Cop indicted in fatal crash appears in court

Officer remains on CPD payroll
October 1, 2008 4:54:22 PM PDT
A Chicago police officer appeared in court Wednesday on charges related to an alleged drunk driving crash last Thanksgiving that killed two young men. Officer John Ardelean was off-duty at the time of the crash. For the victims' families, Wednesday's court appearance was a victory , as the original case against Officer Ardelean was thrown out.

After the case was thrown out and reopened twice, the victim's families hope this time justice will be served. Although, they are disappointed a judge set John Ardelean's bond at $50,000. They were hoping it would be higher.

Ardelean and his attorney have maintained all along there is not enough evidence to prove the Chicago cop was drunk at the time of the accident and that he caused it.

Wearing sunglasses and a cap, John Ardelean walked into court after he walked out of the same building months ago a free man. Once told there was not enough evidence to prove he was drunk and caused the Thanksgiving day accident that killed two people, the Chicago police officer has now been indicted by a grand jury with what Ardelean's attorney believes is the same evidence.

"I have not seen anything to date that is different than the judge saw earlier in the year," said Tom Needham, Ardelean's attorney.

But the judge who threw out the case earlier this year never saw the videotape. Minutes before the accident, John Ardelean is seen on bar surveillance tape leaving the Martini Ranch after spending at least two hours at the North Side bar. The tape shows the off-duty cop doing what appears to be several shots, including one with the bartender and another poured into the mouth by a woman.

A bartender previously testified some of the shots were water..

"The video tape speaks for itself, and I think that as soon as the judge sees the video, there should be no problem," said Nancy Flores, victim's sister.

Flores has been pushing for justice since the day her brother Miguel Flores was killed along with his good friend Erick Lagunas.

Renaldo Barajas was a passenger in the car that crashed into Ardelean's SUV on Damen near Oakdale.

"I hope it turns out good for the family. And I hope justice is served and that's the bottom line. It should be served, because if it was one of us we would have been in jail," said Barajas.

Besides the videotape, prosecutors are relying on a forensic expert to calculate what Ardelean's blood-alcohol level would have been had he taken a breathalyzer test right after the accident. Ardelean was given the test 7 1/2 hours later

"The defendant likely consumed as many as nine drinks," said Bernard Murray, assistant state's attorney. "There is a lot of doubt and a lot of controversy in the field of forensic science about whether or not that extrapolation is a valid mathematical formula especially under the circumstances under which it was conducted in case."

Ardelean did win one small victory Thursday. The judge rejected a request from prosecutors for the officer to surrender his firearms card. If the judge had taken it, Chicago police policy calls for a suspension without pay. Ardelean remains on the payroll while police conduct their own internal investigation. He has been designated to desk duty.


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