2-28-2003 Copy photo from the Office of the Cook County Sheriff of Nathson Fields.
Two admitted El Rukn killers have received reduced prison sentences to testify against Nathson Fields, who is seeking a “certificate of innocence” after his double murder conviction was overturned in 2009.
At a hearing for Fields on Friday, his attorney Leonard Goodman criticized the deals for witnesses Earl Hawkins and Derrick Kees, saying they were “unprecedented.”
“The state is going to let people out of prison to say it their way,” Goodman said.
But Brian Sexton, a supervisor in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, scoffed at the suggestion that Hawkins and Kees would have testified differently without the deals.
Both men testified that Fields was involved in the 1984 killings of rival Gangster Disciples members Jerome “Fuddy” Smith and Talman Hickman. Sexton said that Hawkins, Fields and Kees were all top gang leaders under Jeff Fort, the imprisoned founder of the El Rukns.
At Friday’s hearing, Sexton repeatedly called Fields a “liar” and noted he had finished serving a dozen years in prison for an unrelated murder when Smith and Hickman were shot to death.
“This is the last person who should be granted a certificate of innocence,” he said.
Hawkins and Kees are serving a combination of state and federal prison time. Under their deals, they will complete their state sentences earlier and begin serving their federal terms, which are still dozens of years long, Sexton said.
“They won’t be out until they are in their 70s,” he said.
Hawkins and Kees have both admitted to being involved in numerous murders.
Fields, a former leader in the notorious El Rukn street gang, was convicted of the double murder in 1986. Seven years later, his judge, Thomas Maloney, was convicted of taking bribes in the case. Fields was granted a new trial in 1998, but it took him more than a decade to win an acquittal.
Cook County Presiding Criminal Courts Judge Paul Biebel then granted Fields a certificate of innocence, which would bolster the wrongful conviction lawsuit he brought against the city.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez challenged Biebel’s decision and won the appeal, sending the case back to the judge for an evidentiary hearing. On Friday, prosecutors and Fields’ attorneys made their final arguments after an 11-day hearing.
Biebel said he plans to issue a ruling in February.