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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Emery Joe Yost: In the Eye of the Storm


It was August 13th, 2000, and it was a typical Sunday afternoon in Chicago. Only in minutes, Emery Joe Yost’s life would change forever. He was about to find himself entangled in a living nightmare, caught in the crosshairs of a mentally disturbed individual. To make matters worse, Yost’s life was the envy of most. He had recently gotten engaged. He was less than a year from completing his Master’s degree from DePaul University’s school of new learning. This would mean a promotion and a significant raise in pay from his employer the Chicago Park District. In 1998, Harry Porterfield had featured Yost in his regular feature “People You Should Know”. That’s because Yost’s Master’s thesis was chosen to be presented at the 1998 World Congress of Leisure in Brazil. Meanwhile, his musical career was thriving even though he only considered it a second income. One of the bands he played with, La Tour, had been featured on the soundtrack of Basic Instinct. Yost was touring all over Chicago and the Midwest.

Yet, at this exact moment on the 13th, Yost was working as a park supervisor at Wilson Park. He was sitting on the steps of the park’s administration building watching over the playground where about a dozen children were enjoying the summer day. That’s when he looked to his left. On the balcony of the condominiums that overlooked the park stood a man with his pants down and his genitals in full view of the children. To make matters worse, unbeknownst to Yost, his own niece witnessed the same event at that exact moment. At that exact moment, she was riding her brand new bicycle up along the other side of the building with a direct eye line to the balcony. His niece turned around and rode home furiously. Meanwhile, Yost immediately got on his cell phone and called the police.

The man identified and arrested was Kevin Long. Long had by then gained a reputation in the area surrounding Wilson Park for strange and disturbing behavior. He once threatened then Wilson Park superviser Debbie LeVar and said of her, “that bitch has a bug up her ass and I’m just the guy to take it out”. Levar had been transferred to Sauganash Park months earlier, however, and on this day, it was Emery Joe Yost in Long’s sights. While Long exposed himself in full view of most of the park, the only ones willing to make a statement on the record were Emery Joe Yost and his niece. Long was booked for indecent exposure and released on bond the next day, but his contact with Emery Joe Yost and much of his family had only started.

Bob Yost, Emery’s brother, was also a Chicago Police Officer, along with the father of Emery’s niece. He was based out of the station on Halsted and Addison. That station received a phone call from Long two days later. Long was looking for Bob Yost, however Yost was out on patrol at the time of the phone call. Instead, Long spoke with Yost’s Lieutenant. During the course of this conversation, Long made it clear that if Bob Yost’s daughter ever testified against him, great harm would come to her and the entire Yost family. As a result of this phone call, Long was again arrested, arraigned, and released on bond.

Despite facing multiple criminal charges, Kevin Long was only getting started in his harassment of Yost. On August 31st, 2000, Kevin Long was now writing a letter to Justice Ann Burke. Burke is now an Illinois Supreme Court Justice. She’s also the wife of Alderman Ed Burke. In 2000, however, she was an Appelate Court Judge in the First District. She was also the mentor and advisor to Emery Joe Yost on his thesis at DePaul. In this letter, Long accused Yost of attempting to recruit him to help Yost cheat on his master’s paper. Long claimed that Yost wasn’t competent enough to complete the paper on his own. Furthermore, Long claimed that Yost, who’s about 5 feet 5 inches tall, had “little man’s syndrome”. Carbon copied on this letter were the dean of the School of New Learning at DePaul and the Dean of Students at Depaul. The charges that Long made against Yost were eventually investigated and dismissed. Still, six months after receiving this letter, Justice Burke dropped Yost as an advisor. According to Yost, Burke told him that he had listed her as his advisor on his e resume and as a result, her role as a Justice wouldn’t allow her to continue as his advisor. Neither Justice Burke nor Depaul University would respond for comment about this series of events.

This set of events were also the first in a series of events in which the Chicago legal system unwittingly helped Long. First, because no one would testify that Long’s penis was erect at the time he exposed it, he could only be charged with a misdemeanor according to Chicago ordinance. Meanwhile, Bob Yost wasn’t only a police officer but he was considered a witness. Despite this, because Long's threat was made by phone rather than in person, this was also considered a misdemeanor and not a felony. As such, Long didn't face any jail time for either incident, despite their proximity to each other and the clear threat posed in both of them.

