Chicago Cops Acquitted in Jefferson Tap Bar Beating

The Chicago Tribune is reporting: 

"A Chicago police sergeant and two officers were acquitted today in connection with the off-duty beating of several patrons at a West Loop bar in December 2006.

Following a bench trial several weeks ago, Circuit Judge Thomas V. Gainer Jr. found Sgt. Jeffery Planey and Officers Gregory Barnes and Paul Powers not guilty of aggravated battery charges in the attack at the Jefferson Tap and Grille.

The judge also acquitted Planey of obstruction of justice and official misconduct for allegedly waving away on-duty police responding to a silent alarm from the bar. Security video was central to the prosecution case, but only Planey was caught on the tape getting physical with one victim.

Gainer was brief in his comments, saying he had reviewed all the testimony at trial as well as security videotapes and audio from a 911 call.

"After doing all of that, I have come to the conclusion that the state has failed to meet its burden in the charges against these men," he said.

"Prosecutors had alleged the officers jumped brothers Barry and Aaron Gilfand and two of their friends as they played pool. When police showed up at the bar, the off-duty officers felt they wouldn't be held accountable because Planey formerly worked in the district, Assistant State's Atty. Lauren Freeman said in closing arguments.

Attorneys for the officers said the attack was provoked by the alleged victims mocking Powers for crying over the recent death of his father. They contended the Gilfands exaggerated their injuries and altered their accounts of that night to boost their chances at winning a lot of money in their pending federal lawsuit against the officers and the city. Barnes' attorney, William Fahy, said that describing the Gilfands as victims was an insult to real crime victims, calling the brothers "a couple of loud-mouthed drunks." Fahy said Aaron Gilfand recently identified Barnes as his attacker for the first time after the state's only independent witness, bartender Lindsay Vanderford, said in a deposition for the lawsuit that she could have been mistaken about her identification of Barnes. During the trial, Vanderford again admitted that she was likely mistaken about her identification.

In his defense of Planey, attorney Thomas Needham stitched together dozens of bits of evidence, testimony and what he argued were reasonable inferences in an attempt to persuade Gainer that his client did not order or intend to send police away from the scene. Planey, the only defendant whose alleged crimes were captured on security video, faces two counts of aggravated battery for his alleged attack on Barry Gilfand -- that he caused bodily harm and that he insulted the alleged victim through his actions. But Needham said Gilfand was uninjured and that just because the sergeant pushed him against the wall did not mean he insulted Gilfand. Attorney Lori Lightfoot said her client, Powers, could not have assaulted Barry Gilfand in the manner he described because his testimony is contradicted by his appearance in security video moments after the alleged attack and the absence of bruises or significant injury." 


Amanda Antholt who represents plaintiffs in a lawsuit against these officers and the City of Chicago says she is disappointed with the verdict but she is confident that the civil suit will provide "justice" for her clients.

We will wait and see what happens in the civil case.  For now - congrats to the criminal defense team.  

Judge Kennelly denies summary judgment in a wrongful death case against Village of Glen Ellyn

Judge Kennelly denies summary judgment in a wrongful death case. "This case involves Bradley's fatal shooting of Benjamin on April 26, 2006 during a response to a domestic violence call." After arriving for the call, police found Benjamin standing naked and unarmed in the courtyard. Bradley attempted unsuccessfully to grab and arrest him. Benjamin told Bradley that he was going to have to do better than that in order to stop him. Benjamin took a baby and ran. Bradley contends that Benjamin slipped and fell outside of the apartment's bathroom, dropping the baby in the process. Benjamin then picked up the child and took it into the bathroom. Bradley followed them into the bathroom where he saw the two of them in a full bathtub. Bradley says that Benjamin was holding the baby under the surface of the water and indeed, approximately twenty seconds after he reported that Benjamin had picked up the child, he reported over his radio to dispatch, "He's trying to drown the kid." Bradley says he told Benjamin to let go of the baby. They then began to struggle. Bradley was able to pull the baby out of the tub. He says that Benjamin continued to strike at him from the bathtub, hitting him in the face, neck and chest. Bradley handed off the baby to someone else. " Bradley continued to struggle with Benjamin. "Bradley [police officer] asserts that Benjamin's [victim] attack on him in the bedroom justified his use of deadly force. More specifically, he contends that he knew Benjamin was violent based on the original call from dispatch; Benjamin's irrational behavior at the scene; his statement, after being pepper sprayed, that Bradley would have to do more to stop him; Benjamin's attempt to drown a baby; and his violent attack just before Bradley shot him. Bradley contends that the circumstances of that attack placed him in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or worse." Judge Kennelly explained: "A jury that believed Bradley's account almost certainly would find that his use of deadly force was objectively reasonable. Plaintiff provides no eyewitness testimony to rebut Bradley's account. That, however, is unsurprising given that Bradley alone survived the encounter between him and Benjamin. The Seventh Circuit has cautioned that "[t]he award of summary judgment to the defense in deadly force cases may be made only with particular care where the officer defendant is the only witness left alive to testify." Plakas v. Drinski, 19 F.3d 1143, 1147 (7th Cir.1994). Because a defendant in a self-defense case "knows that the only person likely to contradict him or her is beyond reach ... a court must undertake a fairly critical assessment of the forensic evidence, the officer's original reports or statements and the opinions of experts to decide whether the officer's testimony could reasonably be rejected at trial." Id; see also Maravilla, 60 F .3d at 1233-34 ("In these situations we think it wise to examine all the evidence to determine whether the officers' story is consistent with other known facts."). See generally Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 773 (7th Cir.2005) (because Fourth Amendment reasonableness inquiry "nearly always requires a jury to sift through disputed factual contentions, and to draw inferences therefrom ... summary judgment ... in excessive force cases should be granted sparingly" (internal quotation marks and citation omitted))." Plaintiff claims that photographs of injuries sustained to the police officer call into question his version events - as such - the "photographs" help sustain the "question of fact" Judge Kennelly did however grant summary judgment on the Monell claim against the village: "Plaintiff offers no evidence of other instances of deadly force or even excessive force violations by the Glen Ellyn Police Department. Indeed, he makes no mention of any such occurrences. It therefore appears that he is proceeding under the first method of proving deliberate indifference. Plaintiff's Monell theory is, however, asserted rather vaguely. Plaintiff offers no direct support for his contention that the Village failed to train Bradley on the proper use of deadly force. His failure to train theory is best discerned, as defendants suggest, through the opinions of retired Alabama police investigator William Gaut, plaintiff's expert witness. Gaut testified that the Village's failure to properly train officers and dispatchers on how correctly to respond to a domestic violence complaint FN2 resulted in Bradley's decision to approach Benjamin alone, without waiting for back-up to arrive-a decision that plaintiff contends led to Bradley's unjustified use of deadly force." Benjamin Obi Nwoye and Douglas Hopson represent the plaintiff Thomas George DiCianni of Ancel Glink represents the defendants. See Uwumarogie v. Village of Glen Ellyn, 2008 WL 2782833 (July 15, 2008)

Sheriff's Deputy Cleared In Beanbag Gun Shooting

An Illinois State Police investigation has concluded that McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Zane Seipler was justified in using deadly force when he shot forty-three year old David Maxson with a shotgun firing small bean bags. The investigation found that Maxson ran towards Deputy Seipler waiving a knife. Seipler responded by firing three silver dollar sized bean bags at Maxson. The McHenry County State's Attorney's Office agreed that deadly force was was warranted. This was the first use of the bean bag weapon by McHenry County Sheriff's deputies. The bean bag weapon is typically intended for situations when less than lethal force is needed, but can be used as a lethal weapon according to police officials.