Officer Ordered to Pay $15k to Gang Member
The Chicago Tribune
June 23, 2009
CHICAGO, IL – After spending more than 11 years in prison accused of
murder, Juan Johnson won the largest award in Chicago history for a wrongful
conviction lawsuit on Friday.
But even though the City of Chicago was ordered to pay him $21 million in
compensatory damages, Johnson said he wasn’t looking for more money from the
police officer he said framed him. All he wanted was an apology.
Johnson didn’t get one on Monday, however, and so Reynaldo Guevara, a
former Chicago police officer who says he’s living paycheck to paycheck, now
owes Johnson $15,000 in punitive damages himself.
“He could have picked a side — protect [himself] or apologize,” said Jon
Loevy, Johnson’s attorney. “If he had expressed remorse, we wouldn’t have
asked for anything.”
In 1989, Johnson, then a member of the Spanish Cobras gang, was arrested by
Guevara and accused of murdering a member of rival gang, the Latin Eagles,
outside a nightclub near North and Western Avenues.
Johnson was convicted and served 11 1/2 years in prison before he was
retried and acquitted in 2004. In that trial, witnesses testified that Guevara
intimidated them into saying Johnson was the murderer.
On Friday and Monday, a jury agreed that Johnson was wrongly arrested and
that Guevara and the city were at fault.
Though Johnson claimed that from the beginning, all he wanted was an
apology, Guevara’s legal team objected, saying an apology could taint any chance
of getting the decision reversed when they appeal.
Guevara’s lawyer, Jim Sotos, said he thinks that witnesses changed their
stories during Johnson’s retrial in 2004 because of gang intimidation.
“We strongly believe there is an orchestrated effort by gang members that
witnesses were told to recant” their testimonies during the retrial, Sotos
Johnson maintains justice was served.
“The evidence is there that he framed me,” he said. “It’s time the city
starts taking responsibility for its actions.”
In one testimony from the retrial, Samuel Perez, another Cobra, testified
that Guevara had intimidated him into identifying Johnson as the killer.
“[Guevara] told me that he knows that the Cobras killed that Eagle. Which
Cobra, he didn’t care, but he preferred that it was this Cobra” and pointed
at a picture of Johnson, Perez said. “I took it as a threat. … I was
going to get hooked up for that murder or Juan Johnson was going to get hooked
up for that murder.”
The case is far from closed, however.
Guevara and the city could file paperwork as soon as this week for an
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