By the beginning of 2001, Long filed his first civil suit in U.S. District Court in the Dirksen Federal Building against Yost. Back in the 1980’s, Long had attended John Marshall Law School but never graduated. He also spent time doing legal research for a Chicago area personal injury law firm. As such, Long was proficient enough in the law to file this, and subsequent suits pro se. In other words, he always represented himself.

Meanwhile, Yost says he was forced to get his own counsel, and he says the series of suits filed by Long against him have cost him well in excess of six figures. When Yost called the police on August 13th, 2000, he wasn’t just an average citizen but a mandated reporter. A mandated reporter is an individual who’s job duties demand that they protect the children they are responsible for. As such, Yost was duty bound to call the police on that day. Yet, Yost says that the Chicago Park District, his employer, refused to provide him with counsel all throughout his civil process.

The Chicago Park District disputes this and gave this statement, “The Chicago Park District was not named as a party in the Kevin Long vs. Emery Yost, et al cases of 2003 and 2004, and has no record of Yost requesting counsel for either case at the time when the lawsuits were filed. Only in 2007, after the suits had been dismissed, did the Chicago Park District learn about the complaint for the 2004 litigation. In 2007, Yost asked for Chicago Park District to represent him, only after the suit had been dismissed and after his motion for sanctions for attorneys’ fees had been denied.”

Yost vigorously disputes this characterization. In fact, he said that he knew exactly how the Chicago Park District felt about the situation based on his boss’, Roger Konow’s, reaction the day after Yost filed a complaint against Long with the Park District. According to Yost, Konow said this to Yost about the complaint, “you had better be telling the truth or you will be fired“. Yost also shared a series of email correspondences from 2003-2007 between himself and members of the Chicago Park District staff in which he expressed frustration with their lack of support. Furthermore, Long would file similar civil suits against members of the Chicago Police Department and even a Nun and the Archdiocese and the Chicago Police Department provided them with attorneys. Konow, a distant cousin of Mayor Daley, would eventually be removed from the Park District after he was caught embezzling. He now works for the Chicago Public School system. He didn't respond to an email for comment.

Meanwhile, Kevin Long wasn’t done exposing himself to members of the Yost family. September 13th, 2001, was a bright summer day of the Labor Day weekend. It was also the second encounter between Kevin Long and the Yost’s in which he exposed himself. The Long family was having a barbecue at Bob Yost’s home. Meanwhile, Yitka Yost, wife of Emery’s other brother John, was still at her own home finishing making some food. She walked through the same Wilson Park on her way to her brother in law’s home. Sitting on a park bench was the same Kevin Long. Long got her attention and when she looked over Long’s testicles were exposed. Yitka Yost ran to the home of Bob Yost, relayed the story, and the family called the police. Long was arrested attempting to flee in the Jefferson Park Blue Line station by Chicago Police officers.

Meanwhile, Long was also making subtle, and not so subtle, threats against Yost in U.S. District Court. Almost immediately, Long began to publish Yost’s social security number in court filings. Despite being warned repeatedly by US Federal Court Judges to knock off this habit, Yost says that Long continued to publish his social security number throughout their legal disputes which lasted most of the decade. Then, in one incident in 2003, Long approached Yost after a hearing and said this, “Not until I am in the grave will I stop haunting you”

Meanwhile, the court system, the politicians, and the Chicago bureaucracy were all acting as unwitting accomplices to Kevin Long. By the end of the decade, Long would be arrested 19 times and convicted 10 times. Yet, he’d only face a prison term of more than a year once. Even then, Long was let go early by the office of Governor Pat Quinn, part of a group of “non violent offenders”. He received no jail time for the original August 13th incident or the subsequent threats against Bob Yost two days later. He also received no jail time for the incident the next Labor Day. One resident of the area I spoke with, Kathleen Waters, says that she sounded the alarm to members of the Chicago Park District, the mayor’s office, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, and even members of Congress and no one took her warnings seriously. The park district refused to curb Long’s bizarre behavior at Wilson Park. This included jumping rope with no shirt on and tight shirts right next to the playground, harassing the staff, and all sorts of vandalism in and around the park.

