An investigator who was looking into a claim that two Chicago police officers had assaulted a 23-year-old Chicago man in 2004 testified last Tuesday in Federal Court that a key piece of evidence in the alleged sodomy case had not been logged in inventory properly.
This, the investigator said, was a red flag.
The investigator, Kevin Connolly, was reviewing the case of two Chicago police accused of assaulting Coprez Coffie with a screwdriver.
The process of collecting that screwdriver into evidence was questioned on the second day of a trial into a lawsuit filed by Coffie against officers Scott Korhonen and Gerald Lodwich.
Connolly, an investigator with the Office of Professional Standards, testified that evidence technicians showed “a reluctance to inventory the screwdriver,” upon his orders on Aug. 31, 2004.
Connolly then put a call in to the police sergeant to confirm that the evidence technicians had inventoried evidence from the officers’ police car – a call he has never had to make in his 26-year-career, he said.
Jon Loevy, one of Coffie’s attorneys, said the slow response was an effort to thwart the investigation of the defendants. The defense team says the event was a misunderstanding between Connolly and forensics officials, because the screwdriver was eventually inventoried the same day.
Coffie pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in October of 2005, after the defendants testified he dropped a baggie containing heroin on the ground in their plain view. Shortly after his arrest, Coffie filed a complaint that Korhonen stuck a screwdriver into his rectum to search for drugs.
Laketha Britton, a friend of the plaintiff, took the stand at the U.S. District Court last Monday, and said Coffie told her about the screwdriver incident days after he was released from jail.
Britton told jurors she was riding in a green van with Coffie and two other friends on Aug. 28, 2004, when police pulled them over in an alley near the corner of West Division Street and North Pulaski Road.
Britton said she and the three men were held in the alley for about a half hour as the defendants searched the car. Police rummaged through some papers in the back of the car and patted her pockets down before arresting Coffie, she said.
“[The three of us] got in the car and drove off because they told us to just get out of there,” Britton testified.
She recalled speaking to Coffie on the phone later that day, and he never mentioned being assaulted. It wasn’t until he was released from jail two days later that he told her he was searched using a screwdriver, she said.
“I asked him did they take him to the doctor, and he said ‘No,'” Britton said. “He was talking real low. Like, I had to ask him like two times what he was talking about.”
Britton said she didn’t recall if Coffie had told her he found “blood in his drawers,” as Britton had sworn to under oath last year.
The defense pointed out Britton gave a different story in a sworn statement taken Oct. 5, 2006. “Someone here is lying,” said one attorney from the team representing Lodwich and Korhonen. “Mr. Coffie said he did not make a call to anyone that day, except maybe his mother. None of this jibes at all.”
The jury will continue to hear testimony before District Court Chief Judge James F. Holderman. The defendants are also expected to testify.