Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Grand jury hears evidence on ex-member of prison board re: Harry Aleman parole hearing

A grand jury has heard evidence about possible wrongdoing by a former state Prisoner Review Board member who was involved in the 2002 parole hearing for mob "hit man" Harry Aleman, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Until now, public attention in the unusual case has been focused on Ronald Matrisciano, a former assistant deputy director for the state's prison system. Matrisciano, 51, raised eyebrows in December 2002 when he testified during the hearing that Aleman had been "a model inmate" with an "exceptional disciplinary record." But in addition to Matrisciano, the grand jury has heard evidence about a former Prisoner Review Board member involved with the Aleman hearing, sources familiar with the case said. The sources would not name the individual, and it is too early to say whether the person would face criminal charges.

The grand jury, however, is expected to wrap up its work by mid-December, potentially lifting a veil on what investigators have been probing regarding Matrisciano's decision to support Aleman's release.

Matrisciano identified himself as a friend of Aleman's family during the 2002 hearing and said he was not representing the prison system. But he also identified himself as a corrections official -- a move that showed poor judgment, state officials said, and contributed to a January 2003 demotion.

Matrisciano eventually was laid off by the Blagojevich administration, but the Illinois Civil Service Commission ordered him re-hired in March 2004. He immediately was placed on paid administrative leave, where he remains as the investigation continues. He is being paid $78,696 a year.

The Prisoner Review Board decided to keep Aleman -- who is serving a 100- to 300-year sentence for the 1972 murder of a former Teamsters official -- behind bars. Aleman is up for parole again Dec. 7.

Matrisciano has maintained he did nothing wrong in testifying for Aleman three years ago. He had "a number of conversations" with his superiors about the matter and "his testifying did not become an issue" until the press got a hold of it, said his lawyer, Howard Feldman of Springfield.

Thanks to Chris Fusco and Stephano Esposito

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