Five years ago, Jerome Finnigan was a member of an elite unit in the Chicago Police Department, tasked with cracking down on gang violence in some of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods.
The former officer's fall from grace was completed on Tuesday, as Finnigan pleaded guilty to an astonishing crime -- hiring a hit man to kill a fellow police officer.
His unit, the Special Operations Section, was shut down in 2007 as revelations began to surface that officers in the unit, including Finnigan and Keith Herrera, were systematically stealing cash from drug suspects to the tune of around $600,000. They were also accused of trampling the rights of suspects during their busts.
Prosecutors were building a case against Finnigan, the alleged ringleader of the robbery ring, when a far more serious allegation emerged. As the Chicago Tribune reports, Finnigan learned that one of his fellow officers was planning on testifying for the prosecution in the robbery case. Investigators say he then hired a contract killer, a member of a street gang, to kill the cooperating officer for $5,000.
Finnigan pleaded guilty to the murder-for-hire charge, as well as the robbery accusations and a tax-evasion charge stemming from failure to report the stolen cash, in federal court on Tuesday. His plea was part of a deal made with prosecutors to limit his sentence to 13 years, the Chicago Sun-Times writes, apparently in exchange for undisclosed cooperation on other investigations.
Still, in his first public comments in years, Finnigan didn't entirely own up to the charge.
The contract-killing allegation was “for lack of a better word, a charade,” he said, according to FOX Chicago, and “it was not my intent to kill anybody.”
“It was a big mistake," he said. "And though it was a mistake, it was unlawful, and I accept full responsibility for that."
He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 11.