Category Archives: Jeff Tomczak

Man sues Joliet police who fired shots at him

A man who says he was shot several times last summer by Joliet police officers has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers and the City of Joliet.

The complaint, which will be pursued in federal court alleges excessive force and is seeking millions of dollars in damages.

James Pacheco shows the scars left behind by bullets that struck him in several places on his arm, shoulder and upper lip.

These are gunshot wounds he says he sustained when a Joliet police officer fired multiple shots at Pacheco during an incident last summer.

“I had no idea why their guns were drawn or why they were pulling me over,” Pacheco said.

Early in the morning of July 30, 2012, Pacheco was driving in the 900-block of East Washington Street when he was stopped by a train.

He made a u-turn and was stopped by Joliet officers investigating a report that implicated Pacheco in property damage nearby.

Pacheco says officers demanded he get out of the car, and before he could respond, opened fire.

The incident was caught on surveillance video.

Officers could be heard demanding that Pacheco get out of his car. Pacheco in turn asking why, saying he didn’t do anything.

Then, gunshots are heard.

Pacheco, saying he was fearing for his life, sped away and then crashed after a few miles.

“I don’t believe no matter what I did that night, I’m being accused of something that was minor, busting a window, I don’t think anybody deserves to be shot,” Pacheco said.

“You literally drive away to try to save your life. Pull over because you can’t go any further and what does the policeman do? Pull out a taser and tases you twice,” said Jeff Tomczak, Pacheco’s attorney.

Pacheco and his attorney, Jeff Tomczak, have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Joliet and the officers involved in the incident. The complaint makes several allegations, including excessive force and battery.

“When they pull the trigger of that gun, there has to be no room for error. No room for overreaction. No chance that that’s an unjustified shooting,” said Tomczak.

Pacheco still faces charges following that incident, including dui, and attempted aggravated battery.

An attorney for the City of Joliet says the officer involved in the shooting was under internal investigation, and it was found that the use of force was justified. However, he could not comment on the pending litigation.

Plainfield park commissioner on trial for alleged battery of political foe

A mysterious man dressed all in black and a Joliet firefighter allegedly engaged in a confrontation over political signs for a state Senate race on the eve of the Nov. 6 election.

It boiled over, ending with a third man — Peter Steinys, a campaign worker who months later was elected to the Plainfield Park District Board — being charged in Plainfield with a local ordinance violation of battery.

Steinys later helped install the candidate he was backing, Garrett Peck, as the Plainfield Park District’s new executive director.

This episode of local political intrigue made its way Tuesday to Will County Judge Joseph Polito, who began to sort it all out during a bench trial for Steinys at the branch court in Plainfield.

Steinys’ attorney, Ragan Freitag, said her client was acting in self-defense, as well as trying to defend another person and his property.

According to Tuesday’s testimony, volunteers for Peck and fellow state Senate candidate Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant put out campaign signs near Feeney Road and Route 59 in Plainfield the night before the election.

Michael Carlin of Morris — a Joliet firefighter who said he volunteered to work for the campaign of Tarrant, the eventual winner — testified that he put out pro-Tarrant signs there about 10 p.m. so voters would see them early on Election Day.

He said he returned to the intersection about 11:30 p.m. to check on the signs, and found they had been cut with a knife and tossed into a nearby field. By the light of vehicle headlights on Route 59, he noticed a man wearing all black lying in a ditch on the other side of the road, Carlin testified.

“He was lying there in wait, obviously,” Carlin said.

Carlin crossed the road to confront the man, and told him that only Tarrant’s campaign had permission to put signs there, Carlin testified.

The man in black, whom Carlin said seemed intoxicated, cursed at him and told him they had permission to put Peck’s signs there, too. Carlin testified that he cursed at the man and went back across the street to call a campaign manager.

From his vantage point, Carlin said, he saw the man in black walk toward a white Volkswagen parked near the intersection. Once Carlin confirmed that Tarrant’s campaign had permission to put signs in the field, he walked back across the street toward the car to confront the man again, he testified.

Carlin said he stood by the driver’s side window and “air knocked,” then pantomimed rolling down the car window. Carlin said he told the man in the driver’s seat — who he later found out was Steinys — to remove the signs, and added that he wasn’t looking for trouble and had just had shoulder surgery.

Carlin testified that Steinys then shoved open his car door, hitting Carlin, and said, “I’m sick of this (expletive). Don’t (expletive) with me, I’m going to (expletive) kill you.”

Steinys allegedly grabbed Carlin by the arms, and Carlin twisted away and began to run, he testified.

“I could hear him running after me, still swearing, announcing how he was going to kick my (expletive),” Carlin testified.

