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Men claim Chicago cop falsely arrested them for DUI

From left Lance Coppage Elijah Stovall Gregory Sledge who are suing Chicago police officer Harold Rodriguez for allegedly making false

From left, Lance Coppage, Elijah Stovall and Gregory Sledge, who are suing Chicago police officer Harold Rodriguez for allegedly making false DUI arrests for marijuana. Rodriguez is facing a separate criminal case. | Provided Photo

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Updated: June 25, 2013 6:34AM

Heads, Gregory Sledge would go to jail.

Tails, he would go free.

It was heads.

That’s how Chicago Police Officer Harold Rodriguez allegedly decided to frame Sledge on a driving under the influence charge last year, the West Side man said in an interview Thursday.

Sledge, a convicted felon, is one of three men who filed wrongful-arrest lawsuits against Rodriguez and the city in federal court Thursday. In interviews, they claimed Rodriguez stole money from their wallets after they were arrested.

“Officer Rodriguez wanted to supplement his city salary, so he abused his badge and power to coerce bribes, steal cash and falsely arrest innocent people for the overtime pay associated with DUI arrests,” said their attorney, David Lipschultz of Goldberg Weisman Cairo.

A fourth man, Anthony Cooke, sued Rodriguez last month claiming the officer stole $400 in a traffic stop that didn’t result in an arrest.

Rodriguez, 46, could not be reached for comment.

Rodriguez worked in the Ogden District on the West Side and trained rookies. He was arrested in September on corruption charges. He was caught taking a $5,000 bribe in a Dunkin’ Donuts bag to fix a traffic case, prosecutors said. After Rodriguez was arrested, prosecutors dropped the DUI cases against Sledge, 27, and the two other men who filed lawsuits Thursday.

In Sledge’s case, a “strong smell of burning cannabis escaped from the car,” Rodriguez wrote in his Jan. 29, 2012 arrest report. But no drugs were recovered. Sledge said the arrest was costly: He put up $3,000 in bail to get out of jail — money his lawyer later received to represent him.

Elijah Stovall, 20, said he lost his downtown job at Sears because Rodriguez wrongfully arrested him for DUI on June 25, 2012, on the West Side.

Stovall, who doesn’t have any criminal convictions, claims he was parked in his 1995 Cadillac Eldorado when Rodriguez stopped and asked: “What you got for me? Anything good? A gun? Any money?” When Stovall said no, Rodriguez falsely arrested him for DUI, Stovall said. Rodriguez’s arrest report said he had to “momentarily step away from the vehicle as the smoke was choking him.” Again, no drugs were recovered.

Lance Coppage, 27, said he was driving a 2011 Dodge Charger on the West Side on Feb. 23, 2012, when Rodriguez falsely arrested him for DUI. Rodriguez’s arrest report said pot smoke “engulfed” him when Coppage opened his window, but no drugs were recovered. Coppage, a barber with a prior drug conviction, said he’s now in a legal battle with the city over thousands of dollars in fees connected to his car getting impounded.

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