Admitted crooks lied about ex-cop's role in robbery, kidnapping ring: lawyer

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Officer Glenn Lewellen at federal court at the Dirksen building in Chicago. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Former Chicago Police Officer Glenn Lewellen has lived a nightmare since he was arrested in 2010 for allegedly participating in a crew that robbed, kidnapped and murdered people, his attorney told jurors Thursday.

Admitted crew leader Saul Rodriguez and two of his henchmen have falsely implicated Lewellen, said his lawyer, Andrea Gambino, during a closing argument in federal court.

“He did not rob anyone,” Gambino said of her client. “He did not kidnap anyone.”

Rodriguez and co-defendants Fares Umar and David Venegas were motivated to fabricate Lewellen’s role in the ring because they knew federal authorities would jump at the chance to prosecute a dirty cop, Gambino said.

They negotiated sweet deals with the government in exchange for telling lies about Lewellen on the witness stand, Gambino said.

Rodriguez could have received the death penalty for three murders he admitted he orchestrated, but he now faces 30 to 40 years in prison. Lewellen isn’t accused in any killings.

Umar, an admitted kidnapper, faces a four-year federal prison term. Venegas received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

Gambino said there are no photos, telephone records, video or audio recordings, fingerprints, DNA, weapons or victim testimony linking Lewellen to any of the crimes the crew committed between 1999 and 2008.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, continued to deceive the government even after he began cooperating with agents, Gambino noted.

On the witness stand, Rodriguez admitted his wife illegally smuggled a cell phone into the downtown federal lockup in 2009, allowing him to make more than 1,000 unmonitored calls. But he didn’t tell federal authorities about the phone until recently.

Rodriguez has also admitted that he lied previously to authorities.

“How can you believe a simple, solitary thing that that man said?” Gambino told jurors.

Lewellen, a Chicago Police officer from 1986 through 2002, recruited Rodriguez as an informant after arresting him on drug charges in 1996. Gambino said Lewellen was an honest cop, using Rodriguez’s tips to seize tons of drugs and prosecute dozens of people.

But prosecutors said they were partners in crime, doing robberies and kidnappings of drug dealers together.

Lewellen, 54, also served as the crew’s “guardian angel,” helping scuttle investigations into Rodriguez and others, prosecutors said. For instance, the government said Lewellen asked his now-deceased partner to fix a gun case for Rodriguez.

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