Austin Seven Officer Jimmy Young Tells His Story
Jimmy Young (JY) is a former officer with the Chicago Police Department working in the Austin (15th) District, where he was set up and framed as part of the Austin Seven events.
Bob Bows (BB) is a writer. His work has appeared in various national magazines, including Variety, local newspapers, including the Denver Post, on public television (Colorado Public Television and Rocky Mountain PBS), on public radio (KUVO-FM), and on the web, including http://www.austinseveninnocenceproject.com.
JY: December 20th or 21st was the day I was arrested. I was notified that I was the last one to be arrested. I was arrested by two IAD officers and one FBI agent, at which time they took me to the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago. I don’t recall which floor. Then they put me into a room. The room that I went into I noticed as I was going to it that there were numerous rooms in this corridor, but all the doors were closed.
When I got to this room, they did close the door, at which time a sergeant Jackson was standing by the door. I never knew who he was, until he identified himself, at which time he retrieved my badge and police identification card. A short time after that, two FBI agents walked in, one was named Thaddeus Buggs, who was wearing jeans, a regular shirt, and a baseball cap, and the other agent was R. Lee Wolters, who was wearing a suit.
I got up, shook their hands; they introduced themselves, and we sat down across a table from each other, or desk, and they pulled out a picture of an individual that at the time I didn’t know, but was known to me at the time on the street as “Silky,” a drug dealer. They asked me if I knew him and I said that I didn’t know him, but that he is a known drug dealer in the Austin area that everyone is watching. They went ahead and said no, he’s an agent of the FBI. I just said, Okay.
And then they said, “Can you tell us anything about him?” I was like, “I don’t know what you want to know. Just ask me and if I know I’ll tell you.” And they stopped there and said, “What about Regina Carter, and her partner?”—they used to call them Grandma and Granddaughter, or something like that, and I said they were good officers. And then they said, “What about TC and Crater Face, at which time was Jerry Saffold and TC McCoy, and I said, I don’t know what you want to know about them, but to my knowledge they are good officers.” And he said, “Well then maybe you can tell me about anything you may know,” and I said, “No,” and they stood up and said, “Well you’ll be here for a while,” and they left. End of that.
I’ve never had contact with Brian Netols or Mark Filips (Editor: at the time, the Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the North Illinois District), only Mark Filips because he cross-examined me during trial. Every time I did encounter them, in the hallway or at a recess, they give me a grim look. But I’m a man, I’m going to look at you back. You didn’t scare me or nothing. … I had to stand firm on my beliefs and that was that.
So, we never had any conversation. The only one that questioned me about TC and Crater Face was R. Lee Wolters and Thaddeus Buggs.
BB: So, it was just as simple as you just said. They didn’t get you to open up, and so they just left?
JY: Basically, yes. They said “Anything else you can tell me,” and, “No, nothing, I don’t care how minor or how big, no, I don’t know.”
BB: So, I’m going to be interviewing Gregg Crittleton and Cornelius Tripp as well, and from the story that I originally got from TC (McCoy), they went through a lot more stuff, in terms of being handed a piece of paper …
JY: They copped a plea. I went to trial. So, when you cop a plea with any legal agency, you have to get a … you have to be culpable, you have to be part of whatever they want you to be a part of, even though you’re going to get immunity from it. You have to give them something and you have to be a part of it. So, I’m quite sure they sent them through the ringer. At which time Tripp had to testify against me.
I wasn’t mad at him because he couldn’t say anything bad about me. He did exactly what the government wanted him to do: To say that I was aware, that this was what was happening, and that’s just that.
So, I could have been mad at him, but I can’t, because we never worked together—only one time—and the one time we worked together, their cooperating witness said, when I ran out the back door after him (Editor: the witness), when we went in to arrest him, I didn’t even know who he was. I was given a vague description. He had jumped the gate. I actually did see somebody run out here. When he testified, he testified just to that also, that Officer Young didn’t even know who I was. So, that was one of the reasons I was never found guilty on that count. They charged me with 10 counts and I was found guilty of two: my weapon being used in the commission of a crime, and attempted bribery or theft, which entailed guilt by association, because of my partner, M.L. Moore, with whom I only worked with one time, that day, March 13th, or March it was—it’s been 20 some years. But I only worked with him one time and that’s what I was found guilty of.
BB: When I initially researched the events, and wrote the history for the website, I wasn’t aware of this event in March, which is different.
