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.