Daley writes letter to Iowa governor on behalf of jailed Chicago cop

September 24, 2008 12:31:29 PM PDT
Mayor Daley wrote a letter to Iowa Governor Chet Culver asking that jailed police officer Michael Mette be pardoned.Mette, an 11th District officer, was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted on an assault charge. The conviction followed an October 2005 fight in which Mette punched Dubuque student Jake Gothard, who suffered a broken nose, cheek and jaw. Michael Mette's supporters say he punched Jake Gothard after Gothard pushed him. Mette was found guilty of assault in 2006, although the judge said he wasn't the initial aggressor

The mayor's letter was sent August 20th, but the Mette family didn't find out about it until this week, when Police Superintendent Jody Weiss gave them a copy of the letter.

DOWNLOAD: Read the letters from Mayor Daley and other officials (pdf)

"I don't think it will make a difference," said Bob Mette, who was a Chicago police detective for 32 years. Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine, Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis and others wrote to Culver, imploring him to pardon Mette and they all received what Bob Mette calls a "political blow-off letter saying the governor can't get involved with a case in the system."

ABC 7 has contacted Mayor Daley's office and is awaiting a reply.

Last week, Mette heard some encouraging words from an Iowa official. During Mette's September 11th, appeals court hearing on his controversial assault conviction, Iowa Justice Terry L. Huitnick seemed to support Mette's contention that he acted in self-defense.

Justice Huitnick said, "It's impossible to conceive under the circumstances" that Mette could have done anything other than protect himself, when a drunken man chased him down a Dubuque street and attacked him. "It appears to me that the folks were in such close contact that it would have been impossible to escape."

Officer Mette was asking Iowa's Court of Appeals to reverse his conviction and dismiss the assault charge against him, claiming it was self-defense. Wednesday October 1st is the earliest an opinion from the appeals board would be made public. Opinions are filed every other Wednesday.

That day 40 Chicago police officers rode a bus from Chicago to Des Moines in support of fellow officer Michael Mette, they and other Mette supporters are "cautiously optimistic" that he may soon see freedom.

Among Officer Mette's supporters are some high-profile Iowans, including Des Moines Register newspaper columnist John Carlson, who believes Mette was defending himself and should not have been put in jail. In an August 10 column, Mr. Carlson wrote, "The undisputed facts, the verdict and the sentence should make all of us queasy. Maybe even ashamed. Mette should be allowed to go home, with our apologies."

The case has caused a backlash in Chicago, where Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine and Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis wrote to Iowa Gov. Chet Culver asking that he pardon Mette.

After returning from Thursday's hearing at the Iowa Court of Appeals in Des Moines, the "Michael Mette Defense Fund" Web site reported that "The Dubuque County prosecutor's office stood by their guns that the case was prosecuted fairly and that Mike's charges and sentencing should stand. The prosecutor once again admitted to the three sitting justices that, 'Mike was not the aggressor in this instance', but that Mike should have opted to several of the following choices:

1.He should have run away.

2. Drove away in a nearby vehicle, which he did not have the keys to.

3. Called 911, with a phone that he did not possess at the time.

4. Ran into the house and last but not least.

5. As the prosecutor put it "verbally mediated the situation".

One Justice felt that with the incident occurring so rapidly, that it was "impractical for Mike to walk away."

Mike's attorneys, Mark McCormick and Randy Rueckert, who did an outstanding job with their arguments, cited Iowa law, which basically gives an individual the right to protect himself or others from a physical attack. They cited the severity of the injuries sustained by Jake Gothard, arguing that the initial treating physician was not qualified enough and did not have the proper equipment to diagnose Jake's injuries as life threatening!

The wait is on!

As Mette's supporters wait for a ruling on his appeal, that could come as early as next week, the defrocked CPD patrolman remains jailed at North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell, Iowa, about an hour northwest of Des Moines. The above prison photo of Mette was taken in June and provided to ABC7 Friday by state officials.

North Central houses about 475 medium and minimum custody inmates who have been classified as low-risk offenders. According to prison officials, inmates there are "assigned in general janitorial work, maintenance of the grounds, care of the extensive yard area and gardens, which produce in excess of 30,000 pounds of vegetables annually, assist the instructors in the educational programs so that other inmates can learn, act as cooks and kitchen helpers in the food service operation, and are employed in the maintenance department, as well as in outside work assignments."

In Friday's Des Moines Register column, John Carlson noted that Mette's parents Bob and Pat were heading west from Des Moines to visit him and report on how things went at the appeals court hearing.

"He'll no doubt be pleased so many from Chicago came to Iowa to show their support," Carlson wrote.

"He should also know a lot of Iowans will feel the same way when they hear his story."

Links:

www.mikemettedefensefund.com

John Carlson, August 10 column

John Carlson, Sept 12 column


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