Lawyers To Detectives: Take The Fifth
Attorneys for once-convicted killer Jacques Rivera are going into federal court this week seeking a massive verdict in their claim that Rivera is another wrongful conviction victim at the hands of retired detective Ray Guevara.
Guevara, attorneys for Rivera argue, engaged in a pattern and practice of coercing false confessions out of suspects. Already several offenders have been released from prisons, with millions paid out and a small army of lawyers champing at the bit to get in on the action.
In the news articles about this and other Guevara cases, news reporters cite the fact that Guevara will likely take the Fifth, as he has many times before.
The claim that taking the Fifth is a sign of culpability by Guevara and other accused detectives is one of the most disingenuous claims by Chicago’s media machine, one of the most telling signs of their unholy alliance with law firms making millions from suing police officers.
The real question is this: Why would any retired detective testify in any post-conviction hearing or civil trial in which they are accused?
Doubt it? Consider this. In the Chicago Tribune’s article about the upcoming Rivera trial, reporter Jason Meisner failed to mention a little relevant background.
Just four days before his story about the Rivera case coming to trial, Northwestern University settled a landmark federal case in which investigators were accused of bribing false witness statements in wrongful conviction cases. Attorneys filing the lawsuit against Northwestern argued that the school had engaged in a pattern and practice of misconduct in wrongful conviction cases going back decades.
And where are some of the attorneys involved in the Rivera case from?
And what is a major theme in their argument that Rivera, a known gang member, was coerced into confessing?
A retracted witness statement.
Nice job, Meisner. Kind of key background.
Has Meisner, or any Tribune reporter, ever failed to list the complaints and history of lawsuits against an accused police officer in any of their coverage? Chicago journalists comb over the employment history, particularly complaints, with an intensity bordering on hysteria.
The malevolence and bias of a media outlet like the Tribune is reason enough for any retired detective to refrain from testifying, but the reasons to do so in Chicago go much, much deeper.
The previous Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez, bolstered the Guevara convictions. Her staff fought the claims that Guevara coerced confessions from suspects.
Then, when she lost to Kimberly Foxx, a radical change took shape in the prosecutor’s office. Foxx prosecutors began letting inmates claiming coercion by Guevara out of prison, and these released inmates immediately filed lawsuits.
One case in particular is shocking. Two men, Gabriel Solache and Arturo Reyes, illegal immigrants, were convicted of stabbing a couple to death in 1998 and kidnapping their two children. They confessed, as did a third offender.
Prosecutors for Foxx compelled Guevara to testify by granting him immunity, meaning Guevara could no longer claim the Fifth. Sure enough, the judge ruled that Guevara was lying. He granted a new trial for Solache and Reyes.
Foxx’s prosecutors said they would not retry him, even though they admitted they believed the men were guilty of the slayings.
That’s right, prosecutors said they believed the men stabbed the couple but said they could not retry them.
Here is some tortured logic by the Foxx administration. Prosecutors believe the men are guilty, but they won’t retry them. Are prosecutors then arguing that Guevara coerced a true confession from the men?
What detective could have any faith that he or she will be treated fairly when the prosecutor’s office has been transformed so radically in just one administration?
And then there is the city’s Corporation Counsel, headed by Ed Siskel, the collection of lawyers who “represent” accused officers.
Siskel and the Corporation Counsel have done little to address the growing evidence of misconduct in the industry of suing police officers. In fact, they have continued to roll over on one claim after another, even recommending a payout of $31 million in the infamous Englewood Four case. That exoneration was also a Northwestern case, one in which former prosecutor Alvarez also steadfastly claimed the men were guilty.
The weak “representation” by Siskel’s Corporation Counsel is another reason why detectives would choose not to testify. For how has the Corporation Counsel demonstrated in any way that it truly “has the back” of police officers?
Each and every settlement the agency makes is transformed in the propaganda machine of journalists like Meisner as another example of an officer’s “crooked” character.
And last but not least is the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC), a state agency created to investigate allegations of abuse by police. This agency—comprised of many commissioners deeply ideologically in sympathy with the anti-police movement and the law firms championing it—has broad authority to resurrect any murder case and toss it back into the courts.
In the legal and political realities of Chicago, no lawyers representing detectives worth their salt would recommend that their client testify.
And yet, some of them still do.
Consider Kenny Boudreau. Like Guevara, Boudreau has been accused of abusing suspects for decades. Held in the highest regard by his coworkers and many prosecutors with whom he has worked over the course of his career, Boudreau has stepped forward to fight the allegations against him in several interviews.
The response from the media?
But the fact remains, for any retired detective accused of wrongdoing, remaining silent is the best course of action.
That’s what FOP attorneys are recommending. Here is FOP attorney Tim Grace:
“A lawyer representing these retired detectives has a sworn oath to protect them. It is the State’s Attorney’s job to prosecutor the people who commit these heinous crimes. Most of the time, the interests of prosecutors and detective are allied, but the recent climate has been such that it appears the State has turned its back on the goal of prosecuting offenders and instead taken aim at the Detectives themselves. It would therefore be tantamount to malpractice, in my opinion, to expose a client to lawsuits and perjury if you do not obtain a comfort level from the State as to who exactly they are looking at for prosecution. This is a very difficult conversation for an attorney to have with an honest Detective, but until we get back to prosecuting the real criminals, it is a conversation that must be had."
It’s a sad reality, one that has a devastating effect on policing. But until Chicago’s media, its political leaders, and its prosecutors begin fulfilling their duties, how can the police fulfill theirs?