The Watch

News and Information for Chicago FOP members.

Lodge Rep Requests City Assign FOP Attorneys To Defend Cop In Lawsuit

City Must Do More To Defend Police, Bartlett Says In Letter

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Claiming that city attorneys often do not have the best interests of police officers in mind, the Co-Chairman of the FOP legal defense committee has requested that the city’s chief lawyer assign an FOP attorney to represent an accused detective in a controversial exoneration case.

FOP Legal Defense Co-Chairman Bob Bartlett made the request of Ed Siskel, head of the city’s Corporation Counsel, in the wake of a recently filed federal lawsuit. Bartlett requested that FOP attorneys Tim Grace and James Thompson represent retired Detective Danny Trevino, named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“In recent cases, our members have felt that the attorneys chosen by the City of Chicago to represent them may have not had the best interests of the officer. . .  We have FOP attorneys who can protect their civil rights and contemporaneously protect the officer’s administrative rights,” Bartlett said in the letter.

The federal lawsuit is based upon the release of Arturo Reyes and Gabriel Solache from prison late last year. The two men, along with a woman named Adriana Mejia, were convicted of murdering Jacinta and Mariano Soto in 1998 by repeatedly stabbing the couple in their own apartment. According to prosecutors, the three offenders then kidnapped the Sotos’ children.

Reyes got life. Solache was sentenced to death but was saved from execution by Governor George Ryan, who ended the death penalty in Illinois in 2003. But late last year, Cook County State’s Attorney Eric Sussman declined to retry the two men after their convictions were dropped. The two men claimed their confessions were coerced, part of a pattern of misconduct  by Detective Ray Guevara, now retired.

The FOP strongly condemned the decision by Sussman, who admitted that prosecutors still believed the two men were guilty of the crime, despite the fact that prosecutors were declining to retry the men.

From the Chicago Tribune:

 First Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Sussman said prosecutors still strongly believe Gabriel Solache and Arturo Reyes are guilty of the 1998 fatal stabbing of a couple in their Bucktown neighborhood home. . . .

Sussman’s decision signified a radical change in the state’s attorney office from that of Sussman’s predecessor, Anita Alvarez, who refused to reopen Guevara investigations.

From the Sun-Times:

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office has decided not to reopen any of six murder cases referred to it by City Hall involving allegations that the men convicted were framed by former Chicago police Detective Reynaldo Guevara.

Prosecutors reviewed the cases and found no cause to reopen any of them, says Fabio Valentini, a top prosecutor for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Other factors also cast doubt on their innocence claims. The third offender, Adriana Mejia, is still in prison and still maintains that Solache and Reyes are guilty. A third-party reinvestigation of the cases by the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP also bolstered the guilt of the two men.

From their report:

 “In fact, we have concluded that evidence available to us leads us to reject their claims of actual innocence.”

Solache and Reyes were illegal aliens at the time of the murders and are reportedly trying to either remain in the country or return to it, possibly in pursuit of their civil lawsuit against the city. Immigration officials are reportedly contesting their attempts to remain in the country.

From the Sun-Times:

Reyes, who has agreed to voluntarily return to Mexico, still is in custody; ICE attorneys have said they intend to appeal his request to leave voluntarily, instead favoring a forced removal that would make it more difficult for Reyes to return to the United States legally someday. . . .

 But the FOP is skeptical of the city’s willingness to defend officers in cases like this one. Just a few months ago, city attorneys recommended a $31 million payout in the infamous Englewood Four case in which four men claimed that detectives framed them for the rape and murder of a prostitute. The FOP denounced the recommendation, alleging that there is overwhelming evidence the four men were involved in the crime and that the settlement will only encourage more inmates to file frivolous lawsuits.

The FOP has also criticized city attorneys, city council members, and the media for their failure to address the emerging evidence of corruption in the exoneration movement itself.

Bartlett also informed Siskel that the FOP expects the city to defend Trevino.

“Quite frankly, we don’t think the city attorneys are doing everything they can to represent our members in police misconduct cases,” said Bartlett.