Naperville smart meter opponent's trial begins

 
 
Updated 9/29/2014 11:43 PM

The trial of a Naperville woman accused of struggling with officers attempting to arrest her began Monday with allegations she elbowed a police officer in the chest during her struggle.

Malia "Kim" Bendis, 41, of the 2200 block of Mercer Court, faces a misdemeanor charge of obstructing and resisting a peace officer.

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Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Gomez told the 12-person jury Monday that police initially tried to place Bendis under arrest after she refused to stop filming the January 2013 arrest of another Naperville woman who refused to let workers install a smart meter on her home and resisted her own arrest.

Gomez said Bendis was filming a fellow smart meter opponent, Jennifer Stahl, at her home in the 1400 block of West Glen Drive when police arrived with meter installers.

The video of the encounter, filmed by Bendis, shows Bendis and Stahl talking when Naperville Sgt. Nick Liberio tells Bendis that he has already warned her once and orders her to stop filming him. When she refuses, he tells someone out of frame to "get a squad and place her under arrest."

Gomez said three officers attempted to subdue Bendis but she "repeatedly refused multiple orders" by officers to stop flailing her arms and twisting her body to "defeat being taken into custody."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Liberio testified that he was and still is the head of the Naperville Police Department's Special Operations Group that was deployed during that particular week and charged with assisting city employees and contractors hired to install smart meters on the remaining 144 homes where owners had previously refused the installation.

He said he was in the rear yard when he heard screaming and yelling from the front of the house. He said he checked around the corner to ensure the safety of his officers and others in the yard.

"All three (officers) were attempting to gain her into custody," he testified. "Her body was turning and she was pushing her body to defeat their arrest."

Bendis' attorney Todd Pugh denied Bendis ever resisted arrest and said at one point three officers had her face pressed against a tree before cuffing her and putting her in a police squad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He said Bendis was at Stahl's home to document Stahl's conscientious objection to the smart meter being installed at her home.

Ordinance violation charges were dismissed against Stahl in mid-February.

City officials agreed not to prosecute Stahl for interfering with a police officer and preventing crews from accessing her home.

As part of the deal, Stahl admitted guilt to the violations, agreed to perform more than 40 hours of community service for a not-for-profit group and agreed not to violate any federal, state or local laws.

Both women are members of the group that filed a federal lawsuit against the city regarding their beliefs that the wireless meters will affect their health, security and privacy. Several members and supporters of the group flooded a Feb, 5, 2013, city council meeting calling for the charges against both women to be dropped and for the resignation of the city manager and police chief.

The city has since installed smart meters on more than 57,000 homes. Officials have maintained the project will make the city's electric system more reliable and cost-efficient.

Bendis' trial is expected to resume at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday in courtroom 4001. Officials expect the trial to go no longer than Wednesday.

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