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Geraldo Iglesias

Other Cook County Exonerations with Official Misconduct
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On the afternoon of June 7, 1993, a man yelled a street gang slogan and fired a gun at a car driving in an alley in the 2100 block of North Sawyer Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. A front-seat passenger, 17-year-old Monica Roman, was struck in the head and killed.

Witnesses said that before the shooting, the car containing six people stopped in the alley. One of the occupants, Mercedes Cordero, went inside a residence and brought out her infant niece to show to the passengers. After a few moments, the car began driving northbound, leaving Cordero behind. Two of the occupants—Hugo Rodriguez and David Sanchez—told police they heard someone yell “King love,” and then shots were fired.

The car sped off and stopped at a gas station where police and emergency personal were summoned. Rodriguez told police the gunman was a Hispanic male with a light complexion, 145 pounds, 5 feet 7 inches tall, and about 18 years old. Sanchez said he ducked down and did not see the shooter.

At the scene of the shooting, Rosendo Ochoa told police he saw the shooting from a second-floor window. He said the gunman had a light complexion, was clean-shaven, weighed 135 to 140 pounds, between 5 feet and 5 feet 7 inches tall, and dressed in black.

The shooting was unsolved on June 21 when Chicago police Detective Reynaldo Guevara reported that he received a telephone call from a confidential informant. Guevara then assembled a photographic lineup that included the photo of 24-year-old Geraldo Iglesias.

Iglesias had joined the Imperial Gangsters street gang at age 14, but in the ensuing years had stopped engaging in gang activities. At the time of the shooting, he was working on obtaining his GED and was involved in a YMCA gang intervention program to help dissuade youths from joining gangs.

On June 22, 1993, Ochoa viewed the photographic array and identified Iglesias as the gunman. Iglesias was arrested the following day and Ochoa identified him in a lineup. One day later, on June 24, Rodriguez identified Iglesias as the gunman after viewing him in the photographic lineup and in a live lineup.

Iglesias was charged with first-degree murder. He went to trial in Cook County Circuit Court in December 1994.

Ochoa testified that at the time of the shooting, he was in the second-floor apartment at 2135 North Sawyer Avenue, where he lived with his cousin, Mercedes Cordero and her family. He said that just before the shooting, he saw through a window a person standing beside a tree on the opposite side of Sawyer Avenue. Ochoa said the person, who was alone, made gang signs toward the car in which Roman was riding and then began shooting at it.

Ochoa said that after the shooting, the gunman, whom he identified as Iglesias, pulled a hood over his head and ran away. He was questioned about how his initial description of the gunman conflicted with Iglesias, who was 5 feet 11 inches tall, had a beard and mustache, and a dark complexion.

Ochoa testified that during a meeting with the prosecutor and Iglesias’s attorney nearly a year and a half after the shooting, he “retracted” his prior statement about the shooter's light skin color, insisting that it was “a little bit darker.”

Hugo Rodriguez, who was in the car at the time of the shooting, testified that he heard someone yell “King love”—possibly referring to the Latin Kings street gang—and then shots were fired. Rodriguez testified that although he had ducked down, he could identify Iglesias as the shooter because, after ducking, he looked up. Rodriguez admitted that he did not actually see any shots being fired, and that he looked in the direction of the shots for less than 10 seconds. Part of that time, Rodriguez said, the gunman had his back turned as he fled.

Rodriguez also conceded that he told police at the time of the shooting that the gunman was white. He admitted that in fact Iglesias was not white.

Detective Guevara testified that he received a tip from a confidential informant two weeks after the incident, which led him to insert Iglesias’s photograph in the photographic lineup.

Francisco Vicente testified that he was in the Cook County Jail bullpen, where arrestees are first processed, when Iglesias was there. He said that Iglesias admitted that he had fired the shot that killed Roman.

Vicente admitted he was facing a possible 97 years in prison on four pending felony charges. He said that by testifying for the prosecution against Iglesias as well as in two other murder cases in which he said the defendants had admitted their crimes to him, the prosecution had reduced that term to nine years.

Iglesias testified that he did not remember specifically where he was at the time of the shooting. He told the jury that, typically, on a weekday at that time he would have been in the gang intervention or his GED program until 2:00 or 2:30 p.m., and then would have gone to his home two blocks away to spend time with his wife and son. He said that sometimes he went out later to play basketball.

He denied making a jailhouse confession to Vicente. He said he had not met Vicente before seeing him in the bullpen. Iglesias said he was introduced to Vicente and they chatted briefly while on an elevator transporting prisoners.

The defense presented two character witnesses, Julio Matias and James Fisher. Matias, director of the gang intervention program, said he had known Iglesias since 1990 and that Iglesias had a good reputation for honesty. Fisher, Iglesias’s GED instructor, said Iglesias was a man of integrity.

In rebuttal, the prosecution recalled Guevara, who testified that Iglesias had told the detective that he was out on the street with his friends at 4 p.m. on the day of the shooting.

During cross-examination, Iglesias’s defense attorney, John Deleon was upset because none of Guevara’s reports said anything about Iglesias making such a statement. The trial judge reprimanded Deleon for taking an overly “strident tone” with Guevara and calling his testimony “ridiculous.”

