Arturo Reyes spent nearly 20 years in prison based on a confession he claims was beaten out of him by Chicago Police detective Reynaldo Guevara. After a stunning ruling by a judge that Guevara had lied on the witness stand during a hearing this fall — and likely had lied when he denied punching Reyes decades ago — Reyes was released from prison, and promptly turned over to immigration authorities.
Now facing deportation, Reyes on Thursday filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, Guevara and 11 other CPD officers, seeking damages for their role in obtaining a confession “which was concocted and coerced by defendants after 40 hours of abusive and illegal interrogation of a recently arrived Mexican immigrant who could not speak or understand English.”
Reyes and co-defendant Gabriel Solache were released from prison two months ago — and loaded onto buses bound for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention centers — after prosecutors dropped charges against them in the 1998 murder of Mariano and Jacinto Soto. First Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Sussman called it a “tragic day for justice in Cook County,” but said the prosecution could not meet their burden of proof after Judge James Obbish threw out the two defendants’ confessions in a stinging ruling that accused Guevara of telling “bald-faced lies” under oath.
Guevara, who has been accused of beating suspects and bullying witnesses in dozens of cases spanning much of his 30-year career as a gang unit detective on the city’s Northwest Side, has in recent years taken the Fifth when questioned about his interrogations. Prosecutors offered the 74-year-old retired detective immunity to testify against Solache and Reyes in a post-conviction hearing, but on the witness stand, Guevara said he didn’t recall even basic details of the case, and offered only meek denials.
Reyes’ lawsuit runs almost 50 pages, with attorney Anand Swaminathan at length describing holes in the case against Reyes in the Sotos’ murders and the misconduct that followed as detectives subjected Reyes to a 40-hour interrogation.
The Sotos’ killings were grisly, and the alleged motive for the crime sensational: Reyes and Solache, both laborers recently arrived in the U.S. who did not speak English, lived in the same apartment building as Adriana Mejia. Prosecutors said Mejia faked a pregnancy and stalked the Sotos, who had an 11-month-old baby and a 3-year-old son. With Solache and Reyes, Mejia forced her way into the Sotos’ Bucktown apartment, and then the three stabbed the couple to death and kidnapped the children.
The lawsuit points out that no DNA or other evidence was found at the bloody murder scene linking Reyes to the crime, and said that Reyes and Solache heard Mejia arguing with her husband about the children. Reyes and Solache agreed to go with Mejia to bring the children to the police station, not knowing they had been kidnapped, the lawsuit said.
Reyes, who left behind a wife and children in Mexico when left to find work in the U.S., is seeking his return to his home country, but immigration officials have challenged his request for “voluntary removal” based in part on his confession to the Sotos murders. Solache was released from a detention center last week on bond, and has said he intends to return to Mexico after settling his affairs in the U.S.