Patterson to file complaint against officer who arrested him

Scott Gordon

A former death row inmate running for state office said Tuesday that he plans to file a complaint against the police officer who arrested him Friday outside a South Side soup kitchen, claiming the charges against him are fictitious.

Aaron Patterson, 39, said the Chicago police officer who charged him with simple assault and impersonating a government official created a false police report.

Patterson said he is taking the charges very seriously — he previously spent more than a decade on death row after police allegedly forced him to sign a false confession in a double-murder case.

“We’re going all the way by the numbers on this,” he said.

In 2003, the Medill School of Journalism’s Innocence Project and the Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions helped Patterson secure a pardon from former Gov. George Ryan.

Chicago police said Patterson “became disruptive” Friday afternoon while campaigning for the State House of Representatives at Englewood Cares Outreach Ministries, 6005 S. Ashland Ave. Chicago Police Department spokesman Carlos Herrera said Patterson “threatened one of the workers with bodily harm and said he was a state representative” after the employee asked him to leave.

Patterson told The Daily that “no such conversation took place,” and he was only exercising his rights by campaigning on the sidewalk in front of Englewood Cares.

He said the charges were fabricated after the arrest.

“I walked down the line and asked people if they were registered to vote,” according to Patterson. He said he told the worker to “get the fuck on, leave me alone” but said he did not threaten her.

According to Patterson, officers called to the scene told him he could either leave or be arrested. He said he chose to be arrested — insisting he had a right to campaign on public sidewalks.

“I think (the worker) told them that I was just passing out stuff in front of the place,” Patterson said. He added that if the employee had accused him of threatening her, the police “would have arrested me on the spot.”

“I went to jail because I was trying to prove a point,” he said.

Patterson said the arresting officer filing the report joked about having a “state senator” at the station, until a detective recognized Patterson and told the officer about Patterson’s background.

But Sergeant Edward Alonzo of Chicago Police Department said Patterson’s well-known history shouldn’t affect the way the complaint is handled by the Internal Affairs department.

Patterson was convicted of a Chicago couple’s murder and sentenced to death in 1989. In 2000 the state Supreme Court acknowledged that evidence supported Patterson’s claim that officers had tortured him and forced him to confess to the crime, leading to his pardon in January 2003.

Just hours before Patterson’s arrest Friday, the Chicago Board of Elections ruled he could run in the March 16 Democratic primary for the State House of Representatives.

Patterson said this was the first time someone complained about his sidewalk campaigning.

“I haven’t had any problems with anybody,” he said. “If I went inside the place, then they’d have the right to complain.”

The incident has only given Patterson more inspiration as a candidate for state office, he said, because wrongful arrest “happens all the time to the average person of color in the community.”

Patterson is scheduled to appear March 8 in court in Chicago.