Man wrongfully imprisoned believes conviction was politically motivated

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A Northwest suburban man released from prison after his murder conviction was tossed is blasting prosecutors in McHenry County.

Mario Casciaro says he was framed by prosecutors looking for an easy conviction in a high-profile case.

FOX 32's Dane Placko reports Casciaro wants to get a law degree and run for office, so he can help others wrongfully convicted.

"I don't have time to be angry. I'm looking to the future. Not worried about the past," Casciaro said.

Surrounded by the large family that has backed him for years, Casciaro says he was confident this day would come.

On Wednesday, Casciaro was released from the downstate Menard Correctional Center after serving three years for the murder of Johnsburg teenager Brian Carrick, who disappeared in 2002 and whose body has never been found.

"Every day is a blessing. Once your life gets stolen from you and you get it back, it becomes so much more valuable," said Casciaro.

Casciaro says his life was stolen by McHenry County prosecutors who charged him with murdering Carrick years after he disappeared.

Carrick worked in a grocery store owned by Casciaro's family, and Carrick's blood was found in a walk-in cooler in the store.

The only evidence came from witness Shane Lamb, a convicted felon who told jurors he punched Carrick on orders from Casciaro because of an unpaid debt, which is testimony Lamb later recanted.

Casciaro says prosecutors knew they had a bad case, but needed a conviction.

"I think it was politically motivated. There was a lot behind it. I think it was more of a play for career advancement from the prosecutor,” Casciaro said.

Casciaro was released from prison after a state appellate court reversed the conviction, writing: "The evidence against defendant was so lacking and so improbable that it is simply unreasonable to sustain finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

"You cannot fabricate evidence. You cannot induce witnesses to testify falsely. You cannot do those things," said Casciaro’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner.

Casciaro says he now plans to go to law school and in a few years will run for the state legislature, in order to help the many others he believes have been wrongfully convicted in Illinois.

"There's nobody in the state that can say they've had the perspective on the justice system that I've had, or prison reform, the way I see it. And I think that insight would be valuable," Casciaro said.

A spokesperson for the McHenry County State's Attorney told FOX 32 they have no comment about Casciaro's accusations. Prosecutors have 35 days to decide whether to appeal the court's decision to toss the conviction.

If McHenry County decides not to appeal, Casciaro's attorney says they will likely file a civil suit against the state's attorney for malicious prosecution and fabrication of evidence.