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City Set To Pay $20.5 Million To Settle Lawsuit For Two Men Who Say They Were Framed By Former CPD Detective Reynaldo Guevara

CHICAGO (CBS) -- City attorneys are asking the City Council to approve a $20.5 million settlement for two men who spent 23 years in prison, after prosecutors agreed to dismiss all charges against them, amid claims they were framed by a disgraced former Chicago Police detective.

The proposed settlement with Jose Montanez and Armando Serrano is on the agenda for the Finance Committee on Monday.

The two were convicted in the 1993 murder of Rodrigo Vargas, whose body was found in a van parked near a Chicago elementary school, but were later released after the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the convictions, finding "profoundly alarming acts of misconduct" in the Vargas murder probe, and Cook County prosecutors later asked a judge to dismiss the case altogether.

Attorneys from the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago said Montanez and Serrano were framed by former Chicago Police Det. Reynaldo Guevara.

Montanez and Serrano's nightmare began when eight bullets ripped through a van, killing 28-year-old Rodrigo Vargas. Initially, police had no suspect or motive. But that changed after Guevara connected with a jailhouse informant who testified that Montanez and Serrano told him they did the crime.

"His entire account was fabricated based on facts fed to him by Detective Guevara," Russell Ainsworth, an attorney who represents Montanez, told the CBS 2 Investigators in 2016, four months after the pair were released from prison.

The $20.5 million settlement with Serrano and Montanez is not the first multimillion payout Chicago taxpayers are on the hook for due to claims Guevara framed suspects, and it likely won't be the last.

Dozens of other convictions linked to the now-retired Guevara have been thrown out. He's been accused of manufacturing false evidence and framing the innocent.

In 2018, a federal jury awarded $17 million in damages to Jacques Rivera, who spent 21 years in prison for the murder of 16-year-old Felix Valentin before he was exonerated in 2011.

Rivera has accused Guevara of coercing the sole eyewitness -- a 12-year-old boy -- to falsely identify him as the gunman in Valentin's death in 1988. He is one of 18 men whose convictions have been tossed out of court amid allegations that Guevara coerced witnesses, beat suspects, and falsified police reports.

Guevara repeatedly has refused to answer questions about allegations of misconduct in cases that have been overturned, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.


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