Despite verdict, Haley Reinhart maintains innocence in Palatine bar brawl
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Former "American Idol" finalist and Wheeling native Haley Reinhart maintained her innocence Monday even after a judge found her guilty of a battery charge related to a bar brawl last summer in Palatine.
"Nowhere during this night prior to, during or after was there any bad intention from my end," Reinhart said outside the Rolling Meadows courtroom where a Cook County judge ruled her guilty of punching a bouncer. "I went out that night wanting to dance and have a great time with my (girlfriends). The fact this got turned and so twisted by these people that are all in cahoots with each other is beyond me.
"It's really unfortunate and unjust in my eyes. I will not back down on that."
Reinhart, 27, now living in Los Angeles, insisted she did not intentionally strike bouncer Matthew Manno during the July 8 fracas at Lamplighter Inn Tavern & Grille in downtown Palatine. But Judge James Karahalios, who presided over the brief trial Monday, said surveillance video of the altercation provided overwhelming evidence otherwise.
Reinhart was ordered to pay a $500 fine and another $139 in court costs after being found guilty of the local ordinance violation. She'll be able to get the conviction cleared from her record in two years if she has no further criminal violations.
Following a 90-minute bench trial in which both Reinhart and Manno testified, Karahalios called Reinhart's testimony "evasive, argumentative and sometimes implausible."
During testimony, Reinhart repeatedly denied striking Manno's left eye with her right fist. On cross-examination by Palatine Village Prosecutor James Etchingham and questioning by the judge, Reinhart said it was possible she made contact with the bouncer, as she tried to break free from his grip on her wrist while he was trying to escort her out of the bar. But she said it wasn't intentional.
"It could be possible, but without it being a punch to hurt somebody," she told the judge.
Reinhart said she thinks she was singled out by the bar staff, who never explained why she was being thrown out. But the judge told her that didn't matter; ultimately the video shows her hand making contact with the bouncer.
"It was a regular roundhouse punch to the face," Karahalios said.
According to testimony, the altercation occurred on the bar's crowded upstairs dance floor about 1:45 a.m. Reinhart, dancing with a group of four girlfriends, testified that someone bumped into one of them, causing her friend to stumble into a rope that acts as a barrier between patrons and the DJ.
Manno was called upstairs by other bouncers to remove Reinhart, who he testified was swearing and acting "belligerent, loud and unruly."
Manno said Reinhart struck him in the midsection, and after he grasped her wrist, she broke free and punched him.
Nearby, a brawl erupted, involving other bouncers and Reinhart's friend Alan Chislof, who suffered a concussion, broken nose, black eyes and other injuries. Lamplighter employee Adam Sobanski, 32, was charged with aggravated battery after authorities say he choked and struck Chislof. That case is pending.