Alleged gunman in cop murder wants prosecutors’ actions scrutinized

Lawyers for Alexander Villa, Edgardo Colon and Tyrone Clay, suspected of killing a CPD officer, say the state’s attorney’s office is covering up prosecutors’ misconduct.

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Chicago police officer Clifton Lewis

A pin on the lapel of a Chicago Police officer attending the 2012 funeral of Clifton Lewis, who was gunned down during an armed robbery while working off-duty at an Austin convenience store. Lawyers for three men charged with Lewis’s murder have asked for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of misconduct by the State’s Attorney’s office.

Sun-Times (file)

Three men who were charged in the 2011 murder of Chicago Police Officer Clifton Lewis have called for a special prosecutor to take over the case and investigate allegations of misconduct by Cook County prosecutors.

The motion by lawyers for Alexander Villa, Edgardo Colon and Tyrone Clay comes weeks after prosecutors dropped all charges against Colon and Clay shortly before a hearing in which detectives and prosecutors who handled the case had been set to answer questions about allegations they withheld key evidence from defense lawyers.

According to the motion, the move to drop the charges shows the state’s attorney’s office is covering for prosecutors whom the defense has accused of misconduct.

Villa, who was found guilty at trial in 2019, is awaiting sentencing but is seeking to have the verdict overturned. His bid is based on evidence his lawyers say shows that prosecutors did not turn over cellphone tower data indicating the three men were nowhere near the murder scene, and that they hid all evidence police collected in a massive, monthslong dragnet targeting Villa and the Spanish Cobras street gang.

Based on emails uncovered by Villa’s lawyers, Assistant State’s Attorneys Andrew Varga and Nancy Adduci, who were assigned to the case in 2012 but were pulled off it in January, were aware of missing files that were never turned over to defense lawyers, and they helped police edit their reports, the motion says.

“The very same exculpatory evidence and surrounding misconduct that torpedoed the state’s cases against Colon and Clay applies with equal force to the case against” Villa, the motion says. “There is no narrative that places Villa in the crime without Colon and Clay. Nonetheless, [the state’s attorney’s office] has refused to dismiss the case against Villa, undoubtedly because the office has a conflict of interest and seeks to shield ... Varga’s and Adduci’s misconduct from exposure.”

The motion will be heard by Judge Erica Reddick, the presiding judge at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, who presided over Colon and Clay’s cases.

In November, Reddick ordered a sweeping “dump” of a trove of police records related to Operation Snake Doctor, a joint federal-Chicago Police Department investigation targeting the Spanish Cobras after Lewis’ murder, which led to hundreds of arrests and in-custody interviews.

A hearing on the motion is set for Friday. The motion also calls for an investigation into possible “criminal and ethical” violations by prosecutors in the case.

Colon was found guilty at trial in 2017 and sentenced to 80 years in prison for acting as a lookout in the shooting, only to have his conviction overturned by an appeals court that ruled he made his confession — which he recanted — after he had repeatedly asked detectives for a lawyer.

Clay was arrested in 2012 and was awaiting trial when the charges were dropped in June. An appeals court ruled that Clay also had asked detectives for a lawyer before he confessed, with the court ruling he lacked the mental capacity to understand his right to remain silent or to have a lawyer.

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