Fired prosecutor didn't lie under oath, simply failed to recall years-ago events, his lawyer says

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A veteran Illinois prosecutor publicly fired Monday by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office didn’t lie under oath when testifying in a police-shooting case, his lawyer says.

Joseph Lattanzio, whose testimony conflicted with what was said by the mother of a man accused of shooting a Chicago police officer, simply had a memory lapse, his lawyer told the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.).

“They’re asking him his recollection of events that happened 3½ years ago,” said attorney David O’Connor.

The lawyer also blasted defense counsel for Paris Sadler, contending that the public defender’s office had created a “sideshow” out of Lattanzio’s relatively minimal role in the police-shooting case to distract attention from the “overwhelming evidence” of their client’s guilt.

Officer Del Pearson, who authorities say was shot by Sadler in 2012, was severely injured but survived.

When police came to search the family home at which Sadler was staying shortly after the shooting, they did so without expressly obtaining her consent, Sadler’s mom said. Her son was found in the basement, along with a revolver that a ballistics expert later linked to the shooting.

The mother, Talaina Cureton, testified at a hearing last month that her witness statement to prosecutors contained handwritten edits, including a notation that she had said she wanted a lawyer. Lattanzio told the court the statement had no such edits.

Then it turned out that Cureton had secretly taken an iPad recording of her interview with prosecutors on the day after the shooting. What it contained conflicts with what Lattanzio told the court, both prosecutors and defense lawyers say.

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said at a Monday news conference that her office is asking the state attorney general’s office to determine whether the 38-year-old Lattanzio, a 12-year veteran in her office, should himself face charges over his alleged lies under oath.

She also said she had referred the matter to Illinois attorney disciplinary authorities, the Chicago Sun-Times (sub. req.) reports.

Alvarez said she has been encouraging an increase in audio and video recording of suspects’ and witnesses’ statements in cases involving violent felonies, the Tribune reports. So far this year, her office has recorded 557 witness statements, a considerable increase from last year’s 328 statements, she said.

It isn’t clear what the final fallout will be for Sadler’s case as a result of Lattanzio’s testimony. A government motion to strike it was denied Monday by Judge Thaddeus Wilson, who also allowed the defense to reopen a proceeding seeking to quash Sadler’s arrest and suppress evidence in the case.

Related coverage:

Chicago Tribune (reg. req.): “Suspect is denied bail in shooting of police officer”

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