Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Former Prison Officials Aquitted of Criminal Support for Mob Hit Man

Friends of mine: Harry Aleman

A former state prison official and a former Illinois Prisoner Review Board member didn't commit any crimes when they supported a reputed mob hit man's bid to be paroled in 2002, a judge ruled Monday in Springfield.

Sangamon County Judge Patrick W. Kelley found both Ronald Matrisciano, 52, and Victor Brooks, 56, not guilty of several official misconduct and wire fraud charges. The ruling prompted tears from Matrisciano, a former assistant deputy director for the Illinois Department of Corrections.

"He's absolutely elated," said Terry Ekl, Matrisciano's attorney. "His life's been turned inside out. Now he can go forward."

The case stemmed from Matrisciano testifying on behalf of Harry Aleman during a Dec. 17, 2002, parole hearing, and Brooks being the lone Prisoner Review Board member to vote to parole Aleman.

Though law enforcement officials long have identified Aleman as a hit man, he's only been convicted of one murder, the 1972 slaying of Teamsters union steward William Logan. Aleman was acquitted in 1977, but authorities later learned the judge hearing his case was bribed. Aleman was found guilty during a second trial in 1997, and remains in prison.

Matrisciano identified himself as a corrections official and a friend of Aleman's family during the 2002 parole hearing, in which he called Aleman "a model inmate." Prosecutors alleged Matrisciano was leading people to believe he was speaking on behalf of the state's prison system, not as an individual citizen.

Authorities also accused Matrisciano of offering to help Brooks' son land a singing gig in Las Vegas in exchange for Brooks' vote to parole Aleman.

L. Lee Smith, Brooks' attorney, acknowledged that Matrisciano had had lunch with Brooks' son in Las Vegas and recommended names of a couple of people he could talk to in the city. But Matrisciano simply was trying to help the son of a longtime friend -- Brooks and Matrisciano have known each other for years and worked together for the state prison system -- and was not doing anything wrong, Smith said.

A spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office prosecuted the case, did not indicate if an appeal was planned. "We presented all of the evidence to the court, the court considered that evidence and reached its decision," Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said. "We respect the court's decision."

Matrisciano was fired in January 2006 after his indictment. Now that he has been acquitted, he plans to try to get his job back, plus back pay, Ekl said.

Thanks to Chris Fusco

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