The night of Feb. 3, 2005, changed John C's life forever. On that evening, his lover of five months, former Chicago Department of Public Health communications and policy director Mike Jackson, became embroiled in an incident in Lakeview that led to the death of taxi driver Haroon Paryani, who Jackson allegedly ran over three times with Paryani's own cab. On April 7, Cook County Judge James Schreier granted bail—in the amount of $750,000—to Jackson. After bail was posted, Jackson stayed with John.
However, things went awry just two days later. While he was free, Jackson was admitted to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove after attempting to commit suicide with a drug overdose. He then allegedly attacked nurse Susan McNamara during his hospital stay, in which he cursed, swung and spat at her. After another hearing, Schreier revoked Jackson's bail in May. Now, Jackson has been shuttled between jails in Cook and DuPage counties, having been charged with crimes in both areas. John has been by Jackson's side throughout, having attended almost every proceeding.
Now, fueled by what he perceives as injustice committed against the man he calls his 'soulmate,' John said concerned supporters have launched a Web page, End Cab Violence ( www.endcabviolence.com ) .
The page encourages visitors to submit accounts of run-ins with Paryani—a move that will likely engender more controversy than it will assistance. ( People can share their thoughts at ( 773 ) 319-4404 or firstname.lastname@example.org . )
John, when pressed to name those responsible for the Web site on Monday, said he could not. He insists it is a group of friends, and no one person is responsible. Prior to that, John sat with Windy City Times to talk about the site.
Windy City Times: Why have this site?
John: We realized through the really horrible media coverage that there were probably underlying factors that precipitated that evening. We know for a fact that Mike is not a violent person. We know that he has dedicated his entire life to helping people. Additionally, the man has spent more time and money in cabs than most people in the world; his job required that. Something had to have happened that night.
We heard from friends as well as friends of friends that they had problems with [ Mr. Paryani ] , but we had nothing to go on. We can tell the court that we heard this, but it's hearsay. The information that was sent out during the initial phase of this is that he was a great family man and dedicated to his job—basically, it was a positive profile of him and a negative profile of Mike. I know the truth about Mike; his family and friends know the truth about him. So we thought if the real truth about Mike didn't get out, maybe the real truth about the cab driver didn't get out either. We decided to do a splash page so people could have a venue in which they could share their stories. If you have had a problem with this driver before, we'd like to hear about it.
The site was put up to solicit feedback from people who have had bad experiences and who don't want to see this happen to other people. The bigger picture involves other cab drivers. I can see that some drivers are going to be a little upset [ with the site ] . However, Chicago is the third largest convention city in the country; people rely on taxicabs. People should not be afraid to get in a cab or have an altercation with the driver [ if he or she starts a situation ] . I've been in several cabs this past weekend where I was treated poorly; that should not be the case. For the most part, I've had good experiences with cab drivers. Let's get the bad ones off the road.
I understand the job is high-stress. Maybe they should be given an evaluation every six months.
WCT: OK. What's going to be done with this information?
J: It's being forwarded to the attorneys.
WCT: So this Web page went up with the attorneys' blessing?
J: The attorneys did review it. Any information [ that is received ] will be kept confidential. If someone submits a story that [ he feels ] is pertinent to the case, we will ask if that person wants to share it.
WCT: You said earlier that Mike is not a violent person. However, there was the hospital incident and rumors that Mike was on crystal meth that night ...
J: [ Visibly angry ] Let me stop you with the crystal meth. We know who the evil, nasty person was who started that rumor—and it is totally false. Mike was not on crystal meth. He was not a crystal meth user—and [ the drug ] had nothing to do with what happened that evening. Furthermore, I will go on record as stating that, when this is all done, we will be following up legally against the person who [ started the rumor ] . The grand jury has looked into it and determined that [ crystal meth ] was not involved.
Furthermore, I read a story saying that Mike was a known IV drug user. Mike is the most fearful person of needles that I have met in my life. He hates having his blood drawn. Needles scare him. There is no way in hell that crystal meth had anything to do with that night.
