CHICAGO — Taxpayers have shelled out more than $82 million to settle, defend and investigate claims of misconduct involving former Area 5 Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara.
The total includes $53 million in settlements and $29 million to outside attorneys, according to a recent review of city records by WGN Investigates.
Observers say the city may not be done paying.
There are 32 lawsuits pending in federal court, filed by exonerees who have accused Guevara of fixing their murder cases through witness tampering, coerced confessions and more.
In all, more than 40 murder convictions, investigated all or in part by Guevara, have been reversed.
And more claims are winding their way through the courts, meaning the total number will undoubtedly grow, as will the cost to taxpayers.
“If you’re talking about people who collectively spent hundreds of years in prison…this could be a billion dollars (by the time it’s over),” Craig Futterman, a criminal justice expert and University of Chicago law professor, said.
Guevara retired from police department in 2005. Since then, he has kept a low profile, refusing to answer questions in legal proceedings and even moving out of state.
WGN Investigates found him last year living in Texas where he declined our request for an interview.
Aside from the financial cost, the Guevara saga has taken an emotional toll as well/ Not just for the people who allege they were wrongly imprisoned but also families whose loved ones were killed.
Like the Valentin family.
It’s been more than three decades since then 16-year-old Felix Valentin was shot and killed in Humboldt Park.
Guevara was assigned to the case back in 1988, eventually resulting in the arrest of Jacques Rivera.
Rivera never confessed and police found no physical evidence.
The state’s case hinged on eyewitness statements of a 12-year-old boy who later recanted, paving the way for Rivera’s release from prison.
Last year, Rivera told WGN Investigates he still struggled with what happened.
The Valentin family said they’re still struggling as well, knowing they may never learn who killed Felix or see anyone brought to justice.
It’s a painful fact but they say they’re trying to focus on the future.
“It’s sad to say, let it go…but I think it’s best for everyone’s safety,” says Felix’s sister, Vanessa.