CHICAGO (CBS) — After fighting for his freedom for more than two decades, Roberto Almodovar walked out of the Cook County Jail Friday afternoon a free man.
And his daughter, who was only six-months-old when he went to jail, couldn’t wait to hug him — it’s a moment the two say they’ve dreamed of for 23 years.
“I feel like it’s still not real,” Jasmine, now 23, said. “I keep looking at him. I feel like I’m dreaming, but I’m not,”
After being imprisoned for more than 20 years, it was hard for other family members to fathom, as well; but none more, perhaps, than his mother, Angela Navarro.
“Oh my God, Junior, you’re free. You’re free now,” Navarro said upon seeing her son. His dad was just as elated.
Not only was Almodovar reunited with family members he knows, he also met some new additions for the first time, including a nephew.
In 1995, Almodovar and William Negron were convicted of a 1994 double murder. The case against them, however, was based heavily on testimony by a former Chicago police detective, Reynaldo Guevara. The 73-year-old retiree has since come under fire for allegedly framing dozens of defendants during the 1990’s.
His name has surfaced in several bids for new trials by defendants who claimed that the veteran investigator bullied witnesses or elicited false confessions.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced Wednesday that her office would no longer oppose a motion for a new trial for Almodovar and Negron.
“After a thorough and deliberate review of the evidence and arguments presented to the circuit court, the State’s Attorney’s Office has concluded that the evidence presented could change the result of this case on retrial,” Foxx’s office said in a statement.
Guevara, who retired in 2014 after more than 30 years with the police department, recently refused to testify about his work, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Attorneys for both men say Guevara framed their clients and tampered with witnesses in their case.
“It’s never just one bad cop. It’s a system that allows wrongful convictions to happen and then be covered up,” said Jennifer Bonjean, Almodovar’s attorney.
Almodovar answered the question: What got you through these two decades? “My family. They kept me strong. They kept me focused.”
Any message for the people responsible for your conviction? “I’m hoping the new state’s attorney will hopefully bring some charges against them. That’s what I hope. They ruined a lot of people’s lives.”
For families of others who are serving time for crimes they say they didn’t commit, Almodovar tells them to “never give up” and to “keep on fighting.”
Negron, who was also in court on Friday, will remain imprisoned as he’s still serving time for a separate murder charge that also occurred in the 90’s.