Steinys gave up the chase at the urging of the man in black, Carlin said. Meanwhile, Carlin called 911, as well as Tarrant campaign manager Glen Marcum, he testified.

Carlin asked Marcum to come to the scene, because, he said, “I was by myself, and I didn’t feel safe.”

Marcum testified that Carlin was very upset and shaking when Marcum arrived.

When Carlin described the vehicle and told Marcum the license plate number, Marcum knew immediately whom Carlin was dealing with, Marcum testified.

Tarrant campaign workers were familiar with Steinys and his vehicle because of “previous issues” with him during the campaign, the men said.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Marcum testified. “I knew exactly who he was referring to.”

Under cross-examination, Carlin said he did not see anyone tearing up Tarrant’s signs. He also said Steinys never actually hit him.

Freitag did not get the chance to begin her case defending Steinys, as Polito continued the trial to 1 p.m. Aug. 5.

Former Joliet cop accused in beating found innocent

A Will County jury on Wednesday found a former Joliet police officer accused of beating a woman during an arrest not guilty on all counts.

Thomas O’Connor, 37, was charged with aggravated battery after the February 2012 incident in which he punched Shantique Jackson more than 20 times while attempting to arrest her.

The jury deliberated about two hours before returning the verdict before Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes.

Afterward, O’Connor briefly thanked the jury; his attorneys, Jeff Tomczak and Dan Rippy; and his family for their support.

“I’m very pleased with the verdict,” Tomczak said. “It’s heartwarming to see the citizens, by way of this jury, standing up for the police officers. It’s good to see that the citizens understand how hard their job is, how dangerous their job is.”

Authorities said O’Connor committed a crime when he repeatedly punched the woman in the head and face before handcuffing her.

Defense attorneys said O’Connor was using his training properly to arrest an unruly person, making split-second decisions under difficult circumstances.

Jackson, 42, claims O’Connor gave her two black eyes, a nasal fracture, a scratch on her eyeball and bruises on her face and scalp on Feb. 9, 2012, in the parking lot of the Star Inn, 2219 W. Jefferson St., Joliet.

O’Connor was fired from the Joliet Police Department after the incident.

Jackson had called police about 1 a.m. to report a fight with her boyfriend, Anthony Layne. Jackson said she was at the motel to see Layne, who was living there, and caught him with another woman.

O’Connor responded to her call, and was the only policeman there until a backup officer arrived after Jackson was in custody, evidence showed.

While O’Connor was there, Jackson and Layne, who attorneys said is a convicted murderer, began to argue again, and Jackson kicked Layne in the groin, according to testimony.

O’Connor then tried to arrest Jackson, slammed her to the hoods of two different cars in the parking lot and punched her in the head more than 20 times, a surveillance video, which was played in the courtroom, shows. It also reveals that O’Connor eventually took Jackson to the ground and hit her a couple of more times before he handcuffed her.

O’Connor testified Wednesday morning that he punched Jackson, who is about the same size as him, as many times as necessary to gain control of a chaotic situation.

He was concerned about his safety during the incident, O’Connor said, as Layne and others were around at the time and he was working alone at a motel known as a site for past criminal activity.

Jackson testified Tuesday that she didn’t have a chance to put her hands behind her back before O’Connor began to punch her in the face. O’Connor said he gave her three or four seconds to comply with his order to give him her hands before he hit her.

Jackson resisted O’Connor’s attempts to handcuff her for about 40 seconds, O’Connor said, while he repeatedly yelled at her to give up her hands.

Jackson denied that she tried to resist O’Connor. She was arrested for domestic battery and resisting arrest, but the charges were dropped.

O’Connor said he punched Jackson because it was what he was taught to do to gain control of a situation.

Jury Picked For Trial of Chicago Man Charged in ’07 Plainfield Murder

RicardoGutierrezThe trial of a Chicago man jailed since October 2007 in connection with a Plainfield murder is set to start Thursday morning.

Jury selection for Ricardo Gutierrez’s trial started and finished Wednesday.

Gutierrez, 23, allegedly gunned down Javier Barrios, who was 18 when he was killed.

Barrios, a Romeoville resident, was first shot by his ex-girlfriend, 24-year-old Gabriela Escutia, police said.

Escutia allegedly set up a rendezvous with Barrios in a field on Route 59 near a Meijer service station. Gutierrez reportedly joined her for the meeting.

Escutia has confessed to shooting Barrios as he sat in his car, according to a complaint for a search warrant. After firing once, the complaint said, the gun jammed.