By 2005, civil suits were flying on both sides between Long and Yost. As such, there was regular court appearances and judges gave both parties restraining orders. As such, by 2005, Long’s interactions with Emery Joe Yost were limited to the courtroom. So, Long began to threaten other members of Yost’s family. By this point, Yost had gotten married and divorced, largely due to the stress of Kevin Long. In the summer of 2005, Kevin Long sent Yost’s now ex wife, then living in Michigan, a letter and wrote her birth date and social security number on the outside of the letter. Two weeks later, Long called her parents, also in Michigan, and threatened them.

In the summer of 2006, Kevin Long harassed Emery Joe Yost’s cousin, Matt Dougherty. Dougherty is a researcher and scientist working for Baylor University. He’s also a part time musician that has collaborated with Yost. Yost once listed some of their collaborations on his on line web site. One summer evening in 2006 near midnight Dougherty’s phone in Houston rang. It was Long. Long said he was “investigating Emery Joe Yost” and that he wanted to speak to Dougherty about him. Dougherty refused and reported the conversation to Yost. The phone calls didn’t stop however. Dougherty says that every couple days Long would call and leave messages on his phone about Yost. The phone calls finally stopped when Dougherty recorded almost thirty minutes worth of tape and presented those to Yost’s attorney in Chicago.

By 2007, it was time for Art Whiteside and Justice Kathy Flanagan to stand in Long’s crosshairs. Art Whiteside was a resident of the area that surrounded Wilson Park. By 2007, he was well aware of the notorious reputation that Kevin Long had achieved in the neighborhood. Whiteside decided to volunteer to be a court advocate. In that role, he would come to court and then provide moral support to one of the parties. He volunteered to be a court advocate for Emery Joe Yost in one of his suits against Long. A few days after his appearance in court, Whiteside noticed that his tires were slashed. His car was again vandalized a few days after this and so he installed a video camera directed at his car. Again, his car was vandalized but this time the camera caught Kevin Long. He took this video to the police who took it to a judge. The judge, however, said the video was too grainy to make an identification. So, the police installed their own video in Whiteside’s home and this video again caught Long vandalizing Whiteside’s car. Long was arrested, arraigned, and released on bond, but he wasn’t done. Long would again be caught by the same video vandalizing Whiteside’s car upon his release.

Meanwhile, Justice Kathy Flanagan was the judge in one of the civil matters that made its way through court between Long and Yost starting at the end of 2006. Yost says he remembers Long making a series of veiled threats against Flanagan throughout the process. Then, one fall evening of 2007, court security caught Long in Flanagan’s chambers after business hours. He was arrested on the spot and this time wouldn’t make bail.

Finally, there was Joe McCaffery. McCaffery became Yost’s lawyer in most of these civil proceedings and eventually replaced Burke as his advisor during his Master’s program. Long was out of jail about a month following his sentence for trespassing into Judge Flanagan’s office when Long was in court for a hearing in his civil case against Yost. After the hearing, Long approached McCaffery and threatened to kill McCaffery’s ten year old daughter. Long was arrested again on the spot and this time incarcerated until November of 2009. In fact, Long was released along with a batch of prisoners deemed "non violent" by Governor Pat Quinn. Quinn's office didn't return a phone call when asked for comment on this determination. In fact, Long should still be in prison as of this writing.

By March of 2010, Emery Joe Yost didn’t know what to make of things. In the beginning of the month, he told me that things were relatively quiet. Not only had Long not contacted or bothered him, but the same could be said of his immediate family and friends since his release in November. Things were quiet, too quiet.

Little did Yost know that within two weeks, Kevin Long’s story would explode all over Chicago. On March 17th, Kevin Long attempted to enter the Richard J. Daley Center with four knives. He was arrested and incarcerated where he remains to this day. Long was initially searched because his name was on a list of "judicial threats" created by the U.S. Marshall Services in Chicago following the death of Judge Joan Lefkow's husband. He wound up on this list in no small way to Yost's insistence that Long presented such a threat. Following that, US Marshalls executed a search warrant of Long’s condominium and found thousands of knives and guns. The rest of the city had woken up to the nightmare that had engulfed Yost and his friends and family.

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Also, For another Chicago area story, check out this piece on Tony Demasi..

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