Ex-cop's trial wraps up, case goes to judge

March 22, 2011 3:46:31 PM PDT
Lawyers presented closing arguments Tuesday in the trial of a former suburban police officer accused of a beating caught on camera.

Judge Thomas Fecarotta Jr. is now considering the fate of ex-Streamwood officer James Mandarino.

On March 28, 2010, after observing Ronald Bell allegedly driving recklessly, Mandarino pulled up behind the 29-year-old in his own driveway. Unaware it was Bell's home at the time, Mandarino said he was forced to use his Taser and baton after Bell and his passenger, Nolan Stalbaum, refused repeated requests to follow the officers' orders.

Mandarino was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct.

The question is did Mandarino snap or was he following his police training when he struck Bell 15 times with a baton and tazed Stalbaum?

Mandarino said he feared for his life during the early morning traffic stop last year.

In her closing arguments, assistant state's attorney Virginia Bigane said, "the defendant was not acting out of fear, he was acting out of fury." She went on to say Mandarino swung the baton like "a baseball bat."

Defense attorney Rick Beuke argued to the judge his client was "not attempting to be a rogue copper. All he was attempting to do was keep people in a confined space until backup got there." Beuke said Mandarino should not be judged by 11 seconds of videotape.

But in his rebuttal, prosecutor Michael Gerber reminded the judge that Mandarino used his baton as a deadly weapon in a situation where "nobody raised a fist, nobody threw a punch, nobody had a weapon."

Gerber admitted Mandarino was a model officer for 15 years until the predawn hours of March 28 when Gerber said the officer simply snapped.

The judge is expected to announce his verdict Wednesday afternoon at 2 o'clock.

While the criminal proceedings wrap up, Bell and his brother, Stacey, who also witnessed the beating have filed a civil suit. The defense told the judge Tuesday that for the Bell family the whole case is all about money and that civil suit is their golden goose.

If convicted, Mandarino could face two to five years in prison.