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Free all victims of Chicago police torture

By Joe Iosbaker |
May 12, 2017
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Sara Ortiz, mother of William Negron, reads statement outside Cook County Court
Sara Ortiz, mother of William Negron, reads a statement outside Cook County Courthouse on April 10. Her son and Robert Almodovar were wrongfully convicted of a 1994 double murder. After years of pressure from the families and the movement against police crimes, the state’s attorney has dropped the charges against the two men. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Chicago, IL - The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression led the families of 17 wrongfully-convicted men to meet with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in February. In the meeting, Foxx committed to investigate each of the cases and where there is proof of innocence, she said she would release them.

Frank Chapman, Field Organizer of the Alliance, demanded much more of Fox: He called for the immediate release of all victims of police torture. "These men should not spend another day in prison,” he declared. "Every one of the more than 100 men who have stated they falsely confessed under torture by known torturers should be released, at least on recognizance bonds while the SA decides whether to continue cases against them."

"But even this is just a first step," Chapman declared. "In addition, these known torturers and their prosecutorial aiders and abettors should be indicted and prosecuted for their ongoing conspiracy to violate the civil rights of their victims.”

Chapman pointed out that the statute of limitations on the crime of torture cannot start to run out, “until the victims of the crimes are free and fully compensated for the loss of decades of their lives behind bars."

Free Jaime Hauad

Earlier in February, a group of mothers of some of the wrongfully convicted men held a press conference at Cook County Jail to demand Foxx keep her campaign promise to investigate the cases of the wrongfully convicted, starting with Jaime Hauad. On Feb. 6, the Chicago Sun Times had editorialized that Hauad deserved to have his case reviewed by Foxx, and cited the Illinois Torture Commission, which said in 2014 that there was strong evidence that Hauad had been tortured.

Hauad was 17 years old in 1997 when he was arrested, tortured, charged and sentenced to life in prison for a double murder he didn’t commit. The Area 5 Gang Crimes Unit of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) who tortured him and concocted the evidence was headed by Detective Reynaldo Guevara, who is now known for having framed 51 men and women for murder. Guevara’s partner, Detective Joseph Miedzianowski, is serving a life sentence for running a criminal gang within the CPD, and was accused of abusing suspects and fixing cases.

Hauad is one of the victims of torture at the hands of Chicago cops that are still imprisoned, and he is one of 29 men still in prison having been framed by Guevara. Hauad’s mother, Anabelle Perez, a member of the Chicago Alliance, demanded that her son’s case be investigated, that he be set free, and his torturers be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

As a result of the earth-shaking struggles against police crimes in the past several years, Hauad and his family could finally get some justice.

Chicago: Epicenter of the crisis of police crimes

Foxx was elected in 2016 in a protest vote against her predecessor, Anita Alvarez. A wave of anger swept Alvarez from office after she was exposed for her role in the cover up of the police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014. McDonald was executed in cold blood by Officer Jason Van Dyke. The world has seen the video of Van Dyke shooting McDonald, who had been carrying only a three-inch knife, and was walking away when the killer cop shot him 16 times from a distance of 20 feet or more. The outcry over McDonald’s murder created a crisis of legitimacy for Mayor Rahm Emanuel that continues to this day.

Chicago had already been known as the wrongful conviction capital and the torture capital of the country. This deserved reputation came after the revelations in the 1990s of the more than 200 victims of torture, almost all young Black and Latino men, at the hands of a gang of cops headed by Detective Jon Burge. Now another gang in blue is being exposed, headed by Guevara, which targeted mainly Puerto Rican, Mexican and Black youth in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Release of the Marquette Park Four

The statements by candidate Foxx have so far produced action in one well-known case, when she refused to retry the Marquette Park Four - Lashawn Ezell, Larod Styles, Charles Johnson and Troshawn McCoy. These men spent 22 years in prison, but were proven to have been wrongfully convicted while Anita Alvarez was in office. Alvarez refused to drop the charges against them and release them.

The innocence of the four men having been accepted by the states’ attorney, their case now becomes a powerful condemnation of the CPD. As Ted Pearson of the Chicago Alliance put it, “Their release is a victory in the struggle for justice for victims of the crimes of Chicago police officers, corrupt prosecutors, and judges who turn a blind eye toward police crimes.”

Struggle for justice for victims continues

In March, the Chicago Alliance announced the launch of an effort to demand Foxx use her office to release all torture victims. Chapman explained that the Alliance is supporting the actions she is taking. “This is the first time in 26 years that a state’s attorney broke with the Fraternal Order of the Police, broke with the mayor, on the question of torture.”

During the meeting with Foxx in February, Chapman stated, “As long as you’re moving in the right direction, we’ll move with you. If you move in the wrong direction, we’ll move against you.”

In her election campaign, Foxx had criticized her predecessor for failure to do more with the branch of her office called the Convictions Integrity Unit. The Alliance believes that Foxx is compelled to address the gaping sore of the torture victims because, as she said repeatedly during her campaign, her goal is to address the “widespread public distrust in our broken criminal justice system.”

Foxx drops case against Robert Almodovar and William Negron

On April 10, two of Guevara’s cases came before a judge to decide if they should be tried again. Robert Almodovar and William Negron were 19 and 17 years old when they were falsely accused of a double murder in 1994. They have been in prison for 22 years.

In 2015, a review of the case was undertaken by the City of Chicago. Mayor Emanuel was compelled to launch an independent investigation of Guevara’s victims. That investigation led to an appellate court ruling that the prosecutors’ evidence was “arguably quite tenuous.”

In Judge James Linn’s court, Assistant State’s Attorney Celeste Stack actually argued against a new trial, attempting to refute the mounting evidence showing Guevara’s crimes. The Chicago Alliance blitzed Foxx’s office with phone calls in response, and two days later, Foxx made a statement that, given the evidence presented in court on April 10, her office will not retry Almodovar and Negron.

Continued fight for community control of the police

For the Alliance, the release of the Marquette Park Four, and the State’s Attorney refusing to re-try Guevara’s victims is also an opportunity for educating about CPAC, the legislation for an elected, Civilian Police Accountability Council. According to activists like Bertha Escamilla, whose son Nick was tortured by Burge’s detectives and spent 15 years in prison, “Had CPAC existed, those men wrongfully convicted based on tortured confessions would never have been imprisoned.” This is because CPAC would have the power to investigate all complaints of police crimes.

Chapman, too, returned to the demand for community control of the police. "The passage of CPAC will be a great strike for freedom," Chapman stated. "It will end the current situation in which CPD officers can stop and frisk, arrest, and even murder people just because they are Black, Puerto Rican or Chicano/Mexicano, because it will put the power to fire these officers and refer them for prosecution into the hands of the people."

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