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FOP Committee Votes To Defend Accused Detective

There is in the minds of many Chicago Police Officers, a knee-jerk reaction among the media to look for stories that vilify the police.

A key case is taking shape that bolsters this sentiment among police officers.

This week, the Legal Defense Committee of FOP voted unanimously to support the defense of retired Detective Ray Guevara against any criminal allegations arising from accusations that he framed innocent men.

The argument against Guevara is a familiar one in the wrongful conviction movement: A pattern and practice of misconduct alleged against Guevara spanning numerous criminal cases he had worked on.

In this pattern and practice theory, Guevara’s accusers allege that Guevara disregarded the evidence and broke the law in order to frame the wrong men for heinous crimes, including murders and kidnappings.

Nevertheless, the pattern and practice argument is important for another reason: It applies to Guevara’s accusers as well.

The reason is that there now exists on the public record a large body of evidence of a pattern and practice of false affidavits and misconduct in wrongful conviction cases, including evidence that bona fide killers were released from prison through false attacks on the detectives who worked the cases.

The media, however, has ignored this evidence or downplayed it, even as the allegations against Guevara have unfolded.

The media has an obligation to dig deeper.

Let’s take a look at this evidence.  

Northwestern University and a once iconic but now disgraced former Professor there, David Protess, are currently defendants in a $40 million federal civil lawsuit that alleges Protess knowingly framed an innocent man for a 1982 double murder in order to free the guilty man as part of a plot to end the death penalty in Illinois.

In this lawsuit, attorneys for the man who claims he was framed, Alstory Simon, allege that Protess’ actions are part of a pattern of such wrongdoing, extending back decades and involving many wrongful convictions.

Even Northwestern has admitted to Protess’ wrongdoing, asserting in a 2011 statement:

In sum, Protess knowingly misrepresented the facts and his actions to the University, its attorneys and the dean of Medill on many documented occasions. He also misrepresented facts about these matters to students, alumni, the media and the public.

Even after Protess left Northwestern under the cloud of scandal, he continued to pursue so-called wrongful convictions. He teamed with attorney Jennifer Bonjean in the crusade to exonerate convicted rapist Stanley Wrice, who had had been sentenced in 1983 to100 years for the 1982 gang rape and severe burning of a woman on the south side.

Beating the drum that the detectives involved in the case had worked with former detective Jon Burge and had coerced a confession from Wrice, Protess and Bonjean were able to get a new trial. A year later, prosecutors, facing the ominous challenge of retrying a case thirty years after the fact when the victim was deceased, dropped charges.

Wrice went free, the local media obediently declaring him “wrongfully convicted.”

Then things began to go sour for Protess and Bonjean. Cook Country Criminal Court Judge Thomas Byrne announced that he wouldn’t grant a certificate of innocence to Wrice because, Byrne said, he thought Wrice was guilty of the crime.

"It is simply inconceivable that [Wrice] would not smell the charred flesh or the scent of burning paper (or) hear the sounds of the violent assault,” Byrne said in his ruling.

Charred flesh? 

Byrne also made another compelling statement. He questioned the validity of the retracted witness statements, obtained by Protess and several Northwestern students, and used by Bonjean to argue for Wrice’s exoneration. Byrne called one retraction “certainly suspicious.”

Despite Byrne’s ruling, Bonjean, representing Wrice, pursued a federal civil lawsuit against the detectives. Attorneys for the detectives fought back, adopting a defense based on the theory that the allegations by Wrice were part of a pattern and practice of false affidavits by Protess.

From a November 2016 Memorandum and Opinion by Magistrate Sheila Finnegan:

Defendants also claim that “a substantial body of information has surfaced in the past several years concerning illegal and coercive tactics that were routinely utilized by Protess and his designees to obtain information and recantations from witnesses in several cases, including Plaintiff’s case.” 

According to Defendants, “Witnesses from whom Protess procured recantations in other criminal cases have since come forward alleging that Protess and his team of investigators used coercion in various forms—dangling young female college students as sexual bait, impersonating movie producers, promising book/movie deals, making cash payments, and promising convicted murderers their freedom from prison—to procure false recantations from them.”

The federal judge granted the motion for the detectives to pursue this strategy.

One wonders if the Wrice case will find its way into the Chicago Public School’s new curriculum on the legacy of Jon Burge, as it asks dark questions about at least some of the exonerations in the Burge mythology.

Nevertheless, despite all the allegations of false affidavits and misconduct, Northwestern, Protess, and Bonjean are all aggressively pursuing cases alleging pattern and practice of misconduct against Detectives Ray Guevara, based in part upon retracted witness statements.

How can that be? How can there be so many allegations, statements, and documents pointing to false affidavits in wrongful conviction cases against Northwestern and Protess, yet they are free to continue alleging them?

There are compelling signs that even members of the prosecutor’s office disagree about the validity of these allegations against Guevara’s cases. Under the Alvarez administration, prosecutors vigorously defended his investigations. Yet under Kim Foxx, the newly elected State’s Attorney, assistant prosecutors are suddenly rolling over on them.

Before the FOP spends millions defending Guevara, before the citizens of Chicago pay out vast amounts in settlements in these cases, before the criminal justice system degenerates into a legal mob action and bona fide killers walk from prison, isn't it first and foremost time for the media to get to the bottom of corruption in the wrongful conviction movement?

Isn’t it incumbent upon the media to investigate this alleged pattern and practice of false affidavits?

Isn’t the right thing for Kimberly Foxx’s office to do is investigate the evidence of this misconduct before any other cases can proceed against Chicago Police Officers and detectives?

Chicago deserves both a police department and a media that honors the duty of their offices.