Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Melongo civil rights case update, Part I: Federal judge allows case to move forward, writes elegant summary

Judge Lee (source)

In a 13-page order, yesterday U.S. District Court Judge John Z. Lee "(granted) in part and (denied) in part Defendants’ motions (to dismiss)." In other words, Annabel Melongo's wide-ranging civil rights lawsuit is moving forward.

Page down to view the motion. Click here to download a copy from, the website tracking Annabel Melongo's 8-1/2 year struggle for justice against former Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF) president Carol J. Spizzirri and her political cronies.

Click here for my compilation of media reports about the Melongo case. Click here for my compilation of media reports about SALF and Spizzirri. Click here for photos of Spizzirri and some of her cronies.

In a subsequent item, I'll report about Judge Lee's findings, but his summary of the complicated, circuitous history is so elegant and concise, I'm copying it below. (For clarity, I've left out the citations.)

Factual Background

The allegations contained in Melongo’s complaint stem from a long chain of events set in motion in Spring 2006 when hundreds of financial records at the Save-A-Life Foundation (“SALF”) were mysteriously deleted. Carol Spizziri founded SALF, a now defunct non-profit organization, after her daughter’s life was claimed in a car accident. A savvy fundraiser, she “cultivated relationships with prominent politicians” and raised more than $9 million for the organization. Questions about how SALF actually used that $9 million, however, began to surface in 2006; an investigation into the organization’s finances was underway. Spizziri, anticipating increased scrutiny, destroyed SALF’s financial records. She then fabricated a story by which Melongo—a former SALF employee still bitter over her recent termination—remotely accessed the organization’s servers and deleted those records. To further paint Melongo as the perpetrator, Spizziri forwarded emails from her own account to that of Melongo.

Spizziri followed up her accusation by exerting pressure on then-Cook County State’s Attorney, Dick Devine, whom she knew personally, to prosecute Melongo for computer tampering. Devine in turn directed Investigator Randy Roberts, Assistant Attorney General Kyle French, and Detective William Martin to go through with an investigation of Melongo. Roberts, French, and Martin proceeded to search Melongo’s apartment. A subsequent examination of Melongo’s computer revealed no evidence that she destroyed the financial records; nevertheless, the State charged her with three counts of computer tampering on January, 17, 2007.

A hearing on those charges occurred on June 18, 2008. Melongo claims to have not been present at the hearing but noticed the transcript listed her as having been in court and speaking on the record. She contacted the court reporter several times in an attempt to have the record corrected. Pamela Taylor, supervisor of the Official Court Reporters office, eventually informed Melongo that any future questions should be directed to her. When Melongo called Taylor to speak with her on December 15, 2008, and

December 16, 2008, Melongo secretly recorded the phone conversations in an effort to prove that she was not present at the hearing and that the court reporter falsified the record. Melongo posted these conversations on her website. That website would soon become the subject of an investigation by French and the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

On March 3, 2010, French, along with Assistant State’s Attorneys Podlasek and Gunnigle, moved to have Melongo psychologically examined to determine her fitness to stand trial and represent herself. In response, Melongo posted on her website that she “has a big surprise in store for the court in its attempt to push her out of the case by pretending that she is psychologically unbalanced. The surprise will be known on April 14, 2010.”

Melongo submitted to a psychological exam conducted by Dr. Matthew Markos on April 13, 2010. Podlasek and Gunnigle, now aware of the “surprise” message posted on Melongo’s website, instructed Investigator James Dillon to interrupt the exam and arrest Melongo. Cook County Correctional officers arrived thereafter and spoke with Dr. Markos privately. After Dr. Markos returned, he “attempted to elicit incriminating responses from [Melongo] . . . about her website.” Melongo explained that the “surprise” was newly hired counsel. As Melongo left the exam, Investigators Dillon, Rubino, and Lesiak arrested, detained, and interrogated her for threatening a public official. The charges were not pursued.

The State did, however, pursue charges against Melongo for violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Act and filed a complaint against Melongo on April 13, 2010 for recording her conversations with Taylor. Melongo maintains that, specifically, Assistant State’s Attorneys Podlasek and Gunnigle, Assistant Attorney General French, and Inspectors Rubino, Lesiak, Dillon, and O’Hara “singled out” Melongo and instituted these charges “purely out of vindictiveness and retaliation.”

Melongo’s bond was initially set to $30,000, then raised to $500,000, before ultimately being lowered to $300,000. Because Melongo could not afford to post bond, she remained incarcerated in Cook County Jail or under electronic monitoring for more than twenty months. After several attempts to have the charges dismissed, Melongo was eventually released on July 26, 2012, two months after the Seventh Circuit held the Illinois Eavesdropping Act unconstitutional.

On July 28, 2014, the State dropped two of the three counts of computer tampering—nearly eight years after the charges were initially brought. A trial commenced on the remaining charge for unlawfully accessing Spizziri’s email account. After a computer forensic analyst testified during the State’s case-in-chief that no forensic evidence showed Melongo accessed Spizziri’s email or SALF’s servers, the trial judge granted defense counsel’s motion for a directed verdict of not guilty.

Part II, June 14, 2015: Melongo's attorney: "Carol Spizzirri has been served and I will be filing a motion for default judgement against her"