Pubdate: Thu, 12 May 2016
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2016 Chicago Tribune Company
Authors: Steve Mills and Todd Lighty
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


Department Investigates Alleged False Testimony That Could Derail Cases

Chicago police have begun an internal investigation into allegations 
that as many as six officers lied in their court testimony and are 
prepared to take at least one of the officers off the street because 
of a judge's determination he had testified falsely in a narcotics case.

The inquiry, confirmed by a police spokesman, comes in response to a 
Tribune investigation that documented more than a dozen examples over 
the past few years in which judges concluded officers gave false or 
questionable testimony in court.

The Cook County state's attorney's office, meantime, has filed what 
it calls a disclosure notice regarding a veteran officer, Jorge 
Martinez, whose testimony in a narcotics case led a judge earlier 
this year to throw out the seizure of a $50,000 brick of cocaine, 
resulting in the release of two suspects. That case was at the center 
of the weekend Tribune report; prosecutors, responding to the 
Tribune's inquiries about the case, filed the notice stating that 
Martinez had been found to have testified falsely.

Prosecutors are reviewing other cases the Tribune highlighted to 
determine if disclosure notices are warranted in those cases as well.

Disclosure notices are provided to criminal defense lawyers to alert 
them to when a potential trial witness has been found to have given 
false or questionable testimony.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, saying the department"takes 
allegations of perjury very seriously ," confirmed that internal 
investigators will review transcripts and conduct interviews to 
determine if any of the six officers testified falsely. The officers 
will remain on the streets, though Guglielmi said that Martinez could 
be stripped of his police powers when the department receives the 
disclosure notice from prosecutors, as officers typically are during 
investigations into whether they lied.

The other officers whose testimony the department will review - all 
named in the Tribune investigation - are James Lynch, Wahbe Askar, 
Steven Carroll, Garland Coleman and George Karuntzos. The 
department's Bureau of Internal Affairs will conduct the review, 
Guglielmi said.

"Internal affairs is looking into all the officers and will be 
conferring with our prosecutorial partners," Guglielmi said.

The Tribune was unable to reach any of the officers Wednesday. The 
department has said none of them plans to talk publicly.

The disclosure notice on Martinez had been sent to the Police 
Department, said Sally Daly, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's 
office. Under a new policy, the office will inform the department and 
other law enforcement agencies when a disclosure notice is filed 
regarding one of their officers.

Previously, the state's attorney had not done so, and as a result, 
there was no guarantee the police agencies learned when officers 
provided testimony a judge concluded was false or questionable.

Martinez was the sole witness at a hearing in November for Miguel 
Rodriguez and Antonio Garcia, who were arrested on drug charges after 
police found a brick of cocaine in the minivan they were riding in. 
Martinez testified that he was on a drug surveillance operation when 
he saw the minivan fail to signal for a right turn; he and other 
officers abandoned that surveillance because of the traffic infraction.

Lawyers for Rodriguez and Garcia questioned Martinez's testimony, 
saying that it defied credibility that the officers - members of a 
special unit - would break off drug surveillance to make a traffic 
stop. Judge William Hooks agreed, sharply assailing Martinez for his 
testimony before throwing out the evidence. That prompted prosecutors 
to dismiss the charges against both.

Hooks even suggested in court that prosecutors should charge Martinez 
with perjury, according to a transcript of the hearing.

What's more, Hooks summoned a supervisor from the state's attorney's 
office to the next court date. When Assistant State's Attorney Brian 
Sexton, the chief of the office's narcotics bureau, appeared before 
Hooks in January, the matter seemingly was being handled.

"At this juncture I am satisfied that management has looked into - is 
looking into the issues that I raised," Hooks said, according to the 
transcript from the brief hearing. "I have confidence in Mr. Sexton 
and his assistant in charge here who I have talked with."

The disclosure notice regarding Martinez, however, was not sent to 
the Police Department until after the Tribune inquired about it late 
last month - nearly four months after Sexton appeared in Hooks' courtroom.

Sexton, according to Daly, notified the state's attorney's Special 
Prosecutions Bureau, which typically handles police corruption cases. 
The bureau is still reviewing the case, Daly said.

Hooks has declined to comment.

The disclosure notice, which states Hooks found Martinez's testimony 
"to be false," could be filed in every case in which Martinez is 
listed as a potential prosecution witness.

The state's attorney's office did not say how many of Martinez's 
cases might now be affected, but Daly said the office is reviewing 
cases in which he was involved and trying to determine his role.

Filing additional disclosure notices on Martinez will "depend upon 
the facts and circumstances of each case," she said.

But already at least one defense lawyer has tried to challenge 
Martinez's credibility in another case. In Hooks' courtroom Monday, 
the prosecutor said Martinez was a potential witness against a drug 
suspect named Gregory Fikes and a disclosure notice would be filed. 
Fikes' lawyer, Jayne Ingles, asked Hooks to lower the bond for Fikes, 
who was facing possession of marijuana with intent to deliver charges.

Ingles said she argued that Martinez had provided sworn information 
to obtain a search warrant in the case that was not truthful.

"There are allegations in that search warrant that my client 
adamantly denies," Ingles said in an interview Wednesday. "I didn't 
have anything to refute those claims with until the finding that the 
officer was not credible in that case."

Hooks, according to Ingles, denied her bond request and told her he 
would judge Martinez's credibility in Fikes' case on its own merits.

"Unfortunately, unless you have definitive proof of those things, 
it's very difficult to prove," Ingles said. "They have search 
warrants, and they know how to write things up, so it's tough to 
defend those cases."
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