The Watch

News and Information for Chicago FOP members.

Massive Frame-Up of Cops Alleged in Federal Lawsuit

It’s a bombshell.

Attorneys working for the city alleged a massive frame-up of detectives in a key wrongful conviction case, saying a once-convicted killer and his “agents” hid or intentionally lost key evidence that showed the man was guilty of the murder. 

The allegations by defense attorneys in the civil lawsuit by Armando Serrano renew allegations that some wrongful convictions cases based on claims of police misconduct may be dirty, particularly those that emerged from a former professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, David Protess. 

Indeed, Protess left the school under a scandal in 2010 when the university admitted he had lied about his investigations. Afterward, the central wrongful conviction of his career, Anthony Porter, also imploded after a review of the case by then Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. 

Now similar allegations are emerging in a current civil case pending in the federal courts, where Serrano, who was exonerated for robbery a 1993 murder of a man, is seeking a multimillion-dollar compensation.

From the motion: 

But Defendants discovered that Plaintiff Serrano’s agents deliberately destroyed and/or intentionally lost inculpatory audiotapes, memos, and notes relating to key witness interviews. 

The FOP has repeatedly demanded a larger investigation into Northwestern’s wrongful conviction claims, which have cost the taxpayers millions and destroyed the lives and reputations of many Chicago detectives. Indeed, the city has already paid out large settlements and verdicts in other cases against Reynaldo Guevara.

One of the allegations made against Protess over and over was that he made promises of money to witnesses if they would change their story. Similar allegations are also made in the defense attorneys’ motion:

Thereafter, and in consideration for his recantation, both Plaintiffs offered [witness] Vicente protection from assassination, and along with Medill, offered him other hidden incentives, including a prison transfer and a fortune (described by Plaintiff Montanez as “ching-ching”) from the proceeds of Plaintiffs’ anticipated civil lawsuits. 

The FOP has maintained that the allegations against Guevara are largely baseless and has condemned media coverage of them, particularly by the Chicago Tribune, as biased and leaving out key evidence. If the defense attorneys indeed have such a strong case to demand sanctions, a question about the media coverage emerges: Why didn’t they find out about it? Dozens of “investigative” articles have been written by Chicago reporters alleging misconduct against Guevara, yet none of them seems to have discovered any of the evidence now brought forth by defense attorneys in Serrano’s federal lawsuit.  

Questions about the media coverage also has emerged against another defendant in the case, former Judge Matthew Coghlan. Coghlan is accused of misconduct in the case when he worked on it as a prosecutor, before he became a judge. 

In defending their client, attorneys for Coghlan have also assailed the media’s role in the case, alleging that Serrano and his supporters have used reporters to condemn the former judge in the court of public opinion, including the content of his deposition: 

Coghlan has a substantial concern that Plaintiffs will publicly disseminate the transcript and video (or cut or splice portions of them) in order to embarrass or harass him and to improperly influence the potential jury pool. The concern is not abstract or theoretical. To the contrary, prior to his deposition, Plaintiffs already started to try this case in the media, engaging in repeated media attacks against Coghlan specifically, and in some instances, misrepresenting the evidence in these cases. In addition, a number of the questions posed to Coghlan during his deposition had no relevance to the merits of the case and were designed solely to embarrass or harass him. What is more, Plaintiffs have failed to identify why they would have any need for disseminating the video and/or transcript of Coghlan’s deposition, leaving the clear implication that the sole purpose would be to embarrass and/or harass him and to try to influence the potential jury pool. 

Another question arising in the case is the conduct of Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx. Allegations that Guevara convictions were fraudulent were rejected by Foxx’s predecessor Alvarez, but shortly after coming into office, Foxx began letting out offenders based on allegations against Guevara. The FOP strongly denounced these decisions, particularly since some of the law firms representing these Guevara accusers also contributed to Foxx’s campaign. 

What makes Foxx’s role in the Guevara cases important is the fact that allegations of misconduct have existed in the Serrano case for almost a decade. Allegations that Protess was using his students to sexually manipulate statements from witnesses emerged as early as 2010.

From the Chicago Tribune

Prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled documents that suggested students and staff with Northwestern University’s Medill Innocence Project arranged a visit from a female student as a “treat” for a prisoner, in addition to making unspecified promises, before he recanted his testimony in a 1993 murder and armed robbery case.

The filing included three memos and an e-mail sent by students of Northwestern journalism professor David Protess to an attorney representing convicted murderer Armando Serrano, who is seeking a new trial.

Why didn’t Foxx research this evidence in considering claims that Guevara cases were dirty? 

Finally, the motion by the attorneys also calls into questions other pivotal cases in the federal courts, including a massive lawsuit against two detectives by attorneys representing Stanley Wrice. Serrano’s attorneys claim that two detectives who had worked under Jon Burge framed him for the 1982 gang rape and severe burning of a woman. 

But that case, too, has Protess’s fingerprints all over it, as students working with Protess obtained witness recantations that a judge called “suspicious.” The FOP has repeatedly condemned the legitimacy of this exoneration and asked the city to take the case to trial.

In any event, the motion for sanctions in the Serrano case will certainly have repercussions throughout the city’s criminal justice system and the city’s media machine.