Lawyers: Accused police officers innocent, never took a dime

The trial of Xavier Elizondo and David Salgado has begun in earnest at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

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Xavier Elizondo, right, at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse with lawyer Michael Clancy.

Xavier Elizondo, right, at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse with lawyer Michael Clancy.

Sun-Times file photo

For more than a year, federal prosecutors have painted Xavier Elizondo and David Salgado as rogue Chicago police officers who used their badges to lie to judges and steal drugs and money.

But when their trial began in earnest Tuesday, defense lawyers described the two men as crime fighters wrongly accused of a criminal conspiracy that included bogus search warrants and the alleged theft of $4,200 from a rental car searched in January 2018.

Michael Clancy, Elizondo’s lawyer, told jurors his client never took a dime, never lied to a judge and never told anyone to do so. Michael Petro, Salgado’s lawyer, said the feds’ accusations “are simply not true.”

“They’re policing out there,” Clancy said. “This isn’t a money grab.”

The lawyers made their comments during opening statements Tuesday in the 21st floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. Elizondo and Salgado face several charges, including conspiracy to commit theft, a civil rights conspiracy, embezzlement and obstruction of justice.

Elizondo is also accused of trying to persuade Salgado to conceal evidence, and Salgado is accused of lying to the FBI.

“The defendants are corrupt Chicago police officers who betrayed their badges and used their police powers to lie, cheat and steal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Franzblau said during his opening statement.

The prosecutor began to lay out the case to jurors by describing the moment Elizondo and Salgado allegedly realized they were under investigation. It happened in January 2018, after the search of the rental car parked at a hotel near Midway. The FBI had stashed $18,200 inside as part of its investigation of the two men.

After searching the car with other officers, Elizondo and Salgado took the car to Homan Square and Salgado reported $14,000 was found inside, records show.

Investigating agents came to Homan Square to tow the car the next day but ran into Salgado, according to a court document. The agents then told Salgado they were from CPD internal affairs. According to Franzblau, one of the agents also told Salgado, “You’re going to be hearing from me soon.”

The feds say Salgado then spoke by phone to Elizondo, who allegedly told him, “OK, well you know what to do right? … Just relocate everything, alright?” Later, Elizondo allegedly told him to “just make sure whatever you have in your house isn’t there no more, you know what I mean?”

“They knew that the law had finally caught up with their corruption,” Franzblau said Tuesday.

The search of the car followed the December 2017 search of an apartment the officers thought to be a stash house on the West Side. Prosecutors said the officers landed a warrant to search the apartment with help from a tipster using false information. However, the stash house was also a ruse by the FBI, which had hidden $15,000 there. The officers found the cash but also the feds’ closed-circuit recording devices and apparently inventoried the cash properly.

Franzblau told jurors that video and audio recordings of the officers would bolster the allegations against them. For example, Elizondo was allegedly caught on tape explaining, “I’m the man who makes the deals and cuts the deals.” He also later allegedly complained, “it would have been a good Christmas” if cameras hadn’t been found in the purported stash house.

Clancy explained Elizondo routinely lied to informants as a police officer, though. And he said Elizondo properly paid informants out of his own pockets — not with proceeds from the searches.

Meanwhile, Petro referred to Salgado as simply “an enlisted man” in the Chicago Police Department. He said Salgado carried out orders without question or complaint.

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