Cases touched by former Milwaukee police homicide detective Rodolfo Gomez Jr. are all under suspicion.  In the latest, the Wisconsin Innocence Project says that Gomez, 47, planted a bullet that became the key evidence against a man now serving 17 years for a 2010 fatal carjacking attempt.  A motion filed this week argues that Gomez’s record of problems in other cases supports the claim that Steven Hopgood deserves a new trial.

“While typically such claims of police misconduct would be difficult to sustain, in this case they are not, because of Gomez’s recent conduct…” read the motion filed by Byron Lichstein and Lindsey Smith, who are representing Hopgood on appeal.

Vincent Cort, 25, was killed when he refused to give up his orange Oldsmobile to a gunman outside Jack’s Liquor Store.  He died from a single gunshot.  The case was unsolved for two years until Paris Saffold was arrested for cocaine trafficking.  Saffold arranged a deal to dismiss his case and receive the $10,000 reward, in exchange for the names of the people who attacked Cort.

Hopgood, George Taylor, and Laquan Riley were convicted in Cort’s death.  Saffold testified that Hopgood gave Riley the gun, and Taylor gave Riley a hoodie, and Riley shot Cort.

Hopgood’s appeal also states that Gomez, in addition to planting the bullet, may have helped to shape Saffold’s questionable testimony to match his new evidence.  Saffold testified that he saw the defendants with a .38-caliber handgun, the size of the bullet Gomez recovered, but no gun has ever been found.  The appeal also accuses Gomez of intimidating a defense witness into not testifying.

Gomez conducted the photo array that led two witnesses to identify Riley, but none of the witnesses could pick Riley out in the courtroom at trial.  In a report dated a month before Saffold came forward with the information, Gomez wrote that he and another detective decided to inspect Cort’s car again with “fresh eyes”.  Gomez reported finding the bullet in the passenger door’s threshold.

A defense expert said the bullet appeared “pristine” without any deformities or marks that would be expected if the bullet had passed through Cort’s body and struck the car.  The defense expert was only allowed to look at photos.  He was denied permission to remove the bullet from its packaging for examination.  The defense expert also stated that while Gomez wrote in his report there was a “red substance” on the bullet, a crime lab found no DNA and no red substance.

Hopgood’s motion also says that his trial attorney should have objected to prosecutor’s claims that police had no other suspects before Saffold came forward because there were at least 3 others investigated before Saffold’s deal.  The motion also asks to compare fingerprints found on Cort’s car to the other suspects, which was never done.

A federal jury found Gomez falsified a search warrant that led to police shooting a man in his home and awarded that man $1 million dollars in damages.  Gomez was also charged with beating a suspect in a child abuse case and was fired in 2013.  His official misconduct trial is scheduled for this July.


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