Alvarez Won’t Bend On Wrongful Conviction Cases
At the urging of former U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office reviewed the murder convictions of six people who had accused ex-Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara of framing them.
That review recently concluded with prosecutors finding there was no cause to reopen any of the cases, dealing a major setback to the six prisoners who hoped Lassar’s findings would help show they were wrongfully convicted.
Fabio Valentini, a top prosecutor for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, said Lassar’s law firm Sidley Austin LLP forwarded his agency six Guevara-related murder cases, and following a review the state’s attorney’s office doesn’t believe the men were framed.
"We don’t feel these guys are innocent guys," he says.
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The six cases involve inmates Roberto Almodovar, Robert Bouto, Jose Montanez, Arturo Reyes, Armando Serrano and Gabriel Solache.
Five of the six have pending appeals, so the state’s attorney’s office determination is not the final word. Ultimately, it will be up to a judge to decide if the prisoners’ frame-up allegations have merit.
In a jailhouse interview, Serrano said he was elated to learn Lassar and his law firm, hired by the city of Chicago to investigate misconduct allegations against Guevara, had raised questions about his 1994 conviction. The case hinged on testimony from a jailhouse informant who later claimed he falsely implicated Serrano under pressure from Guevara.
"I’m hopeful but I’m still waiting," Serrano said in June, before prosecutors concluded their review. "I’m still here. Still losing time."
Serrano couldn’t be reached for comment following the state’s attorney’s decision on the six cases, but his attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said she was disappointed — but not surprised — by the Alvarez’s office decision.
"They’ve been defending these convictions in court," Bonjean says. "This doesn’t change anything for us. We’re still going to keep fighting."
A City Hall spokesman declined to comment on the state’s attorney’s decision.
The Emanuel administration hired Sidley Austin in 2013 after the convictions of two men who accused Guevara of framing them were overturned. In all, taxpayers have paid more than $20 million to investigate, defend and settle misconduct allegations against Guevara. That includes a $15 million payment to Juan Johnson, who spent 11 years in prison after his conviction in a 1989 gang-related murder. When he was retried and ultimately acquitted, witnesses claimed Guevara had forced them to implicate Johnson.
Guevara had no comment.
This column – a regular feature called The Public Eye, appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times – was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 821-9035.
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