WCT: There were also rumors that [ Mike ] liked to drink a lot [ and became belligerent ] as well as that he threatened business owners. People might point to these things as establishing a pattern of violent behavior and ask how could anyone possibly defend him.
J: Mike is a social drinker and has never been violent in my presence. He has never threatened business owners or anyone in my presence—or in the presence of his friends, to my knowledge. The owners of said business have denied that statement to me and to Michael.
The instances in that hospital ... in my opinion, the nurse was lying to get attention. I was there 99 percent of that morning and evening. Mike was simply reacting to the drugs that were given to him in the hospital. You tell me: If you wake up in the morning not knowing where you're at with tubes down your throat, tied to a bed, [ and ] being screamed at by a belligerent, ugly nurse ... how would you react? I will tell you that Mike was securely tied to the bed. There was no way, in my opinion, that what was portrayed in the newspaper could ever had happened. He had absolutely no reach. No one was ever in jeopardy.
WCT: Regarding the Web page, what about the fact that Mr. Paryani cannot respond to these charges that people may report?
J: What would he be responding to?
WCT: Well, there are at least two sides to every story. Of course, he's unable to give his side.
J: The splash page is simply to elicit people's feedback. I'm sorry that he can't respond; however, I think the facts will speak for themselves when we read what people have to say.
WCT: As far as you know, Mike hadn't had any previous run-ins with any cab drivers?
WCT: Now what about the fact that the situation of that night escalated to the point where someone died?
J: I wasn't there that night. I have not been allowed to talk with Mike about what happened. Number one, we're not married so I legally don't have immunity from testifying. Number two, [ he is not allowed to ] share anything with me that might harm him. Mike was defending himself, in my opinion.
I do feel terribly about the driver's death and for his family. Unfortunately, I believe that someone was going to die that night—either Mike or the cab driver. Quite frankly, from what I [ understand ] about Mike's hospital report and how badly he was beaten, if Mike had been the one who died ... [ Tears well in John's eyes ] Mike would've been portrayed in the papers as a hero ( but a dead one ) and the cab driver would've been a villain. It's all in how the media spins it.
We have a lot of questions. They'll be answered in court.
WCT: What about the allegation that the driver was run over three times? If it was self-defense, do you need to hit someone that many times?
J: Well, it was a three-point turn, from what I understand.
WCT: OK ... but after the first point, wouldn't you get out and check on the person you just hit?
J: We weren't there that night. As I understand that, Mike was so petrified and was so [ intent ] on defending himself. Everything will come out in court.
WCT: Do you know if Mike has anything to say to the Paryani family?
J: I don't know. We can't discuss it. I can't say anything for him.
WCT: Do you have an official statement for the family?
J: [ Pauses. ] I can't at this point.
WCT: Because ...
J: There are certain things I can't talk about, legally speaking.
WCT: How is Mike doing?
J: Let's see. Mike, from what I understand, was beaten badly that night. Then, he was taken and put in absolutely the worst prison in the state, if not the country; he witnessed violence and cruelty of unspeakable nature. He was traumatized. He lost his job, his home—almost everything he worked for ... oh, and he was deprived of his medication. Then, he's released with no counseling and no way to get acclimated; he then has a breakdown and tries to kill himself because he's so depressed. Then, he's taken to a facility that's supposed to specialize in caring for people—and where he's yelled at. Now, he's back in prison after charges were filed against him. So, all in all, he's doing the best that he can.
He's encouraged people to get HIV testing while in jail. He's been a source of strength for his cellmates. People who have encountered him have told him that he's amazing.
WCT: Do you have any additional statements?
J: Yes. I believe that looking at the histories of these two people will help in predicting what's going to happen in the end. Mike's dedicated his life to helping people. It's my belief that the history of Mr. Paryani is [ not so ] nice and I believe that Mike was totally defending himself that night.