Ex-Chicago cop on trial after 14 years on the run

CHICAGO — Opening statements wrapped on Tuesday in former Chicago Police Sergeant Eddie Hicks' trial.

Hicks skipped town before his original trial in 2003. He was a fugitive for more than 14 years, and was captured in 2017 as he lived in Detroit under a fake name.

According to prosecutors, Hicks was the leader of a corrupt crew that used fake search warrants to shake down drug dealers.

The prosecution’s opening statements laid out its case against Hicks saying, “He was not there to serve and protect, but to rob and steal.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Morris Pasqual said his four-man crew thought “they were committing the perfect crime.”

Hicks is a former Chicago police sergeant who spent 29 years on the force, some of that time was spent in the narcotics division. He’s accused of being the ringleader of a crew, that included another CPD sergeant and two civilian CPD employees.

Prosecutors said informants would tip them off to stash houses. One member of the crew would type up phony search warrants and the four would raid those homes or make traffic stops, steal the cash and re-sell the drugs and divide up the loot.

Hicks, who is now 70, took off the day before his trial was set to start in June of 2003 and led authorities on an international manhunt for him that stretched from Brazil to Texas. He was eventually arrested about 14 years later in Detroit.

A member of his crew, Lawrence Knitter was the star witness on the first day of testimony. He was a mechanic for the Chicago police department who was responsible for obtaining the unmarked squad cars used in the phony takedowns.

He told jurors the crew raided numerous homes between 1993 and 1999 on the South and West sides of the city, and even branched out into the suburbs. He said they mostly walked away with thousands in cash, guns and dozens of kilos of cocaine and marijuana. He said they always split the proceeds four ways.

When the prosecutor asked why he did it, he said, “For the thrill of it” and “for the money.”

Knitter was arrested in 2001 and ended up pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy and served more than nine years in prison. He testified as part of that plea bargain. During his opening statements, Hicks’ attorney called knitter a liar and a conman and advised jurors to view his testimony with great care,” saying there’s reasonable doubt that Hicks committed those crimes.

Testimony resumes to Wednesday, with Knitter back on the stand to finish up his testimony and cross-examination. FBI surveillance tapes are also expected to be introduced as evidence. Hicks’ attorney points out, his client is not on any of those video tapes raiding and looting homes.

Hicks is not expected to take the stand in his own defense.

The trial is expected to last less than a week.

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