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Convictions dropped for two men who were convicted of murders while teens

Anthony Jakes (left), 41, and Robert Bouto, 42, walk out of the the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Monday, April 30, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Cook County prosecutors Monday dropped a pair of murder convictions against two men who were convicted as teenagers in separate murder cases.

Robert Bouto and Anthony Jakes had met only in passing before arriving at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in the morning – both of them scheduled for hearings that would all but end their separate, decades-long battles to clear their names.

Video by Ashlee Rezin | Anthony Jakes (left), 41, and Robert Bouto, 42, walk out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Monday, Ap

Special Prosecutor Robert Milan announced he was dropping the charges against Jakes for the 1991 murder of Rafael Garcia – a crime Jakes had been arrested for just two months after his 15th birthday.

In another courtroom, less than an hour later, Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Rogala said her office had agreed to vacate Bouto’s conviction for the 1993 murder of Salvador Ruvalcaba.

The two men, who already had served out their sentences — 22 years in prison for Bouto and 23 for Jakes— struck a triumphant tone as they spoke to a throng of reporters, but lamented the decades lost.

“I wish my grandmother and my mother were here to celebrate this victory,” said Jakes, who wore a T-shirt screen printed with his mother’s picture. “They were my biggest supporters.”

Bouto formally is now awaiting a new trial, though Monday’s move by prosecutors likely is a prelude to dropping the prosecution entirely.

Both men said the convictions have hurt them as they’ve tried to find jobs since they were released. Their attorney, Russell Ainsworth, did not say whether either man intended to file a lawsuit against the city for their wrongful convictions.

The two cases were tainted by allegations of misconduct by detectives whose names have surfaced in dozens of wrongful conviction cases.

Jakes was convicted based on a false confession he claims he gave only after he’d been beaten by now-deceased Det. Michael Kill. Milan said he interviewed a dozen witnesses and reviewed thousands of pages of records during a three-month review of Jakes’ case.

Bouto had long claimed that now-retired Det. Reynaldo Guevara had beaten and bullied two witnesses into identifying him as the gunman in Ruvalcaba’s murder, though Ainsworth said both witnesses had since recanted. The allegations mirror statements by dozens of defendants who claim they, too, were framed by Guevara during the detective’s three-decade career.

Thomas Sierra, who served 22 years for a 1995 murder investigated by Guevara, had his conviction overturned in January and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the detective and the department Monday.

Sierra, who was paroled just months before prosecutors opted to vacate his conviction and drop charges against him, claims Guevara intimidated witnesses and manipulated them into identifying Sierra as a suspect in the killing of Noel Andujar.