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Judge Throws Out DUI Evidence Against Chicago Cop

Chicago Sun Times via YellowBrix

April 28, 2010

CHICAGO – Key evidence can’t be used against a Chicago cop filmed drinking large amounts of alcohol minutes before he was involved in a car crash that claimed the lives of two young men, a Cook County Judge ruled this morning.

Judge Thomas Gainer Jr.’s ruling that evidence was illegally seized from Officer John Ardelean following the deaths of Miguel Flores and Erick Lagunas on Thanksgiving Day 2007 severely weakens the case against Ardelean.

It provoked an angry response this morning from Flores’ mother and two sisters, who were arrested outside the courtroom after a confrontation with Cook County sheriff’s deputies.

Although one deputy apparently suffered a broken finger in the scuffle, the sheriff’s office declined to press charges against the women and said they would be released later today.

Ardelean was charged with four counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide after video footage from the Martini Ranch Bar showed him consuming large amounts of alcohol just minutes before the crash at the intersection of Damen and Wellington in the early hours of Nov. 22, 2007.

But his attorneys challenged his arrest, because two fellow officers, a sergeant, and a fire department paramedic all said Ardelean didn’t appear intoxicated at the scene, so he wasn’t subjected to a Breathalyzer test until several hours later.

In his ruling, Gainer agreed that Lt. John Magruder — who said Ardelean had seemed drunk when he was brought back to the police station — was an “incredible” witness.

Magruder testified at an earlier hearing that Ardelean had bloodshot eyes, smelled of booze and looked like “he was walking kind of funny with a limp or something.’’

But the judge wrote that Magruder had given a “rambling” account of the decision to arrest Ardelean. He’d referred to another media controversy in which a police officer was facing DUI charges and telling a prosecutor that “we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” the judge wrote.

The judge added that the “police conduct in this case which led to the arrest of the defendant is exactly the type of conduct which the exclusionary rule is meant to deter.”

The judge wrote in his ruling that “there was no conspiracy to protect this defendant by rogue officers acting without regard to their oath to protect the citizens of our community in favor of a fellow officer who was in the wrong.’’

Prosecutors are due to decide by the next hearing on May 25 whether to continue with the case.

The victims’ relatives fear it may now be impossible to win a conviction.

Things got ugly as a group of more than 20 emotional relatives and friends left Gainer’s courtroom behind a shaven-headed Ardelean today.

Loudly crying and declaring they are the victims of an official cover-up, they shouted “murderer!” at Ardelean and clashed with Sheriff’s deputies who attempted to control them.

After arguing with a female deputy who friends say had told her “you’re setting a fine example for your son,” Miguel’s sister Blanca Flores, 23, was leaving the court building when she shouted “I’m going to f—- that bitch up!”

The female deputy and two other deputies, who were following Flores, then chased her down a corridor and tackled her.

When Blanca Flores’s sister Nancy, 29, and mother, Blanca Villanueva, tried to intervene, deputies tackled them, too.

Sheriff spokesman Steve Patterson issued a statement saying deputies got involved because “loud disruptions were coming from the hall, prompting a female deputy to step out and ask them to stop.’’

“ … A female deputy attempted to quiet them and asked them to leave when a relative of a victim in the case involved stepped forward and made multiple threats to that deputy. Other deputies then came in the hall. The woman’s threats against the deputy then became more aggressive, prompting other family members nearby to restrain the woman who then became combative.’’

Two other relatives “began attacking’’ the deputies, leading to their arrest as well.

Patterson said two deputies were now being treated at a hospital: “One has what appears to be a broken finger, along with what appear to be fingernail scratches all down her side. The other deputy appears to have bite marks on her collarbone and neck area.’’

But after reviewing the case, Patterson said the sheriff’s office declined to bring charges.

“It was an emotional situation and lines were indeed crossed, but given the circumstances, we plan to release the three women without asking that charges be filed against them,’’ Patterson said.

“We’re very upset,” Erick Lagunas brother, Jose Lagunas, said as the dust settled. “The witnesses were all lying because [Ardelean is] an officer.”

Pointing out that the video showed Ardelean drinking just before the crash, he said, “I understand there are rules of evidence, but what else am I supposed to think?”

Other relatives criticized the deputies’ handling of the incident today.

“We’re all very emotional, but we just needed some space,” Erick Lagunas’ cousin, Mayra Lagunas, said. “After all the evidence that’s been presented, the decision today is an outrage.”


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  • Car6_max50

    Ahi

    almost 4 years ago

    1990 Comments

    I feel for the family and the officer should be punished for what he did. But that doesn't make it okay what the family did either.

