Charge reduced for driver accused of swerving at demonstrator
A Naperville man who was charged with swerving his vehicle at a teen demonstrator outside Planned Parenthood in Aurora -- even though police said surveillance footage showed otherwise -- pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge.
Michael Fabian, 25, agreed to serve three months of court supervision and pay $180 in court costs on his plea to improper lane use, a petty offense. The charge was amended from misdemeanor aggravated assault, which carries up to a year in jail.
In court, defense attorney Richard Kayne described "several videotapes ... that showed my client never steered at anybody," though he acknowledged Fabian made a wide turn as he left the Planned Parenthood property in a Yukon GMC.
"The state had a chance to reconsider what would be the appropriate charge, and we think this is it," Kayne said outside of court. "Nobody was in jeopardy at any time. My client was adamant that at no point did he ever commit the offense of assault."
DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin said the plea agreement was the result of a "thorough review" of evidence in the case, including surveillance video from outside the clinic on New York Street, which provides abortion services and regularly draws protesters.
Berlin said prosecutors had side views of the vehicle but were missing other angles that could have been "critical" to their case.
"We felt that rather than risk a not guilty at trial, it was appropriate to allow the defendant to plead to a lesser charge," Berlin said. "Because of the depth and the angle of the camera, it made it difficult to see. I think you could see a swerve, but it was difficult. We watched it many, many times."
Prosecutors filed charges in March after a 15-year-old demonstrator from Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights told investigators Fabian swerved "five to 10 feet" in her direction in February as she handed out pamphlets. The charges accused Fabian of "nearly striking" the girl.
In April, Aurora police closed their investigation as "unfounded" based on surveillance footage. A police report obtained by the Daily Herald said video showed Fabian "appearing to drive in a straight, nonaggressive manner," though six witnesses told investigators they were sure Fabian swerved toward the girl.
Planned Parenthood did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Aurora police spokesman Dan Ferrelli declined to comment on the court disposition but said the police report "reflects the reasoning behind our decision not to pursue charges."
Fabian, whose plea was accepted by Judge Anthony Coco, declined to comment. Police have not released the surveillance footage.