April 27, Chicago, IL
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.I’ve appeared before Judge Gainer on DUI matters before. I don’t think any lawyer will ever say he’s soft on this particular offense. It takes a lot for a judge to make difficult and unpopular rulings (believe me, I’m fully aware that is their job, but I can tell you many seem to think their job is to make the government happy) when there is so much pressure.
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.
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 Damn 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.’’
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.’’