A Cook County prosecutor was fired Monday for allegedly giving false testimony in a case against a man charged with shooting a Chicago Police officer in 2012 — raising the possibility key evidence could be tossed out.
The mother of suspect Paris Sadler made a secret 30-minute audio recording of her interview with prosecutors the day after Officer Del Pearson was seriously wounded in a shooting on March 19, 2012, officials say. Pearson underwent more than five hours of surgery to save his life after a bullet severed an artery. He was chasing Sadler, who was suspected of violating a curfew, police said.
Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Joseph Lattanzio — who took statements from witnesses after the shooting — was fired Monday. He is accused of lying recently on the witness stand about a written statement he took from Sadler’s mother on March 20, 2012.
Last month, Lattanzio testified in a pretrial hearing that he took only one written statement from Sadler’s mother without any corrections or edit marks. Contradicting him, Sadler’s mother Talaina Cureton testified that corrections were made to her statement.
At a news conference Monday, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said Cureton made a secret recording of her interview with Lattanzio.
The recording contains evidence that cross marks and other edits were made on the written statement she signed — despite Lattanzio’s testimony and the fact that the written statement presented to the court didn’t have any corrections, Alvarez said. She said her office became aware of the recording only a few weeks ago.
“We believe this assistant state’s attorney was not truthful in his testimony about the witness interview,” Alvarez said, adding, “As a prosecutor who has done this job now for 29 years, I’m appalled, I’m livid, I’m outraged by the actions of this particular assistant.”
Alvarez said she referred the allegations against Lattanzio to the Illinois attorney general’s office for possible prosecution and to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission for possible discipline.
Lattanzio could not be reached for comment. He was working in the state’s attorney’s felony review unit when he took Cureton’s statement in 2012, but recently he was working for the office’s gang prosecutions unit.
In a press release last year, Alvarez praised Lattanzio and a fellow prosecutor for their work in sending a man to prison for 35 years for shooting and paralyzing another man.
Alvarez said she hasn’t heard similar allegations against Lattanzio in any other cases he has been involved with, although her office is reviewing them, too.
It was an iPad concealed in Cureton’s purse in 2012 that led to Lattanzio’s downfall Monday.
The device recorded both audio and video during her interview with Lattanzio, but the only video images were of the ceiling in the interview room, officials say.
It would have been illegal for Cureton to record the interview secretly if she did so intentionally, Alvarez said, adding, ”We don’t know at this point if it was intentional or an accident.” But the issue is not whether the recording was made illegally, Alvarez said.
“It’s what he [Lattanzio] said under oath,” she said.
Sadler, 23, is charged with attempted murder. The underlying legal dispute in his case is whether police conducted an illegal search before they recovered a .38-caliber gun from his mother’s house. Police said the gun was linked to Pearson’s shooting through testing.
In her recent testimony, Cureton claimed she told Lattanzio in her 2012 interview that she had asked officers for a lawyer when they appeared at her door after the shooting, but the police disregarded her request and entered the home anyway.
Sadler’s defense attorneys have asked Judge Thaddeus Wilson to throw out the gun as evidence in the case because the search was allegedly unconstitutional.
As part of that pretrial motion, Lattanzio was called to the witness stand on Aug. 6 and testified that Cureton’s statement did not have any marks or edits — and also denied that she told him that she had asked for a lawyer before the search.
Alvarez acknowledged it’s possible that Wilson may toss out the gun evidence, but she said the case could still move forward with other evidence such as witness statements.
“That doesn’t mean that the entire case is in jeopardy,” she said.
Alvarez said she believes the allegations of perjury against a Cook County prosecutor are unprecedented, although she has brought charges against police for lying. In June, a Cook County grand jury indicted three Chicago Police officers and a Glenview officer on perjury charges for allegedly giving false testimony in a drug case. Dashboard video from a squad car allegedly contradicted their testimony.
“You have a duty, and you have an oath you have taken, and you cannot overstep the line,” Alvarez said.