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.

Plainfield Park Commissioner Accused of Battery, Threats in Spat Over Campaign Signs

dd4f691af4fc5670cfce796f7b940ca5There was no resolution Tuesday in the battery trial of a Plainfield Park District commissioner accused of attacking a rival campaign worker in November.

Joliet firefighter Michael Carlin maintains that Peter Steinys, 56, intentionally hit him with a car door, then attempted to strike him before grabbing him by both arms in a dispute over campaign signs.

Carlin was a volunteer for State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-49th District, who successfully ran against village trustee Garrett Peck last fall. Peck is also the new executive director of the Plainfield Park District.

Steinys, who was elected to the park board in April, faces a local ordinance charge of battery, rather than a state charge, meaning he won’t be sentenced to jail time if he’s convicted. As his bench trial before Will County Judge Joseph Polito got under way Tuesday, Steinys did not yet testify — but Carlin did, giving his account of what happened on the night before the Nov. 6 election.

Carlin, who lives in Morris, said he was part of a group of three volunteers who were placing signs in a field near Route 59 and Frasier Road, with the property owner’s permission.

“We had some troubles with that exact location with signs being mutilated [and] ripped out of the ground,” Carlin said. Around 11 p.m., Carlin said he returned to the site to check on the signs.

“As I was driving down Route 59 I observed all Garrett Peck signs in the field only we had permission for,” Carlin said, saying the Peck signs obscured some of the Bertino-Tarrant signs, while others had been tossed into the field.  Carlin said he parked in the church parking lot on the northwest side of field and then began replacing the Bertino-Tarrant signs.

As cars passed, Carlin said the headlights allowed him to spot a man dressed in black, lying in a ditch on the southeast corner of Route 59.

“Traffic’s coming, so I run across the street and I tell the guy, ‘Hey, we’re the only ones with permission to have signs in this field,’” Carlin said, adding that, during an expletive-laden exchange, the man in black disagreed.

“When he said ‘F you,’ I said ‘F you,” Carlin testified. “It wasn’t like I was telling him we were going to fight.”

Instead, while the man walked back to a vehicle, Carlin said he went back to his car and called Bertino-Tarrant campaign director Glenn Marcum to make sure he was in the right about having permission to place the signs in the field. After speaking to Marcum, Carlin said he ran back across Route 59 and approached the vehicle, a white Volkswagen parked near Feeney Drive and McMullin Circle.

There, he said he attempted to address a man he identified as Peter Steinys — not the man in black, who was a passenger in the vehicle and was not identified in court.

“I bent down … I did like an ‘air knock’ on the window, I motioned for him to roll the window down,” Carlin said. Carlin claims he told Steinys he wasn’t looking for problems, noting that he had just had surgery on his left shoulder, but said the Peck signs had to go.

Carlin testified that Steinys then flung the car door open, hitting him on his left side, before exiting the vehicle and swinging at him with both hands. Carlin said he was able to dodge the punches, and that Steinys then used both hands to grab his arms.

“After he was swinging, he was able to get both hands on me,” Carlin said, claiming Steinys threatened him, saying, “I’m sick of this s—, don’t f— with me, I’m going to f—ing kill you.”

According to Carlin, “As he said this, I’m backpedaling. I was able to shove his hands off with my right hand because I couldn’t use my left arm.”

Carlin claimed he ran, and could hear Steinys chasing after him until the passenger, who was the man dressed in all black, yelled for Steinys to stop.

“I think they only thing that stopped Mr. Steinys was the passenger,” Carlin said.

Steinys attorney Ragan Frietag questioned why Carlin would tell Steinys and the other man, now a passenger in the car, about his shoulder injury.

“Because there was two men sitting in a car,” Carlin said. “I didn’t want to have an issue.” Carlin also denied touching the vehicle.

Freitag pointed out that Carlin initiated the conversations, both with the man in black and with Steinys.

“You put yourself in that situation, didn’t you?,” she asked. Freitag also asked Carlin whether he was in the way of the car door, saying, “So you were in the path of where the door would open?”

