Freedom not imminent for CPD's Mette

Will be next week despite appeal victory
October 2, 2008 1:55:50 PM PDT
The Iowa gears of justice will have to turn a few more revolutions before Chicago police officer Michael Mette is released from prison.Mette's conviction in a supercharged assault case was overturned yesterday by the Iowa Court of Appeals. The court determined that Mette was defending himself and had no opportunity to "retreat" during an October, 2005 confrontation with drunken college student Jake Gothard.

Despite the order to reverse Mette's guilty verdict and 5 year prison sentence, state officials say it will take some time to decide whether they will appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says he will review the appellate decision and the law and meet with his top criminal appeal lawyers as well as the Dubuque County prosecutor who originally brought the case against Mette.

That deliberate process means Mette will not be released today and probably not tomorrow or over the weekend, according to Bill Roach, a spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General. Legal and corrections department sources say it would probably be early next week before a decision is announced by state lawyers.

Attorney General Miller does not intend to stretch out the Mette decision simply because they have 20 days to appeal under the law, said spokesman Roach.

So for now, Mette continues his incarceration at the North Central state prison in Rockwell City, Iowa north of Des Moines.

It is pure coincidence that the prison uniform Mette has to wear sports the colors of the Chicago Bears.

Despite the wait, Mr. Mette is a big step closer to actually taking in a Bears game or seeing his beloved Cubs.

"Sooner or later it was gonna come out on our side," Mette told ABC7 Investigative Reporter Chuck Goudie in a jailhouse interview.

The incident three years ago that landed Mette in the crossbar hotel occurred when he was visiting his brother in Dubuque for the weekend.

They went out partying and after briefly attending a house party; Mette was chased outside by the host Jake Gothard. Both Gothard and Mette were intoxicated.

After Gothard repeatedly came at Mette, the off-duty cop finally decked him.

"It was a fight. Mr. Gothard attacked me. I defended myself. It was over and done with. If the cops had asked me to press charges, I would've said no. In Chicago that's how it is done," Mette said in his only interview with a Chicago television reporter.

But in Dubuque it wasn't over and done with. Mette was arrested and charged with assault. His attacker-who wasn't seriously injured-wasn't charged with anything.

"I've always said since day one, 'how was I to retreat since I was being attacked?' How can somebody turn back on somebody attacking them? There would have been greater risk if I had," Mette told Goudie.

Mette claimed self-defense but was convicted and sentenced to five years?a conviction thrown out on Wednesday.

"It was fantastic," said Mette's father Bob. "It was like a big brick taken off my head."

Led by his father, a former Chicago police officer and currently an investigator for the Cook County States Attorney, the Iowa case drew angry protest letters to the Iowa governor, written by Mayor Daley and other top Chicago officials.

"I wrote the governor a while back and he didn't even bother to respond...which I was disappointed at," said Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine. "I've learned enough over the years now that it's awfully hard to judge things from the outside" said Devine, but "what is so puzzling about this and what I to this day don't understand is how the judge could have made determinations on the evidence that didn't match at all, and in fact contradicted the decision on guilt or innocence."

Devine told ABC7 that if Mette was in jail in Illinois and won a court appeal, he might already be free. "In Illinois you have a provision where right now in this kind of a situation as an attorney I would go in for an appeal bond to have Mike out while this is being decided. I don't know directly, but I have been told Iowa doesn't have a provision for that," said Devine. "I'm sure it's somewhat frustrating for Mike and his family."

In their prison interview, Goudie asked Mette if he thought public pressure from Devine, Daley and Weis had anything to do with his legal victory.

"I don't know," Mette said. "I've been in here for a year with not much contact with anyone outside the fence. If anything, I hope it got ball rolling a little quicker. You can't change the facts and the law?both obviously found I was innocent of wrongdoing."

While Iowa officials have almost three weeks to appeal Mette's lawyer Mark McCormick, a former Iowa Supreme Court justice himself, suggests that won't happen.

"We're quite optimistic the Supreme Court will not grant a review even if it is requested," said McCormick. "Mr. Mette should go home."

When he gets home, Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis has some news for Mette. "He should know that he has a job waiting for him when he gets back," Weis told the I-Team.

Goudie: "You want to go back as a Chicago police officer?

Mette: Absolutely.

Goudie: The police superintendent this morning says he would welcome you back.

Mette: That's good news."

"When he comes back, we'll get him refreshed," said Weis. "Then we'll be really glad to have him back on the streets."

Mette says once he puts back on a CPD uniform and returns to his patrol duties after three years, he hopes not to change anything in his approach.

"I hope this wouldn't make me second guess anything. That would put me and my partner at risk, Mette said. "Like I've told guys here [inmates in prison], it is not so much us [the police] against them. It's my job. When I wear the uniform, that's what I will be doing."

But even a street-toughened, big city cop has been humbled and gets emotional by this: the loved ones, police colleagues and countless strangers who filled him with hope.

Goudie: "What do you says to those people?

Mette: If it wasn't for the support I was getting?I don't know if I could stay as strong and positive. It chokes me up."


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