Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Three Chicago cops lie about arrests

Officer John Haleas won accolades for making DUI arrests, has been charged with official misconduct, obstruction of justice, and perjury in an April 9 grand jury indictment. Officers Michael Bernichio and Daniel Murphy, partners from the Chicago Lawn District have been charged with official misconduct and other offenses. All three officers face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Officer Haleas was honored three times by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists as the police officer with the most DUI busts in Illinois. But last October, the Cook County state's attorney's office dropped about 50 DUI cases in which Haleas had been the arresting officer and said as many as 500 cases could be in jeopardy.

The charges have been approved against Officer Haleas, who is accused of falsifying information in several DUI arrest, and Officers Michael Bernichio and Daniel Murphy, who were accused of writing up identical drug arrest reports against two men and then picking which one to charge.

Charges against Bernichio and Murphy stem from a July 2004 incident in which they arrested two men, Morris Wynn and Wayne Guy, and accused them of drug possession. The officers prepared two versions of the same arrest report—one with Wynn listed as the offender, and a second with Guy listed as the offender, authorities said.

The officers ended up arresting Wynn and releasing Guy, but they mixed up the reports and charged Wynn under Guy's name. Wynn was convicted and spent 29 months behind bars before the case was overturned.

In a lawsuit, Wynn alleged that the officers arrested the two men on false pretenses, then decided which one to charge with a crime. Last year, the Illinois Appellate Court threw out Wynn's conviction, saying Bernichio's testimony at trial was "incredible and contradicted by his own police reports."

The state's attorney's office and police internal affairs launched an investigation after the ruling.

In the Haleas case, two prosecutors in training who were riding with Haleas on patrol in 2005 raised questions about a DUI arrest he made because of procedures that were not followed. After prosecutors reviewed the arrest report Haleas filed, they asked for an internal affairs investigation.

Haleas is still on the police force but will be relieved of his police powers, said police spokeswoman Monique Bond. He had been on full duty until Tuesday. Bernichio and Murphy have already been stripped of their police powers, she said.