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Detective accused of beating suspects returns to witness stand

Former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara

Former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara | Sun-Times file photo

Retired Chicago Police Det. Reynaldo Guevara on Monday returned to the witness stand to testify in the case of two men who say he beat them into making false confessions to a 1998 double-murder.

But the 74-year-old hewed closely to the script from his court appearance two weeks ago, when he invoked the Fifth Amendment or claimed not remember anything about his investigation of the murder of a Bucktown couple and the kidnapping of their children.

Guevara testified only under grant of immunity for his testimony, a rare, if not unprecedented step by Cook County prosecutors. But the silver-haired detective was hardly cooperative under questioning by prosecutors, offering a string of “I don’t remembers” and merely glancing at his old reports or transcripts from previous court hearings when Assistant State’s Attorney James Papa asked him to try to jog his memory.

But at the end of a terse, 25 minutes of testimony, Guevara denied beating suspects Gabriel Solache and Arturo DeLeon-Reyes, who are seeking to overturn their murder convictions.

Pressed to give a yes-or-no answer when asked about the abuse allegations leveled by Solache and DeLeon-Reyes, Guevara answered softly: “No.”

“Mr. Guevara, did you ever hit or put your hands on Gabriel Solache during the time you spoke to Mr. Solache?” Papa asked.

“I don’t remember the case,” Guevara said. “It’s something I would not do.”

“Did you lay hands on Gabriel Solache and punch him in any way?” Papa asked.

“No,” Guevara said.

“With respect to Arturo Reyes, did you ever punch him in the stomach?” Papa asked.

“It’s something I would not have done,” Guevara said, prompting Judge James Obbish asked him to give a yes-or-no answer.

“No,” Guevara said.

Guevara has come under fire in a string of wrongful conviction cases in which defendants sent behind bars in cases made by the veteran detective have claimed he beat them or bullied witnesses into lying.

Guevara for nearly a decade has invoked the Fifth Amendment when called to testify about the allegations – a strategy that protects him from potential lawsuits and criminal prosecution, but one that has allowed defense lawyers to argue that defendants who claim they were framed are telling the truth.

By forcing Guevara to testify, prosecutors have said they are trying to protect a legitimate conviction.

After Guevara left the stand, Assistant State’s Attorney Alan Spellberg asked Obbish to enter into the record Guevara’s sworn testimony from a pair of 2000 hearings where he denied beating both Solache and DeLeon-Reyes.

The judge granted the motion, though DeLeon-Reyes’ attorney said Guevara’s  denials wouldn’t help the state’s case.

“The state itself made the point: he was not cooperative, he was not credible,” said Andrew Vail, DeLeon-Reyes’ lawyer. “(Guevara) walked away from his prior testimony.”

Attorneys will make their case to quash the two men’s confessions on Dec. 13.