Source: Frugoli may have gotten 'pass' in earlier DUI

Detective in court on DUI charges
April 13, 2009 3:27:10 PM PDT
As the CPD detective charged in connection to a fiery car crash appeared in court, sources say he may have gotten a 'pass' from police on earlier DUI incidents. Joseph Frugoli allegedly crashed his vehicle into another car on the Dan Ryan Expressway. Two young men died in the fiery crash on Friday, April 10. SLIDESHOW

Frugoli, who worked homicides at Area 1, is charged with two counts of reckless homicide, aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of the crime. Frugoli's blood alcohol content after the accident was over three times the legal limit.

It is not the first time Frugoli has been in trouble. And, it's not the first time a Chicago police officer has been accused of drunk driving.

Monday's court appearance was brief and Frugoli did not comment to reporters. Prosecutors want more time to build their case against the Chicago Police Department veteran who has already been stripped of his police powers and is looking at serious time behind bars if convicted.

As the investigation into the criminal case moves forward, CPD Internal Affairs investigators will look at allegations that Frugoli was involved in earlier accidents involving drunk driving, but got a pass from police.

According to sources, Frugoli has had previous accidents where drinking was suspected, but not charged. One of those incidents occurred in January 2008 when Frugoli allegedly ran a stop sign near his home and hit a Chicago police squad car. He was not given a breathalyzer.

Police Superintendent Jody Weis called Friday's accident a tragedy for three families on Monday. He says he has no evidence suggesting Frugoli was given a pass in the previous accidents.

"I have no reason to believe he was extended any type of professional courtesy and was not treated as any citizen would have been, but again that's hard for me to comment on because it took place before I got here," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Dept.

Frugoli was released on half a million dollar bond Sunday, which infuriated some friends of the two young victims -- Andrew Cazares and Fausto Manzera-- who say the bond was too low.

Four years ago another Chicago police officer - then 24-year-old Jason Casper- ran a red light in Tinley Park, hit a car and killed two high school students. Casper had a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit. He later pled guilty, expressed remorse and was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison which he is now serving.

Casper's sentence was reduced to ten years because of his plea, his absence of any previous problems, and his promise to spend his post-prison life teaching young people about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Detective Frugoli's case is still in the very early stages. His lawyer declined to take questions Monday, but on Sunday he said Frugoli never set out to harm anyone early Friday and that he is heart-broken over the loss of two young lives.

Cop charges put spotlight on CPD

The case against Frugoli puts a new spotlight on the Chicago Police Department that has seen its share of officers who've had public problems with alcohol.

Whether it's a deadly accident or a bar room brawl, Chicago Police Officers have made news in recent years with alcohol related incidents.

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis says when he took over he recognized alcohol abuse as a problem. While the police department provides outreach programs, critics say, in some cases, the legal system has looked the other way when it involves a police officer.

John Ardelean, Jason Casper, and, now, add Joseph Frugoli to the list of Chicago police officers who have been charged in alcohol related deadly accidents.

Chicago Police Department policy states that officers on or off duty should not be intoxicated.

"They're authorized to use deadly force and when you have that authority and that responsibility, it does hold to you a higher standard than John Q. Citizen who you might live beside. Is it fair? Perhaps not," said Weis.

Supt. Jody Weis says in 2007, eight officers were charged with DUI, last year there were 15. Weis is not surprised by alcohol abuse within the department given the stress of the job.

"Most of what you deal with is not pleasant. You're delivering tough information, you're telling people maybe their children have been killed. Because when you're constantly dealing with neglect tip of the, it takes its toll on you," said Weis.

Weis says the Department does provide alcohol outreach and educational programs but some say officers accused of alcohol related incidents are given a legal pass. John Ardelean was involved in a 2007 crash that killed two people on the North Side of Chicago. He was not charged with vehicle homicide until video showing Ardelean allegedly drinking at a bar was aired publically and a police internal investigation is still pending.

"We've been waiting since thanksgiving and 2007 for results in a police investigation and has not been forth coming," said Dan O'Conner, victim's attorney.

According to court records, Detective Joseph Frugoli accused of last week's fatal Dan Ryan crash had been involved in two prior traffic incidents, where he was not administered field sobriety tests. Tickets were dropped in both cases. Weis does not believe Frugoli was given a pass.

"I have no reason to believe there were any professional courtesies that were extended to him," said Weis.

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