Illinois State Trooper killed in Interstate Accident

jamessauterOur condolences go out to the family of Trooper James Sauter, and his fellow State Troopers.  Trooper Sauter was on duty stopped on the shoulder of I-294 southbound near Willow Thursday at 11:00 p.m. when a semi crashed into his squad.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

According to Peter Nickeas of the Chicago Tribune:

Sauter grew up in the neighborhood [Chicago Ridge] and had aspired to be a trooper since he was a child, said neighbor Pam Milashoski, whose son Dan had been a close friend since both were toddlers.

“Jimmy was straight-and-narrow, through and through,” Milashoski said. “He always knew what he wanted to be.”

Sauter played football and baseball at Richards High School and often went on long training runs with Milashoski’s son, who joined the Army around the time Sauter became a trooper.

“He was always very motivated,” Milashoski’s daughter, Cheryl, said as she wiped away tears. “He wanted to do good.”

As a cadet, Sauter was awarded the Lifesaving Medal in October of 2008. While on his way to the state police training academy, he saw a motorcycle on its side in the eastbound lane of I-80. No emergency vehicles were there yet, so Sauter grabbed a first responder bag and crossed over the lanes to help, state police said. Sauter tended to a woman whose airway was blocked by blood.  She was airlifted to a hospital and survived, state police said.

“Trooper Sauter was a very talented, wonderful police officer,” Grau said. “He was with our air ops operations unit, he’s a pilot, and tried that for … a couple a months and decided, you know, he wanted to come back and work the roads. Very well-respected.

“As you can imagine, his fellow troopers, his fellow officers are devastated,” he continued. “I spent some time with his wife Liz this morning and as you can imagine, very difficult time for her… They’re all devastated as we are.” …

Sauter is the second Illinois state trooper killed in the last five months. Trooper Kyle Deatherage, 32, was struck and killed by a semi during a traffic stop the end of November along northbound Interstate 55 near Litchfield.

“Unfortunately, this is the second line of duty death within the last five months for the Illinois state police,” Grau said. “Trooper Sauter represented everything good about this department.”

PA Man charged with 13 DUIs owned 3 rehab centers

I guess if you are going to spend a lot of time in rehab, you might as well own the place.  Maybe that is what Lawrence Konyves of Pennsylvania thought.

According to NBC 10 Philadelphia, Konyves was recently found guilty of his 12th and 13th DUIs.  Unlike Illinois and most states, it is not a felony to be arrested for a third or greater DUI in Pennsylvania, and there is only a minimum one year (and maximum five year) sentence for DUIs four and up.  Konyves has been routinely getting a 1 or 2 year sentence, most of it spent in rehab, up until his most recent two arrests.

According to the story, “Konyves was a self-employed builder who owned three rehab centers and is on the board of directors of a recovery house association.”

This time, the judge gave him a 5 to 10 year sentence.

As I discussed in an earlier blog post, in Illinois a person would be looking at a life sentence for a 12th or 13th DUI conviction.

Dash Cam brings down another lying DUI cop

A Sacramento California police officer has plead no contest to making false reports and perjury in DUI cases, resulting in over 70 cases being overturned.  He was brought down in part by his dashboard camera.

From the local ABC affiliate:

A police officer accused of filing false DUI reports, causing the cases to be thrown out, pled no contest more than two years after he was charged.

Former Sacramento police officer Brandon Mullock, 27, was charged with four felony charges – one count of perjury, three counts of filing false police reports, Sacramento County District Attorney Office spokesperson Shelly Orio said.

Mullock resigned from the police department in August 2010.

Orio said during the investigation, the police department and the D.A.’s office found the Mullock lied about DUI suspects refusing to do field sobriety tests, staggering or slurring their speech, and suspects making incriminating statements about being drunk.

In September 2010, the district attorney had to drop 79 cases written by Mullock after discovering inaccuracies in his reports compared to what was recorded by his patrol unit video. The cases mostly involved DUIs and Mullock as the main officer/witness. Orio said 73 of the cases already had convictions, which had to be recalled and set aside.

