Cops plead guilty, sentenced in corruption case

September 25, 2009 3:22:14 PM PDT
Two former Chicago police officers plead guilty Friday to charges linked to corruption in the department's special operations unit.The two guilty pleas bring to seven the number of now-former Chicago SOS cops who have plead and been sentenced in the last two weeks.

The groundwork for those pleas was laid nearly a year ago, and the flurry of court appearances suggests that long-awaited federal indictments involving former members of the Chicago Police Department's Special Operations section may be on the immediate horizon.

For his role in the SOS scandal, James McGovern will do two years probation as part of a plea agreement finalized Friday. As a sergeant, McGovern held the highest rank among the dozen SOS cops originally accused of becoming robbers under color of law.

Also, ex-cop Frank Villareal was sentenced to four years probation Friday for his role in shaking down drug dealers, gang-bangers and others for thousands in cash. His attorney says Villareal has great remorse for what he did.

"He lost his job, he lost his career, and he has to live with that stigma forever," said attorney Joe Lopez.

"This is an ongoing state and federal investigation, and it's not over," Asst. State's Attorney Jack Blakey said.

Not over, but perhaps much closer to new indictments from the federal government. The U.S. attorney's office entered the case two years ago, and new federal charges could take the SOS case higher up the ladder.

Villareal and McGovern and five other ex-SOS cops who were sentenced last week have all been cooperating with federal investigators. The cases against them have included allegations of other, so far, unnamed cops at the supervisory level, who either took part in the shakedowns or had knowledge of it and looked the other way.

The alleged ringleader, Jerome Finnigan, remains in a federal lock-up charged with orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot aimed at a fellow SOS officer Finnigan thought to be cooperating with investigators.

"I don't know what's going to happen next. That's up to the U.S. attorney's office as to what they're going to do, if anything, but this case is over for Frank [Villareal] at this point," Lopez told ABC7 Chicago.

The terms of the plea arrangements will require that the former cops sentenced this week and last week continue cooperating with federal investigators as this police corruption case moves to a new stage on the federal level.

While he remains confined, Jerome Finnigan has sued the city of Chicago, contending that it is responsible for paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees he wracked up.


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