Aurora man wrongfully imprisoned sues city, cops
By Steve Lord firstname.lastname@example.org March 7, 2013 10:58AM
Jonathan Grayson, formerly known as Jonathan Moore, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Aurora and eight Aurora police officers over his wrongful murder conviction.
Updated: April 9, 2013 11:34AM
An Aurora man wrongly imprisoned for murder, then set free after an Aurora police investigation, is suing the city of Aurora and its Police Department.
Attorneys for Jonathan Grayson, 31, formerly known as Jonathan Moore, filed a federal civil lawsuit this week claiming Aurora police manipulated evidence and conspired to help convict him of murder in 2002.
Grayson spent about 10 years in jail before he was freed. His release from prison in March 2012 was the result of an Aurora police investigation prompted by a secret informant’s information that Grayson did not commit the murder.
Grayson was convicted of the 2000 shooting murder of Shawn Miller of Montgomery. A second man, Leroy Starks, also was shot in the incident and survived, although he was paralyzed from the waist down.
Miller, Starks and a young woman were standing outside a laundromat in the 0-99 block of Lincoln Avenue in Aurora at 5:45 a.m. Aug. 24, 2000, when someone opened fire with a semiautomatic pistol.
According to the lawsuit, the two shooters were street gang members who decided to “go out and kill some rival gang members.”
Grayson “was not involved in this crime, and had nothing to do with it,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit goes on to say that after the shooting, the two gang members ran to the alley behind the laundromat to a girlfriend’s apartment and stood on a porch watching police officers comb the area for evidence.
“The two perpetrators were questioned by an officer, but this questioning was not memorialized by any officer in a police report, or, alternatively, their statement was memorialized but later suppressed by the Defendant Officers,” the lawsuit says. “Once the officers finished processing the crime scene, the men buried the gun in a backyard and left the area.”
The lawsuit claims detectives coerced witnesses, and tricked Grayson into a partial confession.
It says these actions were part of “a routine practice of the Aurora Police Department to pursue wrongful convictions through profoundly flawed investigations and coerced evidence.”
The suit names eight officers: Sgt. Tom Kearby and Detectives Robb Wallers, Alvin Soto, Tom Kinney, Rick Robertson, Dan West, John Thompson and Michael Gumz.
Attorney Jon Loevy, of the Chicago firm Loevy & Loevy, which filed the lawsuit in federal court in Chicago, said he could not name any other specific cases in which Aurora police coerced witnesses or manipulated evidence. He said they are hoping to “develop evidence through discovery.”
But he did acknowledge that “present members” of the Aurora Police Department “played a role in insuring Mr. Grayson’s conviction was overturned.”
“By no means are we condemning the entire Police Department,” Loevy said. “We’re just talking about different officers and different time periods.”
Aurora Detectives John Munn and Darrell Moore have been lauded by national, state and local law enforcement organizations and legal groups over the past year for their efforts that eventually led to vacating Grayson’s conviction.
Munn and Moore’s efforts began in April 2011 when they received information from a confidential informant that Grayson was not involved in the 2000 crime.
Once the new information came to the attention of the two detectives, they re-interviewed prior witnesses and found 10 new people who had information on the case but did not come forward originally. After conferring with the Kane County state’s attorney, Grayson’s conviction was vacated in March 2012.
The city of Aurora declined specific comment on Grayson’s lawsuit.
“In order to protect and preserve the rights of everyone involved in pending litigation, the City’s standard practice is not to comment in these instances,” a statement from the city said.