Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Correction Officials Found Not Guilty

Friends of ours: Harry Aleman

A Sangamon County judge Monday issued a directed verdict of not guilty in favor of a former state Department of Corrections official and a former state Prisoner Review Board member who had been accused of abusing their positions.

Both Ronald Matrisciano of Lockport, a former assistant deputy director of Corrections, and Victor E. Brooks of Batavia, a former prison warden and member of the Prisoner Review Board, were indicted by a Lee County grand jury in 2005 on charges of wire fraud and official misconduct in connection with a 2002 parole hearing for Harry Aleman.

Aleman is serving a 100- to 300-year sentence for the September 1972 shooting death of a union steward at a Chicago trucking company.

According to the indictment, Brooks agreed to vote in favor of paroling Aleman in exchange for help getting Brooks' son a job as an entertainer in Las Vegas. That help allegedly was going to come from Matrisciano, who testified during a parole hearing at Dixon Correctional Center in December 2002 that Aleman was "a model prisoner."

Matrisciano also was indicted on a charge of perjury in Sangamon County for allegedly lying during a February 2005 deposition. In that deposition, Matrisciano said he did not appear at the parole hearing in his official capacity as an assistant deputy director at Corrections. The attorney general's office alleged that he had represented his position as that of the department, and that Brooks and Matrisciano schemed to try and get Aleman paroled.

All the charges were consolidated in Sangamon County about six months ago, and Matrisciano and Brooks went on trial without a jury before Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley on Monday.

After hearing the attorney general's office's seven witnesses, Kelley allowed motions by attorneys for the defendants for directed verdicts of not guilty on all counts.

Matrisciano's attorney, Terry Ekl of Clarendon Hills, said that Kelley looked at the transcripts of Matrisciano's testimony before the Prisoner Review Board and found the evidence "fell far short of what the prosecution alleged."

Kelley also found the prosecution produced no proof of Matrisciano and Brooks conspiring to have Aleman paroled or that they used any electronic device to further any kind of scheme.

"There was no proof of any scheme, and the evidence fell short of establishing any illegal activity," Ekl said. "It wasn't even a close call."

Brooks was represented by Peoria attorney Lee Smith.

Ekl said his client, Matrisciano, "has gone through a living hell since this began."

"He's lost his job, and he lost his marriage as a direct result of losing his job," Ekl said. "He broke down in tears when the judge announced his ruling, and he is absolutely elated at the outcome," Ekl said. "He hopes to get his job back."

The Prisoner Review Board denied parole for Aleman, a reputed Chicago mob hit man, despite Matrisciano's testimony.

Aleman was charged in 1972 with murdering a Teamsters official. He was acquitted in 1977, but it later was determined that the judge in the case had been bribed. He was tried again, convicted in 1997 and is serving 100 to 300 years in prison.

A federal lawsuit filed by Matrisciano in 2003 claiming that Illinois corrections officials retaliated against him for testifying at Aleman's parole hearing was dismissed in U.S. District Court in Springfield last year.

U.S. Judge Richard Mills granted summary judgment to Corrections Director Roger Walker Jr. and former acting director Donald Snyder in the case.

Matrisciano had said in his lawsuit that he told Snyder and an associate director he was considering giving a statement to the Prisoner Review Board and that no objections were raised.

About a week after the hearing, Matrisciano was reassigned to a northern Illinois reception facility, which he claimed was a demotion in retaliation for his testimony.

When Gov. Rod Blagojevich took office in 2003, Matrisciano was laid off in a department reorganization unrelated to the controversy over his testimony. Under terms of the layoff, he became eligible to return to work in March 2004 but immediately was put on paid administrative leave while aspects of his testimony were investigated.

Springfield attorney Howard Feldman, who represents Matrisciano in the civil suit, said the dismissal has been appealed to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thanks to Chris Dettro

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