Escutia cleared the gun but Gutierrez took it from her and shot Barrios twice more, the complaint said. Gutierrez told police he tossed the gun away on Interstate 55 after shooting Barrios, the complaint said, but Escutia believed he held on to it and brought it back to his home in Chicago.

Escutia and Gutierrez were captured at the residence in Chicago. A search of the home failed to turn up the handgun.

Escutia had sought and secured an order of protection against Barrios two and a half weeks prior to the killing. In her petition for the order she claimed Barrios pushed her down, slapped her, and broke her car window and a headlight. Escutia also accused Barrios of harassing her and “calling and leaving messages.”

Escutia’s case remains pending. She has a March 8 court date.

Before picking a jury, prosecutors and Gutierrez’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak discussed what witnesses might be called at the trial and pointed out that a detective who investigated the case, Troy Kivisto, is no longer a member of the Plainfield Police Department.

In January 2011, sources identified Kivisto as the off-duty Plainfield cop who barricaded himself in his car in Chicago’s South Loop. The officer reportedly threatened to harm himself but was coaxed out of the car by Chicago police after about two hours.

A Chicago police spokesman said at the time the off-duty officer was “distraught for personal reasons.”

A source said Kivisto was recently arrested outside Will County.

Elmhurst Patch reported that a Troy A. Kivisto, 46, was arrested twice in November. On Nov. 24, he was charged with trespass and possession of liquor on public property after a woman walked into a garage in the 200 block of North Larch and allegedly saw him crouching behind her vehicle, police said. On Nov. 26, he was charged with criminal trespass after police found him passed out in the back yard of a home in the 200 block of North Larch, police said. He was reportedly taken to Elmhurst Memorial Hospital because he was intoxicated.

Jury selection begins for man accused of 2007 Plainfield murder

RicardoGutierrezRicardo Gutierrez was 18 in 2007 when he was charged with murder for allegedly taking part in the fatal shooting of a Romeoville teenager in Plainfield.

Jury selection began Wednesday in Gutierrez’s trial in Will County court.

Javier Barrios, 18, was shot to death Oct. 28, 2007, behind a gas station near 135th Street and Route 59.

Police say Gutierrez, now 23, and Barrios’ ex-girlfriend, Gabriela Escutia, are responsible. The two were arrested on first-degree murder charges two days after the shooting.

Escutia’s case has not yet gone to trial.

Gutierrez and Escutia, 24, remain in the Will County Jail in lieu of $5 million bond. At the time of the shooting, the two were allegedly dating, authorities said.

Witnesses said they heard shots ring out in the late afternoon near the gas station, saw a man stagger into a field south of the station and collapse, and watched his assailants drive away.

Barrios was pronounced dead at the scene.

Earlier that month, Escutia filed a petition for an order of protection against Barrios, a record that had led detectives to her during their investigation of the shooting, police said.

Mom on Trial in Abuse Case

Wife of Eddy Curry, Korie M KelloggA Will County judge will decide whether a Mokena mom crossed the line when she beat her son with a belt last spring after he got in trouble at school.

Physical punishment by parents isn’t illegal, prosecutors said, but the beating Korie M. Kellogg, 30, gave the 10-year-old son she had with former Chicago Bull Eddy Curry was abusive.

Kellogg’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak, argued it was simply a parent disciplining her child.

A bench trial on Kellogg’s aggravated battery charge began Thursday.

Kellogg was arrested after she brought the boy to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox on April 4, the day after the beating, to treat swelling of bruises on his back, leg and face.

A hospital staff member called Mokena police after they saw the boy’s injuries.

After the state rested its case Thursday afternoon, Judge Daniel Rozak said he would consider Tomczak’s motion for a verdict of not guilty and issue his decision on Jan. 18.

Tomczak said Kellogg’s physical punishment wasn’t given in anger or to be malicious.

“She tells him why, she inflicts her punishment, and she tells him she loves him,” Tomczak said, pointing out the boy testified his mother had never hit him in anger.

“The state is not arguing that it’s unreasonable for parents to put their hands on their children ever,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Adam Capelli. “The state believes (punishment) is up to each individual parent. This does rise to the level of unreasonable.”

Under questioning by Tomczak, the boy said he was not afraid of his mom, and that he knows she loves him.

“You knew why your mom gave you that whuppin’, didn’t you?” Tomczak asked the boy.

“Yes,” he said.

“And you knew your mom did that because she cared about you?” Tomczak asked.

“Yes,” he said.

Mokena police Detective Jeff Kowalczyk testified that Kellogg told him she had her son remove his clothing before she hit him with the belt 10 to 15 times as a punishment for behavior problems at school.

She was whipping his back and buttocks, but the boy was hit in the face as well because he was “flailing around.”

