South Elgin Cop refers his softball lawyer buddy to Defendant

*Updated in a separate blog post, click here to read the update.

The Daily Herald reported on an interesting situation from Kane County:  a 22 year old man, Travis Eubanks, was arrested for DUI last year by a South Elgin police officer, Bryan Kmieciak.  When Eubanks’ mother arrived at the station, the officer allegedly gave her a pen imprinted with the name and information of attorney Todd Cohen.  The officer told her that he recommended Cohen.  When the mother stated that the family usually used another attorney, Garrett Malcolm, the officer tried to dissuade her, claiming that Malcolm was “rude and unprofessional.”

Eubanks claims that when he went to meet Cohen, the attorney said that he was good buddies with Officer Kmieciak, and that they played on the same softball team.  Eubanks felt uncomfortable and retained Malcolm anyway.  On his first court date, Eubanks was very nervous and was afraid of retribution for hiring the “wrong” attorney, so he decided to accept a plea deal (which included a requirement that he wear a SCRAM bracelet for 100 days) in return for a rescission of his license suspension.  Malcolm had not read the police reports or seen the arrest DVD before Eubanks entered into this agreement.

Eubanks filed a motion to vacate the plea.  *The story did not state when the motion was filed, but since the plea was entered in October of last year, it is very likely that it was filed after the 30 day period to file such a motion.  After 30 days, a person must file a Petition to Vacate Judgment pursuant to 735 ILCS Section 2-1401.  “To be entitled to relief under section 2-1401, a petitioner must set forth allegations supporting: (1) the existence of a meritorious claim or defense; (2) due diligence in presenting the claim or defense to the circuit court in the original action; and (3) due diligence in filing the section 2-1401 petition for relief.”  People v. Coleman, 206 Ill.2d 261, 288-89. (2002).

According to the Herald, the judge denied the motion to vacate, so the plea stands.  The judge’s reasons were not fully reported, *but it would appear that Eubanks lacked a meritorious defense (he was twice the legal limit to drive) and was not diligent in moving to vacate his plea.  (Again, this is all guesswork on my part since I have not reviewed the court file or read the transcripts of the hearing).

What could Eubanks have done differently?  He could have reported Kmieciak’s actions to the police department, or state’s attorney, for investigation.   Kmieciak’s actions, if true, violated the South Elgin Police Department’s policies. Instead, he kept quiet, accepted a deal that was beneficial to him (his six month license suspension was recscinded even though he blew over twice the legal limit) and then attempted to get a do-over well after the fact.

Still, as one of the commenters to the the Daily Herald story asks, there are other questions that the public deserves to know.  How many times has Cohen represented defendants retained by Kmieciak?  Is there some sort of deal between the two?  Have these defendants obtained any unusual breaks when they have hired Cohen?  Has this officer told other people to stay away from Malcolm?

What do you think?

Skokie Police Officer charged with Agg Battery for slamming DUI suspect into bench

The Cook County State’s Attorney has filed aggravated battery charges against Michael Hart, the Skokie Police Officer who slammed a female DUI suspect into a bench in the police station lockup, which I blogged about here.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

The officer, Michael Hart, 43, was charged today with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct in the incident, according to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office. The woman, who was in police custody after a drunken driving arrest last March, suffered facial fractures that required surgery and other injuries, according to authorities and also to a civil lawsuit the woman, Cassandra Feuerstein of Chicago, filed against the village of Skokie.

According to the state’s attorney, Hart, of Gurnee, became irate after the woman repeatedly disregarded his commands while he was trying to get her fingerprints and mug shot. The officer then “grabbed her forcibly by the arm,” pulled her toward a cell, then used both hands to shove her into the cell, the state’s attorney’s press release states.

The woman face and head slammed into a concrete bench, fracturing a facial bone, loosening some teeth and causing a deep cut to the face, official said. In addition to the surgery, she has suffered vision and dental problems since, the release says.

Hart’s lawyer, Jed Stone, said he was ordered held on $75,000 bond at Cook County court today, but that his family plans to post his bail. Judge Israel Desierto also ordered Hart to surrender all firearms.

[According to his attorney,] “He cannot believe after 19 years of serving Skokie that his career has come to an arrest,” Stone said. “I don’t think pushing her into a cell is a crime … this is not slamming the victim.”

Secretary of State to begin issuing licenses to undocumented persons in December

According to the Secretary of State’s website, people can start applying for Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses (“TVDL”) which are for people who do not have documented legal status in this county, through the Secretary’s web site or by calling 855-236-1155.

In order to obtain a TVDL, you will have to present proof of identity and residence in Illinois for at least 12 months, and pass vision, written and driving examinations.

Click here to get more information.

Speeding citations have dropped 25% in the past 2 years. Why is that?

