Wisconsin man pleads not guilty to obstruction charges in Allendale death case
A Wisconsin man who worked at a Lake Villa home for youth with emotional and behavioral disabilities pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to police during the investigation into the death of a Chicago teen during a struggle.
Justin Serak, 27, of Grafton, Wisconsin, pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony obstruction of justice Thursday in front of Judge Daniel Shanes.
Serak's not guilty plea came about one week after fellow Allendale Association employee James Davis, 37, of Round Lake, pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice stemming from the March 30 death of 16-year-old Shaquan Allen at the Lake Villa campus.
Serak is free from Lake County jail after posting the required 10 percent of his $50,000 bail. If found guilty at trial, he could be sentenced up to seven years behind bars.
"Based on what I've seen in the indictment, there is not sufficient evidence to make any type of finding on what happened," defense attorney Robert Ritacca said after court.
Allendale sent two attorneys to Thursday's hearing. They said Allendale intends to block subpoenas from prosecutors and defense attorneys requesting records from Allendale.
The obstruction charges for Serak and Davis claim the two lied to police during the investigation, and that they dumped water on the floor to make police believe the teen slipped.
Davis remains held in Lake County jail on $500,000 bail.
Authorities say Davis and Serak were trying to get Shaquan back into his room after a behavioral episode about 9:30 p.m. Serak grabbed the teen's legs and Davis his upper body, applying a chokehold, authorities say.
Lake Villa police and rescue were called to Allendale campus at 9:58 p.m. in response to a reported injury. Shaquan was taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where he was pronounced dead at 11:10 p.m., officials said.
Officials said 15 minutes passed between the time the teen became unconscious and 9-1-1 was called by the Allendale staff.
The two employees initially told investigators Allen slipped on water on the floor, officials said. However, 16 witnesses contradicted that statement, which led to the charges.
Serak later admitted to police he and Davis came up with the story to make Allen's death appear to be an accident, officials said.
Serak is due back in court May 24. His trial is set for July 18.