By Jean Lotus
A Forest Park man has sued the River Forest police for allegedly altering a police report and manipulating a lineup during its investigation of a July 2010 armed robbery for which he spent 894 days in jail before being found not guilty.
In a suit brought Dec. 11 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Micah Jefferson, 24, alleges a River Forest Police officer and two detectives changed the third page of a police report. The suit names the Village of River Forest, the River Forest Police Deptartment, Officer Michael Swierczynski, Sgt. Detective Marty Grill and Detective Seth Deyoung as defendants. The suit requests more than $50,000.
According to the first incident report, around 2 a.m. on July 22, 2010, a 19-year-old River Forest man told police he drank 10 beers at a party and was walking home. The man said he was robbed at gunpoint on the 800 block of Bonnie Brae by a man he initially told police he could not identify.
The victim told police he saw an unknown vehicle drop off a male in the area of Thomas and Bonnie Brae. He said he continued to walk and saw the man urinating on a bush in the area. He told police he walked past the man and a few moments later was approached from behind by the man who pulled out a black handgun and demanded all his possessions. He told police the man took his blue LG Xenon cellphone, and a black wallet containing his driver's license, a debit card and $27.
According to the first report, the victim repeatedly "changed his description of the offender and vehicle." When Forest Park police stopped two men in a tan Oldsmobile and brought them to the victim to identify, he said he could not identify the car or the men. No evidence or weapons were recovered from the Oldsmobile. In the first incident report, the victim told police he ran away and didn't look back at the offender.
A second, truncated report was submitted to the assistant state's attorney's office, the suit alleges. According to the suit, two River Forest detectives spoke with the victim later that night and rewrote the third page, "maliciously" and "with intent to defraud." The revised report omits the victim's admission that he was drinking alcohol, omits the failure to identify the men in the Oldsmobile or the vehicle and does not say he said he couldn't identify the offender.
The suit also alleges that the day following the robbery police showed the victim a photo array lineup of five people with different hairstyles than Jefferson, and with Jefferson's photo larger than the others and in the first position.
The first, unaltered report surfaced at the trial, according to Jefferson's lawyer, Patrick Campinelli.
"The original report was evidently tendered by the [River Forest] records division," Campinelli said. He said the assistant state's attorney made a note of the discrepancy at Jefferson's trial.
"[The detectives] did not file a supplemental report, they changed the initial report, which had been signed by a supervisor," Campinelli said. Jefferson was represented by a public defender for his criminal trial, Campinelli said.
A Cook County judge in January, found Jefferson not guilty of armed robbery after he spent more than two years in jail. Jefferson could not afford pay his bail, Campinelli said.
Campinelli said Jefferson was taken into custody by River Forest police a week after the incident on July 30, 2010 when he appeared in court for an unrelated charge of disorderly conduct after "a dispute with police," Campinelli said. Jefferson lived in River Forest at the time.
Jefferson was charged with a separate armed robbery in River Forest for which he was convicted, Campinelli said.
River Forest Deputy Police Chief James O'Shea forwarded all inquiries to Village Administrator Eric Palm.
Palm said in an email, "The complaint has been forwarded to the Village's insurance carrier who will assign it to an attorney for representation. The Village has no further comment."
Jefferson now lives in Forest Park, Campinelli said.
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