“Correct,” Carlin answered, adding, “Or where the window could have rolled down.”

Carlin said after Steinys got back in the car, he notified the men he was calling the police, and that they left before the officer arrived. He also called Marcum to tell him what had happened, Carlin said.

Marcum also testified Tuesday, saying he arrived on the scene shortly after police. He said he was able to give police Steinys’ name after hearing Carlin’s description of his attacker and the white Volkswagen.

Marcum said he had had previous issues with Steinys, and had seen him at various events. “It didn’t surprise me when [Carlin] said who it was,” said Marcum, who also runs Bertino-Tarrant’s family business, Bertino Automotive in Joliet.

Although Steinys has yet to testify, Freitag said there are three defenses for battery: self-defense, defense of another person or defense of one’s property. Polito said it will be up to the village to prove that Steinys did not act in one of those capacities.

With three more witnesses for the plaintiff still to testify, not to mention testimony from the defense, Polito cut the bench trial short, saying he had additional cases to hear Tuesday afternoon at the Plainfield branch court.

An attorney for the Village of Plainfield said two Plainfield police officers and another Bertino-Tarrant campaign worker will also testify. Freitag said only Steinys is expected to testify for the defense.

The trial will resume at 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, at the Will County Courthouse.

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.

Chief Justice Announces Additional Funding for Probation Services Granted by Governor

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald announced Friday that Gov. Pat Quinn has restored $20 million to the Supreme Court’s current budget to help fund probation services throughout the state.

The governor responded to an appeal by the Chief Justice for the second year in a row to add funds for probationary services to remain a viable component of public safety.

For Fiscal Year 2011, the legislature appropriated $36.4 million to the Supreme Court for grants and awards, including probation services. That is the same amount it appropriated last year, and less than half of what had been appropriated for probation services in 2002. Last year, the governor restored $16 million after an appeal by Chief Justice Fitzgerald and conversations between the governor’s office and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, headed by Director Cynthia Y. Cobbs.

In a letter to the governor last month asking to increase funds under the governor’s statutory budget authority, the Chief Justice noted that even with the additional funds last year 90 probation officer jobs throughout the state were eliminated because of a shortfall of funding.

“I am compelled to once again write, with an even more heightened sense of urgency and concern for probation’s continued viability and capacity to promote public safety,” the Chief Justice said in a letter to the governor dated July 7, 2010. “Absent an additional allocation of funds in Fiscal Year 2011, there will be a compounded and an accelerated deterioration in probation services. This predictable sequence will begin with a loss of probation officer jobs and the attendant increase in caseload size, reductions in both frequency and quality of offender supervision, and heightened threats to public safety.”

Two days after the Chief Justice’s correspondence, the Governor directed Comptroller Daniel Hynes to delegate an additional $20 million for use by the Supreme Court to fund probation reimbursements.

Governor Restores Additional Funding for Probation Add One

“This is the second year in a row that the Governor has graciously responded to the Supreme Court’s requests that fiscal resources for probation services be increased beyond what the legislature has initially appropriated,” said Chief Justice Fitzgerald. “I, the Court and the hundreds of persons who make probation services work in this state are very grateful.

“As I have said in my comments earlier this year before the Appropriation Committees of both houses of the legislature, probation services are a vital component of public safety. The Supreme Court has a firm belief in the value of probation services and an unwavering commitment to sustain its availability as a practical sentencing alternative in the State of Illinois.

“Though far short of the 100 percent statutory mandate to reimburse counties for probation expenditures, these additional dollars will raise funding to a level which will avoid further erosion of probation’s critical public safety mission.”

If the statutory full amount of reimbursement to the counties for probation services were appropriated, it would be as much as $95 million.

“We are grateful to the Governor for the increased allocation of funds for probation services,” said Director Cobbs. “The Supreme Court and the Administrative Office will continue our fiscal stewardship of the additional funds to ensure probation services in Illinois are targeted to promote improved public safety.”

