Man freed in Reynaldo Guevara murder case

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - Cook County prosecutors on Friday officially dropped the charges against two men convicted of murder based on suspect detective work by Chicago Police officer Reynaldo Guevara.

The move by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx comes after more than two years of litigation, seeking to overturn the convictions of Roberto Almodovar and William Negron for a 1994 double-murder, a decision by the newly elected top prosecutor that “stunned” Judge James Linn.

Almodovar, who has served 23 years of a life sentence, is expected to walk out of the Cook County Jail later Friday afternoon.

Negron, who also has a pending life sentence in an unrelated murder, will remain behind bars.

Waiting outside the courtroom, Almodovar’s daughter, who was just six months old when he was arrested, said she looked forward to spending Easter with her father outside the walls of prison.

“I finally get to have a dad,” she said. “I get to spend Father’s Day with him, Easter, birthdays.”

“I have never seen anything like this,” Linn said from the bench Friday morning, his courtroom packed with supporters of the two men.

Lawyers for the two men on Monday had sparred with Assistant State’s Attorney Celeste Stack, arguing that the Almodovar and Negron had been convicted based on witness statements that had been tainted by Guevara, a veteran detective who has been accused of railroading suspects in dozens of cases from the late 1980s to the 1990s. Stack had argued that a key witness in Almodovar and Negron’s case had recanted only after being intimidated by a gang leader.

Linn said he received a call Tuesday from one of Foxx’s top deputies, announcing the prosecutions intention to drop their opposition to a new trial for Almodovar and Negron the day after the office had argued that their convictions should be upheld. The judge Friday said he was “dismayed” the State’s Attorney decision meant he would not decide the case, but gave no indication how he might have ruled.

“This is the most contentious, hard-fought litigation I have ever seen,” Linn said, citing days of hearings and testimony about the decades old case. “The lawyers aggressively went eyeball to eyeball with ever witness in the case.”

Foxx’s office on Wednesday issued a brief statement.

“After a thorough and deliberate review of the evidence and arguments presented to the circuit court, the State’s Attorney’s Office has concluded that the evidence presented could change the result of this case on retrial,” Foxx’s office said in a statement.

“In light of this decision, we have determined that proceeding with this case is no longer in the best interests of justice and we are withdrawing our opposition to petitioners’ request for a new trial. Based on the totality of the evidence currently available, the office has concluded that it is insufficient to support a retrial of this case.”

Guevara’s name has surfaced in dozens of bids for new trials by defendants who claimed that the veteran investigator bullied witnesses or elicited false confessions.

Guevara, who retired in 2014 after more than 30 years with the police department, recently refused to testify about his work in several cases, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

The city of Chicago spent nearly $2 million to have former U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar review some 70 cases handled by Guevara, and last year received a report that a “handful” of convictions— including Almodovar’s— were likely bogus.

Foxx earlier this year announced that her office would review an undisclosed number of Guevara cases.

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