Police board hearings begin for Chicago cop tied to Special Operations Section
CHICAGO — After years of languishing in the city’s opaque police discipline apparatus, the evidentiary hearing for a Chicago officer accused of wrongdoing in 2006 began in earnest Monday.
Officer Thomas Sherry stands accused of violating several Chicago Police Department rules while he was assigned to the Special Operations Section — a scandal-plagued unit that included several officers who operated as a robbery crew, committing home invasions and stealing thousands of dollars from suspects and civilians alike.
The administrative charges against Sherry — who was placed on no-pay status last year after spending more than a decade on desk duty — allege that he was part of an illegal search of an apartment on the Northwest Side in July 2004 that he later lied about when he submitted knowingly false paperwork.
Testifying Monday, Sherry said: “I absolutely did not participate in the search of the apartment.”
At several points during his testimony Sherry said that someone other than himself signed his name to various forms that the city was using as evidence.
Katherine Hill, an attorney representing CPD Supt. David Brown, said in her opening statement that Sherry “knew exactly what was happening and he knew exactly what he was doing when he authored a false inventory report.”
The hearings, which are being conducted via Zoom, are expected to conclude Wednesday. Hill added that former CPD officer Keith Herrera will testify this week.
Herrera was one of two former SOS cops to serve federal prison time after they were convicted for their roles in the SOS scandal. The other was Jerome Finnigan, the leader of the crew. Finnigan was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison in 2011 after he pleaded guilty to a murder-for-hire plot and tax evasion. Federal prison records show he was released from custody more than three years ago.
Sherry was one of 13 SOS officers who faced criminal charges in the scandal, and the allegations against Sherry were related to the same raid that now serves as the basis for his police board charges.
Eleven SOS officers ultimately pleaded guilty.
In 2009, three years after the charges were filed and he was suspended without pay, the criminal allegations against Sherry and one other officer were dropped.
News reports from that time said the decision to drop the charges was made, in part, because of flawed witness identifications of the two officers. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the decision was made in consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which was probing corruption within the CPD. Sherry’s attorney, Paul Geiger, said federal prosecutors even wrote a letter to Sherry, informing him that he was “not a target” of their investigation.
In his opening statement, Geiger irked the police board’s hearing officer, Allison Wood, when he tried to note that Sherry’s case stemmed from an incident that occurred nearly two decades ago. Attorneys were barred from mentioning the length of time that’s passed since Sherry was first accused of wrongdoing.
After raising an objection, Hill said Geiger was “attempting to make that argument through the back door.”
Geiger pointed out that the city did not plan to call Finnigan to testify, adding that “nobody is going to testify that my client did anything wrong.”
After the evidentiary hearing concludes, members of the Chicago Police Board will review the video footage and transcripts of the proceedings before deciding in the coming months whether or not Sherry is fired from the CPD.
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