Authorities made the gut-wrenching decision Tuesday to release their sole suspect in the slaying of Chicago Police Officer Robert Soto.
Prosecutors are expected to seek the dismissal of murder and robbery charges against Jason Austin, 26, in court today. “We’re faced with witnesses recanting because they fear retaliation. The integrity of the investigation is solid. We’re going to continue to follow the evidence,” one police official said.
Detectives were trying to prove a pattern of intimidation after witnesses started changing their stories, a source said. Police and prosecutors held a tense, high-level meeting at police headquarters Tuesday before deciding to release Austin, the Sun-Times first reported on its Web site.
“I am elated because the kid didn’t do it,” said Austin’s attorney, David Wiener. “There is just no question in my mind. He said, ‘I didn’t do it.’ “
Wiener praised State’s Attorney Dick Devine and his office, saying, “They told me two weeks ago if I proved my client did not commit that crime, they would throw the case out.”
Spokesmen for the police and the state’s attorney’s office declined comment.
Officers who investigated the killing were “sick to their stomach” about the decision, a source said. “Rotten,” was how another high-ranking police official put it…