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Chicago Police Deny West Side Facility Used For Illegal Detentions

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Police Department has denied allegations in a British newspaper report that officers sometimes use a West Side facility as the equivalent of a CIA black site, where they illegally detain suspects for questioning, and deny their attorneys access.

In an article published on Tuesday, The Guardian reported the Homan Square facility, 1011 S. Homan Av., is operated as an "off-the-books interrogation compound," where people who have been arrested are questioned and beaten by police, while keeping the arrests out of official booking databases. Chicago attorneys who spoke to The Guardian claimed they have been denied access to the facility after learning their clients were held there, sometimes for 12 to 24 hours

The Police Department has issued a statement denying the allegations.

"CPD abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility. If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them. It also houses CPD's Evidence Recovered Property Section, where the public is able to claim inventoried property," the statement said. "There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square."

Sara Gelsomino, an attorney with the People's Law Office, told WBBM Newsradio police have essentially hidden defendants at Homan Square, and denied them access to counsel, family, or phone calls.


Gelsomino is one of the attorneys for Brian Church, one of the so-called NATO 3, who were arrested in May 2012 after police raided a Bridgeport apartment ahead of the NATO Summit.

Church and two other men were accused of producing Molotov cocktails, and plotting to attack police cars, police stations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home, and President Barack Obama's campaign office. The three were convicted of mob action and possessing incendiary devices , but acquitted of more serious terrorism charges.

Church told The Guardian he was handcuffed to a bench at Homan Square for 17 hours, and questioned without being informed of his Miranda rights to remain silent, and denied access to his attorney.

Gelsomino said police essentially hid Church at Homan Square and illegally interrogated him.

"I had clients held incommunicado for around 17 hours; prevented access to lawyers, specifically prevented from calling while we were looking for them, actively for all of those 17 hours," she said.

Church and attorneys who spoke to The Guardian compared Homan Square to a CIA black site.

Jon Loevy, a civil rights attorney in Chicago, agreed with that assessment.

"If the police are, on at least some occasions, using this facility to short-circuit that process, then that's exactly what it is. It's a black site every bit as much as it would be in a country like Argentina or Vietnam," he said

The department correctly pointed out that reporters have been invited to Homan Square to view displays of confiscated drugs and other contraband, so the building is hardly a secret facility, but Gelsomino rejects that as a serious rebuttal to the allegations about suspects being illegally detained there.

"Sure, hold your marijuana there and talk about it; but to actually hold human beings, you know, there's no media access there. There's no access to anybody there," she said.

The Police Department said the building is considered "sensitive" because it is used to store evidence, and many officers who operate out of the facility are working undercover assignments. Homan Square also houses the department's Bureau of Organized Crime, SWAT Unit, evidence technicians, and the CPD ballistics lab.

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