Shortly after midnight on December 30, 1981, during the final moments of a rhythm and blues concert at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, a group of about 40 youths advanced toward the stage, chanting “Black Gangster Disciples” and “Third World Disciple Nation,” pounding their fists together, and making gang signals with their hands.
The stage lights were on, but the rest of the arena was dark and clouded with smoke. Three concertgoers—a young man, his sister and his girlfriend—who were sitting in the fifth row, attempted to leave, but they were attacked by the group, who ripped off their clothes, took their wallets and jewelry and sexually assaulted the two women. Security guards managed to break up the assault and rescue the three victims, but all the attackers fled and no one was arrested.
About 40 hours after the attack, 14-year-old Keith Powell contacted police and said that he had been at the concert and that he recognized some of the youths in the group. He ultimately provided numerous names of individuals, including that of 18-year-old Patrick Hampton. Although Powell would later testify that he identified Hampton in a lineup, in fact he did not. And although police reports said that Powell had identified Hampton as one of the attackers, Powell maintained that he only saw Hampton there and that Hampton was not one of the attackers.
Hampton, who had no criminal record, was arrested on December 31, 1981, along with eight other youths—all of whom were described by police as street gang members. Six of the youths pled guilty to aggravated battery and received sentences of varying lengths of “time served” before sentencing and probation.
In November 1982, Hampton and two other defendants, Ricky Knight and Ronald Mallory, went on trial simultaneously, but before three separate juries in the Cook County Circuit Courtroom of Judge Earl Strayhorn. Hampton’s attorney, Jack Rogdon, told jurors in his opening statement that he would present evidence that Hampton was not a gang member and he promised that Hampton would testify and deny involvement in the attack.
Powell testified that he watched the group of youths march down the aisle toward the stage and that he recognized some of them from the Robert Taylor public housing project where he lived. He said that a melee broke out and that at one point, he saw a naked woman run up the aisle and Knight threw a pair of pants into the air. Powell testified that on the way home, riding on a city bus, he overheard a conversation during which someone he did not know bragged about stuffing his fingers into a woman’s vagina and taking the woman’s jewelry.
The victims testified to the assault. The male, identified as Hugo, testified that he was there with his 18-year-old girlfriend, Denise, and his sister, Martha, and his sister’s boyfriend, Scott. Before the attack, Scott had left the arena to get medical attention because he had been struck in the head with a crowbar. Hugo testified that he lost sight of Martha and that Knight struck both him and Denise with a chair. He tried to shield Denise, but they were stripped of their clothes. Several youths exposed their penises, Hugo said, and Knight pushed his penis in Denise’s mouth, demanding that she “take it.” Hugo said security guards rescued them. He did not identify Hampton as one of the assailants.
Denise testified that Knight and Mallory attempted to force their penises in her mouth. She told the jury that Hampton forced her legs apart and rammed a cold, hard object into her vagina.
Martha testified that she saw Knight gathering a group of youths together as they marched toward the stage. She said Knight swung a chair at her head, but she ducked and avoided being hit. However, she was then grabbed by the hair and pulled toward the stage where her jewelry and clothes were ripped off. She said Hampton ripped off her pants and attempted, unsuccessfully, to stick his fingers in her vagina. She said she managed to escape and run to a security guard.
William Heinrichs, a security guard, testified and identified Hampton as one of the men he saw trying to sexually assault Denise.
Knight presented no witnesses and Hampton’s lawyer, Jack Rogdon, called only one witness—a police officer who testified that Powell never identified Hampton in a lineup. However, Mallory called four witnesses, three of whom were at the concert. All four testified that Mallory was not a gang member and the three concertgoers said they were with Mallory and that he was not involved in the attack.
Two of those witnesses also testified that Hampton was not a member of a gang and one of those witnesses testified that Hampton was not involved in the attack. However, because there were three separate juries hearing the individual cases of Mallory, Knight and Hampton, the jury deciding Hampton’s case was not in the courtroom to hear this testimony since it was in Mallory’s case.
On October 12, 1982, Knight was convicted of rape and attempted deviate sexual assault of both women, aggravated battery and robbery. Hampton was acquitted of the attempted rape of Martha, but was convicted of deviate sexual assault and attempted rape of Denise and of robbery and aggravated battery. Mallory was acquitted of the assault of Martha and the jury failed to reach a verdict on the remaining charges (he was later acquitted of those as well).
Judge Strayhorn sentenced Knight to 120 years in prison and Hampton to 60 years in prison, twice as much as the usual maximum sentences, under a provision of Illinois law that allowed for doubling the sentences in cases of exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty. Citing the testimony that Hampton had forced an object into the victim’s vagina, Strayhorn declared, “It is probably the most aggrievously cruel, wanton, depraved, brutal…animalistic activity that I have run into in some 35 years in the practice of law as a prosecutor, as a defense counsel and as a judge.”
After the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts denied Hampton’s appeals, he filed a post-conviction petition in 1990. The petition claimed that his defense attorney, Rogdon, had failed to investigate alibi witnesses that Hampton had provided prior to the trial. The petition was accompanied by sworn affidavits from two witnesses who said they were at the concert and that though Hampton was there, he was not involved in the attack.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Colleen McSweeney-Moore summarily dismissed all of the claims except for one—that Rogdon had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to call Hampton as a witness in his own defense. McSweeney-Moore ruled that Rogdon had made a strategic decision not to call Hampton because Hampton would have testified that he knew all the attackers from his neighborhood and that Rogdon was worried a jury would convict Hampton because of guilt by association.
In 1999, after his state appeals of the post-conviction petition had failed, Hampton filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In 2001, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly issued the writ and vacated Hampton’s convictions. Kennelly ruled that Hampton had received a constitutionally unfair trial. The judge noted that Rogdon had failed to investigate the alibi witnesses that Hampton had told him about prior to the trial. Kennelly also dismissed Rogdon’s guilt by association contention by noting that Rogdon had to have known about that possibility prior to trial and that telling the jury that Hampton would testify and then failing to put him on the stand was not a matter of strategy but of poor defense lawyering.
After hearing testimony from of one of Hampton’s alibi witnesses—who had been charged in the attack and pled guilty—Kennelly found the witness to be credible when he said Hampton was not involved. In fact, Kennelly found the witness to be credible when he said he wasn’t involved either, but had pled guilty to a crime he did not commit to get probation rather than go to trial and face decades in prison. Kennelly ordered Hampton released on bond in January 2002 pending the prosecution’s appeal.
In 2003, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Kennelly’s decision and ordered a new trial for Hampton.
For the next eight years, Hampton awaited a retrial by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Finally, on October 5, 2011, the prosecution dismissed the case after Denise said she had been coerced by detectives to identify Hampton and that she did not know if he was the person who assaulted her.
In 2012, Hampton filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago and two police detectives who handled the investigation of the case. The lawsuit contended that the fact that the prosecution did not go forward with the retrial after a re-investigation showed that the two detectives manufactured false reports saying that Powell had identified Hampton as a gang member and as one of the attackers when Powell had not done so.
Moreover, when prosecutors interviewed Denise in preparation for a second trial, she said she only identified Hampton after the detectives showed her Hampton’s photograph and told her he was the one who assaulted her. The detectives wrote reports, according to the lawsuit, that falsely asserted that Denise had identified Hampton by facial features and his clothing even though when Denise saw Hampton, he was not wearing the same clothing he wore at the concert and she subsequently said she did not recognize his facial features. The lawsuit was still pending in July 2014.
– Maurice Possley