COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Chicago Police Cmdr. Glenn Evans "clearly crossed the line" when he allegedly stuck a gun in a man's mouth and held a Taser to his groin, a prosecutor said at the opening of Evans' trial Tuesday.
"He broke the law," Assistant State's Attorney Frank Lamas said of Evans, who formerly headed the West Side's Harrison District.
Evans is charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct after a suspect filed a complaint about Evans, claiming Evans also threatened to kill him in January 2013. The trial began Tuesday morning inside the Leighton Criminal Court Building, 2600 S. California Ave., where Evans waived his right to a jury trial. Cook County Judge Diane Cannon will decide his fate.
The trial is set to resume Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Court sources said Cannon wants to have the trial concluded by Wednesday.
Prosecutors claim the commander was on patrol on Jan. 30, 2013, when he thought he saw a man with a gun near a bus stop in the 500 block of East 71st Street. The then 22-year-old man, identified as Rickey Williams, ran into an abandoned house and hid in a closet.
Williams testified Tuesday that ever since he picked up a marijuana conviction in June 2012, police in the area have harassed him.
Williams wasn't sure what Evans would do when the police commander pulled up in a Crown Vic that January afternoon, he said, so "I started running because I was nervous." Williams testified that he ran into a "very dark, pitch black" house, hid in a kitchen closet and lit a Newport cigarette to calm his nerves.
When Evans found Williams, Lamas said, Evans pushed Williams to the ground, stuck a gun in his mouth, held a Taser to the man's groin and "demanded to know where the guns are."
Williams said Evans shoved the gun so far down his throat that it hit his tonsils and he spit out blood afterwards.
"I was gargling trying to get the words out," Williams said. "It hurted bad."
Williams testified Tuesday that he "never had a history of guns" and was only carrying a cellphone that afternoon. Despite searching for 20-30 minutes, police never recovered a gun on the scene, according to court testimony. Williams was arrested and charged with reckless conduct for allegedly having a gun. That charge was later dropped.
After he was released on bond, Williams said, he complained about the incident to the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates reports of police misconduct. A subsequent investigation found Williams' DNA on Evans' gun. DNA specialists are expected to testify Wednesday morning.
Glenn Evans "clearly crossed the line," prosecutor says. "He broke the law." @DNAinfoCHI— Erica Demarest (@ericademarest) December 8, 2015
Evans' defense attorney, Laura Morask, on Tuesday told the court that the investigation of the case was "grossly negligent." She said, "Neither IPRA nor the state was the least bit interested in ruining their script of guilt."
Morask claims Evans was railroaded, despite the lack of evidence proving his guilt.
"There is literally no evidence" that Glenn Evans had a Taser that day or ever during his career as commander, Morask said. And she pointed out that Williams changes his story "like I switch purses and shoes."
During her cross-examination of Williams, which lasted more than two hours, Morask slammed his inconsistent answers and picked apart contradictory statements. Evans, who took notes during Williams' testimony, occasionally smirked, while several of his supporters loudly snickered whenever Williams got confused or backtracked.
During early interviews, Morask pointed out, Williams said Evans held his gun in his left hand as he shoved it down Williams' throat. But after prosecutors told Williams that Evans, who is right-handed, kept his holster on his right hip, Williams changed his testimony, saying that Evans had attacked him with his right hand and that "I got my sides mixed up," according to court testimony.
"The only nightmare is what was done to this man's reputation," defense says, calling Glenn Evans one of best commanders in city— Erica Demarest (@ericademarest) December 8, 2015
Officer Todd Mueller took the stand Tuesday afternoon. When he arrived at the abandoned house on Jan. 30, 2013, Rickey Williams was already in police custody, he testified. Though Mueller hadn't witnessed the events leading to Williams' arrest, Mueller was asked to write a police report, he said, noting that the practice was "not common."
Mueller testified that his interactions with Williams were perfectly cordial, and that Williams never complained of pain or police misconduct, and never asked for medical attention.
During the IPRA investigation, Williams named Mueller as an officer who punched him, threatened to plant drugs and called him a "b----," according to court testimony. Mueller denied the allegations Tuesday.
The trial comes at a time when the Chicago Police Department is under intense national scrutiny amid allegations of cover-ups and police misconduct.
Two weeks ago, city officials released dashcam footage of a Chicago Police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014. The footage sparked protests across the city, which led, in part, to the forced resignation of Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
On Monday, the U.S. Attorney General announced her office was launching a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department, focusing on "accountability mechanisms" and the department's use of force.
That same day, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez released dashcam footage of a Chicago Police officer fatally shooting Ronald Johnson in October 2014, a week before Laquan was killed. Authorities said Johnson was armed with a 9mm gun with an extended clip, but his family rebuffs that claim and plans to sue the police department.
Though media are allowed to attend the trial, Judge Cannon ruled earlier this year that no photographs or video will be permitted because several officers expected to testify work undercover. Limited audio recording was allowed.
Cameras have been allowed at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on a case-by-case basis since a pilot program launched earlier this year.
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