Cop wants charges upgraded in off-duty beating

September 29, 2008 4:48:01 PM PDT
A Chicago police detective who was beaten while off-duty on Chicago's North Side over a week ago is reacting to the news that the man accused of beating him will not face a more serious charge. Detective Steven Amato says he announced that he was a police officer during the beating. The beating took place after the man allegedly ran into the detective's personal car.

Detective Amato and others believe the charges should be more serious because the attack was against a police officer. The police officer's alleged attacker, 27-year-old John Jasa,s remains free after attending court last week, where a judge refused to charge him with attacking a police officer. That follows a decision by the state's attorney's office to file what is "perceived" as a lesser felony because, they say, Detective Amato was off duty. The veteran cop counters, saying a Chicago police officer is "always" on duty.

Beaten Chicago Police Detective Steve Amato left court feeling assaulted all over again. Not only was the man accused of attacking him not charged with battering a police officer, but the hearing the 18-year police department veteran was told to attend Monday morning took place last week without him or his testimony.

"All I had a chance to do in this case was defend myself," said Amato.

Amato was off-duty and not in uniform when he went to pick up his girlfriend on the 700-block of North Dearborn early Saturday morning on September 20. The detective says it was as he sat in his car waiting for her that Jasas backed into his vehicle. Amato says when he got out to inspect the damage -- and even though he announced he was a police officer -- the man started swinging.

"I started to identify myself as a police officer a second time. He continued to strike me, telling me he didn't care who I was or what I was and continued to repeatedly struck me," said Amato.

Witnesses at the scene managed to pull an over 200-pound Jasas off Amato before the man jumped in his vehicle and allegedly fled.

Although he wasn't charged with assaulting a police officer, Jasas has been charged with another class three felony, aggravated battery on a public way. The Cook County state's attorney' office approved that charge because Amato wasn't on duty, not in uniform or acting in a police capacity. They issued a statement that reads in part:

"Had he been on duty aggravated battery to a police officer is exactly what we would have charged," said John Gorman, Cook County state's attorney spokesman.

"The officer did not testify directly. A patrolman who did not witness the events testified by way of hearsay, which is admissible and proper at a preliminary hearing," said Michael Monaco, Jasas defense attorney.

As Amato's injuries heal, his anger remains.

The police officer's union also questions to decision and hopes some sort of double standard isn't in play.

"I sincerely believe the state's attorney, as they have done in the past, will come forward and take this case to the grand jury," said Mark Donahue, Fraternal Order of Police.

Jasas' attorney says the right decision made and evidence will prove his client not guilty.

"I don't wish to comment on that now because I have not completed my investigation, but it is in progress," said Monaco.

Aggravated battery on a public way is a class three felony that carries a prison sentence of two to five years.

The next court date is October 17. That's when, if evidence warrants it, the charge against Jasas could be upgraded to aggravated battery on a police officer.

In the meantime, Amato hasn't returned to duty. He says he's still suffering from medical issues related to the attack.


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