Officer faces DUI charge for fatal crash

January 17, 2008 3:56:59 PM PST
Additional charges were filed Thursday against a Chicago Police officer accused of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed two people on Chicago's North Side on Thanksgiving Day.

Officer John Ardelean appeared in court Thursday. He now faces aggravated DUI charges.

Ardelean was originally charged with a misdemeanor in the case. Prosecutors say the five-year veteran of the police force was off-duty when he drove his SUV to the left of the center line, killing two young men from Cicero.

Bond for Ardelean was set at $75,000 and he did post it. The charges come two months after the fatal Thanksgiving accident. Since then, Ardelean whose picture has not been released because of an agreement the police department has with the Fraternal Order of Police, has been assigned to desk duty. And that's where he will stay for the duration of this case.

During Ardelean's brief appearance in bond court Thursday afternoon, the assistant state's attorney stated the following about the fatal Roscoe Village accident early Thanksgiving morning, which killed 22-year-old Miguel Flores and 21-year-old Erick Lagunas: Prosecutors say that Ardelean, who was off-duty at the time, consumed three beers and four shots at a downtown bar from midnight until about 2 a.m., as videotaped by the bar's security camera, and was driving his SUV northbound in the 2900-block of North Damen when he drove through an intersection at Oakdale and broadsided a car carrying Flores, Lagunas and another passenger who survived the crash.

"The cause of the tragedy was the driver of the other vehicle and not my client," said Tom Needham, defense attorney.

Thursday, Ardelean's attorney says witnesses will testify that Ardelean showed no signs of being drunk and that he did refuse a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer at the scene of the accident. However, the state's attorney's office says that later that morning a police lieutenant ordered Ardelean to take a breathalyzer, and it showed his blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit. But a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police Department estimated that his blood-alcohol level would have been above the legal limit at the time of the accident.

Ardelean's attorney says his client served two tours in the Army before joining the force in 2002. According to police, Ardelean has a clean record and has never been reprimanded or suspended.