The trial against Mullock began in May 2011. He was cited in 23 different cases, where he was charged with 33 counts of perjury and filing false reports.

Orio said as part of his agreement with the court, Mullock pled no contest to four felony counts and the judge can consider the dismissed cases when handing down his sentence.

Mullock’s sentencing is scheduled for April 19.

From the original story when this was just breaking back in 2010, also from the local ABC affiliate:

The Sacramento County district attorney’s office is investigating arrests made by a 25-year-old Sacramento police officer after discrepancies were discovered between the officer’s written reports and arrest video from his patrol car’s camera in two cases.  Those two DUI cases have now been dismissed.

Officer Brandon Mullock, who has been on administrative leave since January for brandishing a gun during an off-duty incident, has been with the Sacramento Police Department for three years. He was assigned to DUI enforcement in October 2009.

In one of the two cases,  Mullock wrote he pulled over a silver car on 16th Street in downtown Sacramento on Jan. 9, 2010, for a broken license plate light. Mullock wrote the 24-year-old driver appeared intoxicated, failed a field alcohol screening test and was uncooperative. Jan. 9, 2010 DUI arrest documents

The attorney for Alem Kajmic says the patrol car video shows Kajmic was cooperative.  Alan Donato also says the video clearly shows Mullock did not perform a test he claimed to have administered.

“As you can see, he never explains to him, follow my finger. He never admonished him. he never did the test at all,” Donato said .

The second case involved a woman, then 21, who was pulled over last November near the intersection of L and 15th streets in Sacramento.  Mullock’s police report claims the woman failed five field sobriety tests including counting and balance tests.

The woman’s attorney, Mark Sollitt provided the police report and video.  He says the video shows otherwise.

“The report says her speech was slow and thick.  You can see her speech pattern is completely normal,” said Sollitt. (The woman, who did not want to be identified, is recognizable in the video so News10 is not showing it.).

The district attorney’s office would not say how many of Mullock’s arrest reports were being checked.

The proliferation of dash cam videos, surveillance cameras and cell phone recordings have made it quite commonplace for officers to be exposed for their lying ways.  I have stories about them pretty regularly (here is a link to last month’s).  So take this as a reminder that just because someone is wearing a badge doesn’t mean that they are any more credible than anyone else.

This week in NFL DUI news

National Football League will officially endorse and become part of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)’s “Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving” initiative and expand its partnership with the organization in the 2013 season.  According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, “we are pleased to endorse MADD’s campaign and further build upon our partnership to do everything we can warn players, team personnel and fans about the dangers of drunk driving.  We have made progress but have more work to do to ensure that everyone associated with the NFL makes safe, responsible decisions with alcohol and never gets behind the wheel when they shouldn’t.”

I wonder why the NFL is doing that.  Hmmm..

Also,

The Bears replacement for Brian Urlacher? D.J. Williams, whose second DUI came last summer.

The Bears’ Evan Rodriguez was a passenger in a vehicle, apparently while drunk, but still got arrested for disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest in Miami Beach.

Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson was arrested for DUI Friday morning in Missoula, Montana after being stopped for driving without his headlights on.

Tennessee Titan’s wide receiver Kenny Britt was found not guilty of the DUI that I wrote about here.

Watch this space for further NFL/DUI news

Mandatory Videotaping of DUI arrests coming to Illinois?

A new bill that is pending in the Illinois House (HB3202), sponsored by Representatives Emanuel Chris Welch, Arthur Turner and Michael Zalewski, and drafted by David Franks of the Illinois State Bar Association Traffic Law and Courts section, would make it mandatory for all law enforcement agencies to have their squad cars equipped with video recording equipment by July 1, 2014.

The new law would become part of Illinois’ DUI and criminal statutes, as a new section of the DUI statute 625 ILCS 11/501.9 and an amendment to the wiretap law 720 ILCS 5/14-3.

