Judge throws out arrest of officer charged in DUI

April 28, 2010 4:46:54 AM PDT
A judge threw out the arrest of a Chicago police officer charged in an alleged drunken-driving crash that killed two men in 2007.

The judge ruled that Officer John Ardelean was arrested without probable cause after a crash that killed 22-year-old Miguel Flores and 21-year-old Erick Lagunas. Prosecutors must now decide if they will move ahead with the case.

Officer Ardelean was charged with driving under the influence and reckless homicide after a tape surfaced showing what appeared to be Ardelean consuming large amounts of alcohol at a River North bar minutes before the accident. But the video may never be played in court. Officers on the scene apparently never questioned Ardelean's sobriety and he was not compelled to take a sobriety test until about seven hours later which he then passed.

"It was not my brother's fault that the police officers on the scene were negligent. We should not be punished for that," said Nancy Flores, victim's sister.

Tuesday's ruling set off an angry confrontation between relatives of one of the victims and sheriff's deputies. No charges were filed in the confrontation which left two deputies slightly injured.

"We were just trying to regain ourselves and the sheriff got a little aggressive with us and threw me on the floor, handcuffed me, gave me a black eye," Nancy Flores.

Nancy and her sister, Blanca, walked out of the Cook County courthouse more than three and a half hours after they and their mother, also named Blanca, were detained by sheriff's deputy Tuesday morning.

"After two years that we have been fighting so hard to know that once again the system has let us down," said Flores.

Witnesses say a scuffle broke out after the judge ruled that the Chicago police officer was arrested without cause after the 2007 crash. When he read the decision, the judge said that testimony given by a police lieutenant who claimed that the officer was drunk was not credible, and officers who testified that he was not drunk were credible.

"I'm upset. I really thought that the witnesses on the defense were pretty much lying and covering him up," said Jose Lagunas, victim's brother.

Two sheriff's deputies and one of the detained family members were also injured during the scuffle and taken to the hospital to be treated. The sheriff's office released the women saying they recognized it was an emotional situation.

Ardelean left the courthouse without comment.

"I don't think he understands what he did to us and for them to let him go and let him go free, it's like he can do it again," said Flores.

The Cook County state's attorney's office issued a statement saying, "we intend to thoroughly review the court's written order issued today and then make a determination as to how the ruling will affect the prosecution of this case moving forward."

The next scheduled court date in the case is May 25, and prosecutors say they will decide by then whether to proceed with the case.

The families of the two victims have settled a civil suit against Ardelean. He will pay the full amount of his insurance policy limit to family of the two victims and a third surviving victim. The case against Martini Ranch, the bar where Ardelean was allegedly drinking, continues.


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