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Homeless Man Convicted Of Rape In 2002 Has Conviction Set Aside

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 10, 2013 6:20PM

Carl Chatman
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office set aside convictions against two men Tuesday morning, citing “failures of the past,” including a schizophrenic homeless man with a low IQ convicted of raping a woman 11 years ago.

Carl Chatman was found guilty in the 2002 case and sentenced to a 50-year sentence at the Dixon Correctional Center. Alvarez’s Conviction Integrity Unit reviewed the case and determined the alleged victim lied about the crime in an attempt to sue Cook County for money and was involved in a similar incident in 1979 where she accused a Polish man of sexual assault and filed a lawsuit seeking monetary damages.

Chatman’s attorney, Russell Ainsworth, said no physical evidence, including DNA and video surveillance, tied his client to the crime. He tried to get Chatman to plead not guilty by reason of insanity but Chatman insisted he was innocent. Ainsworth later based his appeals on the victim’s financial distress, including thousands of dollars in casino losses and a pending IRS audit. The woman claimed Chatman raped her on the 21st floor of the Daley Center in May 2002 and that Chatman slept in a bathroom overnight before leaving the building. She filed a lawsuit against the county building commission and a private security firm that guarded it at night; the suit was later settled.

"He smelled. He smelled terribly," said Ainsworth, who is with the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School. "And nobody noticed him. He's supposed to be there all night, and none of the guards or the janitorial staff ever noticed him."

A jury took 30 minutes to convict Chatman based on a confession to police. Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell first broke the story Monday and followed the Chatman case for years believing it fit the template for a wrongful conviction.

Alvarez told reporters outside the county courthouse at 26th and California, “Our work as prosecutors is about seeking justice, even if that measure of justice means that we must acknowledge failures of the past.”

Chatman’s sister Theresa told the Sun-Times her family was overjoyed the conviction was set aside. Ainsworth said, “I’m thrilled that the state’s attorney did the right thing in this case. I’m disappointed it took 11 years for justice to be done, but finally Carl Chatman is coming home. We knew from the beginning that Carl was an innocent man.”

Alvarez’s office said the woman who accused Chatman of rape will not be brought up on perjury charges because the statute of limitations had expired.