Cook County prosecutors dropped drug charges today against a 28-year-old Elk Grove Village man following a judge’s ruling that his guilty plea was based on the testimony of a Schaumburg police officer now under indictment for drug conspiracy charges.
Victor Alvarado was freed from prison last month following Judge Kay Hanlon’s ruling that his plea to drug possession charges was tainted by the testimony of Matthew Hudak.
In an April hearing, Hanlon said prosecutors could elect to re-try Alvarado on charges of possession of cocaine, but today prosecutors declined to reinstate the charges.
Victor Ciardelli, Alvarado’s attorney, told Hanlon he and his client were ready for trial. But Assistant State’s Attorney Celeste Stack told the judge the state was dropping the case.
“They were looking at a can of worms,” Ciardelli said after the hearing. “They’ll be looking at the same thing with other cases.”
Prosecutors have dismissed about 20 other pending cases involving the three officers, but this appears to be the first known case of a defendant having his conviction overturned.
Last June, Alvarado pleaded guilty to possession of 15 to 100 grams of cocaine. His plea came after Hanlon denied his motion to suppress testimony by Hudak. In the motion, Alvarado said Hudak made up statements about the arrest.
Hudak, along with Schaumburg officers Terrance O’Brien and John Cichy, were arrested in January and charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and criminal drug conspiracy. All three men have resigned from the force and are awaiting trial
Ciardelli said he has been contacted by the families of two other defendants who are seeking to have their cases overturned due to the indictments of the officers. He said he is reviewing the cases to see if there are grounds to file a motion to vacate their convictions.
Another former Schaumburg drug defendant who had his case dropped by prosecutors, Chris Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., filed suit last month against the village, Cichy and O’Brien. He claimed that they falsely arrested him and planted drugs on him.
The defendants filed a petition Tuesday to move the case from Cook County Circuit Court to U.S. District Court in Chicago, arguing that because Nelson claims violations of his federal rights, the federal court has jurisdiction. The village already faces four other lawsuits in federal court from former defendants.
Tribune reporter Robert McCoppin contributed.