Seventh Circuit: No Immunity For Chicago Cop Who Lied To A Judge Before Accidentally Raiding The Right Apartment

from the thank-god-this-is-such-a-rarity,-especially-in-Chicago dept

There’s a good reason we have strict standards for warrant requests — ones that requires plenty of probable cause and factual statements. Because if we didn’t have that, people would literally die when officers raid the wrong house or point guns at the wrong person. Innocent people would end up in jail and people’s rights would be routinely violated when subjected to searches backed by nothing but boilerplate and meaningless assertions about “training and expertise.”

But we do have that standard in this country. And that’s why these things don’t happen.

Um. Anyhoo…

Sometimes they do happen. And that’s when the courts step in and remind law enforcement officers about the proper way to craft warrant affidavits. I mean, obviously not all courts. In this case, handled by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the district court said there was nothing wrong with an obviously deficient warrant request filled with assertions that couldn’t be confirmed and mainly based on an officer’s guesswork, rather than actual facts or probable cause. The Seventh Circuit, fortunately, disagrees [PDF].

That chain of events resulted in another, more miserable and completely undeserved chain of events for Chicago resident Robert Taylor, who was arrested by Officer Ricky Hughes following a search of the wrong apartment (i.e., not the one listed on the warrant) that fortunately happened to be Robert Taylor’s residence.

There’s all sorts of sloppy police work leading up to the Seventh Circuit’s stripping of qualified immunity from Officer Hughes. The Chicago PD was wrapping up a drug investigation (“codename Uptown Girl,” as the decision notes) when Hughes decided to extend the investigation a little longer. He met with an informant who claimed Robert Taylor, an alleged drug gang member, had a gun in his apartment on the south side of town.

What happened during this meeting and what information was passed on to the police officer is all solely retained in Officer Hughes’ gray matter.

Later that same day, Officer Hughes met with John Doe at the precinct. At the time of the meeting, Hughes says he knew Doe’s real name and reviewed his criminal record. But today, so far as the record reveals, John Doe is a complete unknown: no one knows John Doe’s real name, how to contact him, or, for that matter, why he came forward with information concerning Robert Taylor during the Uptown Girl investigation. Nor is there paperwork to help, as Hughes shredded any notes he took while meeting with Doe.

So, everything is subject to Hughes’ memory, which conveniently means he can recall anything he wants to support everything that happened following this undocumented meeting with an informant with no track record for truthful information, never mind any other evidence of their existence.

Making things worse, the helpful informant remembered seeing a gun while in Robert Taylor’s apartment but when pressed by the officer could not remember exactly where Taylor lived.

Doe told Hughes that he did not know Taylor’s address, but he did know how to get there. So the two drove down to the south side, and Doe directed Hughes to an apartment building. The building Doe identified was 643–645 W. 62nd Street, an L-shaped apartment complex on the south side of the street. The numbers “643–45” appeared under a window on the building’s street-facing side. Doe told Officer Hughes that the unit immediately above those numbers was Taylor’s.

Using this vague information, Hughes went to seek a search warrant. At this point, all he had was a claim that a gun was seen in one of the apartments near a window sticker indicating possible apartment numbers in that area. Not only did Hughes lack a definitive address, he also lacked any information Taylor was engaged in drug sales/purchases. For all Hughes knew, the informant had seen a legally-owned gun somewhere in that apartment complex but, according to the officer’s own testimony, had nothing tying Taylor to the weapon.

Undeterred, Hughes banged together a bunch of speculation and approached a judge hoping to trade his worthless wordcraft for an actual, usable search warrant. Somehow he succeeded.

I mean, just look at this bullshit:

Hughes’s accompanying affidavit identified Taylor’s apartment as “645 W. 62nd Street #1S.” When asked how he determined this was Taylor’s address, Hughes testified: “I decided that it was 645 1S.” But how he decided he could not explain. Hughes also testified that he used building number 645 (rather than 643) because the window Doe pointed out was closer to the “45” on the front of the building. And as for the unit number, Hughes testified that the “S” might have stood for “South,” or “Side,” or perhaps just the letter “S” in an alphabetical list—he was unable to say for sure. Nor did Hughes take any step to corroborate Taylor’s address. Hughes testified that he “didn’t have no time” to do so. In the end, then, Hughes took a guess, listing the address as 645 W. 62nd Street #1S in the search warrant application.

Remember the drug thing? Or the lack thereof? Whelp, that bunch of misinfo/disinfo went into the warrant request as well.

