Inmate fighting life sentence for double murder also battling COVID-19, lawyer says
Alfredo “Freddy” Gonzalez, 62, is one of dozens of men who say they were framed by retired Chicago Police Det. Reynaldo Guevara.
For nearly 30 years, Alfredo “Freddy” Gonzalez has been fighting a life sentence for a 1990 double murder he has long claimed he didn’t commit. Now, fighting the symptoms of COVID-19 at Stateville Correctional Center, the 62-year-old is worried he may not live to see the day his name is cleared.
Gonzalez was set to appear for a post-trial hearing on his latest bid to overturn his conviction for the murders of brothers Torrence and Kevin Wiley, and he had reason to believe that his prospects for being released were good.
Gonzalez has long maintained that he was framed by now-retired Chicago Police Det. Reynaldo Guevara, and several of the witnesses who testified at his trial have since recanted. Based on similar claims of physical abuse by Guevara, 20 men have been released from prison. That number includes Gonzalez’s co-defendant, Jose Maysonet, who went free in 2017 after Guevara and four other officers involved in the investigation asserted their Fifth Amendment rights rather than answer questions under oath about allegations of witness coercion and physical abuse.
Gonzalez began to feel symptoms of coronavirus in late March, and landed in a medical unit at the Crest Hill prison, according to his daughter, Maria Gonzalez, an Elgin resident who said she talks to her father every day. Gonzalez was still feeling ill last week but was moved into general population at the prison, said his lawyer, Sean Starr.
Starr recently sent a letter to J.B. Pritzker, spelling out the evidence of Gonzalez’s case and asking the governor to release him.
“He’s 62 years old, he’s had [COVID-19] once, if he doesn’t still have it,” Starr said. “He’s still alive, but he has high blood pressure, he has asthma. He’s worried he could have very serious complications.”
Pritzker’s office did not respond to requests for comment from the Chicago Sun-Times this week, and Starr said he also has not heard from the governor. As COVID-19 spread in state prisons, Pritzker, last month, commuted the sentences of 17 elderly inmates, including seven convicted of murder.
As of mid-April, five Stateville inmates died from complications related to coronavirus, according to news reports.
Gonzalez signed a confession in 1990, but said he only did after Guevara beat and threatened him. His trial lawyer, whose law license was suspended in 2016 for misconduct, encouraged him to repeat his false statement —in which Gonzalez claimed another man was the shooter — on the witness stand. Maysonet identified Gonzalez as the shooter, but said that he lied because he had been beaten by Guevara.
Prosecutors, who grudgingly dropped charges against Maysonet, seemed poised to fight Gonzalez’s case, but, Starr said it’s unlikely that Guevara or the other detectives would be willing to testify under oath against Gonzalez either, leaving the state with little evidence.
The last time Guevara took the stand was at a 2017 hearing in the case of Gabriel Solache and Arturo DeLeon-Reyes, who were convicted in a 1998 double murder based on confessions they said were coerced by Guevara. Even though he’d been granted immunity for his testimony, the detective still responded to questions with claims that he “did not remember.” Based on those responses, Cook County Judge James Obbish threw out Solache and DeLeon-Reyes’ convictions, and Guevara had “eliminated the possibility of being considered a credible witness in any proceeding,”
If Gonzalez were released, his daughter said she has a separate apartment in the basement of her home where he could be quarantined.
“I am terrified. I do not want to lose my dad,” said Maria Gonzalez, who was 4 years old when her father was arrested. “Especially now, when we are so close...I don’t need my dad dying in jail because of the coronavirus.”