Streamwood police brutality case resumes Monday

  • JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comJames Mandarino

    JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comJames Mandarino

 
 
Updated 3/10/2011 6:12 PM

A ruling in the Streamwood police brutality case will wait until at least next week.

Citing his caseload, Judge Thomas P. Fecarotta said the bench trial will skip Friday and resume on Monday in Rolling Meadows.

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Thursday saw two Streamwood firefighters and five Streamwood police officers testifying on behalf of ex-cop James Mandarino. They responded last March 28, when a squad car camera recorded Mandarino striking Ronald Bell 15 times with his baton while Bell was on the ground in the driveway of his Streamwood house. Mandarino, 42, charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct, was fired last year.

Over the trial's three days, Mandarino's camp has maintained Bell was drunk and belligerent during the early morning traffic stop. Bell was driving home in his truck with his friend, Nolan Stalbaum. The two attended a union banquet in Willowbrook and a party in Carol Stream. Bell, 29, said he had three alcoholic drinks that night, while Stalbaum, 38, testified he had four drinks.

Streamwood Fire Lt. William Burke said Bell's breath smelled like alcohol when Burke met him later that morning at the police station. Burke also said Bell refused to cooperate with paramedics.

Prosecutor Mike Gerber said Bell mistrusted those wearing a uniform after Mandarino attacked him. Gerber also offered another explanation for Bell's behavior.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"You think someone who had been struck to the extent that Mr. Bell had been struck might have caused him to act belligerent?" Gerber said.

Mandarino's lawyers argued the officer was concerned about his safety. Attorney Ed Wanderling mentioned a police memo stating local gang members wanted to shoot a police officer. Mandarino didn't know if Bell and Stalbaum were gang members, Wanderling said.

"It's relevant to show the state of mind of police officers in Streamwood," Wanderling added.

However, Streamwood Deputy Police Chief James Keegan said the area were Bell lives is not known for gang activity.

"I'm pretty well-versed with our gang members, even in the (administrative) position that I am in," Keegan said.

Mandarino lead attorney Rick Beuke noted Mandarino's high marks in departmental evaluations. However, Keegan said the March 28 beating would have changed those evaluations. And Gerber joked about the evaluations.

"His physical skills with the baton were pretty good, were they not?" Gerber said.

Gerber noted that none of the five police officers who testified drew their guns at the scene. Gerber also noted Mandarino never stated he had his gun out in his initial police report.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Beuke suggested Mandarino was fired in June because of pressure from a $250,000 civil settlement with the village involving another officer. Keegan denied the charge and said Mandarino was fired because of his performance.

Keegan called Mandarino's judgment and actions "unacceptable" on the traffic stop.

"You try to retreat and keep everyone under a watchful eye and maintain your distance," Keegan said.

Mandarino faces two to five years in prison if convicted.