The proposed warrant, in turn, sought permission to search “645 W. 62nd Street #1S, a multi-unit building,” and to seize evidence of the offense of Unlawful Use of Weapon under Illinois law, 720 ILCS 5/24-1, specifically:

Unlawful use of weapon and any documents showing residency, any paraphernalia used in the weighing, cutting or mixing of illegal drugs. Any money, any records detailing illegal drug transactions.

Hughes decided the alleged gun Taylor allegedly possessed (as related to him by this mysterious informant) was drug-related because 1) he believed guns and drugs were inseparable, and 2) he forgot to edit his copypasta.

The warrant’s references to illegal drugs were not based on anything Doe told Officer Hughes. Instead, Hughes later acknowledged that the drug reference was stock language he left in place because “[u]sing drugs and guns go hand [in] hand.”

Since Hughes “didn’t have no time” to be more careful, he dragged a Cook County judge out of their comfortable home after hours to join him in an unmarked car to Hancock his deficient warrant request. It’s hardly surprising this did not lead to intense judicial scrutiny of his request. And, in the judge’s defense, they had no way to know the officer was padding his boilerplate with speculation about Robert Taylor’s actual address. And Hughes did nothing to enlighten the judge about the more speculative/Xeroxed parts of his warrant request.

Officer Hughes later testified that he did not give the judge any explanation for the warrant’s reference to drug paraphernalia, did not tell the judge that he did not know if the address listed on the warrant was accurate, and did not explain that Doe had provided directions that the officers could follow to Taylor’s apartment.

All of that culminated in this early morning raid by the Chicago PD:

At around 6:00 a.m. on June 22, 2011, Hughes used a battering ram to break down the door of the apartment Doe identified. The apartment the officers entered was in fact Robert Taylor’s apartment. But it was not the apartment listed on the warrant: it was not #1S at 645 W. 62nd Street, but instead was #1N at 643 W. 62nd Street.

Luck was on Officer Hughes’ side, as it had been throughout the case. He found mail and an employee ID that linked Taylor to the apartment. He found two people — Mario Barnes and Barbara Taylor (Robert’s niece), along with their three kids — in a bedroom. In that bedroom, he also found a gun. Unfortunately for Hughes, Barnes could not say for sure whether it belonged to Taylor. Using this (whatever “this” means in the context of the warrant and the search), Hughes arrested Taylor.

Taylor then spent 128 days in jail before another judge found the search warrant invalid based on the address error, quashed the warrant, tossed out the evidence, and acquitted Taylor of the gun charges. All’s well that ends well? Well, it hadn’t exactly ended.

Despite Taylor’s acquittal, the alert for his arrest remained active within CPD’s system. A month later, on December 23, 2011, a CPD officer pulled over a car in which Taylor was riding. When the officer ran Taylor’s name, the alert appeared, leading to Taylor once again being arrested—on the exact same charge on which he had been acquitted a month prior. The arresting officer contacted Detective Weitzman, who realized the mistake and quickly saw to it that Taylor be released. Even then, though, the alert for Taylor’s arrest remained active for another month. At last, on January 31, 2012 Detective David Betz canceled the alert, bringing this mess of events to a close.

Taylor sued. The lower court said, hey, this is all pretty bad but should we really expect the officers involved in this to be held accountable for their actions? Over the course of three decisions, the answer was “no.” Qualified immunity for every defendant.

Officer Hughes is back in the mix. His immunity has been stripped. Here’s why, says the Seventh Circuit:

We see the record as establishing, at a minimum, reckless misconduct by Officer Hughes. And that misconduct resulted in a serious misstatement—a misrepresentation that the apartment to search was #1S at 645 W. 62nd Street. By Officer Hughes’s own admission, that was false. Officer Hughes guessed at the apartment number and did so because, in his view, confirming Taylor’s actual address—say, by running Taylor’s name through police or city databases, looking for his name on the building’s mailboxes, or contacting the landlord—would take too long.

We are skeptical. Officer Hughes has pointed to no exigency that would have prevented him from undertaking the sort of routine policework contemplated by the Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement. It is not too much to ask that a police officer seeking judicial authorization to search someone’s home take steps to confirm the right address. […] Guessing at an address to get a search warrant is intolerable, and that is unfortunately what Officer Hughes did here.

The boilerplate about drugs was also reckless misconduct. And because the officer did nothing to inform the judge who signed the warrant about his extensive guesswork, he could not possibly rely on a warrant he basically lied to obtain. The warrant should never have been issued, the Appeals Court concludes. And because of that, Hughes gets no immunity.