In 2009, Illinois probation officers supervised more than 97,000 adults and nearly 15,000 juveniles. They also conducted more than 37,900 bond and pre-sentence investigations and staffed 16 juvenile detention centers with an average daily population of almost 500 youths.

Prosecutors want Supreme Court to halt handover of jail recordings in fatal DUI

Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to undo a judge’s order to deliver hundreds of jailhouse recordings to the attorney of a Steger man who was convicted of killing a 5-year-old boy in a drunken driving crash last year.

Judge Edward Burmila decided last month those tapes should have been given to 24-year-old Cecil Conner and his attorney, Jeff Tomczak, ahead of Conner’s trial. Tomczak has said he is particularly interested in recorded conversations between Conner and the boy’s mother, Kathie LaFond.

In their motion, though, prosecutors said Burmila erred when he said they had “possession and control” of the recordings made by the Will County sheriff. Though Burmila decided the sheriff is an agent of the state’s attorney, prosecutors said they don’t have access to the jail or its files without the sheriff’s permission.

Jailhouse recordings have been turned over as evidence in other criminal cases. For example, Drew Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky said hundreds of recorded conversations were turned over after his client was charged with murder in Will County.

“The state’s attorney obviously had no problem getting a hold of Drew’s records,” Brodsky said.

But Conner’s prosecutors have said neither they nor the lead detective investigating his case listened to his recordings. They said Conner’s phone calls were only accessed two times — after his trial — when they were picked at random for a Will County sheriff’s deputy’s training session.

They also said Burmila’s ruling is unworkable, because Will County inmates place about 1,200 calls a day. Other counties are just as problematic, they said.

According to affidavits filed with the motion, Cook County inmates make about 40,000 calls each day, and McHenry County inmates make more than 500 a day. Kane County inmates placed 943 calls one day this month, and DuPage County inmates made 108,000 calls between Sept. 18 and Oct. 18.

Conner made 2,350 phone calls between May 10, 2010, and June 1, 2011, a jail official testified, but Burmila only ordered prosecutors to hand over tapes from May 10, 2010 until February 2011.

A jury convicted Conner in February for aggravated driving under the influence. LaFond was driving Conner home from a party in May 2010 with her 5-year-old son, Michael Langford Jr., in the back seat when a Chicago Heights police officer stopped the car. He arrested LaFond for driving with a suspended license and let Conner drive away.

The officer said Conner didn’t appear drunk, but Conner’s attorneys have said the officer threatened to arrest him if he didn’t drive the car home. A blood test later found Conner’s blood-alcohol level was 0.208, roughly 2-1/2 times the legal limit.

Shortly after the traffic stop, Conner drove the car into a tree on Steger Road near Carpenter street, killing the boy.

Burmila stayed his ruling until Monday, when Conner is expected to be back in court. Tomczak said he was surprised by the motion, and he said he’ll research whether prosecutors have a right to file it.

“We may well be wasting a significant amount of tax dollars,” Tomczak said.

Driver didn’t tell police he drank

JOLIET – When Chicago Heights police told Cecil R. Conner Jr. to drive his girlfriend’s young son home, he didn’t argue.

Whether the 22-year-old Steger man should have admitted to drinking was one of many points argued by attorneys Monday in Judge Edward Burmila’s courtroom.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Tomczak told the court that he has phone records showing Conner tried to find someone else to drive Kathie LaFond’s 5-year-old son home.

Tomczak also said keys could be heard on an audiotape as a Chicago Heights officer told Conner, “Drive that child home.”

LaFond was driving Conner and her son, Michael Langford, in her car May 10 when she was pulled over for routine traffic violations in Chicago Heights. LaFond was taken into custody for driving on a suspended license.

Police say there were no indications Connor was impaired. They told him to take the little boy home, but he smashed the car into a tree, killing the boy, about 40 minutes later at 34th and Carpenter Streets in Steger.

