Cook County prosecutors want a judge to force former Chicago Police detective Reynaldo Guevara to testify about allegations he beat confessions out of two men now serving time for a 1998 murder.
Guevara, who has been named in more than a dozen lawsuits alleging he routinely framed suspects during his three decades as a gang unit detective in the Humboldt Park area, has refused an offer of immunity from state and federal prosecutors, according to a motion filed Thursday by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Guevara’s name has surfaced in numerous wrongful conviction cases, but the veteran detective has declined to answer questions under oath since 2009. Foxx and federal prosecutors have agreed to grant Guevara immunity from prosecution for his testimony in a case in which two men serving life sentences for murder say Guevara beat them during their interrogations.
Prosecutors’ grant of immunity means they could not use anything Guevara says on the stand as evidence to bring charges for wrongdoing he committed, though the motion notes the statute of limitations likely would have passed for any crimes he committed before retiring in 2005. Guevara still could be charged if other evidence surfaces, or if he lies on the stand.
Guevara’s lawyer said his client still intends to assert his 5th Amendment right if called to testify, according to the prosecutors’ motion, which seeks permission to treat Guevara as a “hostile or unwilling witness.” Prosecutors have said they intend to seek a motion to force Guevara to take the stand.
Currently at stake is the case against Gabriel Solache and Arturo DeLeon-Reyes, who were sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Bucktown couple Mariano and Jacinto Soto. The two men say they confessed only after Guevara repeatedly hit and threatened them during an interrogation that lasted more than 30 hours.
“After a thorough review of the totality of the evidence in this case, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office remains confident that Solache and Reyes were not wrongfully convicted,” according to a statement from the state’s attorney’s office. “However, the questions as to whether their confessions were coerced by Detective Guevara deserve a thorough and fair hearing, which can only be achieved if Detective Guevara is compelled to testify.”
It was not clear if Guevara or his attorney would appear in court at a hearing on the motion next week. Guevara’s lawyer did not respond to messages from the Chicago Sun-Times Friday.
Karen Daniel, Solache’s attorney, did not return calls.
Even with a grant of immunity, Guevara is unlikely to say more than “on advice of my attorney, I assert my Fifth Amendment rights,” a phrase Guevara has repeated thousands of times in depositions and testimony in the last seven years, according to Terry Ekl, a veteran attorney who has handled wrongful conviction lawsuits and police misconduct cases.
Guevara’s immunity wouldn’t protect him from being charged with lying on the stand, a lesson Chicago Police officers and their lawyers learned well when former CPD commander Jon Burge was sent to prison for four years for perjury and obstruction of justice. Ten years after he was fired by the CPD amid allegations his “midnight crew” of detectives brutally tortured suspects, Burge was charged with lying to FBI agents who asked him about the abuse allegations.
“(Guevara) might not have done anything wrong, but he still (has) a legitimate concern if he gets up and says he didn’t do anything wrong, and (prosecutors) line up nine people who say, ‘No, he tortured me,’” Ekl said.
Guevara’s apparent fear of prosecution has been used to buttress multiple lawsuits claiming his silence all but proves allegations of torture and abuse by defendants are true, Solache and DeLeon-Reyes’ lawyers have argued. His refusal to testify has paved the way for multiple defendants to go free after years in prison.
Last year, Armando Serrano and Jose Montanez were released from prison after serving nearly 30 years in prison for a 1993 murder in which Guevara secured their confessions.
In April, Foxx’s office dropped the case against Roberto Almodovar and William Negron, who spent more than 20 years behind bars after they say Guevara bullied witnesses into fingering them for a double-murder.
Juan Johnson had his conviction overturned, then won a $16.5 million payout from the city in 2009 after a jury found he had been framed by Guevara, a trial that marked the last time he testified under oath about his detective work.
The burden of proof to show Solache and DeLeon-Reyes weren’t beaten into confessions likely hinges on what Guevara says, and sources in the state’s attorney’s office say they remain confident in the evidence against the pair. Local prosecutors have defended Guevara in the past, claiming that witnesses have recanted testimony in his cases not because the detective intimidated them into lying, but because gang members threatened them into changing their stories.
If Guevara were to admit the allegations were true, the tally of wrongfully convicted men — and the millions paid out to people he put behind bars — would likely dwarf the $100 million the city of Chicago has paid out in civil rights cases linked to Burge and his subordinates, Ekl said.
“Guevara was the guy who took the statements that got these guys convicted. There are literally hundreds of guys,” Ekl said. “He has the potential to make the money paid out for Burge look like a pittance.”