Brothers' conduct 'reprehensible' but not criminal in fatal Aurora party fight
Although he called their conduct "reprehensible," a Kane County judge found two brothers not guilty Monday of criminal charges in a man's death in October 2017 after a fight at his own birthday party in Aurora.
Kane County Judge D.J. Tegeler said he could only rule on the charges prosecutors filed against Raul Colin and Jose Alejandre in the death of Erik Mendez, 36.
"Mr. Alejandre and Mr. Colin acted horribly that night. I do not believe they are innocent by any means," Tegeler said, in finding Colin, 37, not guilty of aggravated battery in a public place and Alejandre, 35, not guilty of involuntary manslaughter after a weeklong bench trial.
"This was an absolute tragedy all the way around. It didn't need to happen," Tegeler said. "Mr. Mendez was on his own private property, at his own house, celebrating his birthday."
According to trial testimony, Alejandre and Colin showed up at a birthday party for Mendez at his house on the 0-99 block of South State Street.
After midnight Oct. 1, there was an argument between Alejandre and another man, who Mendez' wife, Maria Martina Aguirre, told to go inside her house to calm down.
Aguirre went back outside the house and asked Alejandre and Colin to leave, but Colin first had to find his cellphone. Aguirre testified that her husband was facing Alejandre when Colin came up from behind and struck Mendez in the back. Alejandre then put Mendez in a chokehold, causing him to turn purple before he was released.
Aguirre stepped between the men and told Colin that if he wanted to punch someone, Colin should hit her, she said.
Colin swung at the woman, but missed.
Mendez wanted to confront Colin, but Alejandre was face-to-face with Mendez and pushed him with both hands on his chest. Mendez fell backward, struck his head and eventually died of a head injury.
Tegeler said he believed Colin and Alejandre were "morally and ethically responsible" for Mendez' death. Tegeler said he believed Colin was guilty of battery to Mendez outside the house, but prosecutors had alleged the battery was on the street and thus a public place and didn't prove it at trial.
As for Alejandre, Tegeler said he couldn't find that a "simple push" by Alejandre was criminal and the intent was different from a punch.
"I don't have any testimony this was a violent push," Tegeler said.
Neither Colin nor Alejandre testified in their own defense; their attorneys, Nichal Raval for Colin and Kelly Bennett for Alejandre, agreed the judge reached the right verdict.
"It's a tragedy that didn't have to happen," Bennett said. "This is the right verdict for the offenses that were charged."
If convicted in the case, Colin and Alejandre faced a sentence of probation to five years in prison.