The termination hearings for Sgt. Dan Harder logged another four hours last Thursday, but didn’t appear to be any closer to resolution. It was hoped that Police Chief Jim Ryan’s testimony could be concluded, but by 8:15 p.m. when Harder defense attorney Jeanine Stevens ended her questioning of Ryan, it was obvious that none of the other scheduled witnesses would be called to the stand.
Due to scheduling conflicts with several participants, the hearings will not resume until April 11 at 5:30 p.m.
Jeanine Stevens sparred frequently with both Ryan and Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Lucansky over semantics and procedural issues throughout the nearly four hours. Lucansky objected strenuously on numerous occasions that Stevens was rephrasing the same questions over and over, and asking questions on collateral matters unrelated to the case.
Stevens shot back each time that Ryan was being evasive in his answers, and that she had a right to probe the circumstances of incidents that she said showed that Ryan and others had conspired to retaliate against Harder for his support of a sexual harassment suit against Lt. Michael Cody.
When Stevens early on pressed Ryan as to whether or not he had conducted a “thorough investigation” of an incident of alleged excessive force involving a juvenile, during which Harder had been injured, Ryan repeatedly answered that there had been no formal complaint regarding the incident filed with him. After going back and forth in that fashion with Stevens six or seven times, he replied, “I’ve answered that question.”
“You’re just not getting the answer you want, so you keep asking the question,” added Lucansky.
When Stevens showed Ryan a copy of an October 15, 2003 memo she said was written by Lt. Steve Knaack to Ryan regarding the incident involving the juvenile, Ryan replied, “I’ve no reason to believe it was prepared on Oct. 15, 2003.” Ryan acknowledged that he had spoken with Knack about the incident, but denied he ever received the memo.
When Stevens later asked Ryan “Do you have any doubt as to whether to believe Sgt. (Mike) Murphy or Sgt. Harder regarding the Boogeyman story?” Ryan answered, “No I do not.”
“You have no question regarding the truthfulness of Michael Murphy?” Stevens asked.
“Correct,” Ryan said.
Harder is being charged with making up his account of an altercation with Murphy during which Murphy already threatened to unleash his inner “Boogeyman” in response to internet postings which he believed were Harder’s work.
Stevens later asked Ryan a series of questions related to Ryan’s refusal to approve pay for Harder when he testified at the sexual harassment trial against Lt. Michael Cody while on duty. Lucansky again objected as to relevance.
“I need to know the details, I need to know the conversation,” argued Stevens. “It’s clearly part of the pattern of retaliation that (Ryan) refused to pay (Harder) for testifying at the sexual harassment suit.”
Stevens also questioned Ryan regarding several incidents in which he had disciplined Harder for how he conducted himself during interactions with the public. Stevens pressed Ryan in each case, suggesting that Ryan had concluded that Harder had acted inappropriately due to his own biases.
When Stevens asked Ryan if Lt. Knack had ever told him the reason Harder was being disciplined for a specific alleged act of misconduct was that “Anthony Calderone resented (Harder’s) sexual harassment suit against the village,” Ryan replied. “No. That’s totally inaccurate.”
Still later, Ryan characterized suggestions that he had told Harder he was “sick and tired of his complaints” and that “(Your) days as a cop are nearing an end,’ as “total fabrications.”
Stevens then moved on to a phone complaint the department received regarding Harder allegedly taking excessive breaks outside the home of Commissioner Mark Hosty.
Asked why there was no written complaint regarding the call, Ryan said he’d sent Harder a one sentence memo, which he characterized as “just a friendly little reminder.”
“Why didn’t you tell him it was Commissioner Hosty,” Stevens asked.
“I didn’t think he needed to know it was an official,” Ryan replied.
Lucansky objected minutes later when Stevens pressed Ryan as to whether he had interviewed Harder before writing the memo to him. After Lucansky was overruled, Ryan said he had not interviewed Harder.
“But you concluded he’d done something wrong,” replied Stevens.
Stevens pressed Ryan hard during questioning related to a hang up call on Oct. 1, 2004 to which he responded. Harder was suspended for two days by Ryan for allegedly mishandling that situation.
Stevens took Ryan through the events of that night again, from a hang up call from a residence and through a series of events during which Harder pointed a gun at a woman found in an upstairs bedroom and ordered her to kneel down on the floor and place her hands on her head.
According to Stevens, Harder first searched the home announcing the presence of police and got no response. He had also allegedly spotted several pieces of electronic equipment placed near doors, leading him to believe a burglary might have been in progress.
That woman was eventually determined to be the home owner. Ryan found that Harder had kept his gun trained on the woman “longer than objectively reasonable,” and that Harder should have lowered his weapon after the woman informed him that she was the home owner.
Harder’s side argued that it remained unclear for several minutes what the woman’s identity was, and that various circumstances, such as previous area break ins and the fact that the woman did not answer repeated calls by police to come out of hiding, led him to question the woman’s truthfulness.
Stevens and Ryan continued to see things differently when Stevens brought up a Jan. 24, 2005 incident for which Harder was recommended for a department Life Saving Award by Lt. Steve Johnsen.
In that incident Harder reportedly talked a suicidal man holding a knife to his own throat off a balcony on Des Plaines Ave. Johnsen called Harder “a skilled negotiator” who calmed the man down with “gentle, soothing questions.”
Following Lucanky’s overruled objection on grounds of relevance, Stevens noted, “Lt. Johnsen was sure it would have ended tragically, except for Sgt. Harder.”
But when Stevens accused Ryan of “standing in the way and blocking the award” to Harder, Ryan responded that the reports from other officers present, including Fire Chief Steve Glinke, indicated that Johnson’s version of events was not factual.
Glinke, in fact, said Ryan, wanted Harder disciplined.
Ryan said that Glinke told him, “I’ve never seen a call more mismanaged.”
Asked why he didn’t discipline Johnsen himself for lying about the details of the incident, Ryan replied, “Because I assumed Lt. Johnson put in the award knowing I wouldn’t approve it.”
Ryan also testified that it was “common knowledge” that Harder was preparing a lawsuit against the village.
“Common knowledge?” replied Stevens. “Who told you? And when?”
When Ryan didn’t say who, Stevens dug in.
“It was your plan, sir,” Stevens said, “to do whatever you had to do to get rid of Dan Harder because of his sexual harassment suit against this village.”
Ryan replied dead pan, “No.”
Prior to the hearing beginning, Lucansky handed Harder’s attorney a check for $1,214.30 for previously submitted expense reports that had been denied by the village.
Stevens also served Lucansky with a subpoena seeking cell phone records from Ryan relative to the day he had a conversation with Harder regarding his calling in sick. Harder is now charged with lying to Ryan during that conversation.
Lucansky initially objected to the scope of the request, but agreed to “attempt to produce (the records) from the telephone company.”