The Chicago Syndicate: Aleman Parole Vote Case Ends in Acquittal for Officials

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Aleman Parole Vote Case Ends in Acquittal for Officials

Friends of ours: Harry Aleman, Joseph Ferriola

A former state parole board member was cleared Monday of charges that he voted to free mob hit man Harry Aleman in exchange for help in getting his son a gig as an entertainer in Las Vegas.

Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley found both Victor Brooks and former ranking prison official Ron Matrisciano not guilty of charges that included official misconduct and wire fraud in the case brought by the office of Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan.

Kelley delivered a directed verdict for Brooks and Matrisciano, meaning the defendants did not even have to present their side before the judge ruled the attorney general's office had not proven its case, defense attorneys said. "We believe this case should never have been indicted in the first place, and this view has been borne out by the outcome today," said L. Lee Smith, a former federal prosecutor who represented Brooks.

Brooks, 56, formerly of Batavia but now living in Florissant, Mo., was the only member of the Prisoner Review Board who voted in 2002 in favor of parole for Aleman, who remains in prison serving 100 to 300 years for killing a Teamsters official. Matrisciano, 52, formerly a high-ranking prison official, testified on behalf of Aleman and eventually lost his job with the Illinois Department of Corrections as the case unfolded.

The indictment alleged Brooks agreed to vote for Aleman's release in exchange for Matrisciano's help in landing Brooks' son, a singer, a job in Las Vegas. Prison officials have said Matrisciano told them he is a family friend of Aleman's. But the judge ruled there was insufficient evidence of an alleged quid pro quo, Smith said.

"We presented all of the evidence to the court," said Robyn Ziegler, Madigan's spokeswoman. "The court considered that evidence and reached its decision, and we respect that decision."

Matrisciano and Brooks had been friends for more than 20 years.

Matrisciano, a frequent visitor to Las Vegas, merely had suggested a couple of people to call during a lunch in Nevada with Brooks' son, Smith said. "Ron said, `When I'm out there (in Las Vegas), maybe I can get him a couple of leads,'" said Terry Ekl, who represented Matrisciano.

The indictment also alleged Matrisciano knew he should have been speaking as a private citizen to the Prisoner Review Board and falsely portrayed his statement as a recommendation from the Illinois Department of Corrections, but the allegation was also tossed aside, Ekl said.

Evidence showed Matrisciano, who is seeking his job back, had brought the matter up beforehand to superiors and received approval and that he had not identified himself as representing the department, Ekl said.

The indictments were the latest twist in the long saga of Aleman, the nephew of reputed former rackets boss Joseph Ferriola.

His conviction in 1997 made American legal history as the first time a criminal defendant had been retried after an acquittal. A mob lawyer later admitted that he bribed the judge in the first trial, and Aleman was subsequently convicted of the 1972 murder.

The Tribune first reported that Matrisciano, while serving in his role as an assistant deputy director of the Illinois Department of Corrections in December 2002, testified before the Prisoner Review Board in favor of paroling Aleman.

After a parole hearing at Dixon Correctional Center, the parole board officer overseeing the matter recommended Aleman's bid for parole be denied. Such recommendations are usually upheld unanimously by the full board. But when the full board considered the matter, Brooks made the unusual request for a roll call vote and cast the only vote for Aleman's parole.

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