Brothers’ bid for new trial links detective to Chicago’s ‘most corrupt cop’
Joseph Miedzianowski, former CPD officer now serving a life sentence for racketeering, enlisted former detective Reynaldo Guevara to pin murder cases on drug rivals, lawyers for brothers Jose and Rosendo Hernandez claim.
Two gang members were framed for a 1997 murder in an act of revenge by a former Chicago police officer who federal prosecutors called the “most corrupt” cop ever prosecuted at the downtown federal courthouse, according to testimony at a hearing that could lead to a new trial for brothers Juan and Rosendo Hernandez.
In the spring of 1997, Chicago Police Officer Joseph Miedzianowski believed Juan Hernandez had stolen marijuana from a dealer who worked for Miedzianowski, said Fred Rock, who was a star witness against Miedzianowski two decades ago when the former gang unit detective was on trial for using his badge to run a Miami-to-Chicago drug ring.
Rock, who helped Miedzianowski rob rival dealers and sell their drugs, said Miedzianowski introduced a fellow officer, homicide detective Reynaldo Guevara, who was going to help him “get” Juan Hernandez, who was known as “Poochie.”
“He wanted [the drugs] back or he’d make sure Poochie got in trouble,” said Rock, who testified Monday by video conference from his home on the Caribbean island of Domenica, where he has lived since he finished his sentence for his role in Miedzianowski’s network.
“He wanted to get Poochie, no matter what the cost.”
Rock said Miedzianowski and Guevara discussed, in vague terms, their intention to “get Poochie” several times in the months before Rock learned the Hernandezes had been charged with murder. Discussions never got into details, but Rock said he was aware that Miedzianowski had rivals framed. The Hernandezes’ lawyers have said Rosendo Hernandez was caught up in the frame job, claiming Miedzianowski had bragged about targeting his rivals’ family members.
Miedzianowski is serving a life sentence for running a drug trafficking and protection racket during the 1990s.
The Hernandez brothers hope to win a new trial for the 1997 killing of Jorge Gonzalez in Belmont Cragin. Since Guevara retired from CPD in 2005, more than 20 men have overturned their convictions based on allegations of misconduct against Guevara.
Guevara, who has never faced criminal charges, has refused to answer questions about his old cases under oath since a 2017 hearing at which Judge James Obbish ruled the detective told “bald-faced lies” on the witness stand and tossed out guilty verdicts against two men who’d been convicted in a 2000 murder trial.
Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Rogala on Monday argued that the allegations of abuses in the Hernandezes’ case don’t fit the pattern of physical beatings of suspects and threats against witnesses that has been alleged in other cases. And, while one eyewitness— Gonzalez’s best friend, Daniel Violante — has recanted his testimony identifying the Hernandezes as the shooters at both brothers’ trials, Rogala said others stand by their statements.
“This case is not the Hernandez brothers against Reynaldo Guevara. There were other detectives that worked on this case,” Rogala said. “What [their lawyers] are relying on is for this court to be seduced by the other cases in which they’ve been able to get relief. ... In this case, we have eyewitnesses.”
The brothers have denied involvement in the murder since they turned themselves in to police shortly after the shooting. The evidentiary hearing in front of Judge Joanne Rosado is expected to last until Wednesday. The Hernandezes’ lawyers also have argued that Guevara put bogus information in police reports to discredit the brothers’ alibis.
Violante testified Monday that he was with Gonzalez the night of the shooting and had a gun pressed to his stomach by one of the shooters.
At times choking up, Violante said he ran from the scene before shots were fired. Violante said he identified the Hernandezes because he knew that the brothers already were the main suspects.
“I just put two and two together. If their family is saying they pointed them out, he must have did it,” Violante said. “That’s what I thought to myself at that time.”