Cop in bar fight video gets probation

June 24, 2009 4:25:01 AM PDT
Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate has been sentenced to two years of probation for the 2007 beating of a female bartender. That attack was caught on tape by a surveillance camera.

Abbate must also attend anger management classes and perform community service. No one has done more to tarnish the reputation of the Chicago Police Department, according to prosecutors.

Circuit Judge John Fleming set up his remarks at the sentencing on Tuesday with a line from the movie "Animal House." He said, directly to Abbate, "drunk and stupid is no way to go through life." He also said the sentence was "constrained by the law."

Despite the fact that tape of the bar beating was seen internationally by millions, the judge said Abbate had no criminal history; his punches did not cause serious physical injury; and he was off-duty at the time so he was not acting under color of law.

The legal measurements, the judge concluded, add up to probation.

His conviction for aggravated battery could have led to a sentence of two to five years in prison. However, the statute also allows for probation. Abbate got two years of intensive probation: a curfew that will keep him at home from 8 p.m. to 6a.m.; anger management classes; community service; and drug and alcohol evaluations. He will not be locked up.

Abbate had no comment on Tuesday.

The attack took place 28 months ago at a Northwest Side bar. In the videotape, Abbate is seen pummeling bartender Karolina Obrycka, who is half the officer's size.

She took the stand Tuesday at sentencing and said the incident has left her constantly fearful. After the hearing, she did not directly criticize the judge for his sentence of probation.

"I'm disappointed that he didn't apologize for what he did," said Obrycka.

"I understand why the judge did what he did. I don't agree with it. I think the man should have done some jail time," said Terry Ekl, Obrycka's Attorney.

Abbate's attorney argued again Tuesday that Obrycka was the aggressor in the incident, that Abbate was merely defending himself, and that prosecutors overcharged this case because Abbate was a Chicago cop.

"If he had been a milkman or a tailor (or) a plumber this case wouldn't be in this building, it'd be at Belmont and 29 being charged as a battery probably," said Peter Hickey, Abbate's attorney.

As they argued for prison time, prosecutors played more video from the same day Obrycka was attacked at the bar. It shows Abbate repeatedly punching an acquaintance, and in another instance - all within a span of six hours, Abbate is seen throwing another man to the floor of the bar.

"Another unprovoked attack ,which we believe shows a clear pattern of violence by Abbate," said Frank Marek, Asst. State's Attorney.

Though he'll not serve jail time, Abbate will lose his job as a police officer. He's been suspended since the incident. The department is moving to fire him. "It's a sad chapter. I get infuriated but with the sentencing we have to accept that the chapter is now closed," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department.

Abbate's attorney argued that the police officer has suffered enough. He said his actions that day in February 2007 were the "result of sheer, intolerable stupidity for which he has lost his whole being."

The case is not over. Obrycka - who Hickey said is residing in the U.S. illegally - has filed a federal civil suit against Abbate and the police department. The case is up for a hearing next week.


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