Cops accused of lying under oath about arrests
By David Heinzmann | Tribune reporter
11:06 PM CDT, April 15, 2008
Three Chicago police officers have been indicted on multiple charges stemming from cases in which authorities accused them of lying about arrests they made, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The charges have been approved against John Haleas, a Grand-Central District officer accused of falsifying information in drunken driving arrests, 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.
Haleas had previously been honored for making more DUI arrests than any other police officer in the state of Illinois. Cook County prosecutors have dropped 50 DUI cases he brought and began reviewing 500 additional cases last year. The 12-year veteran is charged with four counts of perjury, four counts of official misconduct and two counts of obstruction of justice.
Bernichio and Murphy, partners on a Chicago Lawn District tactical team, were charged 16 months after an Illinois Appellate Court threw out a drug conviction because justices suggested the officers were lying in a case that involved the mixed-up identities of two friends they arrested in 2004.
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Bernichio, who was hired in 1994, is charged with perjury, official misconduct and obstruction of justice. Murphy, hired in 1998, is charged with official misconduct and obstruction of justice.
The partners were stripped of their police powers and have been assigned to desk duty, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. Police had given Haleas a one-day suspension for the allegations against him and he had since returned to normal duty, Bond said. When she learned of the indictment from the Tribune, Bond said the department would move to strip Haleas of his police powers immediately.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the details of the allegations until the officers appear in court, said John Gorman, spokesman for Cook County State’s Atty. Richard Devine.
Haleas has an April 25 court date. Bernichio and Murphy are due in court April 30, Gorman said.
The 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 reportâ€”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.