On April 24, 2006, two patrol officers in the Chicago suburb of Harvey, Illinois, received a radio dispatch instructing them to go to an intersection of 146th and Clinton streets and take Javon Patterson — “a heavy-set black male” — into custody because he was a suspect in an aggravated battery. The dispatcher cautioned that Patterson might be armed.
When Officer Reginald Harris approached the location, he saw that Patterson was unloading groceries for two women. Harris reported that Patterson was not breaking any laws when he approached him. The officers searched Patterson and claimed to have found a handgun in his pocket, although two witnesses claimed that the officers found only money and papers. Patterson, who had prior convictions for armed robbery and unlawful use of a weapon, was charged with being an armed habitual criminal — a Class X felony of which he was convicted at a bench trial before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Luciano Panici on February 20, 2007.
Panici initially sentenced Patterson to eight years in prison, but granted a defense motion to reconsider and reduced the sentence to six years. On May 16, 2008, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the conviction, holding that the warrantless search had been conducted without probable cause. Patterson was released on bond on November 24, 2008, while the state appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.
On January 13, 2010 — after evidence surfaced that Patterson had been framed because he was cooperating with the FBI in an investigation of high-level Harvey officials involved in an alleged narcotics conspiracy — Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Howlett, Jr. granted Patterson a certificate of innocence. On April 20, 2010, the Illinois Court of Claims awarded Patterson $83,350 for the 945 days he had spent behind bars as a result of his illegal arrest and wrongful conviction.
Shortly before receiving that award, on March 5, 2010, Patterson filed a federal civil lawsuit alleging that Harvey mayor Eric Kellogg and a now-convicted Harvey police detective threatened to frame him for murder, and then fabricated a gun charge because they suspected that he was in possession of their stolen cocaine.
Patterson’s friend, who had actually stolen the drug, had been found dead from a gunshot wound. The lawsuit is still pending.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions