Thin Blue Line: Video Allegedly Disproves the Sworn Testimony of Five Police Officers in Chicago-Area Drug Case

Cops_camera_arrestThere have been a long list of studies and articles on the problem of false testimony by police officers. Most officers that I have met or represented would not testify falsely. However, there is cultural pressure to hold “the thin blue line” to support other officers. That appears what is occurring in a recent scandal out of Chicago. In a Skokie courthouse, five officers (three from Chicago and two from Glenview) took the stand and lied about what occurred in a drug arrest. What is relatively rare is that the prosecutors appear to be seriously considering criminal charges.

The five officers — Glenview Sgt. Theresa Urbanowski, Glenview Officer Jim Horn, Chicago Sgt. James Padar, Chicago Officer Vince Morgan and Chicago Officer William Pruente — gave sworn testimony in the case of Joseph Sperling, 23. Sperling had prior drug arrests and a 2010 drug conviction. On this occasion, the restaurant worker was caught with up to a pound of marijuana in a black backpack after his car was pulled over. There was not a serious question as the possession. However, this was a stop for a failure to signal. Sperling insists that he did signal. I recently wrote a column on how such pretextual stops were upheld by the Supreme Court and, as a result, they have become common.

Sperling said that he admitted that he had a “little weed” on him but that the pot (one pound) discovered by the police was entirely contained within his backpack. However, Pruente (a narcotics officer) testified that immediately after stopping the car, he smelled marijuana in Sperling’s gold Ford Taurus. He ordered Sperling to exit the car and handcuffed him while he searched the car. The officers testified along the same lines in support of Pruente’s account.

What they did not count on was that there was a dash cam video obtained by defense counsel Stuart Goldberg from one of the Glenview cruisers that contradicted the accounts. It was so apparent that the judge interrupted the testimony to read one officer his Miranda rights. Cook County Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn suppressed the search and arrest — leading to the dropping of the charges.

This is not the first such case of police perjury for Goldberg. He recently won a case for a client accused of grabbing a police officer’s vest after bystander photos showed the officer was not even wearing a vest.

The obvious question is how this case would have come out if the lawyer had not located the dash cam record. We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue. The video contradiction of the police account is all too familiar on this blog. Of course, in Dallas, Dallas Police Chief David Brown revealed a new policy that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. The policy came after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements. I would have thought that such a proposal would have resulted in the termination of Brown but he continues to run a major police department.

Sperling has now filed a lawsuit. For a news segment showing the video, click here.

Chigago Tribune

46 thoughts on “Thin Blue Line: Video Allegedly Disproves the Sworn Testimony of Five Police Officers in Chicago-Area Drug Case”

  1. Drug Case is very bad charge according to US law. It is illegal by humanity also.
    Must watch : About Intoxication is injuries to health

  2. Firemen put cute little fireman stickers on the rear windows of their personal vehicles. Are public servants entitled…to “professional courtesy?” Is a “professional courtesy” a gateway courtesy leading to full-blown addiction?

    The line between criminal and policeman is very thin in deed. Google the “Brotherhood.” Ask the legal assistants around the office if a citizen can obtain a TRO against a “sworn poice officer;” impossible. Courts won’t allow that without a felony.

    Courts are hotbeds of lies. Judges see what they wanna see and they hear what they wanna hear and they judge how they wanna judge (or is it a professional courtesy?).

    Supreme Courts courteously rewrite arguments from interstate commerce to taxation. Thank you very much.

    Naiveté? What Naiveté? The higher you go, the more effective the cover-up.

    Tip of the iceberg, I say, tip of the iceberg.

  3. Can you say Lois Lerner, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? Oh, are those dots I see? Can you say Gulf of Tonkin, Fight 800, Warren Report and Pearl Harbor? We’re always just one video away from the truth. Unless, of course, there exists a preponderance of circumstantial evidence. Can I keep my doctor, please?

  4. I am all for a federal Internal Affairs to mitigate the local biases. Federal intervention is necessary just as it had been in other areas (i.e civil rights in the South etc.). Not to say federal agencies are beyond corruption, but the do mitigate the local biases that never even give justice a chance.

  5. Now ALL arrests by all of these officers is suspect, so who knows how many guilty criminals will get off. But by the same token, maybe there are more innocent people….

  6. Bett…. Just think… If we remember what we say we don’t have to remember what we said….. Especially if you start off with the truth…..

  7. bettykath, I have made it perfectly clear here, and many other times, I do also. But, there are cop haters here. I related a positive story on a cop encounter and on another thread and was told I had Stockholm Syndrome amongst other accusations. That is a cop hater.

  8. ok, Nick, I’ll self-identify. I hate cops who beat up and/or kill unarmed people just for the hell of it. I hate cops who lie.

  9. Guest

    It’s a shame, but this board has become virtually unreadable due to the constant personal sniping back and forth. ENOUGH ALREADY.
    U guest it.

    So stop it already mystodude.

  10. The only cops I dislike are the ones that will lie on the stand to protect themselves or their fellow officers. If we enforce the perjury laws, maybe the bad apples will get the message.

  11. Annie,

    Now who in the world would do that….


    I have no problem reading this thread…..

  12. Hey Guest: If the board is unreadable, how do you know there’s personal sniping going on?

  13. Wah-Wahhh. It’s never a good sign when the judge interrupts your testimony to give you a Miranda warning. I wish I could have seen his face.

  14. It’s a shame, but this board has become virtually unreadable due to the constant personal sniping back and forth. ENOUGH ALREADY.

  15. Would the cop haters be the ones who criticize the old guard Milwaukee cops? Yep I think so.

  16. Nick Spinelli

    But, I feel compelled to warn you there are some cop haters here.
    Do you feel it with both hands?

  17. What is relatively rare is that the prosecutors appear to be seriously considering criminal charges.” – JT

    Before it is too late.

  18. More people should wear body cams with multiple cameras and audio. The proper response is not to try put police in jail but to fine them personally and terminated their jobs or demote them. Let us move away from #PrisonWorldakaAmerica …. 99guspuppet

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