CHICAGO (AP) – A death row inmate pardoned when former Gov. George Ryan cleared death row in 2003 was charged Friday with drug and gun violations. It was his third arrest since being released from prison.

Aaron Patterson, 40, called the new charges “a farce.” His attorney suggested they were a backlash to Patterson’s lawsuit alleging police tortured him into a false confession in 1986 that landed him on death row.

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Patterson and another man tried to sell heroin to a government informant four times. They were arrested Thursday.

“This case in a way is a kind of mini text book on the intersection in Chicago of guns, and drugs and gangs,” said Gary Shapiro, first assistant U.S. attorney. “Patterson represented all three of those things.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Patterson’s arrest followed a five-month undercover investigation.

“I truly understand that there’s a farce going on here,” Patterson said in court as charges were read – conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin, distributing marijuana and illegal possession of firearms, including a machine gun.

When the judge warned him his words could be used against him, Patterson replied: “What I say here will be used against the court, and the whole world is watching.”

Patterson had served 17 years for a double murder conviction when Ryan pardoned him and three other inmates during a dramatic emptying of death row in his final days in office. The governor said a “manifest injustice” had occurred in the four cases because police tortured them into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit.

Ryan also commuted sentences of 167 death-row inmates to life in prison and issued a moratorium on executions because of flaws in the state’s capital punishment system.

Patterson’s two other arrests since his release were for misdemeanors. In January, he was charged with simple assault and impersonating a government official while urging people to register to vote. In May, he was charged with reckless conduct for allegedly shouting obscenities and pounding on police station windows during a vigil for a man who had died in custody.

AP-ES-08-06-04 2043EDT



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