Since the early 1980s, Chicago residents have accused retired Chicago detective Reynaldo Guevara of police misconduct — alleging he beat suspects, coerced testimony, and even framed innocent people.
After two wrongful convictions cases tied to Guevara surfaced in the last decade, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hired former US attorney Scott Lassar and his law firm Sidley Austin LLP to investigate the alleged misconduct in 2013.
Lassar completed his investigation earlier this year, but the findings may never see the light of day.
A Cook County judge ruled Tuesday the investigation is subject to attorney-client privilege between Chicago and the law firm and will therefore remain private, according to BuzzFeed News.
It’s a devastating ruling for the people who Guevara helped put behind bars. Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions has reportedly examined more than 40 convictions Guevara helped secure, and the investigation could have potentially helped their cases.
It’s even more devastating considering the findings of the report. The sealed report, which BuzzFeed News obtained, found four men convicted of murder were probably innocent. The men — Roberto Almodovar, 40, Robert Bouto, 39, Jose Montanez, 48, and Armando Serrano, 43 — have alleged Guevara framed them and are appealing their cases.
“Looking at all the evidence, we conclude that Montanez and Serrano are more likely than not actually innocent,” the report stated, according to Buzzfeed News.
On the case of Bouto, the report finds: “[W]e find it more likely than not that someone other than Robert Bouto shot and killed Salvador Ruvalcaba.”
In the case of Almodovar, investigators said that no physical evidence links Almodovar to the crime. The key eyewitness identified Almodovar under “undisputedly challenging circumstances,” according to the investigation cited by Buzzfeed.
Despite the alleged contents of the report, the Cook County state attorney’s office has decided against reopening any of the four murder cases mentioned in the report.
“We don’t feel these guys are innocent guys,” Fabio Valentini, a top prosecutor for Illinois state’s attorney Anita Alvarez, told The Chicago Sun-Times. “We haven’t come across evidence sufficient to show that any of these guys are innocent of these crimes.”
The report refrains from making a determination of Guevara’s alleged misconduct.
“[W]e cannot conclude whether or not there was misconduct by the police regarding the alleged confessions. There are too many possibilities, too many inconsistent facts, and a lack of credible witnesses,” the report reads.
The “confessions” the report refers to consist of a drug addict’s now-recanted testimony that he’d heard Serrano, Montanez, and Bouto each confess to murder.
While the report doesn’t make any findings of misconduct on Guevara’s part, Chicago-area residents have filed 15 complaints against him between 1982 and 2005, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Those complaints claim he beat and harassed suspects, coerced confessions, and searched homes without a warrant, according to court records obtained by The Chicago Sun-Times.
Moreover, in 2001 a gang member facing life in prison told a federal prosecutor — in the hopes of reducing his sentence — said that Guevara was taking bribes in murder cases to either let off suspects or frame them, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
There have been documented problems with murder cases that Guevara investigated.
In 2005, the city spent $US15 million to settle a lawsuit with Juan Johnson, who spent 11 years in prison for a 1989 murder before getting a retrial that acquitted him. When he was retried, witnesses told the court that Guevara forced them to implicate Johnson, according to the Sun-Times.
In a second case that Guevara investigated, Jacques Rivera had his conviction for murdering a teenager overturned when the sole witness recanted. Rivera filed a civil suit in 2012 accusing Guevara and other officers of burying evidence and pressuring the witness to implicate him in the murder, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
David Protess, the director of the Medill Innocence Project, has condemned Guevara.
“He would do whatever was necessary to take people he believed were criminals off the street,” Protess told The Chicago Tribune. “It’s clear that there was a pattern and practice by Area 5 police officers to recruit snitches to falsely testify against innocent men, and Ray Guevara was at the heart of it.”
Guevara has refused to answer questions during court depositions, citing the Fifth Amendment.
Guevara’s attorney James Sotos has told the Tribune that gang leaders Guevara pursued “intimidated” witnesses into recanting their testimonies and blaming the officer.
Despite the years of complaints and accusations, Guevara has never been charged with any crime in the Serrano case or any of the other cases of alleged misconduct.
We have reached out both to Sotos and the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel for comment.
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