She told the detective that, after she hit him, she laid down with him and told him she loved him, Kowalczyk said.

Preparation helps calm nerves

SPRINGFIELDJeffery J. Tomczak sat alone, steadily paging through a stack of documents.

Portraits of former chief justices silently observed him running through notes and case history at a long table in the attorney’s room — just outside the Illinois Supreme Court chambers.

Soon, the owner of the Law Offices of Jeff Tomczak in Joliet would step to the podium and deliver the first high court oral argument of his 27-year career, representing a defendant in a DUI case. His wife, daughters and parents all came to view this career highlight.

The former Will County state’s attorney began speaking, barely finishing the opening sentence of his prepared remarks before the chief justice interrupted him.

In his rush to launch into the legal debate, Tomczak forgot to identify himself to the court.

“I don’t usually miss saying my name very often,” he said later, noting his prior political experience ingrained that trait in him. “My friends will give me a hard time about that one.”

The pressure and tension in developing and arguing a Supreme Court case can often strain one’s nerves, veteran and rookie high court arguers agree.

But preparedness — investing significant time in developing the appeal petition, writing and editing the brief and honing an oral argument — remains the key to surviving and succeeding, they said.

“The more one prepares, the more one realizes that nerves and anxiety are all part of the process,” said David Iskowich, the supervising attorney for the Criminal Appeals Division of the Illinois attorney general’s office. “But preparation does a lot to remedy that.”

The petition

Any case in the high court begins with a petition for leave to appeal — the roughly 20-page document that attempts to persuade the court to hear the case.

Crafting a PLA always poses a challenge, as it requires distilling an often painstakingly detailed case record down to a few crucial points, said Robert G. Black, a partner at the Law Offices of Robert G. Black P.C. in Naperville.

Knowing the court only takes about 4 percent of the petitions it receives, he said, means the appeal must clearly show why the case merits attention.

“You want to find that hook that will interest the Supreme Court in taking the case,” said Black, who began arguing cases before the high court in the early 1990s.

Solicitor General Michael A. Scodro, who oversees civil and criminal appeals for the state, said his office spends substantial time contemplating the impact of lower court decisions.

Before deciding to appeal to the high court, he said, they also consider what rules of law they could ask the court to create or modify.

“We devote significant thought to the contours of the legal rule we’re recommending,” he said, “and how it fits in with existing legal doctrine.”

Key points of focus, Black said, usually include conflicts in rulings between appellate districts or an evolving area of law that attorneys need guidance on.

“What you’re trying to do is not so much tell the Supreme Court why you should win your case,” he said, “it’s more why this case should be taken.”

The briefs

Once the court takes a case, intense work begins in developing a brief of 50 pages or less.

Before putting a single word down on paper, though, attorneys said they first must review the entire case record, learning it inside and out.

J. Timothy Eaton, a partner at Shefsky & Froelich Ltd., said studying the facts of a case sometimes takes weeks or months. Once, he spent a year reviewing a case with three years of trial court proceedings and hundreds of thousands of pages in the record.

“You have to understand the facts before you can appreciate the law,” said Eaton, who argued four cases before the high court in the past year.

Michael T. Reagan, owner of the Law Offices of Michael T. Reagan in Ottawa, said two key processes occur between the briefing stages at the appellate and Supreme Court levels.

For the high court, attorneys must first pare down the issues presented in a case to only the most critical ones — a sometimes difficult process when working with trial attorneys or clients who want to raise any and all questions.

Constructing a solid brief also requires figuring out how the present case fits in with the rest of case law. Attorneys must propose a solution that blends with existing legal precedent, he said.

“That’s a powerful aspect of persuasion, crafting a resolution to the case which would fit the best with the rest of the law,” said Reagan, who appears at the court about once a year, first arguing in 1986.

Iskowich said drafting a brief requires marshaling the best facts from the record, then applying existing law to them. But it also demands serious thought about what resolution to seek in a case.

“It’s more of an art than a science,” he said, “trying to gauge the mood of the court, where they might be wanting to develop the law and in what direction.”

Scodro said once an attorney grasps the “universe of the case” and develops a strategic plan highlighting the strongest arguments and anticipating weaknesses, an outline develops.

Writing usually occurs over several days, he said, with close attention paid to each paragraph and sentence. Once drafted, the brief undergoes an intense review process with one or more attorneys editing for style, but also revising or restructuring arguments.

“We make sure it’s a polished product without grammatical errors, but on top of that, making sure it’s put concisely and persuasively,” he said. “You don’t want to give the court more pages than it needs.”

