Pay $7.25M to Man Who Spent 29 Years in Prison for Double Murder He Didn’t Commit, Chicago Aldermen Agree

Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

The Chicago City Council is set to pay $7.25 million to a man who spent almost three decades in prison after being convicted of arson and a double murder before being exonerated.

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Arthur Brown spent 29 years in prison after being convicted of killing two people by setting fire to a South Side store in 1988. He was released in 2017 after a judge overturned his conviction, prompting Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to drop the charges against him.

The City Council’s Finance Committee unanimously endorsed the settlement, which now heads to a final vote at the full City Council meeting scheduled for June 21. In all, the City Council will consider paying $8.8 million to resolve all three lawsuits that allege police misconduct.

In 2018, a Cook County judge granted Brown a certificate of innocence. 

Brown said he confessed to setting the fire that spread to a nearby restaurant after being choked by a detective and chained to the wall for five hours. No physical or forensic evidence was ever presented in court to bolster Brown’s confession, according to court records.

Brown, who was 37 when he was wrongfully convicted and is now 72, also sued Cook County, claiming that he was convicted, in part, because prosecutors lied to the jury. The Cook County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider settling that lawsuit for an additional $7.25 million.

In other action, the Finance Committee endorsed a recommendation from the city’s lawyers to pay $1 million to the mother of a man who was fatally shot in May 2019 by a Chicago police officer who turned off his body-worn camera after a foot chase.

Sharell Brown, 26, was shot and killed during a confrontation with police officers who stopped him in Lawndale. Brown was shot four times in the head and twice in his right arm, according to the investigation of the incident by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA.

Arthur Brown and Sharell Brown were not related.

Officer Joseph Lisciandrello fired nine times at Brown, killing him. Lisciandrello told investigators Brown pointed a pistol at him before he opened fire in two separate volleys, according to the probe conducted by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA.

There was not enough evidence to determine whether Lisciandrello’s decision to open fire at Brown was justified, according to COPA’s report.

There were no witnesses when Lisciandrello shot Brown, and the officer’s body-worn camera was off at the time of the fatal shots, according to COPA’s report. In addition, while Lisciandrello told investigators that he ordered Brown to drop his weapon before shooting him, there is no evidence he gave that order as required. No witnesses reported hearing it, and it was not captured on other officers’ body-worn cameras.

In addition, the investigation concluded that Lisciandrello “improperly deactivated and/or failed to properly re-activate his (body-worn camera)” during the incident, according to COPA’s report.

Lisciandrello was also one of the officers who conducted the botched raid in February 2019 that left social worker Anjanette Young handcuffed while naked and pleading for help.

In her lawsuit against the city, Young alleged Lisciandrello pointed his gun at her and shouted “let me see your f—— hands.” The city paid $2.9 million to resolve that lawsuit. 

Alds. Nicholas Sposato (38th Ward), Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward), Bill Conway (34th Ward), Marty Quinn (13th Ward) and Nicole Lee (14th Ward) voted against the settlement. In January, before the election, plans for the City Council to consider the settlement stalled.

The Finance Committee also endorsed a recommendation from city lawyers to pay $550,000 to resolve a lawsuit brought by Joshua Habasek-Bonelli, who sued the city after he was tased by a Chicago police officer later charged with felony battery and official misconduct.

Habasek-Bonelli was unarmed when he was confronted by Officer Marco Simonetti in August 2021 outside his Northwest Side home. Habasek-Bonelli was hospitalized and treated for trauma to his head and face, including a nasal fracture and lacerations that required stitches, according to officials.

Representatives of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the criminal case against Simonetti, who was stripped of his police powers after being charged in October and resigned in January, is pending. Simonetti is due back in court in July, officials said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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