Since being exonerated of a crime he didn’t commit, life has been complicated for 48-year-old Eric A. Caine, who spent 25 years behind bars fighting his conviction.
On New Year’s Eve of 2013, it took a turn for the worse.
The new Riverside resident is back behind bars, held without bond at Cook County Jail and charged with felony drunken driving for allegedly sideswiping two vehicles on Desplaines Avenue near 31st Street in North Riverside.
Caine was one of two people convicted in 1989 of home invasion and the murder of an elderly Chicago couple in 1986. He was sentenced to life in prison, but steadfastly maintained his innocence. The confession prosecutors pinned their case on, he maintained, was obtained via torture.
In March 2011, a Cook County judge ordered Caine released from prison, ruling that Caine was tortured by police officers under the command of notorious Chicago Police Det. Jon Burge. More than two years later, in August 2013, the Chicago City Council awarded Caine $10 million to settle a lawsuit he filed against the city.
The settlement allowed Caine to begin rebuilding his life, one that had been unsettled since his release from prison. Initially, Caine moved into the Oak Park YMCA and later moved to an apartment in River Forest, courtesy of a church group.
After receiving his settlement money, Caine was able to buy his own home. On Sept. 27, 2013 he paid $630,000 in cash for a previously foreclosed home in the 400 block of North Delaplaine Road in Riverside.
On Dec. 18, 2013, the Facebook page of the Chicago Innocence Project announced that Caine was getting married to his girlfriend, Tina.
And in late 2013, word began circulating in nearby Forest Park that Caine was interested in buying a business — a tavern in the 1500 block of Harlem Avenue (see accompanying story).
But since being released from prison in 2011, Caine has had repeated run-ins with police, particularly in River Forest, where he claims police specifically targeted him.
He was arrested by Forest Park police in 2012 for driving under the influence and again by Oak Park police in 2013 for driving on a suspended license.
In the summer of 2013, Caine turned to the media over what he said was harassment by the River Forest Police Department. Caine was a guest on the daytime talk show “Windy City Live” on Aug. 6, telling host Val Warner that police were harassing him and repeatedly pulling him over without cause.
Caine claimed the harassment began in River Forest in March, when he said police attempted to arrest him for driving with a suspended license. He was released without charge after producing a restricted driving permit.
About a week later, Caine was pulled over again outside his apartment and ticketed for failure to signal and detouring through a parking lot to avoid a red light. In March, River Forest Police visited his home on a domestic disturbance call, which Caine said was unfounded.
He was arrested by River Forest Police on the morning of July 15, when police reported they found him asleep in a friend’s car in front of Caine’s house at about 3 a.m. Police report that Caine was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and aggravated assault of a police officer.
“They claim that I actually, literally swung at him and that’s absolutely not true,” Caine said in August.
He was arrested again on July 30 on the 700 block of North Harlem Avenue. River Forest Police pulled him over for playing his car stereo too loud and subsequently arrested him for driving with a suspended license and carrying an open container of alcohol.
After August things quieted down until about 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2013 when a 911 caller phoned North Riverside police to report a hit-and-run accident on Desplaines Avenue near 31st Street.
A white Cadillac, said the caller, was heading southbound when it veered out of control and struck some vehicles parked on Desplaines Avenue. The impact of the crash launched a third parked vehicle into a bus shelter, damaging it.
The driver of the Cadillac allegedly left the scene southbound on Woodside Road. Police located the heavily damaged Cadillac traveling back northbound on Woodside Road and stopped it there.
Initially arrested for driving on a suspended license, Caine was later charged with felony DUI, although he refused to submit to sobriety tests and refused a breath test on two occasions.
Apparently despondent over the arrest, Caine allegedly tried to hang himself in the North Riverside Police Department lockup, but was prevented from doing so by police. He was later transported to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn for evaluation before being released back into police custody and formally charged.