The argument

Attorneys with frequent high court experience said oral arguments, the final stage of the process, tend not to be something they repeatedly rehearse in a mirror.

It does, however, require thorough preparation involving conversations with other attorneys and, in some offices, exercises that resemble moot court proceedings.

Michael J. Pelletier, the state appellate defender, said all attorneys in his office prepare their arguments with oversight from two supervisors who help distill the brief down to a few crucial points.

Attorneys then deliver their argument to staff members who interrupt with questions, simulating the experience that occurs in front of the seven-justice panel.

“No matter how many years of experience you have, I think it’s dangerous to just sort of wing it,” said Pelletier, who argued nine high court cases before taking the top spot in his office. “I’ve seen some individuals go up with no notes. I don’t know if that’s cocky, but I can’t imagine doing it.”

Attorneys tend to prepare remarks to fill their full 20 minutes of time, but said they hope to only need a few key points. The best oral arguments, they said, feature frequent questions from the justices.

Rather than seeing interruptions to their argument as a potential stumbling block, high court veterans said an active session with the justices offers a view into their thought process.

“If you’re lucky, the court takes over the argument and begins asking about the things which are important to them,” Reagan said. “That’s something a good advocate wants to happen.”

As a newcomer to oral arguments, Tomczak said he found anticipating potential questions to be the toughest part of preparation.

“You’ve got really, really, really smart judges asking really hard questions,” he said. “It’s your job not only to figure out what the questions are going to be, but coming up with a good, honest, intellectual answer.”

Scodro said he additionally views the back-and-forth as a chance to be a resource for the court. The arguing attorney knows the case better than anybody, he said, and this marks the final shot to share that knowledge.

“Ultimately, what you’d like to hear are questions that go to what the justices think are the very weakest points in your arguments,” he said. “That can be very challenging when you’re up there, but at the end of the day, you’d prefer to have the opportunity to address those concerns.”

While no way exists to anticipate every question from the court, attorneys said, discussions with sharp-minded colleagues can help.

“Chances are, if you have people that are new to the case look at the briefs, they’re going to come up with some thoughts or questions that you might expect the judges would ask,” Eaton said.

The opinion

Eventually, the case boils down to one important, final document.

The court issues rulings about 15 times a year and attorneys learn just a few days in advance when their case will be decided.

While waiting months for a conclusion sometimes pushes the case out of mind, attorneys said the sense of anxiousness quickly returns on opinion release day.

“I read the first paragraph, then jump to the last paragraph,” Black said. “Then I go back and look at the guts and see how they got there.”

Eddy Curry’s son going back to mom who hit him with belt

Wife of Eddy Curry, Korie M KelloggThe son of former Chicago Bull Eddy Curry gets to go home to his mother, a Will County judge ruled Thursday.

A grand jury indicted 30-year-old Korie M. Kellogg of Mokena this month on one count of aggravated battery after prosecutors said she beat the 10-year-old son she had with Curry with a belt.

But Kellogg’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak, told Judge Daniel Rozak this is a “straight, right-down-the-middle parental discipline case.” He said Kellogg disciplined her son because he had behavior problems at school.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Long said the boy was hit on his back, leg and face. Kellogg was arrested April 4 after police were called to Silver Cross Hospital, where Kellogg brought the child for treatment of bruises and swelling.

“You could see the marks,” Mokena Police Cmdr. Dan Rankovich said.

Judge Richard Schoenstedt said Kellogg could see her son earlier this month, but Kellogg told Rozak Thursday “every time I have contact with my son my sister has to be present.”

Tomczak gave the judge an evaluation from a Department of Children and Family Services therapist. He said DCFS found no risk in letting the boy return home to his mother.

He said his client is a successful real estate broker who doesn’t drink and went to her son’s school to observe his behavior. He also said any hit with the belt to the boy’s face was accidental.

“We have the government getting between a parent and a child,” Tomczak said.

Rozak said the boy may return home with Kellogg. Mother and son already are participating in weekly counseling sessions, and the judge asked for weekly written reports from the counselor.

Kellogg and Curry began dating while sophomores at Thornwood High School in South Holland. They married young and he divorced her in 2001 when the Bulls drafted him out of high school. Curry now plays for the Miami Heat.

Ex-wife of Former Bull Eddy Curry Charged with Battering Child

The ex-wife of former Chicago Bull Eddy Curry has been charged with aggravated battery of a child.

Korie Kellogg, 30, of Mokena was charged with beating a child younger than 13 with a belt, authorities said.

On Wednesday, Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt granted her request to see her 10-year-old son with Curry based on recommendations of the Department of Illinois Children and Family Services, according to her attorney, Jeff Tomczak.

