Alvarez Playing Politics in Case Against Police Commander?
Is the Cook County State’s Attorney intentionally delaying a problematic criminal case against a Chicago Police Commander until after an election?
The question moves to the forefront as the criminal case against Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans stumbles to its trial date this August.
Evans, who was indicted for allegedly putting his pistol in a suspect’s mouth after a foot chase in 2013 on Chicago’s south side, has seen the case go from a slam dunk against him to one that may fall apart at trial, or before.
The reason is that just before the case was set for trial in June, the state’s attorney announced to Judge Diane Cannon that potentially exculpatory evidence had come to light.
The state’s attorney stated that the city’s Inspector General (IG) had been investigating the conduct of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct. This review by the IG of IPRA included potential misconduct by the agency against Evans. After reviewing the evidence, Judge Cannon released it to Evans and his attorney, another sign that the IG investigation may benefit Evans’ defense.
The emergence of potentially exculpatory evidence for Evans was a bombshell in the case. If true, it would be a devastating blow to Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez, whose indictment of Evans initiated a media frenzy, particularly among the anti-police media faction in the city. Now, if the case were to implode before her upcoming re-election bid in March, it could be a heavy blow to her re-election bid as well.
In response, the Evans case seems to limp along, one hearing after another, but with the trial constantly delayed.
One begins to wonder if this isn’t intentional by Alvarez, as if she is delaying the trial—and the troubling evidence that might come from it—until after it can no longer hurt her at the polls.
For the police, the allegations of corruption in the Evans investigation are particularly troubling. If the state’s attorney and IPRA are willing to go after a Chicago Police Commander based on corrupted investigations, they wonder, what would they be willing to do to a blue shirt or a detective?
The falling apart of the Evans case comes in the wake of other scandals in which the police have been the victims of fraudulent allegations of wrongdoing in high-profile murder cases, most notably the Anthony Porter case. In that case, wrongful conviction advocates trumped up false allegations against Chicago Police detectives, accusing them of framing convicted killer and gang enforcer Anthony Porter.
In order to free Porter, activists at Northwestern University obtained a coerced confession from another man, Alstory Simon.
Simon wasted away in prison for 17 years before prosecutors sprang him from jail after the evidence of corruption by Northwestern could no longer be denied.
Other cases are now appearing as equally dubious as the Porter case. This corruption appears to go back decades in Chicago. So the allegations of corruption against IPRA in the Evans case are of particular concern to cops.
If true, how deep is the corruption? How long has it been going on?
In the Evans case in particular, there are many unanswered questions:
Why did the state’s attorney wait all the way until the trial was supposed to start in June before announcing that there was new evidence in the case by the IG?
Why was it the state’s attorney that came forward with the evidence, and not the IG? Shouldn’t the IG have reported it themselves as soon as the case against Evans took shape?
There may be quite a body of evidence in the IG investigation that paints a dark picture of Alvarez’s willingness to charge Evans to begin with. For example, how did the IG find evidence of misconduct in IPRA, but the state’s attorney did not?
After all, it was an investigation by IPRA that initiated the criminal charges against Evans. Why was Alvarez basing her charges on an investigation that now appears to be falling apart?
If Alvarez is going to indict a cop on charges like this, wouldn’t her office have done a thorough review of the investigation to make sure it was sound?
And just what happened at IPRA that is now causing the case against Evans to go south?
What appears to be moving centerstage is the release of key evidence in the case to the media, specifically public radio station WBEZ. A reporter there, Chip Mitchell, somehow obtained a crucial state police DNA report that confirmed the DNA of Ricky Williams—the man Evans allegedly assaulted with his pistol—was on Evans’ pistol.
In a recent WBEZ broadcast, Mitchell admitted that one focus of the city’s IG investigation was the release of information from IPRA to the media.
Such a release, if it came from IPRA, could have a devastating impact on the criminal case against Evans, generating a host of legal problems for the city, including the potential claim that IPRA violated Evans’ due process.
IPRA is strictly forbidden from releasing evidence gathered in their investigations.
But the question remains:
Where and how did Mitchell get the DNA report?
Other questions loom over the subsequent release of the evidence by WBEZ. If IPRA violated Evans’ due process by leaking the report, is WBEZ also in trouble? Such a development would move the WBEZ coverage on the case away from journalism into a kind of media witch-hunt against Evans.
Perhaps these are issues that will be sorted out in other legal venues. As it is, Crooked City has learned that WBEZ reportedly hired high-powered law firm Jenner and Block in connection with Mitchell’s stories on Evans.
And then what about this DNA report itself? Is it the smoking gun WBEZ, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets say it is?
Evans’ attorney, Laura Morask, has repeatedly dismissed the state police DNA report, saying it is not proof that Evans stuck his gun in Williams’ mouth. It only proves what is called “multiple modes” of transmission, signifying only that the two men somehow came into contact, which is something that has never been denied. Evans was, after all, chasing an allegedly armed suspect—exactly what a cop should be doing.
If true—if the DNA on Evans’ gun does not conclusively prove that Evans stuck it in Williams’ mouth— it would be another devastating blow to the criminal charges against Evans and to the media coverage in general, which ran with the claims against Evans with an aggressiveness bordering on hysteria.
Like so many claims of police misconduct, the claims seem suspect when one considers the facts of the investigation against the accused officer. This is also true for Evans. Evans took a long drive to headquarters where he presented his weapon to investigators, who took a swab from it.
If he had stuck the gun in Williams’ mouth, wouldn’t he have had the sense to wipe it clean before going into headquarters?
Now that the IG has released potential evidence of corruption at IPRA, in particular potential corruption in the Evans case, WBEZ and other news agencies appear unwilling to look much deeper into the case.
And what about the other entities within the city that deal with allegations of corruption against the Chicago Police? What will they do if the case against Evans appears crooked? It will be interesting to see how the Chicago Police board—the civilian board that recommends the firing of officers in response to investigations against them— reacts to the Evans case. Will they start to look more skeptically at IPRA investigations? Will they call for further investigation?
Consider, for example, that the board has recently taken Lori Lightfoot on. Lightfoot was the former leader of IPRA, then called Office of Professional Standards. Will she speak out against corruption in the agency she once ran if it turns out to be true?
It will also be interesting to see how the Corporation Counsel, the city attorneys who represent police officers in civil trials, reacts to the Evans case and the other wrongful conviction scandals in which Chicago Police have been falsely accused. Will the Corporation Counsel become more aggressive in defending cops?
As it is now, Evans, who has enjoyed great support among politicians and members of the community where he has served, lives in a netherworld, waiting for his case to unfold.
It would be a terrible thing to delay dropping charges against a cop who has been through what Evans has in this case, a terrible playing of politics with a person’s career and reputation.
It also would add to a growing body of anti-police bias operating in Chicago’s media, including WBEZ. The radio station, for example, has consistently refused to cover other bombshell developments in cases based upon accusations of police misconduct, including the Anthony Porter exoneration.
More and more, it looks as if Commander Evans has joined a large community of Chicago cops who are the victim of the same bias, leaving them in a kind of legal limbo, a familiar place for any police officer in the Crooked City.