Federal Jury Finds Chicago Police Framed Man For 1988 Murder, Awards Him More Than $17 Million

Reynaldo Guevara leaves the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago on Friday, June 8, 2018.

A federal jury on Friday found in favor of a man who alleged that former Chicago police Detective Reynaldo Guevara and others framed him for a 1988 murder, awarding him $17.175 million.

The verdict marks one of the largest for misconduct by Chicago police.

The jury deliberated about nine hours over two days before finding against the city, Guevara and two other former police detectives — Steve Gawrys and Ed Mingey. A fourth ex-detective was cleared of wrongdoing.

In addition to awarding the $17 million in compensatory damages against the city, the jury ordered Guevara and the other two detectives to pay $175,000 in punitive damages out of their own pockets.

Jacques Rivera, who spent 21 years in prison for the slaying of 16-year-old Felix Valentin, shook and sobbed in U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall’s courtroom as the verdict was announced.

Moments later, after court, he hugged a supporter and shouted through tears, “We got him!” He then took off his suit coat and donned a T-shirt reading “Trust & Believe.”

Guevara was not in attendance in court at the time of the verdict.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Rivera’s attorney, asked jurors to award him up to $42 million — $2 million for every year he spent locked up.

Rivera’s lawsuit was the first in a string of similar cases against Guevara, a notorious former Chicago police gang crimes detective who has been accused of widespread corruption in the 1980s and 1990s that sent more than a dozen innocent men to prison.

Guevara coerced a 12-year-old boy, who was the only witness to Valentin’s shooting, into identifying Rivera in a lineup as the killer, the suit alleged.

Lawyers call for independent probe into ex-Chicago police Detective Reynaldo Guevara »

The boy, Orlando Lopez, recanted his testimony years later, saying police and Cook County prosecutors ignored him at the time when he told them he had identified the wrong man.

Rivera, now 52, was released from prison in 2011 after his exoneration.

Guevara and the other defendants in the suit denied the allegations, arguing that the blame rested with Lopez for giving the false identification and later identifying Rivera as the gunman while testifying under oath.

In his closing argument Wednesday, Rivera’s lead attorney, Jon Loevy, told the jury that a dirty cop like Guevara fabricating police reports is just as bad as an officer who shoots somebody without justification — and just as damaging to society.

“You can’t just go around making up identifications and sending people to prison,” Loevy said. “That’s not right. That’s as dangerous as a bullet.”

Loevy described the Police Department investigation of Valentin’s shooting as a joke from the start. Detectives’ reports went missing, lineups were rigged and seasoned detectives were able to steer a boy into making an identification just to close a case and look good, the attorney said.

“The whole thing was dirty,” he said.

In asking for such a large sum, Loevy characterized the case as an egregious one even for a city accustomed to big payouts in police misconduct suits.

“This is a big case, this is an important case, this is a staggering case,” he said. “The things we have seen in this courtroom are unprecedented.”

In his closing remarks, attorney James Sotos, who represents retired Detectives Gillian McLaughlin and Steve Gawrys, said what happened to Rivera was an indication of a criminal justice system that was “broken.” But it wasn’t the detectives’ fault, he said.

“They had a 12-year-old boy who said, ‘I saw it.’ And that’s what they gave to prosecutors,” Sotos said, adding that Rivera’s criminal defense attorney at the time, now-Cook County Judge Kenneth Wadas, did a poor job of poking holes in what was an admittedly weak case.

Sotos also scoffed at the notion that a team of detectives would go out of their way to frame someone they didn’t know for a murder “for no reason whatsoever.” While police may have made mistakes in their investigation, he said, “that is a far cry from trying to frame someone.”

Sotos called Rivera someone “to be admired” for getting through the ordeal of being wrongfully imprisoned. But he said $42 million was far too much. If they award anything, he told jurors, it should be more like $100,000 to $200,000 for every year behind bars, or about $2 million to $4 million.

The trial comes amid mushrooming allegations that the now-retired Guevara ran a widespread corruption racket for years in predominantly Hispanic West Side neighborhoods, pinning false murder cases on suspects, shaking down drug dealers for protection money and taking payments from gang members to change the outcomes of police lineups.

So far, 18 men have had their convictions thrown out over allegations of misconduct by Guevara, including Rivera. There are eight other federal lawsuits pending against the ex-detective, and other people still in prison are pushing prosecutors to have their cases reheard, records show.

In case after case, Guevara has repeatedly refused to testify when asked under oath about allegations of wrongdoing. Testifying in the Rivera trial earlier this month, Guevara invoked his Fifth Amendment right more than 200 times in a little more than an hour, including when asked directly whether he’d ever framed anyone.

Guevara’s decision to invoke his right against self-incrimination protects him from potential criminal liability, but jurors in civil trials are allowed to draw a “negative inference” from his refusal to answer questions.

In his closing remarks Wednesday, Loevy called Guevara’s refusal to testify “extraordinary.” He also blamed the city for allowing gang crimes officers such as Guevara to operate outside the rules.

“The gang crimes people were basically cowboys … and the city of Chicago was allowing it to happen,” Loevy said.

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-wrongful-conviction-verdict-reynaldo-guevara-20180627-story.html

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5620 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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