He said Kellogg hasn’t been indicted by a grand jury in the case. If she is indicted, he said he’ll fight the charges “vehemently.”

Mokena Police Cmdr. Dan Rankovich said Kellogg was arrested on April 4, after police were called to Silver Cross Hospital, where Kellogg had brought a child for treatment of bruises and swelling. Rankovich said she had beaten the boy with a belt in her home.

“You could see the marks,” he said.

Kellogg and Curry began dating while sophomores at Thornwood High School in South Holland and married young. He served her with divorce papers in 2001 after he was drafted out of high school by the Bulls with the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft and while he and Kellogg were teenagers.

After four seasons with the Bulls, he played five seasons with the New York Knicks. He’s now a member of the Miami Heat.

Former wife of Eddy Curry in court on aggravated battery charge to son

Bail was modified today to allow the ex-wife of former Chicago Bull Eddy Curry to have supervised contact with their son, who she allegedly beat on April 4, according to officials.

Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt agreed to allow Korie M. Kellogg, 30, of Mokena to have the contact, in response to an emergency motion from her attorney, Jeff Tomczak.

Mokena Police arrested Kellogg of the 11200 block of Pin Oak Circle on April 4 after observing welts and bruises on the child’s face and body that were caused by a belt, said Cmdr. Dan Rankovich.

He said authorities at the boy’s school told Kellogg to take her son to a local hospital for an examination, and reported the boy’s condition to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The police investigator observed the youth’s condition at the hospital, Rankovich said.

Kellogg is scheduled to be arraigned April 25 on a charge of aggravated battery to a pre-teen, and is free on $25,000 bail.

Tomczak termed the incident “strictly a case of proper parental discipline” and said he is asking Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow to review and reconsider the Class 3 felony charge, which carries a 2- to 5-year sentence if convicted.

Tomczak served as Will County state’s attorney for four years.

Officer Who Gave Keys to Drunk Driver Testifies

The Chicago Heights police officer who allegedly handed a drunken Steger man the keys to a car and ordered him to drive shortly before the man crashed into a tree, killing his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son, testified Thursday that the man seemed fine.

Officer Chris Felicetti sounds stunned in a call recorded right after the crash in which a Chicago Heights police dispatcher tells him the boy, Michael Langford Jr., he’d seen moments before had died shortly after the traffic stop.

“Are you serious?” Felicetti asks. “Are you kidding me?

“Oh my God,” he says. “(The driver) was all right when I turned it over to him.

“The kid was secured safely in the child seat,” he says, before repeating the phrase “Oh my God” at least four times.

Judge Edward Burmila ruled that the recording could not be played during Thursday’s hearing on whether Steger police had probable cause to arrest Cecil Conner.

Before his ruling, Conner’s attorneys played the recording in the courtroom during a break in the hearing. Conner’s trial on several counts of aggravated drunken driving is scheduled to begin next week.

Felicetti’s testimony, which was cut short Thursday evening but was scheduled to resume Friday, came after two Steger police officers testified that Conner appeared highly intoxicated after the crash.

His blood alcohol content tested as high as .208 percent, and Conner reportedly had called friends shortly before the fatal crash, saying he was drunk and needed help because a Chicago Heights police officer had ordered him to drive.

On May 10, designated driver Kathie LaFond was driving Conner home after he’d been drinking at a friend’s house all day when she was pulled over by Felicetti and charged with driving on a suspended license.

About 40 minutes after Felicetti handed Conner the keys to LaFond’s red Chevrolet Cavalier, Conner drove off the road, went through several yards and crashed into a pine, uprooting the roughly 30-foot-tall tree.

The crash site near the southeast corner of Carpenter and 34th streets is about two miles from where LaFond was pulled over.

Michael, who was asleep in a car seat, died in the crash.

Steger police Sgt. Gerald Ruff testified that Conner was bleeding from a head wound, smelled of alcohol, was unable to give an accurate home address and fell over while sitting on a porch after the crash.

Conner told Ruff that a silver-colored car had cut him off — a story Ruff did not find credible — and urged him to “go get the bastard that did this.”

Steger police Detective Peter Fajman testified Thursday that Conner was slurring his speech and seemed confused after being taken to St. James Hospital.

“He would ask me repeatedly why he was there and what was going on,” said Fajman, who testified he smelled a “strong odor” of alcohol on Conner’s breath.

Felicetti gave a different picture, testifying that he told the Chicago Heights dispatcher that he gave Conner the car “based on my perception of him that he was OK.”

Conner’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak, is seeking to defend his client by arguing that Conner was following Felicetti’s orders when he drove that night.

