S. Crittleton, M.L. Moore, Alex Ramos, Lennon Shields, Cornelius Tripp, and James Young. A civilian, Charles Vaughn, was also arrested. Three of the former officers — Jackson, Ramos and Moore — are still in jail, serving a combined 249 years in prison.

McCoy, a 21-year department veteran, said he conducted his own investigation of the case over the years. He’s alleging that there was a CPD cover up of the Dec. 8, 1995 robbery of an agent. That robbery led to the indictment and subsequent conviction of the Austin Seven.

McCoy alleges that a group of IAD officers facilitated the staged robbery to implicate McCoy, as well as Jackson and Shields, by having civilian informants pose as police. McCoy said he and his partner, Jerry Saffold, who’s now deceased, were the target of a CPD investigation for allegedly shaking down drug dealers. McCoy alleges that when no wrongdoing was found, a staged robbery was concocted by department officials. 

“These people went out and did this crime and after they did this crime they investigated us for this crime… and arrested my guys for this crime,” McCoy said.

McCoy presented documentation from the FBI where the civilian informants outlined instruction police gave to them, including informing them that they were robbing a female undercover FBI agent. The documents also show that the informants were told to “act like the police.”

“The cover up is worst then the crime itself,” said Pat Hill, former president and executive director of the African-American Police League, who also spoke at the press conference.

The group has asked the U.S. Department of Justice several times to open an investigation into the case, which has yet to happen. But their call for a federal investigation was bolstered when Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle last year sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking an inquiry into the Austin Seven case.

McCoy also presented his findings to the both former Chicago Police superintendent Jodi Weis and current Supt. Gary McCarthy. Each request, according to McCoy, was denied.

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