A defense attorney for a man accused of resisting arrest after a traffic stop in Forest Park last year claimed that Judge Gregory Ginex may have eviscerated the heart of his client’s case in a pre-trial ruling Monday at the Maywood courthouse.
Attorney Nick Albukerk is representing Clarence Davis Jr. who is charged with resisting arrest during a traffic stop in which he was shot numerous times with a stun gun by Forest Park Police Officer Robert Biel on Nov. 2, 2006.
At the heart of the defenses’ strategy is a violation of the police department’s policy committed by Biel the day of the arrest. The officer failed to record the arrest with a dash-mounted camera. Department officials have said Biel was disciplined for the violation, but declined to discuss what action was taken against him.
Albukerk wanted to gather evidence to argue that Forest Park police officers had a systematic practice of not turning on the dash-mounted video recorders in their squad cars. Albukerk subpoenaed Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas, Lt. Steve Weiler, civilian employee Jane Maxwell, and village mechanic George Prescott, along with records of how many times the tapes were changed in squad cars for a four month period in 2006.
But Judge Ginex quashed the subpoenas and sharply limited what Albukerk would be allowed to discuss on this front during the trial that is expected to occur in October or November.
“It seems the judge has cut my knees off and is not going to allow me to present any of the evidence showing that there is a systematic policy of not using videotape or audiotape during traffic stops and arrests, which essentially allows the officers to, you know, make up things later on,” Albukerk said after the hearing.
Police Chief James Ryan denied that such a policy or practice exists.
“It’s incorrect,” Ryan said when asked about Albukerk’s charge.
Ginex did order the Forest Park Police Department to produce any disciplinary records stipulating to Biel’s punishment for the policy violation. He also ordered the department to produce a copy of its policy on the use of video recorders, and to produce any records concerning the device specific to Biel’s squad car that day.
But Albukerk said that the Ginex’s ruling did not leave him with much to work with.
“He cut the baby in half and gave me a toe and said run with it,” Albukerk said.
Albukerk said although the judge’s ruling will impact how he argues his case the ruling will not necessarily determine the outcome of the trial.
“On the whole it’s fairly minor,” Albukerk said. “It’s not the difference between winning and losing.”
Prosecutor Joe Hodal declined to comment on the case.
In addition to resisting arrest, a misdemeanor, Davis is charged with driving with a suspended license, driving without a seatbelt, and driving with a suspended registration. Biel’s written account of the arrest states that Davis ignored commands to put his hands on the top of his car and that Davis resisted being handcuffed.
Biel then used a Taser to stun Davis in the lower back, however, the first several times the Taser was applied it had no effect, according to the officer’s report.