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Lessons from the victory in the cases of Robert Almodovar and William Negron

Commentary by Joe Iosbaker |
April 18, 2017
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Chicago protest against police crimes.
Chicago protest against police crimes. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Chicago, IL - For many years the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has campaigned to win freedom for the many victims of torture and other crimes by the Chicago police. This week, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that she was dropping the case against two men, Robert Almodovar and William Negron, who had been framed by the notorious gang of Detective Reynoldo Guevara. Almodovar walked out of prison April 14, and we continue to demand freedom for Negron, who remains jailed on an unrelated case.

There are several lessons to be learned from this victory for our movement. When Almodovar was interviewed outside Cook County Jail, he spoke about all the other innocent men that remain behind bars, including his codefendant, William Negron. In the local media, his words were broadcast over and over.

In this atmosphere, we need to seize the time. The movement needs to continue to spread the word: there are over 100 known torture victims of the Burge gang still in prison; and 28 other known victims of Detective Guevara are still in prison, too. There are probably others that are yet unknown.

News media report that Detective Guevara coerced witnesses in addition to suspects. Guevara and his gang of cops in Humboldt Park had a history of beating young people. The teenagers who identified Almodovar and Negron in the line-ups were also beaten or threatened. Like the men tortured by Burge, the cases of men framed by Guevara involved the use of unchallenged police violence.

Almodovar said that Detective Guevara needs to be prosecuted because he tried to get him the death penalty. This is attempted murder. We agree, and call for prosecution of all the cops in Guevara’s Gang Crimes Unit that engaged in framing the 51 men, and for prosecution of every cop that engaged in torture or the cover-up of torture as well.

Something changed when Kim Foxx intervened in this case. Press reports said that during the proceedings in court, when Foxx dropped the cases against Almodovar and Negron, Judge James Linn said he was "stunned" by the prosecution decision to abandon the case. “I'd never seen anything like this," the longtime judge said before tossing their convictions.

However, the judge was only considering granting new trials. If he had done that, those proceedings would have taken at least two more years. But by dropping the cases, Kim Foxx freed Almodovar immediately. And Negron’s lawyer is now free to focus on challenging the other conviction. Apparently Judge Linn’s authority to conduct a lengthy new trial is worth more to him than the freedom of two innocent victims of police crime. A judge not consumed with racism and his own self-importance would have, instead, expressed shock that Guevara and his co-conspirators have not been indicted.

Kim Foxx is moving to bring some justice in these cases because the movement has been making demands on her and on her predecessors. Her election was based, in the first place, on the anger of the people against continuing cover up of police crimes by the former state’s attorneys.

In light of this victory, we must redouble our efforts. The Alliance calls on the movement against police crimes to join with us and the families of the victims to say: “State’s Attorney Kim Foxx: Free all victims of police torture and frame-ups, now!”

Joe Iosbaker is a member of the Steering Committee of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. He is a rank-and-file trade unionist in SEIU Local 73.

 

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