Chicago Officer Found Guilty of Aggravated DUI/Fatality

Chicago Officer Richard Bolling

On Wednesday, a Cook County jury convicted Chicago Police Officer Richard Bolling of aggravated DUI (fatality) after nine hours of delibration.

From the news reports I have read, it appears that the evidence was as follows: After a night of drinking, Officer Bolling was speeding on Ashland Avenue when he crashed into a thirteen year old boy who was bicycling on the wrong side of the road. (What this child was doing out late at night is another story). The officer did not stop. He kept going until he was stopped by another officer who saw him driving the wrong way on a side street. Officer Bolling was brought back to the scene, where he was given favorable treatment, including being allowed to use a bathroom at a gas station several blocks away. Bolling was recorded talking to himself and making jokes with the investigating officers warning them not to eat his White Castle burgers. His fellow officers tried to avoid giving him field sobriety tests until they were ordered to by supervisors, and did not start them until two hours after the collision. The arresting officer wrote in his reports that Bolling had passed the field tests, but then he recanted that at trial, because, he claimed that after reviewing the arrest videos he had noticed “clues of impairment“ that he had previously missed. Four and a half hours after the accident, Bolling was given a breath test, (typically they are given within 30 to 75 minutes) with a result of 0.079 BAC.

From my (defense attorney) point of view, the most damaging aspects of the case were

1. There was a death. No matter what other facts are involved, or whether or not someone is actually guilty, the defendant usually pays the price when there is a death in a motor vehicle accident, especially if that person had consumed any alcohol or used any narcotic beforehand.

2. The officer’s callous and indifferent reaction to the gravity of the situation. First of all, Officer Bolling’s mutterings and inappropriate comments were strong evidence that he was under the influence of alcohol. What kind of person reacts that way? (Actually, an experienced and hardened Chicago Cop might. They make all sorts of inappropriate “jokes”).

There is a second way that this revelation impacted the trial. Normally, a jury would tend to have some sympathy for a Chicago cop. They might want to raise the bar of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” just a little bit higher for him. But not one who is joking about “sliders” as a thirteen year old is dying.

3. The breath test result had to be a real problem. Normally, I am not a big fan of “extrapolation” evidence, which is what we had here. (A toxicologist “extrapolated” from the 0.079 BAC 4 1/2 hours after the fact that at the time of the crash, Bolling’s actual blood alcohol level was between 0.124 and 0.169). Without getting too detailed, extrapolation evidence is highly dependent on knowing exactly when a person consumed alcohol, which the toxicologist in this case did not know for certain. But this was an extreme case — because of the long wait we know that Bolling had nothing to drink for at least four and a half hours, and he was still right at the legal limit. That’s crucial.

Now comes post-trial motions and sentencing. Bolling is facing three to fifteen years or probation, but only if the court finds exceptional circumstances, whatever that means. Possibly, Judge Coghlan will find that being a Chicago cop is an exceptional circumstance. More likely, he will sentence Bolling somewhere in the range of eight to ten years in prison.

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