CHICAGO (CBS) — Robert Bouto spent nearly 23 years in prison for murder after disgraced former Chicago Police Det. Reynaldo Guevara framed him for a fatal shooting in 1993, and now Bouto is hoping the man who put him behind bars ends up there himself.
Bouto, 43, filed a federal lawsuit against Guevara, and seven other officers, accusing them of conspiring to manufacture evidence and deprive him of his constitutional rights. The wrongful conviction lawsuit also names the city of Chicago and Cook County as defendants.READ MORE: Chaos In The Loop Leads To Shooting, Beatings; 21 Young People Arrested
“I want my life back,” Bouto said.
“I was 17 years old. You took me away when I was 17. You took me into a grown man’s institution,” he added. “For 22 ½ years I suffered constant noise, disgusting smells, no privacy, nothing.”
Bouto was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the May 1993 murder of Salvador Ruvalcaba, who was gunned down near Roosevelt High School while walking with several gang members. He was released on parole after serving half his sentence, and was exonerated earlier this year, after the witnesses against him admitted Guevara forced them into falsely identifying Bouto as the killer.
At the time of the shooting, he was in an alley blocks away from the shooting, kissing his girlfriend, according to Bouto and his attorneys.
“He had to spend 23 years of his life, from age 17, in prison, branded falsely a murderer for a crime he had nothing to do with,” attorney Russell Ainsworth said.
According to Bouto’s lawsuit, he did not match the description of the gunman, other than wearing a blue hooded shirt and dark ¾-length shorts.
“Mr. Bouto had no ponytail; at 5’10”, he was significantly taller than the shooter; he did not have on white high-top shoes; his shorts were neither ‘black’ nor ‘baggy’; and he was not ‘clean shaven’—rather, he had a prominent mustache, a ‘soul patch’ above his upper lip, and dark stubble on his chin and neck,” the lawsuit stated.
Bouto’s lawsuit also claims police withheld or destroyed evidence that would have helped clear him, including removing the battery from his pager, erasing its memory, after he offered to retrieve an alibi witness’ phone number from the pager.
“Mr. Bouto also requested a gunshot residue test and a polygraph examination to prove his innocence and prevent the destruction of exculpatory evidence, but Defendants refused, even though those tests were easily available to them, in service of their goal of framing Mr. Bouto,” the lawsuit alleges.
When prosecutors initially declined to charge Bouto, Guevara and other officers allegedly manufactured evidence, including a purported jailhouse confession they claimed Bouto gave while in lockup,
“This was a classic set-up by the now-notorious Chicago Police Detective Defendant Reynaldo Guevara and his cohorts, who specialized in framing young men to close unsolved cases and did so time and time again over the course of two decades working for the Chicago Police Department,” Bouto’s lawsuit states.
Beyond the lawsuit, Bouto and his attorneys called for Guevara and the other detectives who helped frame Bouto to be charged with a crime.READ MORE: 9 Killed, At Least 23 Wounded In Weekend Shootings In Chicago
“The nightmare is almost over. Hopefully, one day Guevara will be brought to justice, and answer for his crimes he committed against all of us that he arrested wrongfully,” Bouto said. “He’s supposed to be in jail right now, and he’s not. He’s living his life on a full pension from the Chicago Department of Police.”
Ainsworth also called for the Chicago Police Department to review every case Guevara and detectives under his command ever handled.
Nearly 20 men who have accused Guevara of framing them have had their convictions overturned, and the city has paid out tens of millions of dollars to settle wrongful conviction lawsuits tied to the former detective.
“We are here to demand an investigation of every victim of Rey Guevara, Ernie Halvorson, and Ed Mingey,” Ainsworth said, referring to two other detectives named as defendants in Bouto’s lawsuit. “Every case should be reinvestigated top to bottom. If those detectives touched a case, those cases should be reinvestigated.”
Bouto said, although he has been exonerated and has received a certificate of innocence that wipes the case from his record, he is still furious about what happened to him.
“I’m supposed to be happy? I lost everything. I lost time with my family. I lost memories. I lost any future that was for me. All I have is bad memories; 23 years. The scale is not level yet. I still spent more of my time in jail than I have in society, and I’m supposed to be happy?”
Bouto said he’s still unable to sleep through the night, because he is afraid he will wake up back in prison.
“Every time I hear a siren from the cops, I tense up and sweat, because I don’t know if’s for me,” he said.
However, Bouto said receiving his certificate of innocence has given him some peace of mind, that he will no longer have the murder conviction hanging over his head.
“It means the world to me. That means, when my daughter grows up, I could take her onto field trips without having this over my head,” he said.
Since his release from prison, he has been working as a valet manager, but he said he’s looking forward to finding a better job to help him support his wife and the baby daughter they are expecting.
“I have my name back. I have my family’s name back,” Bouto said. “I could go for a job interview and not have to worry about a background check that I qualified for, but I won’t get it, because it shows up murderer, killer, whatever you want to label it. It’s off now, I’m cleared, I can move on.”
Bouto’s attorneys noted Guevara repeatedly has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate himself, despite having been offered immunity from prosecution, when called to testify about cases in which he was accuse of framing suspects.
In 2017, a Cook County judge ruled Guevara lied on the witness stand when he testified he didn’t beat confessions out of two men serving life sentences for murder.MORE NEWS: Jussie Smollett Trial: Jury Could Get Case As Trial Resumes Monday
In that case, prosecutors later dropped charges against Gabriel Solache and Arturo DeLeon-Reyes in the 1998 murder of Jacinta and Mariano Soto, after a judge threw out their confessions. However, prosecutors maintained they believed the men were guilty, but could no longer make their case.