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updated: 12/9/2010 9:16 AM

Police refuse comment on Taser traffic stop lawsuit

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  • Attorneys representing a Hawthorn Woods couple have filed a federal lawsuit against Mundelein police alleging excessive force during an early-morning traffic stop on Jan 1, 2010.

      Attorneys representing a Hawthorn Woods couple have filed a federal lawsuit against Mundelein police alleging excessive force during an early-morning traffic stop on Jan 1, 2010.
    Courtesy of Christopher R. Smith

  • Steve Kotlinski, right, of Hawthorn Woods talks about the lawsuit he filed for being Tasered by Mundelein police officers in January. His wife, Jean, listens in Wednesday night.

       Steve Kotlinski, right, of Hawthorn Woods talks about the lawsuit he filed for being Tasered by Mundelein police officers in January. His wife, Jean, listens in Wednesday night.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Jean and Steve Kotlinski of Hawthorn Woods talk Wednesday night about the lawsuit they filed for being Steve being Tasered by Mundelein police officers in January.

       Jean and Steve Kotlinski of Hawthorn Woods talk Wednesday night about the lawsuit they filed for being Steve being Tasered by Mundelein police officers in January.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Full police video

  • Video: Interview with Steven and Jean Kotlinski

 
 

Jean Kotlinski said she didn't realize her husband, Steven, had been stunned by a Taser fired at him by a Mundelein police officer because she was handcuffed in the back of a squad car.

"He did what the officers asked, was inside the car, the door was shut, and he was belted in," she said Wednesday. "They Tased him anyway."

Almost a year later, Steven Kotlinski recalls the pain as the worst he's ever felt.

"It was just a total pain sensation," he said. "I felt pain coursing completely throughout my whole body."

Mundelein police officials are saying little about the New Year's Day arrest that has led to an online video and a federal lawsuit accusing two officers of excessive force for using a Taser on the 54-year-old Kotlinski.

Officers Anthony Raciak and Richard Turek, along with the village of Mundelein, have been named in the lawsuit, accused of falsely arresting Jean Kotlinski and battery against her husband. Police used the Taser on him five times during the early-morning traffic stop on Route 45 in Mundelein, according to the lawsuit.

Deputy Police Chief Eric Guenther said he could not comment on the lawsuit, except to say Raciak and Turek were still on "normal duty."

"We have not been served with any form of paperwork yet and will not comment until we see what the lawsuit has to say," Guenther said.

He added Kotlinski was found guilty by a jury of obstructing justice after the 3 a.m. arrest. Kotlinski was also found not guilty on two felony counts of aggravated battery against the officers.

In the police dashboard video of the arrest, posted at dailyherald.com, Steven Kotlinski admitted to officers that he was drunk while riding in the passenger seat of the family's Ford Expedition, said attorney Christopher R. Smith of Smith, Johnson and Antholt, LLC.

Smith released the video footage of the arrest to the media Tuesday and Wednesday. It occurred while the couple's two sons and a family friend were in the back seat of the Expedition, they said.

Smith said Jean Kotlinski was run through field sobriety tests during the traffic stop despite telling police she was the designated driver. Officers escorted her about 20 feet away from her car to take a breath test, the complaint states.

At that time, Steven Kotlinski opened the door and stood up outside the vehicle to check on his wife. Both officers ran toward him with Tasers drawn and ordered him back into the car, the complaint states.

The video shows Steven Kotlinski arguing about returning to the car, and telling officers he didn't care if he was stunned. But at about the 7:49 mark of the video, Jean Kotlinski tells one officer her husband would have a heart attack if he is hit with a Taser, to which the officer responds, "OK, well, he's gonna get Tased."

"All he did was get out of the car and look to check on his wife, and their first response was to come at him with Tasers drawn," Smith said. "It's not an incredible reaction to check on her. He wasn't fighting the police or anything, just checking on her."

On Wednesday, Steven Kotlinski said he retreated to the front seat of the vehicle, closed the door and re-buckled his seat belt. One officer arrested Jean Kotlinski, put her in handcuffs in the back of a squad car, and walked toward Steven Kotlinski.

On the video, the officer approached the vehicle, opened the door, and said, "I'm only going to tell you once, get out of the car or I'm gonna take you out."

After the officer unsuccessfully tried to pull the buckled Kotlinski out of the vehicle, the man unlocked the belt, Kotlinski recalled. He said the officer then fired the Taser at him while he was still seated inside.

"I did follow their orders," Kotlinski insisted Wednesday. "Maybe I didn't move quickly enough for them."

The pain was intense, Kotlinski said.

Then, in the struggle afterward, Kotlinski was stunned four more times, hit twice with a flashlight, and kicked repeatedly, Jean Kotlinski recalled.

"This has nothing to do with money and has everything to do with the principle of the thing," she said. "No one's civil rights should be taken away like this. They could have stopped the situation way before it went as far as it did."

Steven Kotlinski was eventually subdued and arrested, before being and charged with two counts of aggravated battery. He called the confrontation and arrest "a humiliating experience."

For his kids, he said, "it was the shock of their life."

Smith said they will appeal Steven Kotlinski's conviction on the charge of obstructing a peace officer.

As for Jean Kotlinski, the breath test taken during the traffic stop showed her blood alcohol level was 0.00, according to the lawsuit, and she was released.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages against both officers and the village, and punitive damages, attorney fees and any additional relief.

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