Three times in the last year, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has been accused of failing to properly prosecute a Chicago police officer suspected of serious, even deadly, misconduct.
Now Alvarez finds herself fighting for her job in a hotly contested Democratic primary race. If she hopes to be re-elected, she must address those accusations head-on. The voters of Cook County, and specifically Chicago, must feel confident that the county’s top prosecutor will hold police officers to account as readily and fully as any other citizen.
As reported by the Better Government Association in Tuesday’s Sun-Times, a Chicago police officer lied under oath during a court hearing in 2011, her false testimony serving to enhance the evidence against a man accused of shooting a liquor store owner during a robbery. When Alvarez learned of the officer’s lie, she dropped charges against the man, but she rejected a recommendation from an underling to charge the officer with perjury, obstruction of justice and official misconduct.
This is the same state’s attorney who took more than a year to level murder charges against Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the killing of teenager Laquan McDonald, doing so only when public pressure became intense. And, in another case, Alvarez has been accused of intentionally filing the wrong charge — involuntary manslaughter instead of murder — against Officer Dante Servin to set her office up for failure. By this thinking, she picked a charge to file against Servin, who while off duty had fired a shot into a crowd, that she figured the judge would throw out on a technicality.
Alvarez’ defense of her inaction against the cop who lied on the stand, according to an aide, is that she didn’t believe she could meet the burden of proof in court. Her defense in taking so long to charge Officer Van Dyke is that she was coordinating her efforts with the U.S. attorney’s office, which was conducting its own investigation. And she has dismissed as nonsense the notion that she predicted the judge would throw out the charge against Servin. Even the officer’s lawyers, Alvarez’ supporters say, never saw the judge’s ruling coming.
All three accusation are fair game in this state’s attorney’s race. Alvarez will have to keep answering the questions.
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