CHICAGO — Two more frame-ups perpetrated by former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara unraveled in court here Dec. 21 when Cook County prosecutors dropped charges against Gabriel Solache and Arturo Reyes in a 1998 double homicide.
Solache, 43, and Reyes, 45, who have been in prison for nearly two decades serving life sentences in the frame-up, have always maintained their innocence. They said Guevara beat them into making false confessions.
County Circuit Court Associate Judge James Obbish threw out their “confessions” Dec. 13. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, which tries to paint itself as a friend of the wrongfully convicted, had fought to uphold the convictions, including giving Guevara immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying again. Calling parts of Guevara’s testimony “bald-faced lies” — including his denial he beat Solache and Reyes into confessing — Obbish threw out their conviction.
Friends and family of Solache and Reyes were on hand at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for the judge’s decision. Esther Hernandez, a leader of the Innocent Demand Justice Committee, and others demonstrated outside before the hearing.
“We’re out here today to support all the people who were framed by Detective Guevara,” Hernandez told the Militant. She is the mother of Juan and Rosendo Hernandez, who were railroaded to prison for murder and attempted murder in 1997. “I have two sons who were framed by Guevara, and there are over 51 other cases of people who he framed, a lot of them still in prison. We want the charges dropped against all these guys.
“We were out here last month to support Jose Maysonet,” she said. “And in the spring to support Jose Montanez and Armando Serrano, all of them were framed by Guevara.
“This is my passion and I won’t stop until I win the release of my sons and all the other men Guevara victimized,” Hernandez said.
But in a blow to the rights of Solache and Reyes, instead of being freed, the two frame-up victims were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and are threatened with deportation.
Fight against frame-ups builds
The ruling throwing out the convictions of Solache and Reyes was one of a number of victories against cop frame-ups won here recently.
On Dec. 11 Kenneth Wadas, supervising judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, threw out the murder conviction of John Velez. Prosecutors recommended the move after the cops’ main witness against Velez recanted her testimony, saying authorities forced her to lie.
Velez — who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit — was in federal prison in California, transferred there after staging a hunger strike to protest abusive conditions at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois.
That same day the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee voted to authorize a $31 million settlement for Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames, Harold Richardson and Terrill Swift, known as the Englewood Four. DNA evidence had cleared them of 1994 rape and murder charges in 2012.
They filed lawsuits accusing a Cook County prosecutor and several Chicago Police detectives of using “deceit, intimidation and threats” to force a confession from them.
This “is nice,” Swift told the press, “but it doesn’t make me whole and it doesn’t give me back what I lost.”
Betsy Farley contributed to this article.