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Detective Guevara takes the Fifth

The Sun-Times reports that former detective Reynaldo Guervara repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment in a hearing on a motion to overturn the murder convictions of two men.

A plaintiffs’ attorney told reporters Guevara has tainted several local cases — in terms of quantity, making disgraced police commander Jon Burge “look like small potatoes.”

There’s lots more to the Guevara story.

In June 2009, Newstips reported on a unique “patterns and practices” claim made in by lawyers representing Gabriel Solache, who was sentenced to life in prison following a 2000 murder conviction based on Guevara’s investigation.

While such claims — charging the Chicago Police Department with failing to rein in  police misconduct — are generally based on departmental patterns, this one was based solely on charges of misconduct against a single detective: Reynaldo Guevara.

Solache’s motion included trial testimony and depositions alleging 40 instances of misconduct by Guevara alone, including violence, threats of criminal charges, and threats to parents that their children would be taken by DCFS.  Solache’s case went to trial last month.

That post also cited an FBI report in which an informant charged that Guevara took money to fix murder cases.  Details here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mexico-U.S. caravan calls for end to War on Drugs

Calling for an end to the war on drugs, a transnational caravan of Mexican and U.S. human rights activists is highlighting failed policies they say are behind horrific violence in Mexico and Chicago’s status as the “deadliest global city.”

Led by poet Javier Sicilia, the Caravan for Peace arrives in Chicago Sunday night and will hold a series of community events including a march for peace from Little Village to Lawndale on Monday evening (more below).

The goal is to give voice to the victims of the drug war – which has resulted in 60,000 murders in Mexico since 2006 and mass incarceration of minorities in the U.S. — and to draw connections between U.S. and Mexican policies around drug enforcement, immigration, and weapons smuggling that foster violence and insecurity in Mexico and in Chicago communities, said Cristina Garcia of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, which is coordinating the host committee here.

A leading literary figure in Mexico, Sicilia launched a movement to challenge the heavily militarized drug policies of President Felipe Calderon last year after his 24-year-old son was murdered by drug traffickers.  He led a march from Cuernavaca to Mexico City that was joined by 100,000 people demanding an end to the war.

Chicago is one of 20 U.S. cities being visited by the caravan, which started in August in San Diego and will arrive in Washington DC on September 12.

Noting that Latin American leaders and communities in the U.S. have begun questioning the wisdom of drug prohibition, organizers call for a new approach to drug policy “based on citizen security and public health” and a broad discussion of options for regulating and controlling drugs.

They call for the U.S. to take steps to stop the flow of weapons in Mexico, including reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.  Researchers have linked its expiration to the upsurge in killings in Mexico.

They want financial institutions held accountable for preventing money laundering; an immediate suspension of U.S. aid to Mexico’s military and a shift in U.S. foreign aid from military assistance to human security and development; and reform of immigration policies that have criminalized migrants, militarized the border, and increased the involvement of criminal organizations in human trafficking.

Schedule

Salicia and two busloads of activists including many survivors of violence will be greeted Sunday, September 2, with a mass at St. Pius Church, 1919 S. Ashland, at 6 p.m.

Events on Monday include a community dialogue from 1 to 4 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th, and a march at 5 p.m., starting from the Little Village Arch at 26th and Pulaski and ending with a vigil at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 W. Washington.

On Tuesday there’s a press conference at City Hall at 10 a.m., followed by events at the Lutheran School of Theology, Roosevelt University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the Albany Park Autonomous Center (full schedule here).

Police accountability — and politics

The First District of the Illinois Court of Appeals is set to rule in a police accountability case which has had some twists that can only be called bizarre – and, according to Jamie Kalven in Huffington Post, raise the question of whether the court has been influenced by political pressure.

In December, the appeals court issued a strong ruling granting an FOIA request by Kilroy Watkins, who’s serving a 55-year sentence for murder and armed robbery.  Watkins had requested the civilian complaint files for two Chicago detectives who were working under Commander Jon Burge when they arrested Watkins in 1992 and, as he’s maintained since then, coerced a confession out of him.

The City of Chicago has maintained that complaint records are personnel matters that are exempt from public disclosure requirements.  As Kalven explains, the appeals court relied on a 2009 state court ruling that established that civilian allegations of official wrongdoing are public business, and police departments can’t just hide them from the public by placing them in personnel files.

But a week after the ruling was issued it was withdrawn on grounds Kalven calls “hyper-technical,” having to do (as best I can figure) with whether Watkins cited an oral ruling or a written decision.

Political pressure?

“Did the First District yield to political pressure?” Kalven asks. “The question must be asked, though it cannot be definitively answered, for the city has consistently sought in every possible way to resist the emerging judicial consensus that [civilian complaint files] are public information.”

Watkins petitioned the state supreme court, which laid aside the appeals court’s procedural objection and directed the court to decide the case on its merits.  That decision is expected shortly.

The “logical outcome” is for the appeals court to reinstate its original ruling, Kalven says.  If it doesn’t, he suggests, it will raise serious questions about its judicial independence.

Kalven himself has been pursuing civilian complaint files for five years.  In 2007, Judge Joan Lefkow granted his request for the release of complaint files for five Chicago officers charged with abuse in a federal civil rights case which the city had recently settled.  Two years later a federal appeals court overturned her decision, ruling that Kalven lacked standing – but suggesting that he could file a FOIA request under state law.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago’s ‘feedback loop’ for violence

The Sun Times reports Saturday on Ondelee Perteet at the sentencing hearing for the young man who shot and paralyzed him in 2009. Ondelee shows impressive maturity and generosity of spirit.

