Media Circus Unfolds at County Courthouse
Only the FOP Asks the Key Questions in Claims Against a Retired Detective at “Two Six and Cal” . . .
A few weeks ago, attorneys working for the city alleged in a federal lawsuit that Armando Serrano, exonerated for a 1993 murder, destroyed or deliberately hid evidence that pointed to his guilt.
Serrano obtained his freedom by alleging that he was coerced into confessing by retired detective Reynaldo Guevara (See Correction Below). The former detective has faced a litany of such accusations, despite the fact that a former Cook County prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, stood by Guevara’s cases, while the latest prosecutor, State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, reversed that policy and began letting out offenders within months of taking office.
The Fraternal Order of Police has also stood by Guevara’s convictions and has been highly critical of Foxx’s policy, calling it politically motivated.
With all the controversy surrounding these Guevara cases, then, the fact that city attorneys would bring forth a motion alleging that one of the key cases against him includes evidence that was lost or intentionally destroyed would garner a powerful media response. Imagine if a detective were accused of such conduct.
But not in Chicago. In fact, not one media outlet in the entire city has even mentioned it. The silence is a stunning indictment of the Chicago media. But why the silence? Why would the media go to such lengths to hide such a high-profile story?
One reason may be that addressing the powerful evidence of misconduct by Serrano and his agents—as well as the signs that Foxx has transformed her office from prosecutor to activist—also casts a dark shadow on the city’s media machine, which has embraced the accusations of law firms suing Guevara with a passion bordering on hysteria. Well, actually not bordering. It has been a full manic state. There may be another reason for the media’s silence.
The attorneys also named “agents” working for Serrano in their allegations that evidence was hidden or deliberately destroyed.
Who were those agents?
From court documents:
Private Investigator Sergio Serritella, Northwestern’s Medill Innocence Project (“Medill”), and Northwestern School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions (the “CWC”) all worked in concert as Serrano’s agents, with his approval and direction, to overturn his conviction by undoing Vicente’s [a witness] criminal trial testimony, among other acts of advocacy. . . .
That would be Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, from whence scoreless numbers of Chicago journalists have graduated.
These bombshell allegations add to a growing body of accusations against Northwestern University in a host of police misconduct claims, chilling accusations that suggest detectives were, time and again, falsely accused of coercing innocent men into confessing to murders and rapes. This evidence shifts the pall of corruption away from the police and onto the media.
In light of all this, a question emerges: How far will the media go to keep hidden the counter-narrative of police corruption at the root of the wrongful conviction movement?
Well, consider this:
At the 26th and California courthouse Wednesday, an attorney from the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago, Josh Tepfer, announced his law firm had obtained new evidence against retired Detective Guevara in yet another claim that he generated a false case against a murder suspect.
Tepfer made the announcement during a press event held in the hallway at the courthouse, just after he marched into court and claimed that his law firm had discovered new documents against Guevara. But isn’t this exactly what Northwestern did when they walked into court with documents claiming Serrano was innocent? Where is that case now? If ever there was an opportunity for the media to bring up the evidence that Guevara was falsely accused, even in just a few cases, this would have been it.
But the media, gathered like a phalanx of truth seekers in the hallways of the city’s primary courthouse, refused any such inquiries.
There is even more reason for Tepfer to answer questions about Serrano and Northwestern. According to his biography on the University of Chicago website, Tepfer himself hails from Northwestern:
Josh Tepfer joined University of Chicago Law School as a Lecturer in Law at the Exoneration Project in the Fall 2015. Josh has been representing the criminally accused for over a decade, first as an attorney with the Chicago Office of the State Appellate Defender and then with law students as an Assistant Clinical Professor with Northwestern University School of Law, where he served seven years as the Project Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth.
So, for all these reasons, shouldn’t the media have at least brought up the evidence in the Serrano case?
“But, Mr. Tepfer,” Jason Meisner from the Tribune, who was part of the media cabal, could have asked, “attorneys for the city are arguing that Serrano and Northwestern hid or destroyed evidence of Serrano’s guilt. You used to work at Northwestern. Do you have a comment about these allegations?”
Forget about it. So, since the media wouldn’t, the FOP did. FOP Second Vice President Martin Preib confronted Tepfer.
In front of all the cameras and reporters at the impromptu press conference, Preib asked Tepfer if the attorney believed that every single allegation against Guevara was true. Preib asked Tepfer about the claims against Serrano made by city attorneys and other cases in which great doubt about the veracity of exoneration claims involving Guevara have been alleged.
Not surprisingly, Tepfer refused.
Around the same time, another crucial opportunity to address the allegations against Northwestern emerged in the hallway of 26th and Cal. Also at the courthouse on another case was Karen Daniel, a law professor at Northwestern, who, according to the school’s website, “served as the Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) through 2018.”
Wow. Talk about journalism good luck. So here was one of the lawyers herself from Northwestern. The media stopped Daniel in the hallway and asked her for a statement, right? All cameras turned on her? Pencils began flying after questions were asked?
<Insert crickets chirping here>
But the FOP did. Preib asked Daniel about the allegations and filmed her response.
Daniel said she didn’t know about the accusations? Really? Hmmm . . .
But why would Daniel have no comment when asked if she would be troubled by such actions taking place at Northwestern? For an institution that routinely claims a lack of accountability and transparency in the police department, Daniel and Northwestern seem wholly unwilling to answer questions posed to them.
But, then, when the media is in your back pocket and has been nestled there for three or four decades, why should you have to stoop so low as to answer a question from the police?
CORRECTION: This article erroneously states Armando Serrano claimed that he was coerced into confessing to murder by retired Detective Reynaldo Guevara. Serrano did not confess. Serrano alleges that Guevara coerced a witness into claiming Serrano was the murder offender.