In particular, one of Guevara’s reports said the opposite—that Iglesias had told him that he couldn’t recall his whereabouts on the day of the shooting.

During his closing argument to the jury, Deleon said, “Guevara lied. He is a liar and it as simple as that.”

The prosecution ridiculed Deleon for suggesting that Guevara had orchestrated Vicente’s testimony to convict Iglesias, saying that the case was “real life” and “not a movie.”

On December 19, 1994, the jury convicted Iglesias of first-degree murder. At the sentencing hearing, Iglesias declared, “I would like to say that I apologize and I’m sorry for what happened to the young lady and I send my condolences to the family. But I would like to say I had nothing to do with it and the Lord knows I had nothing to do with it.“

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Maxwell then sentenced Iglesias to 35 years in prison.

In March 1997, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld his conviction.

In 2004, the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University’s School of Journalism, under the direction of professor David Protess, was investigating the murder convictions of Jose Montanez and Armando Serrano. Both had been convicted after Vicente testified in their trial that not long after 28-year-old Rodrigo Vargas was shot to death in February 1993, Montanez and Serrano admitted to him that they killed Vargas.

When the students interviewed Vicente, he said that he had testified falsely against Montanez and Serrano—he had no knowledge of who killed Vargas—and that he had been “coerced” and “beaten” by Detective Guevara and his partner, Ernest Halvorsen. He also recanted his claim that another man who had been convicted of murder, Robert Bouto, had confessed to him.

In 2005, Serrano and Montanez, as well as Iglesias, filed post-conviction petitions to vacate their convictions. That same year, Guevara retired. A year earlier, Juan Johnson had been exonerated of a murder after evidence showed that Guevara had coerced three witnesses into falsely identifying Johnson as the killer.

In September 2010, Iglesias was released on parole after more than 15 years in prison.

In 2012, Jacques Rivera was exonerated of a murder after evidence showed that Guevara had coerced a 13-year-old boy into falsely identifying Rivera as the killer.

Meanwhile, pressure from defense attorneys and activists alleging that Guevara was responsible for numerous false convictions prompted the city of Chicago to ask the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP to conduct an independent investigation of Guevara’s cases.

In March 2015, the Sidley Austin report was completed. It concluded that Montanez, Serrano, Roberto Almodovar, and Bouto were “more likely than not actually innocent.”

The report determined that Vicente had been involved in the prosecutions of all four men, and that Vicente had claimed all four had confessed to him—claims that he had since recanted.

In June 2016, the Illinois Appellate Court vacated the convictions of Serrano and Montanez and ordered a new trial. On July 20, 2016, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges “in the interest of justice,” and Montanez and Serrano were released from prison.

In December 2016, Kimberly Foxx, the newly elected Cook County State’s Attorney, took office after pledging to review other cases involving Guevara.

In June 2017, the convictions of Almodovar and his co-defendant, William Negron, were vacated and dismissed after Foxx said the prosecution no longer had confidence in the convictions.

Meanwhile, Bouto, who had been released from prison on parole in October 2015, continued to fight to overturn his conviction. In January 2017, lawyers for the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School filed a petition seeking to vacate Bouto’s conviction.

In November 2017, Jose Maysonet became the seventh person to be exonerated based on Guevara’s misconduct. Maysonet, who was serving a sentence of life in prison without parole, falsely confessed after a 17-hour interrogation punctuated by beatings and torture by Guevara.

In December 2017, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the murder charges against Gabriel Solache and Arturo DeLeon-Reyes. They were the 8th and 9th persons to be exonerated based on evidence of Guevara’s misconduct. They had been convicted of murder in Chicago in 2000 based on false confessions made after Guevara beat them during more than 40 hours of interrogation.

In January 2018, the Exoneration Project was granted permission to take over Iglesias’s case. That same month, Thomas Sierra became the 10th person exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of murder based on false identifications obtained by Guevara.

In February 2018, Ariel Gomez became the 11th person convicted based on Guevara's misconduct to be exonerated. And in March 2018, Ricardo Rodriguez became the 12th man whose conviction was obtained through Guevara’s misconduct to have his conviction vacated and the charges dismissed.

In March 2018, Exoneration Project lawyers filed an amended post-conviction petition seeking to vacate Iglesias’s conviction. The petition cited Vicente’s recantation in the other murder cases as well as list of more than 50 cases where defendants had alleged Guevara either physically beat them and coerced false confessions or physically abused witnesses to coerce them to falsely identify the defendants.

In April 2018, Cook County prosecutors agreed that Robert Bouto’s conviction should be vacated and on June 25, 2018, Bouto became the 13th person to be exonerated based on Guevara’s misconduct when prosecutors dismissed the charges.

In October 2018, Vicente gave a sworn statement saying that Iglesias never confessed to him. “I falsely testified because Detectives Guevara and Halvorsen physically harmed me, and threatened to continue to beat me if I did not cooperate with them.”

On January 16, 2019, following a review of the case by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, the prosecution asked that Iglesias’s conviction be vacated. The motion was granted and the charge was dismissed. Inglesias was the 14th person to be exonerated bsed on Guevara's misconduct.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/30/2019
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1993
Convicted:1994
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:35 years
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No