Prosecutors avoid misconduct questions by dropping charges in killing of Chicago police officer

Jun 21, 2023, 10:44 AM

CHICAGO (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped charges against two of three men accused of killing an off-duty Chicago police officer, including a man who spent nearly 12 years in jail awaiting trial as authorities challenged allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct.

Tyrone Clay faced nearly 80 counts and Edgardo Colon almost 20 counts in the shooting death of Officer Clifton Lewis during the robbery of a convenience store where Lewis was working as a security guard in December 2011.

Colon was convicted in 2017 but the verdict was overturned in 2020 after he argued that police obtained a confession even though he’d asked for an attorney during an interrogation that lasted some 50 hours.

Clay has spent almost a dozen years in jail awaiting trial while prosecutors appealed a judge’s ruling that he, too, had repeatedly asked for an attorney before giving an incriminating statement.

Prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday just ahead of a hearing where detectives and prosecutors would have had to testify about how they handled the case, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin DeBoni told a judge that the state couldn’t meet its burden of proof.

Clay could be released from jail as soon as Wednesday. Colon has been free on bond pending a new trial.

The third defendant, Alexander Villa, has been awaiting sentencing since his conviction in 2019. He, too, has sought a new trial. His attorney uncovered evidence he claims prosecutors failed to turn over, including cellphone records that indicate the three men weren’t at the scene of Lewis’ death.

Colon’s lawyer, Paul Vickrey, had asked the judge to sanction prosecutors for withholding the information. That motion was rendered moot when the charges were dropped.

“There was a shocking amount of hidden and destroyed evidence in this case,” Vickrey said in a statement. “While we are gratified for Edgardo, our hearts go out to the family of Clifton Lewis. A rush to charge and convict was the worst way to honor the short life of a dedicated officer.”

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