Taking our own careful look at the summary judgment record, we are left with an unmistakable reality. Officer Hughes told the Cook County judge that he knew Taylor’s address when in fact he did not. And he told the judge that there was probable cause to believe drugs would be found in the apartment when in fact there was not. These misrepresentations are at the heart of this case. We would not be here without them. And these misrepresentations constitute an open-and-shut violation of Franks.

The record is clear on these points, with no lingering material questions for a jury to decide. We therefore reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Officer Hughes on Count I and direct entry of summary judgment for Taylor.

Since there’s nothing left for the jury to decide (the facts are all in, as they say), the only thing left to determine is how much Officer Hughes owes Robert Taylor for this bogus search and arrest. Yes, it’s true Chicago residents who’ve already paid so much will be asked to give a little more, but, unfortunately, almost any decision denying or stripping immunity from law enforcement officers is still a rarity and worth noting. And each one adds (incrementally) to the body of case law that clearly establishes certain rights violations.

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Comments on “Seventh Circuit: No Immunity For Chicago Cop Who Lied To A Judge Before Accidentally Raiding The Right Apartment”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
K`Tetch (profile) says:

Misconduct results should equal starting penalty

So, any misconduct should give – as a STARTING POINT – the same penalty as the inconvenience. So, he caused a false inprisonment of 128 days, and at least two more instances, so lets’s say 130.

So as a starting point, there’s 130 days in prison for Hughes. As it was through deliberate choice (didn’t just slip his mind, all this was premeditated) that should provide an aggravating factor, and double it. So there’s 260 days in prison before anything else.

This should be the STANDARD for any police officer caught acting improperly by falsifying, or concealing evidence – the case tossed and those that conspired get double the penalty they inflicted on others.

It’d be a GREAT deterrent to that kind of dirty cop behavior.

Next, as he had an illegal warrant, so let’s start charging him with the crimes related to that.
So that’s breaking and entering, commission of a felony while armed. false imprisonment (kidnapping?)
Oh, police officers not liking the charges being stacked like that? You prefer it when it’s done to others not you? Tough shit. Can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime. Just do your job properly and honestly then.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


I’ve sort of given up on any claims of making innocents who end up in jail b/c misconduct whole again.

We have no federal law saying they have to give anything to people they railroad into prison.

There was a recently released man, wrongfully convicted based on he was black iirc, who will get compensation… the full amount if he lives to be over 100.

There is flaming evidence everywhere that corners are cut, lies are told to courts, and somehow we just award QI and move on.

This sort of behavior should be completely unacceptable, but then even after running a black site where they tortured innocent men into confession, Chicago still has a police department that can’t do the basic fscking job & just expect nothing will happen as they ruin peoples lives.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Upstream (profile) says:


so let’s start charging him with the crimes related to that.
So that’s breaking and entering, commission of a felony while armed. false imprisonment (kidnapping?)

This^. Unless and until cops get consistently charged, convicted, and imprisoned for the crimes they commit, these kind of criminal acts by cops will continue. They also need to permanently lose their LE certification, and be permanently prohibited from working in any LE or public (or private) “security” capacity, even as a sub-contractor.

Not only are these types of actions by cops crimes under the law, they are also despicable violations of the enormous trust we put in cops by giving them extraordinary powers of arrest, violence, deadly force, etc. These egregious violations of the public trust must be met with correspondingly severe and permanent penalties.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:


With great power should come great responsibility, sadly more often than not the system seems determined to treat police as both the dumbest people on the planet while at the same times considering them paragons of justice and honesty no matter what evidence might contradict that.

Double the penalty the victim faced would do a world of good clearing out the corrupt cops by giving them very real incentive to be very careful before going after someone, all the more so if on top of that their actions were treated as though anyone other than a cop had done them so I’m in full agreement with your ideas there, that is absolutely something that should be in place and enforced stringently.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Whoever says:

Re: > Misconduct results should equal starting penalty

Let’s start with perjury. There is clear and uncontested evidence that perjury was committed.

Why hasn’t he been charged? People should be asking the DA why there has been no charge laid against this officer.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Good that they got it right, terrible that it took several tries

While it’s nice that at least one court got the easiest question imaginable right it’s all sorts of disgusting that it wasn’t the first court this was brought to. The lower court basically agreed that there was nothing wrong with lying to a judge to secure a warrant, and if that doesn’t show how desperate so many judges are to accommodate and protect police from the consequences for their own actions I don’t know what would.

Anonymous Coward says:

And of course Officer Hughes is an ex cop….. or would be in any country that imposed minimum standards on police officers.

