June 19, 2024

Attorneys at the law firm behind dozens of multimillion-dollar payouts in Chicago police misconduct cases have a message for the city’s next mayor: Put us out of business.

At a press conference outside City Hall on Tuesday, lawyers from the Loevy & Loevy law firm announced eight new lawsuits filed this week against the city by men who allege they were framed by former CPD Det. Reynaldo Guevara, whose alleged misconduct during the 1990s working out of CPD’s Area 5 station has led to the exoneration of 39 defendants.

The city has also paid out $76 million in settlements, judgments and legal fees in cases linked to Guevara, which includes $23 million for outside lawyers. The city almost always fights the litigation for years before settling— and two Guevara cases that went to trial ended with the wrongfully convicted plaintiffs each winning more than $20 million, said attorney Russell Ainsworth.

With an April 4 run-off election between Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson certain to bring a new administration to City Hall, the city could try a new approach, Ainsworth said.

“Instead of fighting [lawsuits], compensate the people and move on. Use those funds you’re spending on lawyers and do something else,” Ainsworth told reporters as he stood alongside his clients. “The lawyers who are standing here, put us out of business. … We would rather be doing anything else than having to clean up the mess that the CPD created.”

The city Inspector General last year issued a report that the city spent $250 million on judgments and settlements in police misconduct cases between 2017 and 2019, a figure that did not include the cost of outside lawyers or paying fees for plaintiffs’ lawyers, as is often required when the city loses or settles a case.

Guevara’s cases are more difficult to defend than many misconduct cases. As a lead investigator and interrogator, his work often led to confessions that judges in multiple cases have ruled were coerced. Since retiring from the force, Guevara has refused to answer questions about his alleged abuses under oath, save for a 2017 hearing where, despite a grant of immunity from prosecutors, he gave evasive answers that a judge ruled were “bald-faced lies.”

The judge ruled that Guevara could not be a credible witness in any further proceedings, and an appeals court ruling called Guevara a “malignant blight on the Chicago Police Department and the judicial system.” Guevara is never the only CPD officer named in lawsuits, Ainsworth said, and the number of supervisors and fellow detectives named in so many cases makes it impossible for the city to escape liability for the systemic problems that led to wrongful convictions.

Daniel Rodriguez, a Loevy client who served out his full 13-year sentence for the 1991 slaying of Jose Hernandez Jr., filed a lawsuit against the city in November after prosecutors last year agreed to vacate his conviction and a judge granted him a certificate of innocence. Prison and life as a convict have been difficult.

“Every time they fight and say that I am guilty or prolong this it’s like reliving it every day, and for some of us it’s devastating,” Rodriguez said.