Kim Foxx should stop defending disgraced cop and start investigating him

Photo by Yingxu Jane Hao

Supporters rally outside Cook County Criminal Courthouse before an evidentiary hearing on April 10, 2017, for two imprisoned men who allege that they were framed by former Chicago police detective Reynaldo Guevara. The retired officer is tied to numerous overturned murder convictions.

It was clear what game retired Detective Reynaldo Guevara was playing on the witness stand this week: the “I don’t recall” game. What’s not clear is the game being played by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Whatever Foxx’s game is, as she continues to pursue cases that hinge on the disgraced detective’s testimony, Guevara’s game is progressively limiting her chances of succeeding.

For years Guevara has been taking the Fifth Amendment when questioned under oath about old cases.  But prosecutors denied him that strategy when they granted him immunity, apparently with no understanding about what information would be forthcoming in return. Guevara responded to prosecutors’ questions at this week’s hearing on one of those old cases by repeatedly saying he did not recall.

The hearing was on a motion to suppress the confessions of Arturo Reyes and Gabriel Solache, who say their confessions to a 1998 double murder resulted from extended beatings by Guevara.

The two are among scores of people, including a retired detective, who allege that Guevara coerced confessions and manipulated witnesses.  Five murder convictions based on Guevara’s investigations have been overturned, and a dozen more post-conviction petitions have been filed or are in the works.

Like her predecessor Anita Alvarez, however, Foxx continues to defend Guevara’s investigations.

The convictions of Reyes and Solache depend solely on their confessions, since – as is the case in virtually all Guevara’s contested convictions – no physical evidence links them to the crime.  Guevara’s testimony is necessary if the state wants to argue that the confessions were voluntary, said Karen Daniel of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.

But after years of refusing to answer to avoid self-incrimination, Guevara now claims to recall nothing.

“The case rests on [Guevara’s] credibility, and he’s clearly not credible,” said Daniel.

Guevara will return to the witness stand on October 30, and it’s doubtful his memory will have improved by then.  Prosecutors could choose to rely on his testimony in the original trial, which they said this week they regard as truthful.

I’ve followed the case of Reyes and Solache for years, and everything I’ve learned – from the circumstances of their arrest and interrogation to discrepancies between their forced confessions and the facts at the crime scene – points strongly to their innocence. They remain in prison while Foxx continues to back the work of a disgraced detective whose investigations have been undermined, one after another.

Foxx’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Guevara’s cases.

Now another shoe is about to drop.  Media outlet Buzzfeed reports that at a hearing last week, the attorney for another alleged Guevara victim said her client is prepared to testify about an extortion scheme run by Guevara and notorious former officer Joseph Miedzianowski, who’s now serving a life sentence for drug racketeering.

Attorney Jennifer Bonjean said Jose Maysonet will testify that he paid Guevara and Miedzianowski $1,000 a week to protect his drug business, and that he was arrested and charged with a double murder by Guevara weeks after he stopped his payments.

Maysonet’s murder conviction was reversed last year when it turned out his defense attorney at trial was a friend and attorney for Guevara.  Foxx’s office is now retrying Maysonet on the 1990 charges, for which he’s already spent 27 years in prison.

It’s not the first time Guevara’s name has been linked to Miedzianowski, and it’s not the first time people have levelled charges of corruption against Guevara.  Years ago, an FBI report surfaced in which an informant said Guevara would fix murder cases for a price.  Since then, similar stories have been told in court testimony.

There’s no indication any law enforcement agency has ever looked into those charges.  Perhaps it’s time to stop defending Guevara and start investigating him.

Bonjean points out that Foxx ran for state’s attorney promising to “restore fairness and credibility to the criminal justice system.”  She could start here – but not unless she reverses course.