MathFox says:


I don’t think a cop in the Netherlands would be able to get a warrant application to the judge without being questioned by a colleague whether his “homework” was complete.
But cops in the Netherlands are fired for “breaking the rules” and lesser offenses are disciplined. “Deaths after police intervention” are always investigated (by an independent team from the officers involved…)
Simple measures to give the civilians some trust in the good intentions.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Piling up issues

This story shows so many things that can go wrong just based on one cop’s intentional misbehavior. (BTW, where are the gun activists? They should be livid about cases like this.)

But the basic problem is simply that nobody cares until an error is made. Often enough a fatal one, but sometimes it simply ruins someone’s life for no reason.
And this culture of indifference exists because there is no incentive to care, and even incentive not to care. QI is not necessarily a bad concept, but its application is way too broad, letting only the most egregious conducts to not be covered. Cops feel entitled to this immunity and take little, if any, precaution to follow procedure. They lie, steal, abuse force, and sometimes outright kill people without actual right or need to do so just because they feel they are above the law.

This will not end with simply lifting immunity in a few extreme cases. The whole concept must be dropped entirely, then actually codified to 1. only cover cases where procedure was properly followed and 2. severely punish cops who break procedure. (Some suggest to charge them with the same sentence that they were trying to inflict on their victims. Others suggest to apply the charge of the action they committed as if they were not committed by LEOs, such as assault, breaking and entering, etc. I’m not sure myself, but the second standard seems more objective in my opinion, with an aggravating factor of being committed by a person with a position of authority.)

The basic idea is that cops must be held to higher standards of integrity than normal people because they are entrusted with power and authority. All too often, it’s the opposite and they end up being held to lower standards on the grounds that they are, without evidence, more trustworthy than the average citizen.

That One Guy (profile) says:


Some suggest to charge them with the same sentence that they were trying to inflict on their victims. Others suggest to apply the charge of the action they committed as if they were not committed by LEOs, such as assault, breaking and entering, etc. I’m not sure myself, but the second standard seems more objective in my opinion, with an aggravating factor of being committed by a person with a position of authority.)

As the meme goes, ‘How about both? Both is good.’

Police are given enormous power and legal protections, they should feel the hurt if they decide to violate that and I can think of no more fitting punishment than inflicting the same punishment they would foist on another whether through malice or simple indifference back on them, and if they’re not acting according to what the job involves it seems only fair to treat them as if they aren’t under the protections it offers when they abuse their power.

Anonymous Coward says:

new policy

a few things that need to be done at the federal level.

                          BLUE LIES MAFIA POLICY

any time an officer is placed on administrative leave it will be UNPAID leave.
ONLY if laws, policy, civil rights, and/ or rules have NOT been violated, then they will be eligible for back pay.
IF ANY laws, policy, civil rights, and/ or rules have been violated, then NO back pay.

if an officer is being investigated for _______. the investigation whether pending, started or ended will be considered “OPEN” if they quit before any discipline is handed out. also they will NOT be able to move on to the next agency over or receive retirement funds and any other benefits until pending case is resolved.

ALL law enforcement police, FBI, DEA, CBP, ICE and any other law enforcement agency shall have and use body cams.
body cams will be turned on prior to an incident or as soon as possible and are to NOT be turned off, muted or paused until after the conclusion of the incidence.

MANDATORY MINIMUMS OF 2X the max. shall be enforced upon conviction.

shall replace internal affairs. it shall have full investigative powers.

will not be able to decide if police are not charged for there crimes.

shall only be limited to negotiating pay, leave time, vacation, sick leave, benefits. anything else is NON-NEGOTIABLE.

there shall be a 2yr training program. then when hired the first 2yr period is probation with no gun. then the next probation period is a year with gun after they prove themselves to be responsible. so in total it would require 5 yrs. to go from training to fully certified.

any and all complaints (founded and unfounded), discipline, suspensions shall be placed in a national database. these records are to be held from training to 20yr after retirement and/or death.


Ockham's Stubble (profile) says:

3rd issue

Apologies if I missed it, but isn’t there a third big problem here? There was no reason (provided by the alleged informant, or otherwise) for this cop to think the firearm was unlicensed or illegally possessed, right? No attempt to determine whether the ‘suspect’ had registered handguns, or not. Just more assumptions & leaps of logic by the cop.

Martin Birdsall (user link) says:

Tim, your post is fantastic! This is an unusual case that must be thoroughly investigated in order to comprehend its intricacies. Lying to obtain a confession from a suspect is one thing, but lying in front of a judge is, in my opinion, a felony that should be dealt with accordingly.

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