CHICAGO (CN) - A man spent 3 years in jail awaiting trial for a murder he didn't commit, and Chicago cops offered witnesses money to falsely identify him as the killer, the man claims in court.
Anthony Kuri sued Chicago, six police detectives and three police officers, in Federal Court.
Kuri "spent more than three years in the Cook County Jail for a murder he did not commit, a crime that another man has since confessed to having committed," he says in the complaint.
In the early morning on July 24, 2009, "a male Hispanic rode up on a bicycle and fired 5-6 shots at a minivan double-parked in the street" in the 4600 block of North Central Avenue in Chicago, Kuri says in the complaint.
It continues: "The driver of the car, Gaurav Patel, was fatally injured. Tony Fernandez, who was seated on the passenger side of the van in the middle row of seats, sustained serious injuries. A third passenger, Zae Russell, who was seated in the third row of seats behind the driver, escaped unharmed.
"The man on the bike who shot and killed Patel was David Gomez. Gomez has since confessed to the murder, stating that he was alone at the time."
The first officers at the scene arrested Russell and accused him of the shooting, but released him eight hours later, according to the complaint. Then, Kuri says, police made up a reason to go after him.
"On August 2, 2009 defendants reviewed POD [Police Observation Device] footage of an altercation that occurred previously between the victims, Patel, Fernandez and Russell, and plaintiff and David Gomez," the complaint states. "Although this POD footage did not show any footage of the July 24 shooting, defendants seized upon it and used the footage to develop a theory of the case that included both Gomez as the shooter and plaintiff as an accomplice.
"To further this theory, defendants falsely indicated in a handwritten police report taken while Russell was held at the station on July 24, that Russell had supposedly witnessed two male Hispanics in white T-shirts involved in the shooting. This was false. ...
"On August 2, 2009 defendants showed Russell a photo spread that included plaintiff, and told Russell that they 'knew' that plaintiff was involved in the shooting. Defendants further explained to Russell that if he picked plaintiff from the photo spread as having been riding on the back of the shooter's bike at the time of the shooting, Russell would be able to help his friend Fernandez because the defendants could give Fernandez money for being the victim of a crime. In this way, the defendants improperly secured that Russell would pick out plaintiff from the photo spread, which he did."
Kuri says he was arrested in September 2009 based on Russell's false photo identification and statement.
"Plaintiff spent three and a half years in maximum security divisions in the Cook County Jail where he contested the charges at every step," the complaint states. "Within the three and a half years, forensic testing was performed on the bike that was left behind by the shooter on July 24. Plaintiff's fingerprints were not found on the handlebars, and his DNA was not found anywhere on the bike.
"Moreover, the bike left at the scene of the shooting did not have pegs on the back for carrying an additional rider, a fact which contradicted the false statements defendants had procured from the aforementioned witnesses.
"With the knowledge that he was facing serious prison time if convicted of the charges, plaintiff experienced daily hardship and stress, and additional damages associated with having to live in the harsh maximum security divisions at the Cook County Jail," the complaint states.
At Kuri's trial in March 2012, "Russell testified that when defendants visited him with photo arrays, he did not make an actual identification because, '[t]he police officer already told me who they were.' Russell further testified that when he was shown the photo arrays defendants 'said that they knew who it was' and that 'they said they just needed me to say that these is them.'
"Russell then testified that defendants told him, 'if I was to say that it was them [Gomez and plaintiff] then they was going to give Tony Fernandez money for being a victim of a crime. So they told me to really just help Tony out.'
"Fernandez corroborated Russell's testimony when he stated on the witness stand that the only reason that he picked out both plaintiff and Gomez from the defendants' photo arrays as being involved in the shooting is because his friend, Russell, told him to. Fernandez testified truthfully that there was only one shooter that he saw 'a little bit.'
"After all of the evidence was presented, plaintiff was found not guilty of all of the charges against him, in a manner indicative of his innocence.
"Gomez has since confessed to the shooting on July 24, 2009, and has stated, truthfully, that he acted alone." (Brackets in complaint.)
Kuri seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, false arrest, conspiracy, failure to intervene, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.
He is represented by Julie Thompson with Loevy & Loevy.
Defendants include Detectives Szwedo, Valkner, Folino, McDermott, Kolman, and Cordaro, and Officers Figueroa-Mitchell, Lopez, and Sanchez, who are identified by their star numbers, but not their first names.
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