Forest Park resident and Cook County employee Vincent Jones was convicted of two misdemeanor charges last week as a result of a dispute over campaign signs that erupted along Desplaines Avenue in Forest Park in January.
In a three hour bench trial before Judge John Tourtelot at the Maybrook courthouse on July 18, Jones was convicted of one count of misdemeanor battery and one count of resisting a police officer. He was acquitted of a charge of obstructing a police investigation. Three Forest Park police officers testified in the trial.
The convictions carry a maximum penalty of one year in the County Jail and a fine. Sentencing is set for August 8.
“I think the judge is incorrect,” said Jones’s attorney James Kogut after the trial. “That’s why I asked for the time to file a post trial motion.”
Both Jones and prosecuting attorney Joseph Hodal declined to comment following the trial.
Jones works as a purchasing agent for Cook County and is a cousin of former Cook County Board President John Stroger.
On the day of the trial the Cook County Board voted to select Commissioner Bobbie Steele as interim Cook County Board President to replace Stroger, who suffered a stroke in March shortly before winning the Democratic nomination for another term as Cook County Board President. Democratic Party officials have chosen Stroger’s son, Chicago alderman Todd Stroger, to replace his father on the November ballot.
On January 15 Jones confronted a Forest Park resident who was removing political yard signs for Chris Welch from the yard in front of his condominium. Welch, who serves as president of the Dist. 209 board of education, was running for state representative against incumbent Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood) in a race that Yarbrough decisively won in the March primary.
Jones tried to prevent the resident from removing the signs. Jones lives nearby in the 7700 block of Harvard Ave. Jones testified that he was having his unit painted by his brother, Jeffery Jones, and a friend. When Jeffery Jones and the friend stepped outside for a smoke they saw Fornell removing the Welch signs.
Jones testified that he came out and called the police on his cell phone. He then grabbed Fornell to prevent him from leaving until the police arrived, Jones said. Jones testified that he twice grabbed Fornell by his coattails while Fornell testified that Jones also grabbed him by the wrist. Jones denied grabbing Fornell by the wrist.
Forest Park police lieutenant Steve Johnsen responded and was eventually joined by Sgt. Eric Bell and Officer Michael O’Connor.
When asked for his identification Jones gave the officers his business card, but refused to produce his deriver’s license. Jones eventually agitated according to police, yelling and swearing and telling his brother and his friend to pick up the signs and put them back in the ground on Fornell’s property.
“He was loud, very verbally abusive, he was screaming, he was completely out of control” Bell testified.
When the police tried to arrest him the officers testified that Jones resisted them by tensing his body, not following instructions, and swearing at them. He finally relented after the police pinned him against a wall and threatened to shoot him with an electronic stun gun.
Jones testified that he was not a campaign worker for Welch, but said he was a member of the Proviso Township Democratic Organization which was led at the time by Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore. Moore, who supported Welch in the state rep race, was ousted as Proviso Township’s Democratic committeeman by Yarbrough in the March primary.