Federal prosecutors began presenting evidence Tuesday against a former Chicago police officer who allegedly stole drugs and cash from drug dealers before spending 14 1/2 years on the lam evading authorities.
In their opening statement, prosecutors said former Sgt. Eddie Hicks used the power of his badge and the power of a gun to enrich himself.
Hicks’ defense attorney told jurors that the evidence in the government’s case was weak and attacked the credibility of a witness prosecutors are planning to present later.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Morris Pasqual told the jury that Hicks worked with a group of men to conduct fabricated raids on drug dealers. Pasqual said the men carried out dozens of the fake raids in Chicago and nearby suburbs, from the early 1990s into the early 2000s.
Pasqual laid out the different roles each man would play: one of the men would create a fake search warrant. Another was a mechanic for the Chicago Police Department and would get the crew an unmarked police car to use for the fake raid. Pasqual said Hicks was often responsible for getting tips on places they could target and selling drugs they stole.
Pasqual said the defendant thought it was the perfect crime, since drug dealers would not report the thefts to police.
Pasqual promised jurors they would see and hear videos and tapes that the FBI secretly made with the cooperation of one of Hicks’ former informants. The prosecutor also promised jurors they would hear from one of the men in the conspiracy, the mechanic, Larry Knitter, who has already served a sentence for the crime.
Hicks’ lawyer Robert Crowe kept his opening statements relatively short. He said that there was a lack of evidence in the case. He suggested that Knitter was an unreliable witness, because he had a history of lying and received a reduced sentence in return for cooperating with prosecutors. He also argued that a big hole in the state’s case against his client was that not a single victim of the alleged raids was going to testify.
Hicks is facing federal drug and conspiracy charges. The former officer allegedly fled before his original trial and prosecutors told jurors he was arrested in Detroit, 4 1/2 years after he fled.
Hicks’ attorneys made no mention to jurors of their client’s time on the run.
Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ criminal justice reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @shannon_h.