Naperville woman acquitted of resisting, obstructing cops
A DuPage County jury deliberated less than three hours Wednesday before finding Naperville resident Malia "Kim" Bendis not guilty of resisting or obstructing a peace officer.
Bendis, 42, of the 2200 block of Mercer Court, faced the misdemeanor charge following a Jan. 23, 2013, encounter she had with three Naperville police officers who were escorting smart meter installation crews.
The whole encounter took place in front of Jennifer Stahl's Naperville home where crews were attempting to install the wireless meter.
Stahl and Bendis are leaders of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group that opposes the wireless meters for privacy and a variety of believed health issues.
The city has since installed nearly 58,000 throughout the city.
Bendis was using her cellphone to film utility crew trying to install a meter at Stahl's house on Jan. 23, 2013, when Naperville police Sgt. Nick Liberio ordered her arrest.
Bendis' video was played several times during the three-day trial and on it, Liberio asks Bendis if she is recording. She tells him yes,
"Call a squad car and have her placed under arrest," Liberio can be heard saying before the clip ends.
Prosecutors said she flailed her arms and thrashed while refusing the officers' repeated orders for her to "stop, turn around and put her hands behind her back" as they attempted to arrest her for the eavesdropping charge that was later dropped after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.
"Even if she did not think that she should be arrested, she had no right to resist, no right to struggle and she certainly had no right to jam her elbow into the chest of Detective (Tammy) Spencer-Hale," said Assistant State's Attorney Leslie Gareis. "She is not above the law just because she's part of a grass-roots organization."
Prosecutors, during Wednesday's closing arguments, also argued Bendis, a nurse practitioner, was seeking attention for her cause.
"(Bendis) is not some damsel in distress. She is an educated woman who knew exactly what she was doing," Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Gomez said. "She wanted attention and she got it that day."
Defense attorney Thomas Breen said he believes Liberio walked into the scene being recorded specifically so he could have Bendis arrested.
"This looks like an absolute setup because (Liberio) walks right into the scene being recorded. They'd had it with Kim Bendis and they arrested her," Breen said. "This was a bad day for (the Naperville police)," Breen said. "They made some bad decisions that day and now we're stuck with them."
Bendis sobbed as the verdict was read and declined to comment following the verdict.
"The jury reached the absolute correct verdict and we're extremely happy that Kim Bendis can now resume her life as an active and valuable member of the community," Breen said. "And its unfortunate these charges were ever brought."
Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger said the city stands by it's officers.
"As you would expect, we disagree with the jury's verdict but we respect the legal process and support our police officers," Krieger said. "We have a great police department and officers who perform in both easy and not so easy scenarios."