At the Chicago Reporter, Kari Lydersen talks at length with the 17-year-old West Side resident and his mother about the personal costs of surviving violence: Ondelee struggles to maintain his positive attitude, and his mother struggles to care for him and pay the bills.

It’s part two the Reporter’s “Too Young To Die” series by Lydersen and photographer Carlos Javier Ortiz, and it’s part of the Local Reporting Initiative, which you can follow at the Community News Project blog.

Classmates of Ondelee interviewed him for a video by the Westside Writers Project, another LRI participant, in 2010.

Last week the first report of the Reporter’s series showed that Chicago’s homicide rate is double that of New York City. At Chicago Magazine’s The 312 blog, Whet Moser has a fascinating piece looking at differences between the two cities that may help account for that.

New York has less than a third the number of gang members that Chicago has, and various experts suggest this could have to do with differences between the two cities in public housing and incarceration policies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Call for special prosecutor in Koschman case

David Koschman’s mother has filed a petition calling for a special prosecutor to investigate her son’s death in a 2004 confrontation with Mayor Daley’s nephew and the possibility of a politically-motivated coverup of the case.

Nanci Koschman will discuss the petition at a press conference at 10 a.m. on Thursday, December 15, at Northwestern School of Law, 375 E. Chicago, 8th floor.  She’ll be joined by Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center and Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association.

The petition calls for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Daley’s nephew Robert Vanecko is criminally responsible for Koschman’s death, whether false reports were filed in the subsequent investigation, and whether police and prosecutors conspired to obstruct justice in order to protect the mayor’s relative.

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez cannot conduct an impartial investivation, the complaint argues, because one of her assistants is a possible witness – and the possible subject of an investigation into official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

In addition, Alvarez closed a second investigation of the case which followed reports in the Chicago Sun Times earlier this year, claiming all witnesses agreed that Koschman was the aggressor in the incident. Several witnesses say that is not what they told authorities, the Sun Times has reported.

Alvarez has denied that political considerations played a role in the handling of the case.

“Petitioners believe that had Vanecko not been a member of the powerful Daley family, he would have been charged with the homicide,” according to the court filing.

An acquital – but not justice – for Tiawanda Moore

Tiawanda Moore’s acquittal Wednesday raises a range of issues:  about the constitutionality of Illinois’ eavesdropping law; about the role of the State’s Attorney and the Chicago Police Department’s internal affairs division in protecting abusive officers; and about media treatment of female victims of sexual crimes, and especially of young African American women.

Read the rest of this entry »

War on Drugs: 40 years of failure?

Cook County president Toni Preckwinkle will speak at a rally Friday to “end the war on drugs” – while the White House steps up efforts to defend its drug policies in the face of growing criticism.

A broad coalition of civil rights, health, policy, faith, community and student groups will hold a Rally to End the War on Drugs on Friday, June 17 at noon at the Thompson Center, Randolph and Dearborn.   It’s the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of the War on Drugs.

Participants cite the racially discriminatory impact of the nation’s drug policies – they’ve been recently tagged “the new Jim Crow”– and the expense and inefficiency of addressing health disorders through the criminal justice system, while support for treatment lags.

Meanwhile the White House released a report showing that Cook County leads the nation in the proportion of individuals testing positive for drugs following their arrest.  Read the rest of this entry »

Grading Daley on community issues

How will Mayor Daley’s record be judged on the issues that impact Chicago’s communities?  One primary source is a report card issued earlier this year by a coalition of community and civil rights groups, and it’s not particularly favorable.

The Developing Government Accountability for the People project rated the city’s record on a range of issues in March, giving an overall grade of D and finding that the city’s performance in several areas had declined since a previous assessment three years earlier.

On criminal justice, DGAP gave the city a D, citing the failure to institute an effective early warning system for abusive cops or to fund alternative crime models like CeaseFire.

On economic development, the city got a D, with the O’Hare expansion serving as “a prime example of the inequity and corruption that plagues economic development in Chicago: money is ill-spent and goes to the people who need it least.”  DGAP called for living wage protections for big box and TIF-backed development, and for stepped up funding for jobs, including TIF funding for summer youth jobs.

On education, DGAP gave the city a D+ and called for a moratorium on school closings and for support for LSCs.  On the environment the city got a B+, with DGAP calling for action on recycling and coal power plant pollution.

On ethics and corruption, the city got a D+, with DGAP calling for enacting Shakman Decree protections, making budget information transparent, limiting campaign contributions, and requiring public hearings and independent evaluations of privatization deals.

The city got an F on housing, with DGAP reporting that the CHA Plan for Transformation has been a disaster for many residents, and the city’s ten-year plan to end homeless has only two years left and “there is still no city investment in creating permanent housing for homeless people.”

On transportation, with CTA service cuts “exacerbating inequities in service provision across the city,” DGAP gave the city a D and called for a congestion tax, full accessibility on public transit, a new formula for RTA funds, and a commitment to the Gold Line and the Red Line extension “to rectify the huge transportation inequity on the southeast side.”

The report showed that “despite all of its efforts to beautify and modernize the city, local government does not adequately and equitably serve all of its communities,” said DGAP coordinator Michaela Purdue in a statement with the report’s release.

“Where residents have expected to be actively engaged in the implementation of equitable policies that benefit all residents in every neighborhood across the entire city, they have instead found themselves in a constant struggle against forces that ultimately exclude their voices from the democratic process,” according to the report.

The Mayor still has several months to get his grades up.



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