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Teen Found Guilty in Cop’s Slaying

May 24, 2001

CHICAGO (AP) _ A 19-year-old alleged gang member was convicted of murder in his second trial for the 1998 killing of a police officer outside a crime-ridden housing complex.

The Cook County jury returned with its verdict late Wednesday, finding Jonathan Tolliver guilty of first-degree murder in a case that has served as a rallying point for gun control in Illinois.

Tolliver was accused of fatally shooting Chicago Patrolman Michael Ceriale while the officer was on a drug stakeout on Aug. 15, 1998, at the Robert Taylor Homes housing project.

His first trial ended in February with the jury deadlocked 11-1 after six witnesses recanted their grand jury testimony identifying him as Ceriale’s killer. Tolliver, who was 16 when the shooting took place, claimed he was attending a dance at the time.

Prosecutors say the six witnesses were members of the Gangster Disciples street gang who feared for their lives if they testified against a fellow member.

In closing arguments, one of Tolliver’s lawyers, Richard Steinken, called that theory ``ridiculous on its face.″

After the verdict was read, defense attorney Melissa Brown said, ``I know the wrong man was convicted for this crime.″ She wouldn’t say if she planned an appeal.

The killing remains an emotional subject in Chicago. Hundreds of officers lined up to give blood in the weeklong battle to save the 26-year-old officer. Since then, Mayor Richard M. Daley has referred to the case repeatedly in campaigning for greater gun control.

Tolliver is scheduled to be sentenced June 27, and faces 20 years to life in prison. He is not eligible for the death penalty because of his age at the time of the killing.

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