A 23-year-old Palatine man, one of 18 people whose charges were dismissed because of involvement of three former undercover officers accused of drug conspiracy, says he is taking advantage of the second chance.
Russell Disney spent most of the last four months confined to his home and wearing an electronic monitor around his ankle while awaiting trial on charges of possession and delivery of a controlled substance, felonies that carry maximum sentences of three and 15 years respectively, although probation is available.
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Earlier this month, Cook County prosecutors dismissed charges against Disney, citing involvement of one or more of former Schaumburg officers John Cichy, Matthew Hudak and Terrance O'Brien. The former officers were arrested in January in DuPage County on charges they skimmed drugs from police seizures and sold the product through a former informant.
Disney, who has had several brushes with Palatine police, says the experience taught him a lesson.
"Russell has been scared straight," said defense attorney Kathryn Ross. "He realizes he got a second chance and is taking the opportunity to, as he says, begin his adult life."
"It's been a crazy ride," said Disney, who acknowledges a felony conviction could have affected his ability to get a job or secure a college loan.
At the time of his arrest, Disney had been working at a packing company. He had also been hanging out with people whose criminal backgrounds were more extensive than he realized, said Ross during a joint interview with her client Tuesday at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.
Disney says those acquaintances introduced him to Cichy, who was working undercover in October 2012, according to Palatine police reports the Daily Herald obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Police reports allege Cichy and Disney met Oct. 16 in a car parked in a Palatine parking lot and that Cichy gave Disney $100 in exchange for 2 grams of cocaine. A transaction involving 0.7 gram of cocaine took place Oct. 11, police reports state.
Ross refutes the charges, claiming no video of the alleged transaction exists and that Cichy was the only witness. "The entire case was based on the testimony of the officer," Ross said.
The police report indicates three Palatine detectives, along with Hudak, had the parking lot under surveillance at the time.
Ross said Disney's acquaintances were not charged. Disney said he does not hang out with those people anymore.
"He learned his lesson: guilt by association," Ross said.
Cook County court clerk records show Disney pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in 2007 and received one year of conditional discharge. He also pleaded guilty to an ordinance violation in 2010 and received supervision, court records show.
In both cases, Cook County prosecutors filed violations against Disney, which Ross said had to do with allegations of marijuana use.
Since his October 2012 arrest, Disney completed substance abuse treatment, which required that he pass regular drug tests.
Disney says he has no plans at this time to file a civil suit, as two others have done. Former defendants Diangelo Beasley and Kelley Altom have filed federal lawsuits against the former Schaumburg officers and the village of Schaumburg.
Disney "understands this is how the judicial system is supposed to work" and is happy it worked in his favor, Ross said.
"I'm just glad this is over with," Disney said.
Cichy, 30, and Hudak, 29, have been released on bail. O'Brien, 46, remains in custody. He will appear in court today, at which time prosecutors will seek to restore his original $750,000 bond. All three men have since resigned from the Schaumburg police force.
Attorneys for Cichy and O'Brien did not respond to requests for comment. Hudak defense attorney Thomas Glasgow declined to comment, citing his client's pending case.