Dec 23, 2009

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman ordered a new trial for former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez and Chicago police officer Aaron Delvalle, ruling that prosecutors violated disclosure rules by failing to reveal the extensive arrest record and gang membership of a key witness. Gettleman says that the error prevented defense lawyers from cross-examining the government witness at trial about his criminal activities.

Sanchez was found guilty of mail fraud for illegally disbursing city jobs to politically-connected applicants. Aaron Del Valle, who worked for Sanchez, was convicted of perjury.

One of the witnesses against them was Brian Gabriel, a Streets and Sanitation truck driver, who testified that Sanchez and Delvalle were key players in the passing out of jobs.

Prosecutors knew that Gabriel was a member of the Spanish Vice Lords but did not tell defense lawyers about his gang activity or his extensive arrest record. Unknown to prosecutors, Gabriel was also under investigation for drug dealing by the Illiana Gang Task Force which includes law enforcement authorities from Illinois and Indiana.

Delvalle’s attorney, Chicago criminal defense lawyer Martin Dolan,  said that Gabriel was a witness that stood out in the case because he presented himself as a clean-cut individual from the city who was wronged and passed over for promotions.

The judge decided the defense should have known about Gabriel’s past before Gabriel testified, and ordered a new trial.  The decision marked a rare instance in Chicago’s federal courthouse in which criminal defendants won a new trial because of government mistakes.

Read the Memorandum of Opinion and Order here.

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