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Appeal alleges police withheld evidence

--- Defendant had been convicted in arson case

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published April 30, 2007, 3:15 p.m.)

A Whitewater man convicted of hiring someone to burn a rental property so he could collect insurance money wants a new trial, saying police withheld evidence in the case.

Stephen D. Cvicker, 54, who is suing retired Whitewater detective Larry Meyer in federal court for harassment, alleges that Meyer and town of Delavan detective Roger Clapper didn't turn over all evidence to his defense attorneys in 2003 after he was charged with arson with intent to defraud an insurer.

"We've recently discovered some new evidence that calls into question his conviction," said Aaron Resar, Cvicker's appeal attorney.

Resar said the investigation itself is questionable.

The investigation, "was dishonest, skewed and lacked due process," he wrote in an appeal motion.

Cvicker, who is on probation and served a year in the Huber Dorm after his conviction in 2004, would like the chance to clear his name, Resar said.

"This conviction has really destroyed him," Resar said. "It took away his successful business and has affected his family life. This is just one stop in putting his life back together."

In appellate documents, Resar says three witnesses told Clapper and Meyer that Nestor Sanchez, the man Cvicker was convicted of hiring to start the fire at his cottage in Delavan Township, couldn't have started the fire because he was with them.

"We discovered that the investigation by Roger Clapper and Larry Meyer was more extensive than we originally thought," Resar said.

If the information giving Nestor Sanchez an alibi had been available, Cvicker might not have been convicted, Resar said.

He said police pressured Nestor Sanchez, an illegal immigrant, into making false admissions.

Nestor Sanchez has since recanted his testimony, Resar said.

Town of Delavan Police Chief Andrew Mayer would not comment on the appeal but stood by Clapper's work.

"I have the utmost faith and confidence in the abilities and integrity of detective Clapper," Mayer said.

It is the department's policy that officers note everyone contacted in the course of an investigation, Mayer said.

The Janesville Gazette was not able to reach officials at the Whitewater Police Department for comment.

Cvicker and his then-defense attorney asked repeatedly for disclosure of all evidence before the trial, including a list of everyone police talked to, according to the appeal motion.

At trial, Clapper testified that he interviewed a Raymundo Sanchez, which came as a surprise to both Cvicker's then-defense attorney and to Assistant District Attorney Dennis Krueger, who prosecuted the case.

Clapper denied receiving any worthwhile information from Raymundo Sanchez, but the fact that he had interviewed Raymundo Sanchez had not been provided to the defense before the trial, according to the appeal.

Raymundo Sanchez is one of three people who recently signed affidavits saying they witnessed Nestor Sanchez at work in Whitewater when Cvicker's cabin burned.

All three witnesses said they told the officers of Nestor Sanchez's alibi.

That information was "curiously missing," Resar wrote in the appeal."I was not aware of any of that information," Krueger said, referring to the three witnesses. "I don't know if it's true or not. I did not have that information at the time the case was tried."Resar also alleges that Meyer's alleged destruction of evidence following a 2005 search of Cvicker's business-a matter being contested in the federal civil suit-shows Meyer had a vendetta against Cvicker.

"This evidence is a major piece of the puzzle implicating Mr. Meyer in a dishonest and illegal investigation of Mr. Cvicker," Resar wrote.

The federal civil case against Meyer remains unsettled.

A circuit court judge will review the appeal and determine if the case should be reopened or go to an appellate court for further review. No hearing dates have been set.

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