- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - A former member of a notorious Chicago street gang who was once convicted of murder and sentenced to death has been released from prison after testifying against a fellow gang member.

Earl Hawkins was released Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times (https://bit.ly/1v8mgEP ) reported. Earlier this year, the 59-year-old testified against another member of the infamous El Rukn street gang, Nathson Fields.

The two men had spent several years in prison before their convictions in the deaths of two rival gang members were overturned because a judge accepted a bribe to acquit them but returned the money and convicted them after learning he was under federal investigation.

Fields was acquitted in 2009 after a second trial, but Hawkins remained behind bars after pleading guilty to other charges. Fields filed an $18 million lawsuit alleging he was wrongfully convicted and when the case went to trial, Hawkins testified on behalf of the city, telling jurors he was with Fields when they killed the two men, according to the newspaper.

Jurors ultimately determined that Fields had been convicted in the first trial because evidence had been either withheld or fabricated by a Chicago police sergeant, but only awarded him $80,000 - an indication, Fields’ attorney said, that jurors were swayed by Hawkins’ testimony.

But jurors were never told that Hawkins might soon be released from custody, but instead told that Hawkins would not have been eligible for parole until 2027. Fields’ attorneys complained that jurors should have known that before deciding whether they believed Hawkins.

A spokesman for the city disputed the suggestion that there was any kind of secret deal. A spokeswoman for the office of the state’s attorney said it was surprised by Hawkins’ release. Federal prosecutors did not respond to the lawyers’ allegations.

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Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, https://www.suntimes.com/index

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