The synopsis of the proposed bill states as follows:

Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Requires all law enforcement patrol vehicles to be equipped with video recording equipment by July 1, 2014. This equipment must be capable of recording at least 10 hours of video footage and recording sound with the use of a wireless microphone. Patrol vehicles with in-car cameras are required to record when (1) the officer determines an enforcement stop is necessary and shall continue until the enforcement action has been completed, provided that the recording shall include any field sobriety tests administered during a DUI stop, including the administration of a portable breath test; (2) the patrol vehicle emergency lights are activated or when they would otherwise be activated if not for the need to conceal the presence of law enforcement, and shall continue until the reason for the activation ceases to exist, regardless of whether the emergency lights are no longer activated and, in the event of an arrest may not conclude before the subject is transported and leaves the vehicle; (3) the officer reasonably believes recording may assist with prosecution, enhance safety, or for any other lawful purpose and shall continue until the reason for recording ceases to exist. Requires audio and visual recordings of all Illinois Vehicle Code related stops. For DUI related stops, requires video recording of any observation periods, test refusal, and test administration, including those not conducted at the scene of the stop. Requires officers to report any equipment malfunction. Makes any video recording made under this Section subject to the Freedom of Information Act and subpoenas, but allows the department to charge a $25 fee for compliance with any video production request for the purpose of recouping administrative costs. Effective July 1, 2014.

Personally, I have a problem with the $25 “administrative fee” which is quite exorbitant considering that (a) a blank DVD costs about 20 cents retail and it doesn’t take much time to copy a file; and (b) defendants in Illinois have a right to receive a copy of the video, and there is a Constitutional right to obtain an exculpatory material.

Aside from that, this is a good bill.  Too many police officers still do not have video equipment in their squad cars, especially in Chicago.  I have noticed that as video recording has become more prevalent, I am getting less and less calls from potential clients complaining about officers “putting a case on” them.  Keep in mind that most people who are arrested have no idea that they are being video recorded, so the reason that I am getting less of these calls isn’t because people are “wising up” that their false claims won’t go anywhere.  No, it is because police officers know that they can’t get away with charging someone with DUI, just because they can, when there is video recording their encounters.

One State’s Attorney disbarred, another suspended, in separate matters

On March 15th, the Illinois Supreme Court entered orders disbarring six attorneys and suspending eleven.  Two of them caught my eye because they were State’s Attorney, one an Assistant State’s Attorney from Lake County, whom I have blogged about before, and the other was the acting State’s Attorney of Union County downstate.

From the Illinois Bar Association Illinois Lawyer Now website:

  • Aaron Ray Isaacson, Arlington Heights

Mr. Isaacson, who was licensed in Illinois in 2008, was disbarred. While serving as an Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney, he engaged in a conspiracy with his roommate and others to possess marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He also obstructed justice by lying to police concerning his knowledge and involvement in his roommate’s drug dealing after his roommate was arrested.

I wrote about Mr. Isaacson before, in this post “Not exactly ‘The Odd Couple’ – the prosecutor and the drug dealer.”

And

  • Allen W. James, Anna

Mr. James, who was licensed in Illinois in 1997, was suspended for four months. He committed aggravated assault on a process server who was attempting to serve him with a summons in a lawsuit. Mr. James, who was serving as the State’s Attorney of Union County, was named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The suspension is effective on April 5, 2013.

Proposed bill to overhaul DUI laws has been withdrawn

I have been advised that SB 294, the bill that would dramatically overhaul Illinois’ DUI laws, has been withdrawn from consideration a little more than 24 hours before it was to have been brought before the Senate Transportation Committee.

It is possible that the bill will be re-introduced later, but at least that will come after it has been reconsidered and subject to input from the Illinois State Bar Association and other organizations which were originally shut out of the process.

You can read more about the bill in this blog if you go back a few days here and here.