Early in the morning of Oct. 31, 2001, a police dispatcher sent then-officer Renatta Frazier to check on a complaint that men were knocking on an apartment door. Frazier surveyed the area with her spotlight, drove around the parking lot, and asked the dispatcher to call the complainant. When the complainant didn't answer the phone, Frazier left to respond to another call.
The next day, the buzz around the police station was that the complainant -- the daughter of another officer -- had been raped because Frazier hadn't bothered to get out of her squad car.
Yet from the moment Frazier heard the accusation, she had a hunch there was something weird going on. "I knew in my heart and in my gut that I didn't do anything wrong," she said.
Her hunch proved right, and the resulting scandal has already reshaped city government. Recently, as the city began producing documents in response to the race discrimination lawsuit filed by Frazier and other black officers, their attorney, Courtney Cox, noticed flaws in the rape investigation: A cheek swab containing the DNA sample from Shawn Greene, who pleaded guilty to the rape, had not been booked in a timely manner. And the man the victim identified from a photo album had never been interviewed by SPD.
Cox shared these concerns with News Channel 20 reporter Glenn McEntyre. After conducting his own research, McEntyre aired a 10-part "exclusive investigation" that dominated the news during the February sweeps period. Relying heavily on interviews with Cox and Greene, who was now asserting his innocence, the series presented a complicated scenario to suggest that SPD, in its obsession with getting rid of Frazier, had railroaded Greene into pleading guilty while letting the real rapist - dubbed by Channel 20 as "Suspect B" -- go free.
However, there's a simpler scenario, right there in the same set of police reports used by Channel 20, that explains fairly clearly why SPD stopped pursuing Suspect B.
The rape victim began her statement by talking about Ace, who she knew only as a friend of her ex-boyfriend. She says that on the afternoon of Oct. 30, 2001, Ace came to her apartment and borrowed a screwdriver to assemble his waterbed. In her statement, she described the screwdriver as having a blue handle and multiple blades.
Late that night, shortly after 1 a.m. on Oct. 31, she was awakened by the sound of someone knocking on her door. Looking through the peephole, she saw a man holding her screwdriver. She opened the door to find two men -- Ace and a taller heavy-set man. According to her statement, the men entered her apartment and subsequently raped her. During the assault, Ace repeatedly addressed the other man as "Cuz" and encouraged him to participate.
"Cuz" left, and she finally pushed Ace out the door. She called her boyfriend and cried over the phone while she took a bath.
Twice the men returned to knock at her door -- once together, and then just Ace. She finally made the 911 that brought Frazier to the scene.
Her statement was taken by SPD detective Rodney Yoswig, who was never interviewed by Channel 20. Shortly after the series aired, however, he spoke briefly with Illinois Times, limiting his comments to filling in blanks not explained in his reports.
According to one of his first reports, the victim gave her initial statement while leafing through SPD photo albums of possible suspects. Yoswig says he normally gives witnesses the books in reverse order, so that they see the most recent photos first. His records indicate that at the time of this crime, SPD had 76 three-inch-thick binders of black male suspects.
This victim, Yoswig says, focused intently on her recollection that Ace had been wearing a white tank top, the kind of shirt she referred to as a "wife-beater." In book #71, she found a photo she thought was Ace -- the man Channel 20 called Suspect B. In the photo, he wore a wife-beater.
The next day, according to his reports, Yoswig met with the victim's ex-boyfriend looking for information about Ace. When Yoswig mentioned Suspect B's legal name, the ex said he knew that man, but said, "that's not Ace." He also told Yoswig that Ace was living in an apartment near the victim.
Yoswig says the last known address for Suspect B proved to be a vacant boarded up house. When he told the victim he could get a new address from the post office, she told him she knew right where Ace lived, pointing to an apartment across the parking lot.
Based on her direction, Yoswig went to the apartment. Not knowing whether he might find Ace or Suspect B, he asked for Suspect B.
The man who answered the door said, "You ain't looking for [B], you are looking for me." He had the word Ace tattooed on his arm, and he was wearing a wife-beater.
According to Yoswig's report, Ace said he wasn't surprised to see a detective because his friend had called and said his ex-girlfriend claimed Ace raped her. Insisting he was innocent, Ace agreed to ride downtown with Yoswig to give a statement and a saliva sample.
In his statement, Ace said he knew the victim and went to her apartment to borrow a tool. He described it as a blue screwdriver and "you could change the bits on it." He said he used it to put his bed together, and that his cousin Shawn Greene came over to help. They spent the evening drinking and playing cards, and later went together to return the screwdriver. "She had told me it was her favorite screwdriver so I made sure I brung it back," he said.
He said her apartment was "pitch black" and that he handed the screwdriver through the door and walked back home. He denied having sex with the victim.
Still, Yoswig thought he had found the rapist. The screwdriver, the shirt, the bed, the cousin -- "It pretty well fits," he says.
Channel 20 never mentioned the screwdriver. McEntyre says he asked Greene about the screwdriver, and Greene told him Suspect B had returned it on behalf of Ace when they were all hanging out together. Greene's explanation doesn't reveal why Ace told Yoswig that he returned the screwdriver himself.
The idea that B was the true "bad guy" appears to be based on two things: the rape victim's choice of his mug shot, and Greene's account for Channel 20 cameras. Cox expressed outrage that Suspect B was never interviewed by SPD, saying, "They [SPD] not only lied to get rid of Renatta Frazier, but in the process, allowed an alleged rapist to walk away free."
But even if Yoswig had tested Suspect B, it wouldn't have proved he was involved in the rape. A sweep of the victim's apartment by Norval Melton ("Probably one of the most experienced evidence technicians we have," Yoswig says) yielded only a few semen samples -- two used condoms and a washrag. The only DNA found matched Greene and a consensual partner.
Of course, Yoswig is the same officer who failed to book Greene's saliva swab promptly, as General Orders requires, but instead apparently left it in a lock box in this car over a three-day weekend. This mistake was first explored in early February in a State Journal-Register article. Attorney Josh Carter, SPD's legal adviser, issued a statement emphasizing that Greene's sample couldn't have been contaminated because the "rape kit" had been sent to a state crime lab before Yoswig ever met Greene.
Yoswig also happens to be the same officer mentioned in the Husch & Eppenberger report as one of only two SPD employees who made any effort to correct the media's misinformation about Frazier.
McEntyre made numerous efforts to talk to Yoswig and other officers involved, but his request was denied by Corporation Counsel Jenifer Johnson.
Whether Channel 20 unearthed the real truth, the series had an immediate effect. Community activists energized by the broadcasts (as well as briefings hosted by Cox) crowded City Council chambers, expressing their support of Frazier.
Within weeks of McEntyre's report, Frazier had a settlement check.