Conner faces multiple counts of aggravated DUI. His blood-alcohol content was .208, more than twice the legal limit, and had traces of marijuana.

The case will continue this week.

Mom blames cop, not boyfriend, for son’s death

JOLIET – As the trial opened against a Steger man accused of killing his girlfriend’s son in a drunken driving crash last spring, his attorneys focused their attention Monday on another man they say set the sad scenario in motion.

It was Chicago Heights Officer Chris Felicetti who stopped the young boy’s mother, Kathie LaFond, arrested her and forced her drunk boyfriend to drive, defense attorneys said.

That fatal decision led to the death of young Michael Langford Jr., who was sleeping in the back seat when Cecil Conner crashed into a tree.

“The evidence will show that Officer Felicetti set into play a circumstance that resulted in the death of Michael Langford,” Conner’s attorney Jeff Tomczak said during opening statements. “Kathie knows who caused this accident, and the evidence will show it’s not him,” he said, reaching back toward Conner.

Conner faces two counts of aggravated driving under the influence stemming from the May 10 crash along 34th Street near Carpenter Street that killed LaFond’s son, who was strapped into a booster chair in the backseat.

“Cecil Conner was drinking with the understanding he had a designated driver to take him where he needed to go,” Tomczak said.

LaFond had been driving Conner home from a party. But Felicetti stopped her at about 2:35 a.m. and arrested her on suspicion of driving with a suspended driver’s license. Felicetti ignored her efforts to tell him she was the designated driver and handed Conner the keys, threatening to arrest him if he didn’t take Michael home, Tomczak said.

Conner then called a friend for help, but the call dropped before he could tell her where he was.

Prosecution’s opening arguments

Assistant State’s Attorney Alyson DeBell summed up her case in just five minutes: Conner was drunk and at the wheel. He was speeding, driving more than twice the speed limit. He smashed the back end of the car so hard into a tree that it knocked off the bark.

“What about the little boy, Michael, trapped in his booster seat in the back of the car? Michael never took another breath,” she told jurors.

“It was the defendant alone who crashed the car due to intoxication and alone caused the death of 5-year-old Michael Langford,” DeBell concluded, the only time she looked away from the jury and back at Conner.

Young victim

Conner sat in a neat blue striped suit and matching tie, keeping quiet as a Steger patrol sergeant and Steger firefighters told jurors that Conner had only focused on Michael’s condition and care in the moments after the crash.

The 23-year-old defendant choked up a little during testimony by a Steger paramedic who kept treating little Michael even though he knew the child was already dead.

Steger Fire Capt. James Baine said he was spurred on by two words uttered by his partner: “He’s 5.”

“We just continued CPR. We couldn’t get anything,” Baine said.

Conner’s attorneys said they do not yet know whether he will testify in his own defense.

Blaming police

LaFond, who has been subpoenaed by prosecutors, also appeared at the Will County Courthouse on Monday morning. She was accompanied by the attorney representing her in a civil lawsuit against the Chicago Heights police department, Felicetti and Conner. Her testimony is expected later during the trial.

She blames Felicetti — not Conner — for her son’s death.

“It’s the cop that should be charged with it and not my boyfriend,” she said outside the courthouse. “I lost my kid because of that cop.”

Crash scene

The night of the crash, the impact of LaFond’s Cavalier against a tree awoke a Steger homeowner who thought the giant evergreen toppled into his home. Daniel Hollingshead dialed 911, threw on clothes and ran out to find, amid the wreckage, a driver calling out for help for a child.

Broken glass and chunks of bark littered the driveway; tire marks scarred two lawns except for a spot where the Cavalier may have been airborne, Hollingshead said.

He talked to the driver of the Cavalier, stuck on top of the uprooted evergreen, then turned his attention to the little boy in the back.

“Once I heard there was a kid in the car, that was the main thing I was worried about,” he said. “The child was unconscious and bleeding and in pretty bad shape.”

Testimony for the state continues today in Judge Edward Burmila’s courtroom.