Steven Manning Awarded $6.6 Million For FBI Agent’s Frame-up

By Hans Sherrer

Justice:Denied magazine, Issue 27, Winter 2005, page 15

Steven Manning after civil verdict

Steven Manning After Civil Trial
On January 24, 2005, a federal jury in Chicago awarded Steven Manning $6,581,000 in damages after finding that  two FBI agents framed him for two different prosecutions. The jury deliberated for 6-1/2 days after a five-week trial. The two FBI agents were Robert Buchan and Gary Miller.

Manning was a former Chicago police officer working as a limousine driver and security guard when he was arrested in 1990 for allegedly kidnapping two reputed Kansas City drug traffickers in 1984. Prior to the arrest, Manning had been working as an FBI informant, but after he quit in 1986 he was hounded so much to resume providing information that he sued the agency for harassment.

Buchan was the investigating FBI agent in the Missouri case. Manning’s conviction was based on the testimony of three prosecution witnesses. However, the jury in the civil suit found that Buchan had influenced the  testimony of those witnesses and concealed his conduct from the state prosecutors involved. He actually bought the testimony of one of the witnesses with a promise of payment. Manning was sentenced to two life terms plus 100 years for the kidnapping conviction. However it is unknown if the kidnapping ever took place, or if Buchan fabricated it.

Buchan and Miller were investigating agents in the 1990 murder of Chicago trucking company owner Jimmy Pellegrino. After Manning’s kidnapping conviction, they tagged him for the murder and he was convicted in 1993 and sentenced to death. His conviction was built on the testimony of jailhouse informant Tommy Dye who claimed that Manning confessed to him by grabbing his arm, putting a finger to his head like it was a gun, and saying, “This is how I killed Pellegrino.”

During the civil trial Dye testified by video hookup from a California prison about how he tailored his testimony to what Buchan and Miller told him would fit the prosecution’s theory of Pellegrino’s murder. He also said that as a reward for his help, Buchan and Miller let him have conjugal visits in an FBI office. Dye is somewhat infamous, since he was featured in a 1999 Chicago Tribune investigation into the reliance of Illinois prosecutors on jailhouse informants in death penalty cases.

Manning’s murder conviction was reversed in 1998 when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that his prosecutors used improper evidence, including Dye’s unreliable testimony. Lacking evidence of Manning’s involvement in Pellegrino’s murder, Cook County prosecutors opted to drop the murder change in 2000 instead of retrying him.

Still serving time for the Missouri kidnapping conviction, in 2003 the Federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Manning based on ineffective assistance of counsel, the FBI’s improper recruitment of his girlfriend as a government agent, and judicial errors. Again lacking evidence of Manning’s involvement in the kidnapping, or even if it had ever occurred, prosecutors opted to drop the charge instead of retry him. Manning was released in February 2004 after 14 years of wrongful  imprisonment,

The civil juries finding that FBI agents had framed Manning by successfully manipulating witnesses and manufacturing evidence in two separate cases is not just unusual, but it may be a first in U.S. legal history. Manning argued during his trial that the agents were motivated by revenge because he
sued them for harassment after he quit as an FBI informant.

After the jury announced its decision, the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly needed to determine whether the FBI is shares responsibility with agents Buchan and Miller for Manning’s malicious prosecutions. If Judge Kennelly makes that finding, the damages would be increased by an amount he would determine the FBI is liable for.

In a joint statement after the verdicts, U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald and the acting head of the FBI’s Chicago office defended Buchan and Miller , so it is unlikely that they will be the subject of a criminal investigation for their actions. In the statement they cast aspersions on the juries findings by writing, “We do wish to make clear now, however, that we remain confident that the agents who were sued did not engage in any misconduct in this matter.”

Defended by the Office of the U.S. Attorney, that attitude was also evident during the civil trial’s closing arguments, when the federal attorney described both Buchan and Miller as dedicated and law-abiding FBI agents. Buchan and Miller remain employed by the FBI. Jon Loevy, Manning’s attorney, commented on the government’s position, “They're saying until the end of the day that justice was done when Steve Manning was sent to prison.” The degree to which the government is unwilling to admit wrongdoing in Manning’s case is indicated by Loevy’s comment that it may pay the judgment against Buchan and Miller.

After the verdict, Manning, now 54, thanked the jurors and his lawyers. He said, “It is a long, long way from Death Row to complete vindication.”

Jury believes ex-Chicago cop framed by FBI: $6 million-plus damages awarded, by Matt O'Connor (staff reporter), Chicago Tribune, January 25, 2005
Ex-Death Row Inmate Wins Suit Against FBI Agents, Reuters, January 24, 2005