Mandarino verdict expected at 2 p.m.

 
 
Updated 3/23/2011 1:18 PM
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  • James Mandarino, center, walks out of the Rolling Meadows courthouse after closing arguments in his Streamwood police brutality trial. With him, from left, are his wife, Sophie Mandarino, his mother, Carolyn Mandarino, and his lawyer Ed Wanderling.

    James Mandarino, center, walks out of the Rolling Meadows courthouse after closing arguments in his Streamwood police brutality trial. With him, from left, are his wife, Sophie Mandarino, his mother, Carolyn Mandarino, and his lawyer Ed Wanderling. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Ronald Bell, the man who was struck multiple times by ex-Streamwood police Cpl. James Mandarino, walks out of court with his sister-in-law, Sheila Bell.

    Ronald Bell, the man who was struck multiple times by ex-Streamwood police Cpl. James Mandarino, walks out of court with his sister-in-law, Sheila Bell. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Defendant James Mandarino leaves court Tuesday with his wife, Sophie Mandarino, left, and mother, Carolyn Mandarino, center.

    Defendant James Mandarino leaves court Tuesday with his wife, Sophie Mandarino, left, and mother, Carolyn Mandarino, center. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Former Streamwood police Cpl. James Mandarino, center, leaves the Rolling Meadows courthouse after closing arguments in his police brutality trial. With him, from left to right, are his wife, Sophie Mandarino, his mother, Carolyn Mandarino, and his attorney Ed Wanderling.

    Former Streamwood police Cpl. James Mandarino, center, leaves the Rolling Meadows courthouse after closing arguments in his police brutality trial. With him, from left to right, are his wife, Sophie Mandarino, his mother, Carolyn Mandarino, and his attorney Ed Wanderling. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas P. Fecarotta is expected to rule at 2 p.m. today on whether former Streamwood police Cpl. James Mandarino is guilty of police brutality for beating a motorist after a traffic stop.

Updates on the ruling will be on Twitter @dh_aselvam and at dailyherald.com.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors asked if the sobriety of Ronald Bell and Nolan Stalbaum, a key issue stressed by defense attorneys, mattered during the early-morning traffic stop.

"Whether they were drunk or not, I don't know, but assuming they were drunk, that is even more reason that this man is required to keep his control," prosecutor Mike Gerber said. "He is not supposed to be taking out a baton and beating and striking and Tasing another individual. That is the action of a person who has snapped."

Streamwood fired the 42-year-old Mandarino last June, ending his 15-year career with the department. That's less than three months after the March 28, 2010, traffic stop when a video camera recorded him striking 29-year-old Bell with a baton and using a stun gun on Bell's friend Stalbaum, 38, of Glendale Heights. It happened on the driveway outside the home Bell shares with his brother, sister-in-law and their child.

Bell testified to drinking three alcoholic beverages and Stalbaum said he had four. Mandarino lead attorney Rick Beuke argued testimony from paramedics who treated them in the morning hours after the incident showed they were drunk. That speaks to Bell and Stalbaum's credibility, Beuke argued.

"Judge, it's a flat-out pack of lies from beginning to end," Beuke said in characterizing their testimony.

Mandarino, of Aurora, faces two to five years in prison if convicted on charges of aggravated battery, battery and official misconduct. He made about $94,000 a year before he was fired. Since then, the Aurora University graduate has worked as a security guard and his home is in foreclosure.

Beuke, to support the credibility of his client, read a flurry of positive comments from Mandarino's final performance evaluation with Streamwood police from September 2009. Mandarino was justified in using force, he said.

"I don't know that the village of Streamwood could have selected somebody that carries that uniform with (more) pride and dedication on a daily basis," Beuke said.

A dashboard camera mounted inside Mandarino's marked police cruiser captured video of the incident. Mandarino stopped Bell's SUV after he saw the vehicle swerve while he was parked at a strip mall less than a mile from Bell's home.

Bell and Stalbaum never punched or struck Mandarino, and police didn't find any weapons, prosecutors note. Bell needed seven stitches to an ear and the blows left his forearm bruised.

"The video is the most credible and believable evidence that you have," prosecutor Virginia Bigane said. "It has buried the defendant, overwhelmingly buried. It's overwhelming proof of guilt, and there is nothing, nothing the defendant or anybody else can say to get around it."

Beuke fired back. He said his client's reputation goes beyond the 11-second clip showing Mandarino hitting Bell 15 times while Bell knelt on the driveway outside his home with his hands on his head. Beuke accused prosecutors and the media of portraying his client as "a ruthless, rogue, lunatic copper."

"He's been trained for 15 years that when it's one on two -- at 4 in the morning -- and it's raining and you don't have any backup, you confine the individuals in the vehicle until backup gets there," Beuke said.

Gerber on Tuesday noted Mandarino excluded any mention of Bell trying to grab his gun in police reports. Mandarino never told police dispatch he was in danger while calling for backup, Gerber said.

Beuke questioned Bell's and Stalbaum's motivation. He said Bell's brother, Stacey, began calling personal injury attorneys the afternoon of the incident. That proved they were interested only in a cash settlement, Beuke argued. The village faces a civil suit, and Bell testified he rejected a $250,000 settlement.

"This is their golden ticket, judge. This is why they're here," Beuke said.

Mandarino said Monday he worried about gang activity and a rash of armed robberies as he approached the SUV with a drawn gun, but Bigane said Tuesday the area around Bell's home isn't known for gangs and there was no reason for Mandarino to draw his gun.

"The defendant was not chasing Latin Kings in this case. He was not chasing people who allegedly committed an armed robbery of a 7-Eleven in Hanover Park," she said. "This was a traffic stop, a traffic stop in the victim's own driveway of his own home."