JY: Let me back up. I came on the job in ’94. After my probationary period, I was moved to the 25th District. That’s Grant and Central, that’s the next District over. I was doing okay. I was an aggressive officer, right out of the military, so I still was very aggressive—not overbearing, but I went by the letter of the law. (Most of my family are police officers, so they all work for the city.) I was racking up arrests, over at 25, because it’s a lot larger than the 15 District, and I was notified by a Sergeant Bay, who was my team sergeant when I worked in 15, that the Tac team wanted me to go upstairs, which meant work on Tac. I submitted a two-form report. I believe it was initially denied because I was in 25 and had to submit a report to get back to 15, which I did. I was approved to go back to 15, at which time I did submit a two-form report and ended up on teams. I was on teams in, I believe, March of ’96.
BB: Can you explain to me what being on Tac is and how that is different from being a regular officer?
JY: That is correct. Being on teams, you work undercover and in plainclothes. You work in an undercover car, but it does have M-plates on it, municipal police. You have to be, not aggressive, but an effective officer in order to be recognized by the team sergeant. “Hey I want him on our team. He can make an impact on our team.” In the community, they pay attention to you in uniform, but on teams they really don’t.
So, with me having multiple arrests per day and trying to make an impact on the community, I guess it was noticed, and the plus side of 15 is that I lived in 15, so I knew every dope dealer, prostitute, where it was hot at, where it was not, where people didn’t live, why were they over there; so, I used that to my benefit. And Sergeant Bay knew that.
My uncle was in the 15th District. He died a short time later, was killed while on duty, but after I got arrested; so, that was a major impact to me. But you have to be very aggressive, you have to make an impact, at which time they try to get you on a team.
Once you get on a team, they do utilize you a lot, because people don’t really know you. I was born in Englewood, but my wife and I lived in the Austin area, because her family lived there. So, I would get texted, cause we all wore a pager, that they wanted me to pose as a drug dealer, or pose as a crackhead, or ride as a mark for a prostitute, you know, become a mark for them, and this happened a few times, not with Sergeant Bay, but with Sergeant Osleber, who was TC’(sp? Ask Fred) s boss.
Sergeant Rousel was actually the team that I wanted to get on, because there were more gangs. There was a gang team and a Tac team. The gang team did a lot more aggressive work than the tac team, which is just tactical throughout the district. They do a lot of investigative work, surveillance, and then they try to get a warrant. Any team c(sp?) an do it, but Sgt. Rousel was ex-military and he was very professional in what he does. That was the team I was trying to get on, but it didn’t happen. So, they put me on the other Sergeant’s team. I can’t recall his name right now.
So, leading up to me getting on a team, I got on a team, I believe it was February of ’96, and when I got off of vacation, my original partner, Lennon Shields, who was also arrested (Editor: later, as part of the Austin Seven), wasn’t at work, so I was forced to work with M.L. Moore. And the date in question with my charge was when the first day of working with him happened.
The year went on and I had to work with various people; I’ve never had a beef. I’ve never had a money beef. Nothin like that … I’ve never sent anyone to the hospital. I’ve been to the hospital getting whupped by offenders, but I’ve never whupped on an offender. When making an arrest, I’ve done what I had to do to stop bodily harm to myself, but it was nothing of that magnitude compared to what’s happening today.
So, like I said, in December of ’96 I was arrested, and not knowing what was going on. Again, I had nothing to hide from them. But when they opened all the doors and everybody came out, I was totally shocked, and I’ll tell you why: Because there were, around the district, names being thrown out was totally different than who was in those rooms.
BB: So, this was the seven?
JY: Yes, these were all the seven.
BB: Can you explain to me again, what was the event that they were charging you with?
The event was in March … and I’ll take you through the whole thing, because I remember it like yesterday.
I had a family member pass away. On the day in question, I requested from COS, the communication department, to go to this funeral in the Cabrini Green area, to pay my respects. All officers do this. I like to be down for an hour or two to go to a funeral, as long as the District is covered. Myself and Moore went. Moore did not come in. As it was my family, I went in.
Once we came out, he said we have to hurry up back to the District. I just got a call from one of my CIs (Editor: CI = confidential informant). They were about to make a drug deal, a big one. I said okay. We zoom over to the McDonalds at Laverne and Madison, at which time I let him out. He went into the McDonalds, from my understanding to survey and hold surveillance, and I went to an alley adjacent to Laverne.
