CHICAGO — The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office keeps a list of police officers who will never be called to testify as witnesses for the prosecution.
The do-not-call list — also known as the “Brady List” or “Giglio List” — is not a publicly available document, but the state’s attorney’s office recently produced a copy as part of a lawsuit that accused the office of violating the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
The majority of the 66 officers on the list have faced criminal charges or accusations of other serious misconduct. With that kind of baggage, prosecutors have determined that those officers’ testimony would hinder a case more than help.
A WGN Investigates review found that the vast majority of those on the list are, in fact, no longer cops. Of the 66 names on the list, only 18 remain certified by the state to be law enforcement officers. Of those, 13 work for the Chicago Police Department. Three of those officers are detectives, according to the CPD.
Though most of those on the list are no longer police officers, it is clear that the list was recently updated. For example, one officer was arrested in Florida late last year and charged with two misdemeanors. Though those charges were dropped in January, he remains on the list. That officer is currently assigned to the CPD’s Alternate Response Section, a typical landing spot for CPD officers who are under investigation for alleged misconduct.
Meanwhile, several CPD officers linked to high-profile incidents of alleged misconduct are absent from the list. Officer Karol Chwiesiuk, who’s charged in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and Officer Robert Bakker, who lied about his links to the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, are not included.
It is not clear what methodology the state’s attorney’s office uses when it adds an officer to the list, which is by no means an exhaustive collection of police officers accused of serious misconduct in Cook County. The state’s attorney’s office declined to answer questions about how the list is maintained and if prosecutors share its contents with police departments. Instead, a representative for the office provided the following statement:
“Similar to other jurisdictions across the Country, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) maintains a list of police officers who have either lost or whose credibility is in question, for disclosure purposes, pursuant to the rules of discovery set forth in Brady v Maryland. We continually work with our law enforcement partners to update the list and are currently exploring the possibility of making the list available to the general public as a continued commitment to transparency.”
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Brady v. Maryland which established that prosecutors must provide exculpatory information to defense attorneys. Giglio v. United States was decided nine years later, expanding that requirement to include information that could be used to impeach a witness’ credibility.
The state’s attorney’s office’s current list was provided to WGN Investigates by criminal defense and civil rights attorney Tom Needham. He obtained the list after he sued the state’s attorney’s office last year for allegedly violating the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
“How can you defend a client without knowing that there’s negative information that would affect [an officer’s] believability?” Needham said. “The concept of having one of these lists is a solid, thoughtful policy for a prosecutor’s office to have. But to claim you have one and then to keep it secret or to update it and not provide an explanation about how it’s maintained, it, to me, seems to be the height of absurdity.”
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg said that prosecutors in Cook County have “never once told me that an officer is on the list.”
“The problem I have with it is that [prosecutors] will try to get someone to plead guilty — not everyone but many — or try and see if they can do the case without the bad officer,” Greenberg added. “They just won’t call the person. They’ll try and do an end run around before they’ll ever tell you anything.”