Man who wrongfully spent 23 years in prison files lawsuit

FOX 32 NEWS - A man who spent more than two decades in prison for a crime he didn't commit is suing the police officers and prosecutors who put him there.

Jose Montanez says the detective who framed him has done it to dozens of other innocent people. He’s hoping his lawsuit will help others in his situation.

“I was always innocent. And I knew that someday I would prove my innocence,” Montanez said.

That day came a year ago, when after 23 years behind bars, Montanez was released from prison in connection with the 1993 murder of a Humbold Park man, Rodrigo Vargas. An appellate court found he had been framed by police officers, including Chicago Detective Reynaldo Guevara. Montanez on Monday filed a lawsuit, seeking to hold Guevara, other officers and even state's attorneys accountable for his wrongful conviction.

“Everybody needs to be aware, that this happens. It's true. Not some made up, this is what happened to me and it's happened to a lot of other people,” Montanez said.

Guevera's now retired, and his attorney did not return our calls. Attorneys for Montanez say Guevera contributed to numerous wrongful convictions in an effort to increase his close-out rate and build his reputation. In this case, they say, others helped.

“It did not happen in a vacuum. Jose Montanez went to prison as the result of a concerted effort of a number of police detectives and assistant state's attorneys,” said attorney Russell Ainsworth.

Ainsworth was asked what makes this case so unique, and he said, unfortunately, it's just not that unique.

“This case is not different. We see this over and over again in case after case,” Ainsworth said.

Montanez says in his case, cops and prosecutors pressured a heroin addict to provide false testimony. His father says the family always knew the truth would come out.

“We never give up, we never lost the hope, we always looking for something,” said Emilio Montanez, father of Jose.

Prosecutors are typically immune from lawsuits like this one, but the plaintiff's attorneys say here they acted as investigators and should be held responsible.

The city and the county declined comment.

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