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Judge finds CPD Cmdr. Glenn Evans innocent on all counts

Chicago Police Cmdr. Glenn Evans was acquitted Monday of aggravated battery and official misconduct charges by a Cook County judge.

Issuing her ruling Monday after three days of testimony in Evans’ bench trial, Judge Diane Cannon made note of the protests touched off last month by the release of graphic video of a Chicago Police officer gunning down teenager Laquan McDonald.

“My ruling does not pertain to misconduct committed by law enforcement throughout the city and country, nor does it pertain to the victims of brutality by law enforcement,” she said.

“It is made with regard to the allegations by Rickey Williams against Cmdr. Glenn Evans.”

In reading her findings, Cannon said testimony by alleged victim Rickey Williams “taxes the gullibility of the credulous,” noting numerous changes and inconsistencies in statements Williams gave during the investigation — and even during his time on the witness stand last week.

Evans sat impassive as Cannon read off the verdict, and left the courtroom soon after the ruling. Williams was not in the courtroom.

Evans’ lawyers, Laura and Dean Morask, said they weren’t concerned about defending a police officer accused of misconduct during a period when public anger over police brutality has reached a fever pitch.

“It’s nothing like any other case. This is not a case of police brutality,” Morask said. “It’s a case of a guy doing his job, and we need commanders like that.”

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who has been under fire in recent weeks for her handling of the investigation of McDonald’s shooting, defended the decision to charge Evans in a statement issued after the hearing. Alvarez last month announced first-degree murder charges against the officer accused of firing 16 shots at McDonald, and said her office would never hesitate to bring charges against police officers.

“This case underscores the reality that it is extremely difficult to convince judges or juries in Cook County and around the country to convict police officers of misconduct in the line of duty, despite the fact that this victim made an immediate outcry and we had DNA evidence to support our case,” Alvarez’s statement read.

Williams will continue to press brutality claims against Evans in a federal civil rights lawsuit, said Williams’ attorney, Stephan Blandin.

“Judge Cannon went out of her way to put the victim on trial in this case,” Blandin told reporters.

Prosecutors had built their case in large part on evidence that showed Williams’ DNA was on Evans’ gun, but Cannon said she was convinced the DNA could was “touch DNA” that could have been transferred to the weapon from Evans’ own hands after struggling with Williams.

Prosecutors had said Evans chased Williams into an abandoned house on the South Side in 2013 after Evans claimed he saw Williams running with a handgun.

Inside the house, Williams claimed Evans crammed a pistol into Williams’ mouth and held a Taser on his groin while demanding information on a recent shooting in the neighborhood.

Williams was charged with reckless conduct but that charge was eventually dropped. No weapon was recovered.

Williams reported his allegations to police the next day, triggering an investigation of the commander by the Independent Police Review Authority.

Evans’ lawyers called the IPRA investigation “dishonest” and “inept,” noting that one of the investigators assigned to the case had been disciplined by Evans when she worked under him as a civilian employee.

In her closing statement last week, Assistant State’s Attorney Lauren Freeman said that Evans’ DNA on the pistol was not just a smoking gun “it’s a smoking, freaking cannon,” though no testing was done on the weapon to show whether the DNA came from saliva, which would indicate the weapon had been inside Williams’ mouth.

Scott Ando, who was forced to resign last week as head of IPRA amid fallout from the McDonald investigation, testified that he had ordered evidence technicians to test Evans’ gun “inside and out” for DNA, but only the exterior was tested.

IPRA investigators also waited more than a year to show Williams a lineup of pictures that included Evans and other officers involved in the alleged beating. Williams was unable to correctly identify any of the officers involved, though the picture of Evans used by investigators was 10 years old.

Cannon noted that Williams repeatedly offered to change his version of events as the IPRA investigation progressed, including his description of Evans’ appearance or which hand Evans used to hold the gun.

On the witness stand last week, Ando testified that he asked at least three supervisors to ensure that whomever ended up investigating Evans would check on whether the commander was right- or left-handed. That was never done, even though Williams initially insisted that Evans gripped his gun with his left hand when he shoved it into his mouth and held the Taser in his right hand.

Evans is right-handed.

Evans’ case seems not to have drawn much attention from civil rights groups and outrage from residents who have marched in the streets to protest McDonald’s shootings.

Evans is a decorated officer and was one of former Supt. Garry McCarthy’s most-trusted commanders though Evans had racked up 45 excessive use-of-force complaints between 1988 and 2008, according to a WBEZ investigation.

Morask said Monday she hadn’t talked with Evans about whether he would try to return to duty as a police officer.

Contributing: Rummana Hussain