State's attorney to reopen case involving police officer

August 22, 2008 8:51:18 PM PDT
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office now says it will reopen the investigation into a deadly crash involving an off-duty Chicago police officer.It comes after ABC7 was the first to broadcast video, showing officer John Ardelean drinking at a bar shortly before that accident.

This is not the first time public airing of a potentially embarrassing videotape has caused local law enforcement to re-evaluate charges against a police officer.

"He did tell me that officially, as of that moment, the case was reopened," said Nancy Flores, victim's sister.

There's new hope for justice for Flores after the death of her brother Miguel and his friend Eric Lagunas. They were killed Thanksgiving morning after the man seen on a video collided with their car on Damen near Oakdale. He's off duty Chicago police officer Ardelean

"Hopefully, this time around, the right thing is done and that they use everything and all the evidence that they have in their favor like they're supposed to do," Nancy Flores said.

On Friday, the state's attorney reopened the case after ABC7 obtained and first aired the video of Ardelean doing what appears to be five shots. In February, a judge listened to prosecutors' case and said there was not enough evidence to charge Ardelean. The video was not shown in court and Ardelean's blood alcohol level was less than half of the legal limit in a test seven hours after the accident.

"I think it's about time. I think it should've been prosecuted some time ago when they initially had the instance and the opportunity to do it. The problem that is most disturbing here is that there's misinformation here as to why they didn't prosecute. There's misinformation about how the collision occurred. There's always a comment by somebody from that office, there's never a person," said Dan O'Connor, attorney for victims' families.

The timestamp on the tape shows that over a two hour period, Ardelean drank what appears to be five shots, along with other beverages. One shot is with the bartender; another is poured into his mouth by a woman. At the end, Ardelean put on his hat and takes a bottle to go from the bartender. Shortly after Ardelean left, two people were dead.

On Friday, a Cook County state's attorney spokesperson said prosecutors did not have a complete copy of the video. But the family's attorney says that story doesn't add up. A subpoena shows the family got the tape from the state's attorney.

"This disc is their disc. This is a disc that I received from them. It has all the detail that was given to me by them. So I don't know where the dog-ate-by-homework excuse comes from," O'Connor said.

The bartender said he has told investigators all but one of the shots Ardelean drank were water. A message was left for Officer Ardelean again Friday, and he has not returned calls. He's on desk duty while internal affairs investigates.

Republican candidate for state's attorney, Tony Peraica, claims this case is proof prosecutors some times give police a pass.

"We believe this has been an ongoing conspiracy to cover up a criminal act Since then, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office had two chances to take a look at this particular situation and to convene a grand jury," Peraica said.


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