Home Local Cook County prosecutors accused of ‘misconduct … well beyond the tipping point’ in new motion related to 2011 slaying of off-duty CPD officer

Cook County prosecutors accused of ‘misconduct … well beyond the tipping point’ in new motion related to 2011 slaying of off-duty CPD officer

by staff

Cook County prosecutors used personal email addresses in communications with the Chicago Police Department to deliberately try to withhold evidence in the long-running case of an off-duty officer slain in 2011, attorneys for one of the accused allege in a motion this week.

CPD Officer Clifton Lewis was shot and killed by two masked men in December that year while working a second job as security at a West Side convenience store. Cook County prosecutors charged Tyrone Clay, Alexander Villa and Edgardo Colon in the slaying, but the case has been plagued with allegations of misconduct on the part of police and prosecutors.

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Attorneys for Colon on Monday filed the motion asking Cook County Judge Erica Reddick to levy sanctions against Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys Nancy Adduci and Andrew Varga, arguing that they purposefully used non-Cook County email addresses to avoid handing over evidence that could help the attorneys prove their clients didn’t kill Lewis. Emails from public officials are subject to disclosure under public records laws.

Asked for comment on the allegations, a spokesperson for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office declined, saying the office does not comment on pending cases. During a hearing Monday, prosecutors asked the judge for more time to review some of the documents cited in the motion for sanctions before they file a written response in a few weeks.

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The allegation is the latest in a messy case that raises concerns about civil rights violations of the defendants, who have waited years for the case to come to a resolution. Defense attorneys have argued in recent weeks and months that they are struggling to obtain documents from police and prosecutors. Reddick last month ordered police to go to the “outer limits” in searching and returning materials related to the case.

From the bench Monday, the normally implacable Reddick repeatedly expressed frustration with the slow pace at which documents were being turned over, and the situation as a whole.

“This is an abysmal failure on the part of (prosecutors) when it comes to acting within the bounds of what is required to prosecute these matters. It is of grievous concern to the court,” she said.

In the motion, attorneys say Varga in August of 2012 sent two CPD detectives an email using a private email address that referenced an analysis of cell tower data. He copied Adduci on her personal address. But defense attorneys argue in the motion that the 2012 cell tower analysis was not produced to the defense until earlier this year.

The analysis shows that Colon’s phone was 3 miles from the shooting and that the alleged accomplices’ phones were not together on the day Lewis was killed, the motion argued. Prosecutors, though, have previously said it is “disingenuous at best” to say that analysis proves anyone’s innocence, since a new examination performed this year indicates that the 2012 analysis stated the wrong times for Colon’s phone.

“The prosecutors’ misconduct has extended well beyond the tipping point, and this court should dismiss the pending charge against Mr. Colon,” the motion argued. “The unlawful machinations of (Cook County prosecutors and Chicago police) have already cost Mr. Colon over 10 years of incarceration and a ‘stacked deck’ trial in which his counsel had no idea of the mountain of exculpatory evidence which had been hidden or destroyed.”

The motion said the judge has the authority to end the case if there has been a denial of due process, but it asked the judge to “at a bare minimum” disqualify Adduci and Varga from the case, order them to turn over their phones and computers for a forensic examination and produce documents on the cell tower analysis.

During Monday’s hearing updating Reddick on the document turnover process, city attorney Christine Hake said police had not found any examples of a certain kind of document related to the investigation — and in response, Colon’s attorney showed them a copy of one such document. Hake said she did not know where it had come from.

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An attorney for the Police Department also revealed that documents related to one unit are only maintained for five years, indicating that they might not be available anymore since the cases have dragged on for so long.

Reddick all but threatened to hold the city in contempt of court if all the documents were not turned over by Jan. 6: “Failing to comply with (the) order will come with the concerns that happen when people fail to obey orders,” she said.

Meanwhile, attorneys said they were working on an effort at the federal level to obtain certain documents. Federal prosecutors earlier this month objected to the release of some materials, saying they were covered by a rule guarding the secrecy of documents related to federal grand jury investigations.

Clay’s lead defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Marijane Placek, accused city attorneys of hiding “behind the federal protection thinking this would all go away” and dodging the deadlines Reddick set.

“This is going to engender another (court) date,” she said. “We can keep looking for dates and dates and dates, (but) my client is in custody.”

Reddick reserved a mid-January court date to argue on Clay’s long-standing request to be released from custody pending trial.

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Colon is awaiting a new trial after his conviction was thrown out by an Illinois appellate court, which said his constitutional rights were violated when police continued questioning him after he indicated he wanted a lawyer. Clay has been awaiting trial for more than a decade while attorneys have argued over whether his videotaped statements should be shown to a jury. His attorneys have said he couldn’t waive his Miranda rights due to “limited intelligence and verbal comprehension.” A Cook County judge and an appellate court agreed that the statements should be thrown out.

Villa was convicted in 2019 but has not been sentenced and has a pending motion for a new trial.

mabuckley@chicagotribune.com

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com

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