A former prosecutor now running for Cook County Circuit judge is accused in a pending federal civil lawsuit of working with disgraced former detective Reynaldo Guevara to frame a man for a double murder.
The suit by Jose Maysonet, who spent 27 years in prison before his murder convictions were overturned, names as defendants Guevara, several other officers and former Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Frank DiFranco, who is running unopposed in the March Republican primary for a 12th subcircuit seat.
The suit alleges that DiFranco knowingly solicited a coerced statement from Maysonet, confessing to participating in the murder of two brothers after over 20 hours of interrogation at a police station during which Guevera had beaten him. The lawsuit also contends DiFranco lied at trial about the circumstances of Maysonet’s confession.
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DiFranco strongly denied the accusations in an email to Injustice Watch. He argued that “overwhelming evidence of Maysonet’s guilt still exists,” adding, “Maysonet was found guilty of Murder because he is guilty of murder,..I have never and would never fabricate a statement of a defendant or anyone else for that matter.”
Maysonet was arrested in August 1990 and charged with the murders of Kevin and Torrence Wiley, who were shot to death in the street in May of that year.
Guevara, who retired from the department in 2005, had long been a detective handling gang crimes on Chicago’s west side. Guevara has been accused by dozens of men of framing them, taking bribes, and manipulating evidence and witnesses. The lawsuit notes the accusations, and states, “There are dozens of identified cases in which Guevara has engaged in serious investigative misconduct, including many cases in which he has manipulated and coerced suspects and witnesses and fabricated and concealed evidence, as he did in this case.”
Maysonet, by his own admission in the lawsuit, was a member of the Latin Kings who sold drugs. He said in the lawsuit that he paid Guevara $1000 a week in protection money for about a year. That all changed, Maysonet said, after a friend of Maysonet’s committed suicide after he had been falsely accused of attempted murder by Guevara.
That soured their relationship, Maysonet contends in the lawsuit. He stopped making payments, and in late August 1990, after Maysonet appeared in a courtroom on another case, he was taken into custody, brought to the police district station at Grand and Central, and questioned by Guevara and other detectives about the unsolved murders of the Wiley brothers.
During 20 hours of custody, the lawsuit states, Guevara periodically beat Maysonet with a flashlight and telephone book. At one point Maysonet’s pregnant girlfriend was brought to the station, where she told Maysonet that she was afraid officers would “arrest her and take her kids from her” if he did not cooperate.
DiFranco was a young assistant state’s attorney on his first day working on his own in the felony review unit, which is responsible for taking statements of suspects in custody and approving felony charges. He says he found no signs of abuse. In a deposition last year, he said that he never had a suspect claim mistreatment by police during his time in felony review.
After the interrogation, DiFranco took a confession from Maysonet, in English, in which Maysonet states that he had supplied the gun and driven the getaway car used in the shootings.
But Maysonet claims in the lawsuit that he was not fluent enough at the time to give the statement in English.
DiFranco, who had left the prosecutor’s office by the time of trial, testified that Maysonet had freely given the confession in English, a claim he has repeated in court proceedings and in an email to Injustice Watch. He also testified that he and the officers accompanied Maysonet to the crime scene, where the suspect acted out the crime scene.
“When I interviewed Maysonet he spoke English fluently and gave his court reported statement in English,” DiFranco wrote in the email.
But Maysonet’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said she is confident that Maysonet could not have given his statement in English, saying that he speaks limited English to this day.
“They had been using an interpreter during the entire time of his interrogation but now all of a sudden his statement’s in English?” Bonjean said.
Maysonet was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. But in 2011, Bonjean filed a motion contending, among other issues, that Maysonet had been denied a fair trial both because of the evidence of Guevara’s misconduct and because his trial attorney, Richard Beuke, had a conflict of interest because he was also defending Guevara in a child support case.
The petition was dismissed and headed for appeal when the State’s Attorney’s office agreed in October 2016 that the dismissal was unwarranted and asked that the case be sent back for trial.
The following year, after the officers involved in the case all said they would invoke their right against self-incrimination and would not testify at retrial, the prosecutors agreed to drop the charges.
Maysonet was released from prison on November 15, 2017, after 27 years behind bars.
Maysonet’s civil case is currently in the discovery phase, and both Maysonet and the defendants have demanded a jury trial.
“There were no eyewitnesses to the murders, no plausible motive, and no physical evidence connecting Plaintiff to the crime,” the lawsuit states. He was convicted, the lawsuit contends, because the defendants concealed and falsified evidence, manipulated witnesses and physically coerced Maysonet.
Bonjean says that DiFranco’s alleged role in Maysonet’s case should give voters pause.
“I have real issues with his credibility,” she said, adding that the suit “clearly doesn’t reflect well on someone who’s looking to hold the office [of judge].”