CHICAGO (CN) – An innocent man spent 10 years in prison after a drug-dealing Chicago cop planted cocaine on him, while the City turned a blind eye to its police officers’ rogue behavior, Refugio Ruiz-Cortez claims in Federal Court. The officer who arrested him has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, kidnapping, robbery of 100 kilograms of cocaine and cash, and obstruction of justice, Ruiz says in his complaint.
Ruiz claims that Officer Glenn Lewellen “needed to make a drug arrest” on July 8, 1999, so he planted 10 kilograms of cocaine on him.
Ruiz says he had just come home from work when the Chicago cops arrested him.
According to the complaint: “What plaintiff did not know at the time – and would not know for another decade – was that defendant Officer Lewellen was using his police powers to assist an organized crime enterprise.
“Using his police authority, defendant Officer Lewellen worked with his confidential informant, the head of a major drug enterprise in Chicago. That ‘informant’ was paid more than $700,000 by the City to provide information about his rivals.
“Defendant Officer Lewellen used his office to feed information obtained from local law enforcement to the criminal enterprise regarding ongoing investigations, to divert law enforcement attention away from that enterprise, and to assist in drug trafficking.
“According to the 2010 criminal indictment, defendant Officer Lewellen ‘held himself out as a police officer when obtaining wholesale quantities of cocaine in the Chicago area.'” He has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, kidnapping, robbery of 100 kilograms of cocaine and cash, and obstruction of justice for concealing the activities of the drug operation.
“Defendant Officer Lewellen is also criminally charged with giving false testimony against plaintiff Refugio Ruiz-Cortez.”
Ruiz says he was 29 when Lewellen and Officer Noel Sanchez busted him on false charges of possession of cocaine possession with intent to distribute.
Ruiz claims the officers fabricated police reports and gave false testimony at his trial. At his March 2000 sentencing, Ruiz says he told the court – truthfully – that he was father to a 6-month old child and that he never had cocaine or any other drugs in his home.
Ruiz was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison, though evidence showed that the fingerprints on the bags of drugs did not belong to him, according to his complaint.
After Lewellen was indicted in 2009, Ruiz was freed from prison.
Ruiz’s 14-page complaint points out that the Chicago Police Department has a long history of corruption, from well before and well after his own wrongful arrest and conviction. He adds that despite knowing that there was a problem, the city did nothing to adequately supervise or discipline its officers.
“The 1997 Report of the Commission on Police Integrity warned the City: ‘The overwhelming majority of officers answered that corruption is isolated to small groups of officers bent on making a lot of cash … any way they can. The widespread low level forms of corruption have been replaced by what some officers described as gang style intimidating … using the badge to get what you want on the street,'” according to the complaint.
Ruiz demands damages from the City of Chicago, Lewellen and Sanchez, for conspiracy and malicious prosecution.
His lead counsel is Christopher Smith with Smith Johnson & Antholt.