Twins (Pedro Flores) to testify @ Federal trial of former Chicago narcotics officer
Opening statements in alleged corrupt cop case
Federal trial of former Chicago narcotics officer and 5 others on multiple charges related to drug trafficking hinges on former informant's testimony
November 15, 2011|By Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune reporter
Saul Rodriguez had deep connections to Chicago's drug world when he signed on as a paid informant for Glenn Lewellen, a Chicago police narcotics officer, in the mid-1990s.
But prosecutors alleged Tuesday that it was the cop who ended up working for the drug trafficker, joining a crew that for more than a decade pulled off kidnappings, robberies and murder, netting millions of dollars in cash and drugs, mostly from rival dealers.
In opening statements at the federal trial of Lewellen and five others, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Tracy told jurors that among the more than 30 victims targeted by the crew were a 68-year-old grandmother and a family.
"They stole for money. They beat for money. They kidnapped for money," Tracy said. "And some of them even murdered for it."
The government's star witness is Rodriguez, who pocketed about $800,000 while a paid informant for Chicago police between 1996 and 2001, at a time he alleges Lewellen had instructed him to continue to deal narcotics — all the better to find rivals to target for robberies.
In his opening statement, Lewellen's attorney blasted the government's reliance on such an untrustworthy witness and alleged that while incarcerated at a federal prison downtown, Rodriguez, 36, had used a smuggled cellphone to make some 1,000 calls.
Matthew Madden, Lewellen's attorney, contended that the forbidden cellphone illustrated the power and reach Rodriguez had and suggested that he could have convinced others to go along with his story of Lewellen's involvement.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Correctional Center could not confirm the allegation and said it would be investigated.
Prosecutors contended that Lewellen, 55, a Chicago cop from 1986 to 2002, at times used his police powers to protect the crew, once derailing a federal investigation of Rodriguez by claiming he was a critical informant and falsely testifying in court to protect Rodriguez.
"He served as the crew's guardian angel," Tracy said.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to three counts, including racketeering and murder in aid of racketeering, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
But Madden warned jurors that he was a sophisticated and manipulative drug trafficker.
The charges against Lewellen are the "product of self-serving lies" told by Rodriguez, Madden alleged.
Rodriguez and other members of the crew were nabbed in 2009 in a sting set up by federal agents. Rodriguez thought he was about to steal $16 million in cocaine from a Mexican cartel but was instead snared by authorities, prosecutors said.
Victims are expected to testify about torture that members sometimes inflicted on victims.
In opening statements, Tracy spoke of a victim whose ears were burned off before he was strangled and stuffed in the trunk of a car.
But Madden countered by pointing out the lengths to which Rodriguez allegedly went to punish targets, mentioning how he allegedly once had a drug courier kidnapped after a trunk of drugs turned up missing. She was tied to a chair and then sexually assaulted, he said.
According to prosecutors, one of the kidnapping victims was a high-ranking drug trafficker who had direct links to a Mexican cartel.
"kidnapping victims was a "high-ranking drug trafficker who had direct links to a Mexican cartel"
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