Cops believe Reggie Allen mowed down an unarmed black man outside an east-side club more than a year ago. So why isn't he behind bars?

A City Nights employee reported the event as a carjacking, Riddle confirms.

"They were trying to misguide us," recalls Riddle, a fourteen-year veteran of the force. "I didn't have all the facts I have today. Nowhere near it."

Riddle is a tall, long-limbed man who speaks in deep, strong bursts. Seated at his desk wearing a police baseball cap and rectangular spectacles, he looks out the window and filters his words with care.

Tim Lane
Tim Lane

After all, he says, "You cannot jeopardize justice."

The Rice family has been particularly active in pushing this case. They even sent a private investigator to Miss Kitty's last March.

"They made our job harder, yeah," Riddle says of the Rice family. "But we didn't let them get in our way."

Riddle and his counterparts at the Illinois State Police have submitted all their reports to the state's attorney, many of which required close review.

"Folks watch too many hourlong shows, where you get DNA results back in twenty minutes," he says. "It doesn't work like that in real life. It takes time. Sometimes it takes longer than a year."

Justin Meehan, however, has grown impatient. For most of 2010, he argues, the case sat on the desk of former state's attorney Robert Haida, who frequently met with the Rices and vowed action. Yet by the time Haida was elected to circuit judge in early November — thirteen months after Anthony Rice's death — no charges had been filed against Reggie Allen.

"There's no question in my mind that Haida was misleading us and stringing us along in order to avoid getting involved in a controversial case right before an election," Meehan fumes. (Haida did not return calls seeking comment.)

But political insiders don't buy Meehan's theory. First, Haida ran unopposed for circuit judge. Second, he ran on the Democratic ticket, which dominates in Illinois' 20th circuit. Third, charging a white man for a black man's murder would've played well in the all-important voting bloc of East St. Louis.

And even area Republicans admit that Haida enjoyed popularity on both sides of the aisle.

"Haida was going to win anyway; he didn't have any competition," says Ed Cockrell, a Republican member of the St. Clair County Board. "But I'm starting to hear from some law enforcers that the change at the state's attorney's office was welcome, because if Haida didn't have a slam-dunk case, he wasn't gonna pursue it."

Indeed, several individuals involved in the criminal-justice system, all of whom declined to be named, expressed frustration that Haida seemed more interested in his conviction rate than locking up dangerous people. That, they complain, resulted in leniency for repeat offenders such as Reggie Allen.

Not true, says Jim Piper, a St. Clair County assistant prosecutor who worked under Haida for fifteen years. He denies that his former boss went easy on bad guys.

"That's an urban legend," he says. "When he felt a case had a reasonable likelihood of conviction, he had no problem issuing charges."

Piper, who is now assistant chief to new state's attorney, Brendan Kelly, says the City Nights case is "still under advisement."

Meehan promises that he and the Rice family will give Kelly a chance, just like they gave Haida a chance. But they won't wait forever.

"We hold the justice system partly accountable for letting this guy run wild in the streets," says Meehan. "Someone like Reggie Allen should be wearing a muzzle and kept in a cage."

On the night of February 6, 2010, seven bullets blasted into the front of Reggie Allen's home in Dupo. His two young children — he has custody of both — were inside at the time. He told police the next day that he couldn't name a culprit but blamed a Metro East newspaper for printing his address and "claiming he is a racist."

The Allens declined to comment for this story. The reason: The Rice family has sued them, alleging battery and negligence, with a demand of $250,000.

Yet a sworn statement in that civil case reveals the Allens' version of events: They claim that the Rice brothers and their friends "instigated" the whole thing.

"It's unfortunate how it turned out, but if you bring a gun and start shooting, bad things happen," says a man speaking on the phone from Gail Allen's residence in Dupo. A friend of the family for twenty years, he declines to have his name printed for fear of retaliation.

He points out, correctly, that Andrew Neal initially lied to detectives, denying knowledge of a gun. Neal now admits that he shot into the air, drove off and ditched the firearm. (It was registered to him, but Neal feared that stashing it in his car was illegal.)

Wherever Neal pointed his weapon, the family friend says, Reggie "felt he was being fired at" and peeled off in his truck. "To this day, Reggie doesn't think he hit that kid [Anthony Rice]."

The man adds that certain strangers, passing by the new building on the City Nights lot, have recently threatened to burn it down. Some have made silent gun gestures with their fingers.

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