According to the Chicago Sun-Times,

A Sun-Times analysis of more than 120,000 speeding tickets issued in 2011 and 2012 in the city and parts of 13 counties surrounding the Chicago area found 25 percent fewer tickets were issued to drivers from 2010 to 2012…

From 2007 to 2011, there was a 3.8 percent decrease in the number of vehicle miles driven, and a 1.7 percent decrease in the number of registered motor vehicles, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

So why did the numbers drop so suddenly after 2011, when there was only a minor reduction in the four years previous?

I have to believe that new laws that greatly increased the penalties for aggravated speeding have had an effect.  Beginning in 2011, speeding 31 or more miles over the speed limit became a class B misdemeanor, punishable up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. (Since 2000, speeding 40 or more mph over the limit has been a Class A misdemeanor).

This means that as of 2011, all sorts of people who have never committed a “criminal” act in their lives were now being charged with serious misdemeanors.

That means legal fees, and fear of going to jail and/or a criminal record.  On top of this, the court fines and costs have been going through the roof.  In many counties, it is not unusual to pay $600 or more for a speeding ticket.

Keep in mind that these numbers do not reflect the even harsher speeding law that went into effect July 1, 2013.  Now, supervision as a sentence is not available for anyone going more than 25 mph over the limit in an urban area or 31 mph on a non-urban highway.  So a high speeder will become a convicted criminal.  This may cost the driver employment opportunities that will far exceed the cost of the fine.

Personally, I feel that these laws have gone too far and that anyone accused of aggravated speeding should be given an opportunity for supervision and/or a chance to clear his or her driving record after several years of good driving.

What do you think?

City names street after bicyclist killed by “AllYouCanDrink.com” Driver

Photo from DNAinfo.com

Photo from DNAinfo.com

Today, the City of Chicago named the intersection of Clybourn and Larrabee as “Honorary Bobby Cann Way” as a tribute to the bicycle safety activist who was struck and killed by a motor vehicle this past June.  The driver of that vehicle, Ryne San Hamel, the co-founder of “allyoucandrink.com” was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI.  The case is still pending.

Maryland Attorney General has lost his “moral compass” when it comes to underage drinking

The Attorney General is the gent in the white shirt holding a cell phone.

The Attorney General is the gent in the white shirt holding a cell phone.

Here is an interesting news story from the East Coast:  it was revealed that the Attorney General of Maryland, Douglas Gansler, was present at an underage party where alcohol was being consumed.  Of course, in this day of cell phone cameras, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, this didn’t remain an unreliable rumor.  Gansler claims that he was only there briefly to talk to his son, who was at the party, about plans for the following day (what, he couldn’t have sent his son a text?).

From the Baltimore Sun:

Gansler, a Democrat who is running for governor, said this week that he stopped by the Delaware beach house to talk briefly with his teenage son and then left. He said he does not remember whether he saw anyone drinking. But even if he had, Gansler said, it was not his responsibility as a parent or a high-ranking law enforcement official to intervene.

“Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party,” Gansler said. “How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people’s children at beach week in another state? I say no.”

Really, Mr. Gansler?  Here is more of that Baltimore Sun article:

Gansler has publicly advocated against underage drinking, appearing less than a year ago in a video for the Century Council, a nonprofit that works to combat both teen drinking and drunken driving.

“Parents, you’re the leading influence on your teen’s decision not to drink,” Gansler said in a video filmed as part of the organization’s “Ask, Listen, Learn” initiative to persuade parents to talk to middle-school children about drinking. “It’s never too early to talk with your kids about smart ways to say no.”

Century Council’s CEO and president Ralph Blackman, upon learning that Gansler had been at such a party, said, “Let me pick myself up off the floor here.”

I should point out that in our state, Illinois, it is a class A misdemeanor to host a gathering or otherwise allow underage people to consume alcohol.  And that goes up to a Class 4 felony if the alcohol consumption results in injury or death.

Youtube DUI Confessor gets lenient sentence after all

After claiming that he wasn’t going to have a “high-powered attorney” fight for him, Matthew Cordle did just that.

And his attorneys shaved off almost 25% of the probable sentence.

Cordle got 6 1/2 years, instead of the maximum 8 1/2, for the DUI death of Vincent Canzani.  I don’t know what they normally give in cases like that in Ohio, but in Illinois 6 and a half years for a DUI death case is a gift.

I anticipate that this will be my last post about this man.  But I just want to reiterate my position on him:  I don’t think he did anything special by admitting his guilt on a slickly produced video.  He knew he was about to be indicted and I believe that he made the confession with the intent of getting a better sentence.  And it worked.

I am left to wonder if he is going to try to use this to his advantage down the road, perhaps as an author and paid speaker.

Hopefully, he will prove me wrong.

My condolences to the Canzani family.