Trial starts for officer in bartender beating

June 1, 2009 (CHICAGO) The beating took place at a bar on Chicago's Northwest Side and was caught on surveillance tape.

The bartender took the witness stand Monday in the case against officer Anthony Abbate. The bartender is seen on the video tape being punched, pushed to the ground and kicked, but a defense attorney claims she was certainly not defenseless and even pushed the cop around.

This is a bench trial before Judge John Fleming. Before it began Monday morning, the prosecution dropped some of the charges against Abbate, including intimidation and communication with a witness, that because a witness refused to testify without a grant of immunity.

Abbate's defense? His actions were in self-defense.

Abbate was stripped of his police powers and has been on leave without pay for most of the 28 months since his visit to Jesse's Shortstop Inn on President's Day 2007. He says he is not guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct. Prosecutors say his attack on bartender Karolina Obrycka was unprovoked and merciless.

The video shows Abbate repeatedly punching and kicking Obrycka. His attorney sought to portray her as the aggressor, saying she went after him and tossed him around like a rag doll. The camera shows Obrycka trying to keep Abbate from coming behind the bar but does not show her subduing a man twice her size.

"You're going to see the tape," said Peter Hickey, Abbate's attorney, outside of court.

All the lawyers have been under a gag order for the past year because of all the pre-trial attention brought on by the tape.

Obrycka took the stand Monday and said she had earlier ordered Abbate to stop fighting with another patron. She tried to take his drink away and he became enraged, she says, yelling "Nobody tells me what to do."

As the tape was played, Obrycka said, "I can't look at this. I'm tired of seeing him hit me." But she did continue. Abbate's defense says it's all about her desire to have a pay day, but that does not explain how an enraged off-duty policeman would come charging behind a bar.

The trial will continue Tuesday and should wrap up by mid-week.

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