Nursing Home Is Fined After Hurt Resident Dies State

Nurses Allegedly Waited Too Long To Call Paramedics

JOLIET — State health officials have fined a Joliet nursing home $10,000 because its nurses allegedly waited a half hour before calling paramedics after they found a 74-year-old resident in full cardiac arrest.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the fine against Glenwood Care Center, 222 N. Hammes, in a press release on Tuesday. A state public health report obtained by The Herald News earlier this year says that the nurses who found an unresponsive Lorraine Carlson at 11:20 p.m. on Jan. 27 waited 36 minutes before contacting a private ambulance service.

Paramedics, who arrived two minutes after receiving the call, put Carlson on a heart monitor at 11:58 p.m. and discovered that she was experiencing rapid contractions, according to the public health report. She was rushed to Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead in the emergency room 28 minutes later.

The attending nurse told public health investigators that “the delay in calling the ambulance was due to (the nurse) being so busy doing other things,” according to the report.

Will County State’s Attorney Jeff Tomczak sued the nursing home earlier this year. To avoid a legal battle, the nursing home agreed to allow a temporary administrator to take over the facility for a five- month period beginning in April. The interim administrator exited the facility on Aug. 1 after giving the nursing home a clean bill of health.

Carlson’s family also has filed a lawsuit against Glenwood Care Center.

The nursing home is contesting the fine and the allegations made by public health officials. The nurse who was responsible for Carlson’s care was suspended and eventually was fired.

Tomczak named State’s Attorney of the Year : 2003

The Illinois State Crime Commission announced its selection of Jeff Tomczak to receive its State’s Attorney of the Year Award at the Crime Commissions’ annual dinner, “A Salute to Those Who Make A Difference” June 18 at the Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace. In December 2000, Tomczak became the 27th prosecutor to serve as the state’s attorney for Will County. Upon entering the office, Tomczak concentrated his efforts on improving prosecutions for driving under the influence of alcohol. His work led to a 187 percent increase in convictions during the first year of his administration.

In conjunction with the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, Tomczak created a statewide program for mandatory blood testing of suspended DUI drivers. He also brought the “Drunk Busters” program to Will County.

Tomczak also created the Consumer Fraud Unit to prevent fraud upon senior citizens as well as help collect child support for working families. He organized for first Identity Task Force Investigation Unit, now the model used throughout the State of Illinois, which to date has helped restore the credit and good name of more than 300 citizens.

Tomczak started the Rapid Assistance Program to provide after- hours service to victims of domestic violence. He also opened branch offices in DuPage and Crete Townships in order to expand services to the areas furthest from the county seat in Joliet.

Tomczak has focused efforts on community outreach by forming Will County’s first Faith-Based Community Outreach group, organizing the County Juvenile Justice Council, and writing legislation to protect police officers from violence.

Tomczak is a native of Chicago. He attended De LaSalle High School, DePaul University and the John Marshall Law School where he was the magistrate of the Phi Delta Phi law fraternity. Jeff and his wife, Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak, live in New Lenox, with their

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<B>Tomczak</B> named State’s Attorney of the Year :: Suburban Chicago Newspapers 7/15/10 8:34 PM

twin daughters, Lina and Rose.

With the help of such distinguished individuals and relying entirely on community contributions rather than government funding, the commission has become they most dynamic, effective and respected crime fighting organization in Illinois.

Jury finds Saltzman Guilty

Sentencing March 28: Had Been Accused of Attempted 1st-Degree Murder of Stepfather

Jury Finds Saltzman Guilty
Sentencing March 28: Had Been Accused of Attempted 1St-Degree Murder of Stepfather

 

JOLIET — A jury on Thursday found 22-year-old Brent Saltzman guilty of attempted murder and aggravated battery for the beating of his stepfather, Will County Treasurer Jack Weber.

Weber’s daughters and his friends sat in silence as the judge announced the guilty verdicts on two counts of aggravated battery. But they cried out with emotion as the judge read the guilty verdicts on the two more serious charges of attempted first-degree murder.

Jurors deliberated for three hours and 40 minutes Thursday afternoon.

Saltzman faces up to 60 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 28.

The guilty verdicts capped five days of emotional testimony.

The prosecution presented evidence aimed at proving that Saltzman intended to kill his then 63-year-old stepfather by striking him repeatedly with his hands.

Saltzman’s defense attorneys presented no witnesses.

But through the cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, they attempted to show that Weber fell during a family argument with his stepson and knocked his head against the bathtub and floor in the bathroom of his Shorewood home on Oct. 8, 2000. `A violent tyrant’

State’s Attorney Jeff Tomczak urged jurors not to believe the defense’s theory that Weber was the victim in a simple domestic squabble that got out of hand.