  • Wcso_max50

    Joe12304

    almost 4 years ago

    18 Comments

    They say the didn't use an intoxilyzer until several hours later. Why didn't they mention what those results were? I'd be interested in knowing.

  • Derrick_max50

    gradyg

    almost 4 years ago

    1118 Comments

    The citizens of Cook County has lost faith in the system, if this guy was just a citizen he would have been charge. This is sending the wrong message to the people of cook county and chicago that any time a police officer is involved in a crime they are not going to be charge.

  • My_flicks-1_max50

    oly441

    almost 4 years ago

    6 Comments

    Wether this is legally or ethically "Equal treatment under the Law", the Civil Suit that will be filed by this family is probably going to break the Cook County bank.

  • Steve_mcqueen_max50

    ilegworldchamp

    almost 4 years ago

    8966 Comments

    Judge Thomas Gainer Jr.’s ruling that evidence was illegally seized from Officer John Ardelean following the deaths of Miguel Flores and Erick Lagunas on Thanksgiving Day 2007 severely weakens the case against Ardelean

    Ardelean was charged with four counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide after video footage from the Martini Ranch Bar showed him consuming large amounts of alcohol just minutes before the crash at the intersection of Damen and Wellington in the early hours of Nov. 22, 2007.

    In his ruling, Gainer agreed that Lt. John Magruder — who said Ardelean had seemed drunk when he was brought back to the police station — was an “incredible” witness.

    Magruder testified at an earlier hearing that Ardelean had bloodshot eyes, smelled of booze and looked like “he was walking kind of funny with a limp or something.’’

    The video tape from the bar was in the possession of the Officer who was charged ( he may have acquired it after the accident to hide it and it was taken from him without a warrant?)

    I kind of think I would be a little P.O.'d after going through what appears to be a typical "Bag Job" to let this Drunk go. I can say he was drunk because the excluded tape proves he was and so does a Lt. who observed him.

  • 50_bkemblem_sq90_max50

    mjones0089

    almost 4 years ago

    408 Comments

    JP503...........I agree with you 100%. Shame on the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

  • 20110326_041_max50

    gitim4God

    almost 4 years ago

    4 Comments

    Why is it that anytime the name "Chicago" is mentioned there is something shady going on? Must be something in the air or water.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    DaveAWilliams

    almost 4 years ago

    4 Comments

    This is the difference between right/wrong and legal/illegal; everyone can see that something very 'wrong' has occurred, and even the interpretation of legality can be said to be 'wrong', but NOT illegal.... Ethics and morals are so far removed from 'legal' that one can almost call ethics and the legal system twins separated at birth and keep in different cellars.as complete strangers. Wow!! Waxing poetic so early in the morning...

  • Chris_and_i_in_uniform_max50

    JP503

    almost 4 years ago

    7620 Comments

    The family should be charged. Way to back your officer's Cook County.

  • 013_max50

    C134

    almost 4 years ago

    84 Comments

    You'd have a heck of a time not getting me to press charges on the family, I understand the familys disgust and them being upset but by not charging them youve set the exaple for other family members in similar cases not only in Chicago but also all across the nation....

  • Snoopy_6_max50

    Jonas

    almost 4 years ago

    41192 Comments

    Whether the evidence was gathered correctly or not didn't two people die? This is tragic from any angle!

  • Images_max50

    OFFICER_K_CPD

    almost 4 years ago

    2296 Comments

    Everyone, including off duty officers have the right to refuse a Field Sobriety Test and a Breathalyzer Test in Illinois. There are penalties for doing so, but it usually better to take the license suspension over a DUI. Even if you are in a vehicle crash resulting in fatalities, you cannot be forced to blow or give blood. Usually the only time you can take blood or evidence of that sort against anyone's will is when they are unconscious. Officers on duty must per GOs adhere to a Breathalyzer.

  • Evgeni_nabokov_max50

    skascooter007

    almost 4 years ago

    2010 Comments

    IDK I need more information

  • Autumn_leaves_max50

    rlindsey

    almost 4 years ago

    446 Comments

    I don't understand why the tape would be excluded....it wasn't obtained by law enforcement (no state action). I spoke to my wife who happens to be a defense lawyer and she said the article is leaving something out. It doesn't make sense. Very sad day for the victim's families.

  • Steve_mcqueen_max50

    ilegworldchamp

    almost 4 years ago

    8966 Comments

    The below Quote from the story , implies that a Breathalyzer test was done at some time later. Taking that reading even many hours later you can have the Medical Examiner attest to .025 per hour depreciation of the reading from the time of the accident. That is if everything is on the "UP and UP"?

    " so he wasn’t subjected to a Breathalyzer test until several hours later."

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