Brothers bid for new trial links detective to Chicago’s ‘most corrupt cop’

Two gang members were charged with a 1997 murder in revenge by a former Chicago police officer, whom federal prosecutors called the “most corrupt” cop ever prosecuted at the downtown federal courthouse, according to testimony at a hearing that could lead to a new trial for brothers Juan and Rosendo Hernandez.

In the spring of 1997, Chicago police officer Joseph Miedzianowski believed Juan Hernandez had stolen marijuana from a dealer who worked for Miedzianowski, said Fred Rock, who was a key witness against Miedzianowski two decades ago when the former gang unit detective was on trial for using of his insignia to lead a drug gang from Miami to Chicago.

Rock, who helped Miedzianowski rob rival dealers and sell their drugs, said Miedzianowski introduced a colleague, Homicide Detective Reynaldo Guevara, who would help him “get” Juan Hernandez, known as “Poochie.”

“He wanted [the drugs] otherwise he would get Poochie in trouble,” said Rock, who testified via videoconference Monday from his home on the Caribbean island of Domenica, where he has lived since serving his sentence for his role in Miedzianowski’s network.

“He wanted to get Poochie at all costs.”

Rock said Miedzianowski and Guevara, in vague terms, discussed their intent to “get Poochie” several times in the months before Rock learned the Hernandezes had been charged with murder. Discussions never got into details, but Rock said he was aware that Miedzianowski had framed rivals. The Hernandez’s lawyers have said Rosendo Hernandez got caught up in the frame job and claimed Miedzianowski had bragged about targeting his rivals’ relatives.

Miedzianowski is serving a life sentence for running a drug trade and protection racket in the 1990s.

The Hernandez brothers hope to win a new trial for the 1997 murder of Jorge Gonzalez in Belmont Cragin. Since Guevara quit the CPD in 2005, more than 20 men have overturned their convictions on charges of misconduct against Guevara.

Guevara, who has never faced criminal charges, has refused to answer questions about his old cases under oath since a 2017 hearing in which Judge James Obbish ruled the detective told “bare lies” on the witness stand and pleaded guilty to two men who were convicted in a 2000 murder case.

Assistant state attorney Carol Rogala argued Monday that the abuse allegations in the Hernandezes case do not fit the pattern of physical assault against suspects and threats against witnesses alleged in other cases. And while an eyewitness — Gonzalez’s best friend Daniel Violante — has retracted his testimony that the Hernandezes have been identified as the gunmen at both brothers’ trials, Rogala said others stand by their statements.

“This case is not the Hernandez brothers against Reynaldo Guevara. There were other detectives who worked on this case,” Rogala said. “What [their lawyers] what they rely on is that this court is tempted by the other cases in which they have been able to get help. … In this case we have eyewitnesses.”

The brothers have denied involvement in the murder since they turned themselves in to police shortly after the shooting. The hearing before Judge Joanne Rosado is expected to last until Wednesday. The Hernandez’ lawyers have also argued that Guevara put false information in police reports to discredit the brothers’ alibis.

Violante testified Monday that he was with Gonzalez the night of the shooting and had a gun pressed to his stomach by one of the gunmen.

Sometimes Violante choked and said he ran away before the shots were fired. Violante said he identified the Hernandezes because he knew the brothers were already the prime suspects.

“I just added two and two together. If their family says they pointed it out to them, he must have done it,” Violante said. “That’s what I thought to myself then.”

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