Judge affirms decision to fire Aurora cop caught spying on ex-wife
An Aurora police officer will not be reinstated after he was fired for spying on his ex-wife through three cameras hidden in her Sugar Grove home, a judge has ruled.
The decision by Kane County Judge David Akemann also cancels an arbitrator's ruling that would have reinstated Daniel Wagner to the Aurora Police Department this past January.
In his 11-page ruling, Akemann agreed that reinstating Wagner would be a gross violation of public policy.
"It is difficult to construe a greater violation of privacy than a continuous livestream of audio and visual of a person's bed and bedroom without that person's knowledge or consent," Akemann said in a decision issued late Thursday. "This activity, which (Wagner) knew to be unlawful and in derogation of his sworn oath, ran largely unabated for 5-6 months, constituting an egregious violation of domestic privacy."
Wagner's now ex-wife found a hidden camera in her home in September 2016 and called police to investigate. Officers found a total of three cameras.
Records show she had filed for divorce in 2015, and Wagner installed the cameras during the divorce proceedings and reactivated them after it was final.
"Dude, I'm gonna get fired. ... They have to investigate. They will prove it's illegal and I'm fired. Eavesdropping, yea(h)," read part of texts Dan Wagner sent to a law enforcement friend the day the cameras were found, according to court records.
Police investigated and Aurora Chief Kristen Ziman recommended Wagner's termination. He was fired Jan. 18, 2017.
The police union took the matter to an arbitrator, who ruled after an October 2017 hearing that firing Wagner was "too harsh" because he was highly emotional as a result of the pending divorce and had received good work reviews. The union argued that he should be reinstated Jan. 18 after a one-year suspension.
The city sued to put the reinstatement on hold while a judge reviewed the case.
John Murphey, an attorney for the city, said he and other city officials were pleased with the judge's ruling.
"Police officers should be held to a higher standard, on-duty or off-duty, and that's why this action was necessary," Murphey said.
In court papers, Murphey and the city argued that the arbitrator's decision to reinstate Wagner was wrong.
"The image of a police officer installing bugging equipment in another person's home and then watching that person's most intimate bedroom activities while he is sitting at home or in his squad car is as morally reprehensible and depraved as can be imagined," Murphey argued. "The notion of a police officer knowingly engaged in multiple acts of criminal and tortious conduct is reprehensible and shameful."
Tim O'Neil, an attorney for the police union, argued that the decision to reinstate Wagner should stand. O'Neil said Wagner was never charged with a crime -- the Kane County state's attorney's office has said it "addressed this case appropriately based on the available evidence."
"Wagner's judgment was clouded and he sincerely apologized for his actions," O'Neil wrote. "(The Association of Professional Police Officers) is confident that officer Wagner, who to this point has not been charged with any crime, let alone convicted of any crime, is not likely to reoffend in any way, shape or form."
O'Neil could not be reached for comment Friday as to whether the union would appeal the case; Akemann's ruling suggested an appellate court would ultimately decide the matter.