Thursday, March 12, 2009

Before O’Grady’s Arrest

Recently I wrote about the civil rights lawsuit filed in Federal Court in January against the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) by Susan O’Grady.

What led up to it?

As near as I can figure out, when Sgt. Penna went looking for Thomas Haas, the subject of an arrest warrant, something occurred between Susan O’Grady and the deputy. O’Grady was charged with two counts of Resisting Arrest and jailed. That was April 17. On December 1 MCSD Lt. Miller and Sgt. Penna didn’t bother to show up in court and the judge dismissed the case on Motion by the State’s Attorney (the prosecution) – over the objection of O’Grady’s defense attorney, Dan Hofmann of Michling, Hofmann, Vinton, Plaza and Wick, PC. In other words, O’Grady wanted her day in court to prove her innocence! And she didn’t get it.

Let’s see – now why would a prosecutor want to avoid going to trial on what ought to be an open-and-shut case? And why weren’t the deputies there in court that day???

Well, like Paul Harvey always said, “And now, the rest of the story.”

On December 3, 2007, Thomas Haas was arrested by an officer of the Crystal Lake Police Department and charged with possession of firearms without a FOID card in his possession. I’ll bet the key words here are “in his possession.”

On March 11 a public defender was appointed to represent him.

At the time of his April 8, 2008, court date, Haas wasn’t there. His bond was forfeited and the judge issued an arrest warrant. Why wasn’t he there? Was there some miscommunication between Haas and his attorney from the public defender’s office? Did Haas think he didn’t have to be there, since his attorney would appear? Did his attorney appear?

On April 17, MCSD Deputy Sgt. Penna attempted to execute the arrest warrant for Haas and arrested Susan O’Grady for interfering with his duties.

On April 22, 2008, the arrest warrant for Thomas Haas was quashed (canceled) and the bond forfeiture was vacated (canceled, reinstating the bond). His attorney made a motion for a jury trial. OK, let’s get this over with; right?

May 6. Trial Date. Continued on Defendant’s Motion.
June 3. Trial Date. Continued on Defendant’s Motion.
July 1. Trial Date. Continued on State’s Motion.
July 31. Continued on Defendant’s Motion.
August 29. Continued on Defendant’s Motion.
September 12. Trial Date. Nolle Prossed. Judge Meyer.

There was no document in the court’s computer to indicate who asked for the case to be dismissed.

HOWEVER, there was a significant document in the court’s computer for the September 12th court date, and that document was a Motion to release the weapons to the Defendant (Haas) upon presentation of a valid FOID card.

If this was such a bad-guy case that dragged on and on for nine months, why was it dismissed and the return of Haas’ guns ordered? Was it a wimpy case from the start? Did Haas have a FOID card all this time, but just not have it in his pocket at the time the Crystal Lake police officer encountered him?

Ascertaining whether a person has a FOID card ought to be easy as pie. That information should be available to any police officer with a computer. It’s like having a valid driver’s license but just not having it in your pocket when you get stopped. If the cop can see via his computer that you hold a valid license, what’s the big deal about writing a ticket and causing a person to miss work and go to court?

Yes, there is always the possibility that the driver got a ticket the day before and gave up his driver’s license as his bond. So then issue a warning and tell the driver he has 24 hours to show up at the police station with his driver’s license. If he doesn’t, then issue the ticket.

When I called the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office for information about whose motion it was to end the case, a secretary was very helpful but was unable to answer my question. She apparently could not view any records other than what I had read on the court’s third-floor computer, and she courteously re-directed me to the judge’s administrative assistant. I left a message for her and am awaiting her return call. If it's necessary to file a FOIA request with the judge for the Order that ended the case, it's easy to do.

How much court and legal time (Expense!) was wasted in the nine (9) months between December 3 and September 12?

When will judges start telling lawyers that they are not going to grant Continuance after Continuance in relatively minor cases? How about “One is all you get. You’d better be ready to try this case, when you come back next time”? Sounds good to me.

Of course, then the party who received a subpoena to produce information ought to do it, because the judge might not have a sense of humor about any refusal or delay to comply.

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