He was going to radio me to hurry up once he affected arrest, or once he got people making the deal, which he did. I zoomed over there, lights and sirens, which was all of 30 seconds, and I come across who is known to me as Sgt. Shepard, “Silky,” and a confidential informant who was working with him, in regards to investigating the Austin District police.
Moore went to the driver’s side to pull Shepard out, and I went to the passenger side to pull out the other individual, at which time Shepard went to his right, to unbuckle his seat belt, and I thought it was very aggressive, so I did pull my weapon. I did draw it out on him, and God bless, I really thought I should shoot him, because he really did make this move so fast, but it didn’t happen. I grabbed the guy, handcuffed him, and put him in the car.
Moore took Shepard out, handcuffed him and they were talking, at which time he put him in the car, and I released the other guy, because I got no cause. Inside the car, there was two empty wrappers, two kilo wrappers in there, with residue, that I thought was cocaine. But there was no cocaine.
So, again, Shepard was put in the police car. I drove Shepard’s car. The plan was to take him to the District and the questioning process, and my partner said we’re going to the turnaround at West Madison. That’s fine.
The history of any undercover work is if we’ve taken a car, we drive through the neighborhood to try to see if someone will try to sell us drugs. That’s what we do. At which time, that’s what I was doing. I finally made it to the turnaround, where he had “Silky” Shepard, and he said what do you want to do, and I said it doesn’t matter, I’m going to go ahead and get a hot dog. It is not out of the norm for an officer to leave a CI (confidential informant) with an officer that is questioning him. There’s no danger; he’s handcuffed, and he’s probably giving him information he might not feel comfortable sharing with another officer, because you try to accumulate as many CIs as you can, in the street, to keep your ear to the ground to let you know what’s going on.
I went and got my stuff and came back out, when Moore decided to release him at the station. We got in the car and we left and that was the end of that. To me, he probably should have gone in and been searched, but it didn’t happen. I’m not the senior officer in the car, so I just follow his lead.
At trial, they said I was driving evasively, like I was trying to get away from someone. That’s not the case. While the Chicago Police Department teaches you how to drive defensively, the Tac team teaches you how to drive as normal as possible, and not look like a cop when you’re trying to make a buy. You don’t have your vest on, you don’t have your gun visible, you’re wearing regular street clothes. You probably didn’t shave; you’re looking like a bum. And in addition to these things are things that we use to try to get people to sell to us, or we try to get close enough to announce our office, if we are about to effect an arrest.
So, they use it against you in one sense, and then they train you to use it for the benefit of the Chicago Police Department.
He was never arrested, he was released, he was given his car, and on that day, I asked for an early release because I was not happy with anything we were doing and I was doing with Officer Moore; and that was the end of that.
And that happened in March, and I believe, the last time I worked with that team, including Crittleton and Tripp, and that’s another event (Editor: later used in court), which occurred on Sacramento and Warren, of which I had no knowledge of the information. I had to ride along, I didn’t have a partner and I had to go with them. And with that, I think there was two people arrested, and I think there was one warning citation written, and they were released. I didn’t write one citation, not one, but my name was on one. It’s not uncommon for an officer to put another officers name on a citation.
I made that clear to my attorney. She didn’t jump on that, so I didn’t think it had anything to do with it; but I think now looking back, that should have been something that was brought up.
BB: This was the staged robbery?
JY: No, if you’re looking at the first indictment, I can’t recall the date. It was in March, but I can’t recall the exact date, and I can’t recall the exact date I worked with one of them. I worked with Trip and Crittleton maybe two or three times my whole time on teams.
I didn’t think they were fast enough for me. Again, I came straight out of the military, so I was still … charged up. But I wanted to be with people that were moving faster than that—effect the arrest and go get more.
But, that said, this was about the gist of it. They never had audio on me. This guy called me once. He had all the opportunities to ask me, “Hey did you take this?” He never did. They had no video on me. They say there was video of me at the McDonalds. Their narration of the event and my narration of the event are totally different.
BB: So, basically they just made the whole thing up—what were they claiming that you actually did.
JY: First they said that the vehicle was bugged. I was confused about that, because if it was bugged, then they heard the whole conversation. They said that I leaned out of one of the cars and said, “I want it all.”
Okay. Let’s hear it. But he didn’t have it (Editor: a recorded tape), so Eugene Shepard, the FBI informant, aka “Silky,” stated it in court. And in federal court they say that hearsay is admissible. So, I couldn’t say anything about that.
BB: So they are claiming that you took the two kilos?
JY: No. They claim I took money. And I didn’t take it. They claimed that Moore took it and shared it. And they did not present any audio or video of this. That was the gist of that.
