COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A Cook County judge on Monday acquitted Chicago Police Cmdr. Glenn Evans on charges he stuck a gun down a suspect's throat.
Evans, 53, was charged last year with official misconduct and aggravated battery after Rickey Williams, then 22, filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review Authority alleging Evans shoved a gun down Williams' throat, held a Taser to his groin and threatened to kill him during a January 2013 altercation. Williams' DNA was found on Evans' gun.
After a three-day bench trial, Cook County Judge Diane Cannon on Monday found Evans not guilty on all charges. She noted multiple inconsistencies in Williams' testimony, saying "he gave a different version of events" to police, prosecutors, her and IPRA.
"His testimony taxes the gullibility of the credulous," Cannon said.
Williams couldn't identify Evans in a photo lineup, the judge said, and described Evans' silver-and-black gun as black. Williams changed his description of the attack several times during the trial, and Cannon pointed out that Williams is seeking $5 million in a pending civil suit at a time when the nation is focused on cases of alleged police misconduct.
Though prosecutors last week called the DNA evidence on Evans' gun "a smoking freaking canon," the judge on Monday characterized it as "of fleeting relevance or significance" to the case and said the DNA could have come from incidental contact between Evans and Williams.
According to court testimony, Williams resisted arrest when Evans followed him into an abandoned house on Jan. 30, 2013. Evans had his gun drawn when he entered the home, and later struggled to handcuff Williams. Cannon said there was "enough lawful contact" with Williams for Williams' DNA to end up on Evans' gun.
After court Monday, Evans' defense attorney Laura Morask said, "This was not a case of police brutality. This was a case of a guy doing his job, and you know we need commanders like that."
State experts last week said they couldn't determine whether the DNA came from Williams' saliva or skin. Prosecutors argued that saliva was the only possible explanation because no one testified that Williams touched Evans' gun, and Williams definitely would've been charged with a felony if he did.
"How do you ignore DNA evidence?" Stephan Blandin, William's attorney in his civil suit, asked after court. "I supposed these days we have presidential candidates that are ignoring science, so why shouldn't the judge?"
Williams declined to speak with press Monday, but Blandin said his client was "shocked with the judge's decision."
"Judge Cannon went out of her way to put the victim on trial in this case," Blandin said. Williams plans to proceed with the $5 million civil suit, the attorney said, and "is concerned about future retribution."
Evans declined to speak with press Monday morning.
In an emailed statement, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said: "This case underscores the reality that it is extremely difficult to convince judges or juries in Cook County and around the country to convict police officers of misconduct in the line of duty, despite the fact that this victim made an immediate outcry and we had DNA evidence to support our case.
"Regardless of today’s ruling, I stand strongly behind the decision to charge Commander Evans with these crimes. And as I have proven by my actions throughout the course of my administration, the State’s Attorney’s Office will never hesitate to bring criminal charges against police officers when they are supported by the facts, the evidence and the law."
Alvarez has come under fire recently for waiting 13 months to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke with murder after he fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014. Activists have called for Alvarez's resignation, claiming she only filed charges because damning dashcam footage of the shooting was released.
Throughout the trial, Morask hinged her defense of the commander on IPRA's investigation into Evans. She called the embattled oversight agency, which handles reports of police misconduct, "inept, corrupt and comically laughable," and said "it cannot be ignored that IPRA was the sole investigating agency" on this case.
The head of the agency, Scott Ando, resigned early last week amid allegations of a coverup in the Laquan McDonald case.
IPRA's investigation into Evans is ongoing, according to court testimony. The agency has interviewed neither Evans nor any of the officers on the scene during the alleged January 2013 incident. IPRA also ignored requests to submit Evans' DNA to state labs, and one recently fired employee admitted she wrote a report for Evans' case 15 months after she conducted an unrecorded interview.
"I'm sure IPRA will probably wait another 10 years before attempting to interview" Evans, Morask quipped after court Monday.
She said her client was "extremely happy" with Cannon's ruling. Morask added that Evans is eligible to retire from the Chicago Police Department, but she isn't sure what her client's next step will be.
"It's time to get back to work to solving the 13 shootings that happened over the weekend," Morask said. "Those are the things we should be focusing on instead of all these Monday morning quarterbacks."
The trial comes at a time when the Chicago Police Department is under intense national scrutiny amid allegations of cover-ups and police misconduct.
Nearly three weeks ago, city officials released the dashcam footage of McDonald being shot. The release of the footage sparked protests across the city, which led, in part, to the forced resignation of Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
Last week, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch 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, 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.
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