Tomczak pointed at the defendant and called him “a spoiled brat” and “a bully” who struck his mother and then began to beat Weber after his stepfather reached for the telephone to call police during the argument.

“These folks were living with a tyrant, a violent tyrant,” Tomczak said.

“This was a guy who wouldn’t even give a 63-year-old man the right to square off with him.”

During his closing comments, Tomczak accused Saltzman of giving Weber “a sucker punch” that knocked the treasurer cold.

The defendant then got on top of his helpless stepfather and repeatedly struck him, fracturing his skull in two places, shattering the bones on the left side of his face and causing internal brain injuries.

The respected Republican county treasurer, who is now 65, remains in a suburban rehabilitation center.

He is not expected to fully recover from his brain injuries. Conflicting testimony

Defense attorney George Lynch argued that Saltzman struck Weber with his elbow only once and that the treasurer suffered his life- threatening head injuries when he fell.

Tomczak, however, urged jurors to consider statements made to police and family friends by Weber’s wife, 51-year-old Bonnie Weber, who is the only witness to the brutal attack.

Bonnie Weber testified early this week that she did not see her son strike her husband.

But Tomczak, who held up photographs depicting Jack Weber’s injuries, reminded jurors that she had told friends and police investigators on the day of the attack that Saltzman had repeatedly struck her husband with his fists.

And he asked jurors to remember the tape of a 911 call that a desperate Bonnie Weber placed on the day her husband was attacked.

The state’s attorney quoted Bonnie Weber from the tape: “`My son tried to kill my husband.’ That’s the sum and substance of what Bonnie Weber saw.”

The defense did not know what to make of Bonnie Weber’s testimony.

Lynch conceded that she did not tell the truth.

But in a bizarre twist, the defense attorney suggested that police had botched the investigation by ruling her out too quickly as a suspect. Support for Weber

The courtroom was packed with Jack Weber’s friends and family members.

Among those in attendance were Joliet Councilmen Joe Shetina, who testified for the prosecution, and Robert Hacker.

Joliet Mayor Art Schultz listened to testimony on Wednesday afternoon.

And Will County Sheriff Brendan Ward also attended portions of the trial.

Retired restaurateur Earl D’Amico, a longtime friend of Jack Weber, was present for the entire trial.

Jack Weber belonged to a crowd that for 40 years had met for lunch at D’Amico’s Joliet restaurants.

“I’m here for the kids and out of my feelings for Jack,” he said.

“He’s a good friend.

He’s like a brother.”

Jack Weber’s daughters, Susan Dienslake and Judith Weber, have declined to comment while the trial was pending.

Susan Dienslake spoke through tears after the verdicts were announced.

“It’s been a very emotional and stressful week,” she said. “We’re very relieved that the trial is over.”

The sisters said they never doubted that Saltzman intended to kill their father during that beating.

They noted that Jack Weber had placed a deadbolt on his bedroom door out of fear that his stepson might harm him.

On the morning of the attack, Saltzman easily forced open the door, breaking the deadbolt and splintering the wooden frame.

Bonnie Weber sat quietly while waiting for the jury to return Thursday afternoon.

She pulled a rosary from her purse and prayed intently on a bench outside Judge Stephen White’s courtroom late in the afternoon.

Her ex-husband, Bunny Saltzman, who is Brent Saltzman’s father, placed a hand on Bonnie Weber’s shoulder when she buried her face in her hands.

She said Thursday that the jury had made “a giant mistake” and promised to appeal.

She insisted that the truth did not come out during the trial.

Tomczak named State’s Attorney of the Year

The Illinois State Crime Commission announced Friday that Will County State’s Attorney Jeff Tomczak has been selected as the 2004 State’s Attorney of the Year.

This is the second consecutive year that he has received the award, and the first time in 10 years that the State Crime Commission has named a consecutive recipient for the honor.

“We selected Jeff Tomczak for a second honor for a very simple reason. Jeff has set a new standard,” said Jerry Elsner, Illinois State Crime Commission executive director, Tomczak has developed innovative programs, prosecuted innovative cases, and produced innovative solutions to crime, Elsner said.

He also cited Tomczak’s work in cases involving consumer fraud and identity theft as additional reasons for the second honor.

“Our executive board especially is impressed by Jeff’s commitment to the faith-based community in Will County,” Elsner said. “We agree that local pastors have a unique ability to turn around those who would flirt with a criminal career.

“His work service programs are something others should emulate.”

The commission will host a recognition dinner in Tomczak’s honor at 7:30 p.m. June 24 at Drury Lane, Oak Brook Terrace