A motorcycle daredevil's exploits, including baiting suburban police officers into chasing him and then posting videos of the pursuit online, likely will land him in jail.
Hamza Ali Ben Ali, 31, of Plainfield, was found guilty during a Wednesday bench trial of aggravated fleeing and eluding a police officer and a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license.
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Attorneys selected a jury to hear his case on Tuesday, but Ali then opted to have DuPage County Judge George Bakalis decide his fate.
During Wednesday's opening arguments, Assistant State's Attorney Alex Sendlak said police were called about 1 p.m. Oct. 21, 2012, when Ali and another motorcyclist were speeding north on Cass Avenue in Westmont.
Once officers located the motorcycles, Sendlak said, Ali turned on a video camera attached to the rear of his Honda CBR 1,000 and began a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that stretched from Westmont to Darien and eventually, I-55 south where Ali reached speeds of 115 mph.
"Essentially this is one big game to the defendant," Sendlak said. "Why else would he put a video camera on his motorcycle? To post it on the Internet."
Westmont police officer Scott Teeter testified he responded to the 911 call of motorcycles "exceeding 100 mph" on Cass Avenue and caught up with them near 63rd Street and Cass Avenue. He said a black and silver motorcycle sped through traffic and got away while Ali pulled into the gas station at the intersection of 63rd Street and Cass Avenue.
"I activated my emergency lights and pulled behind the motorcycle in the parking lot, but he just looked back at me and took off, weaving in and out of traffic at a high speed," Teeter said. "I couldn't keep up so I shut down my emergency lights and slowed down but continued to follow him on Cass to the southbound ramp of I-55."
Teeter said the driver would occasionally slow down to let him catch up, only to speed off again. Once on I-55, Teeter said, the motorcycle disappeared from sight.
Westmont Sgt. Steven Thompson said he analyzed the video and determined it took the motorcyclist 45 seconds to drive the .91 miles on Cass Avenue from 63rd Street to Holly Avenue, meaning the motorcycle was traveling an average of 72.8 mph during that stretch. The speed limit on Cass Avenue is 40 mph.
During the pursuit, Teeter said he noticed the driver adjust the video camera on the rear of the motorcycle.
"Once I saw the camera, I had a good idea that the video would be posted on YouTube, so I continued checking the website," Teeter said. "About two weeks later, I found the video had been posted."
Westmont Detective Michael Weibler testified he then searched the Internet for the screen name used to post the video, which eventually led him to a phone number that led to Ali.
Plainfield police officer Martin Van Heejswik testified that on Nov. 5, the same driver, on the same motorcycle, approached him at an intersection, leaned in his window, said "bye-bye," turned on the camera on the rear of the bike and fled. Ali faces similar charges in Will County for that incident.
On Nov. 16, 2012, Westmont police officers, including Sgt. Thompson, arrested Ali at a Cook County courthouse where Ali was facing charges of aggravated battery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
During the arrest, officers were informed Ali, a native of Albania, had been wearing a GPS ankle bracelet because of an ongoing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement case.
Assistant State's Attorney Fred Flather presented evidence to show the data from the GPS device, which updates every three minutes, matched up in perfect timing with the video evidence from both Ali's own YouTube video and the video from Teeter's dashboard camera.
Ali's attorney, Michelle Gonzales, said because the motorcyclist in the video was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a helmet with a tinted mask, it is impossible to know for sure if Ali was driving the motorcycle during the chase.
"Ultimately, the police are upset that there is a biker out there mocking them," she said.
Judge Bakalis, however, called the evidence against Ali "overwhelming" and said the GPS evidence was indisputable.
Ali will be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. June 4. He faces between one and six years in prison before being turned over to immigration enforcement.