Wrestling move prompted Naperville stabbing, defense says

  • Adam B. Hearn

    Adam B. Hearn

Updated 10/10/2012 4:14 PM

A Lombard man who was kicked out of a Naperville bar for smoking in the women's restroom used justifiable force when he knifed a bouncer to escape a "guillotine chokehold," his attorneys said in court Wednesday.

Adam Hearn, 33, is on trial for attempted murder and armed violence in the March 2011 stabbing of security guard Sean Brutto at BlackFinn American Saloon.


Brutto, a college football player and former wrestler, was stabbed in the abdomen with a pocketknife when he tried to eject Hearn and his girlfriend for smoking in the women's restroom. Prosecutors said the attack was unprovoked and that Hearn also threatened several witnesses.

"It is an unprovoked attack by the defendant ... that brought Mr. Brutto to have to receive treatment for his life-threatening injury," Assistant DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Lindt said in opening statements. After the stabbing, "He was confronting witnesses with a knife, waving it around and making threats."

But the defense contends Hearn was merely reacting after he was put into a "guillotine chokehold" -- a wrestling move Brutto said he had practiced with some friends.

"You will hear no evidence that my client struck with the intent to kill," defense attorney David Imielski said, describing his client's actions as "appropriate force."

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Brutto testified he was sent to remove the couple after someone reported they were smoking in the bathroom. Earlier that night, he said, the couple left peaceably after he found them in a stairwell preparing to engage in a sex act.

In the restroom, Brutto said, he grabbed Hearn by the elbow to escort him out, and Hearn responded by punching him in the face. Brutto said he struck back and then squeezed his arm around Hearn's neck as Hearn threw more punches.

Brutto said he was attempting to use a "guillotine chokehold." The move was described as a clasping of arms around a person's neck while lifting up. Brutto said he was unable to complete the hold.

"His girlfriend jumped on my back, attacking me. He tried to bite me," Brutto testified. "I was trying to make him calm down."

During the struggle, Brutto said, he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen and looked down to see blood. By then, several other bar workers had gathered to restrain Hearn, who was arrested, along with his girlfriend, a short time later.


Brutto, who underwent surgery for his injury, was the first witness called as Hearn's bench trial in front of Judge George Bakalis got under way.

Hearn's girlfriend, 26-year-old Kelly Cihlar of Woodridge, pleaded guilty in September to misdemeanor resisting police and was sentenced to time served in the county jail and a year of conditional discharge, court records show.

Hearn was previously convicted of attempted murder in DuPage County in 1996. According to court records, he opened fire on a gang rival's party, striking a woman in the buttocks. He has been held on $250,000 bail since his arrest in the BlackFinn stabbing.

The trial resumes Thursday.

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