CHICAGO (CN) – A man whose conviction was vacated after he spent 19 years in prison on charges of kidnapping two drug dealers in Missouri says he was framed by an FBI agent and a police officer. Gary Engel claims in Federal Court that FBI Agent Robert Buchan and Buffalo Grove police Officer Robert Quid withheld and fabricated evidence and paid a witness to testify against him after he refused to falsely implicate his friend, who also was prosecuted.
Engel claims that law enforcement tried to pin an earlier murder on his friend, former police officer Steve Manning, and after failing to come up with evidence, prosecuted Manning for the murder of James Pellegrino, and the double kidnapping.
Engel, Pellegrino’s former brother-in-law, claims that the Buchan and Quid asked him to testify against Manning, and after he refused, charged him with the Missouri kidnappings as well.
Engel says he was then “prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to 90 years of imprisonment,” after Buchan and Quid “fabricated evidence, manipulated witnesses and withheld exculpatory evidence” at his trial.
The kidnappings were not immediately reported to authorities, and had occurred on an unknown date 5 years before the investigation of Pellegrino’s murder, Engel claims. He says he had never even been to Missouri.
Manning also was convicted of the kidnappings, and of the murder of Pellegrino, for which he was sentenced to death. Manning’s conviction was based on testimony of a jailhouse snitch who admitted under oath that investigators had “fed him critical details about the Pellegrino murder in order to bolster [his] testimony against Mr. Manning,” according to Engel’s complaint.
In 1998 and 2002, Manning’s convictions were overturned; both Illinois and Missouri chose not to retry him, Engel says. Manning eventually won a judgment against Buchan and his FBI partner for more than $6 million, but it was barred when a federal court denied Manning’s claims against the United States, according to the complaint.
Engel says that in February this year, after 19 years in prison, the Missouri Supreme Court vacated his conviction too, finding that the “key witness against [him] had received monetary payments in exchange for his testimony.” The state has since declined to retry him, Engel adds.
Engel demands damages from Buchan, Quid and the Village of Buffalo Grove for violations of his constitutional right to a fair trial, emotional distress and RICO violations.
His lead counsel is Arthur Loevy with Loevy & Loevy.