The other one (Editor: the McDonald’s event) was hearsay, and actually, the gentleman that they locked up for having drugs, exonerated me from the case, because he said he didn’t even know who I was. He later said, “I ran out the back, jumped over my neighbor’s gate and he (Editor: the cop) came out and didn’t see me throw it out.”
That actually exonerated me from that. My mandatory minimum, if found guilty on all counts, was 33 years, at the minimum. I could have copped a plea for 8 years, I got 10, but my innocence was proven to me, so I had to take that chance.
I didn’t prevail, but I did get less than what they asked. That don’t make it no better. I still get mad at it, but it is what it is.
I will say this, R Lee Wolters (Editor: one of the FBI agents involved) said, “I will find some way to get me a Sergeant locked up.” He really wanted to include a sergeant or a lieutenant, anyone in the hierarchy of the police department as part of this.
BB: He actually said that?
JY: Yes, he asked me, “Do you know any sergeant that was a part of this.” “Dude, I don’t know nothing about that.”
BB: So, they were just putting you on the whole time. They would ask you a question about something that never happened.
JY: Yes, hoping that me, shaking in my (TC knows him) boots, would say, if I get out of this I can leave. I did tell Sergeant Jackson, “Man, I go on tonight, how long am I going to be here?” and he said, “Tell them what you want to tell them and they’ll let you go.”
It’s hurts me, because it tarnished me as a professional, but right after that, they just started locking up police officers. While we were in there, they locked up three other officers from the 6th District, that was a set up by drug dealers that got caught by the feds, and then staged these events. And no money is recovered. That’s the thing that bothers me. Nothing is recovered, and they still go on with this.
There was never a day in the District when I wouldn’t get a call asking, “Is so and so and so and so working today?” and I would ask, “Well who is this?” and they would hang up. All of the big-time drug dealers wanted to know the aggressive officers’ days off, or what shift they were on.
And if he’s not working, Laverne is rolling, Latrobe is rolling. Chicago Avenue. Madison.
I lived on the Austin Boulevard, and there weren’t that many houses on that block, but they knew that Officer Young lived over there, and I never had any problems. I was a hard ass. I told them, “Whatever you do, you’ll deal with the consequences. Don’t be coming over here and preying on my family, so my kid can’t come out here and play, so my wife can’t water the lawn.” And it was understood.
It was terrible, and as soon as we got locked up, my wife videotaped it. It was like a party. Everybody (Editor: the drug dealers) was jumping up and down saying, “Why didn’t they get TC and Crater, why didn’t they get the other team?”
Three of us were just getting out of the Academy, myself, Crittleton, and Tripp. The other ones had up to five years (Editor: on the force), the longest being Eddie Jackson and M.L. Moore. Everybody else was new to the job.
BB: What did the other six say? Did those guys say things that reduced their sentences?
I’ll go down the line: Lennon Shields was initially my partner when I started on teams. He got 5 years. He copped a plea, not even a couple of weeks in. He stated that he and I took lunch money, two and three dollars here and there, just for lunch.
BB: From drug dealers?
Right. Petty people. Dope fiends. I said, ”Hey, you can go into my accounts, you can ask these people“ None of them said that I took anything from them when they went out to interview them.
M.L. Moore then went over and talked to them. He gave a proffer and then he recanted. In a federal system, once you give a proffer, they can use that against you. Over time he says, I didn’t like Young; he had rocks in his jaw; I don’t trust him.
That’s fine and dandy, too.
The prosecutors didn’t see through that. They have to save face. They can’t let me go home. So, before they can present it, make an indictment, and take it to trial, they’ve got to weigh that, and it had no weight, so they didn’t use it.
Alex Ramos, he gave a proffer, then he recanted and went to trial. These things are going to hurt you. If you did something, take your weight and do what you have to do, but you are not getting away from this conspiracy, because they do have it out for us.
Then there was Cornelius Tripp. By that time, I had already bonded out. Then there was Gregory Crittleton. But Jackson never went over there. Me and Jackson never went to see the feds (Editor: meaning they never copped a plea).
And I went to trial and they said, each day, “Hey we’re going to bring more stuff up, so you might as well cop a plea,” and I talked to my wife and she said, “No.” I talked with my attorney and they said, “No.” So that’s what it was. And yet, I was definitely scared. I’m not gonna lie. 33 years is a long time. That would have been just the start of my time.
And I feel so bad for the system itself.