Bartlett man who kicked grocery bagger with special needs gets 2 years in prison

A Bartlett man was sentenced to two years in prison Wednesday for kicking a grocery-store bagger with special needs.

Bruce Mirabella, 51, was convicted in March of one count of aggravated battery for an attack on a 27-year-old man with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.

Mirabella will get credit for the 100 days he's served in jail. Prosecutors asked for the maximum five-year sentence; the defense asked for probation.

In a written statement to the DuPage County court, the victim said he “felt like a loser after the attack.” He said he didn't normally work night shifts and was apprehensive about it. “Unfortunately, what I feared all along became a reality,” he wrote.

Mirabella has been in the DuPage jail since Judge Brian Telander convicted him and revoked his bail March 4. Mirabella had been charged with three counts of aggravated battery — one for kicking the bagger and two accusing him of punching the bagger in the face. Telander found him not guilty of the other two counts, because store security video showed the bagger walking quickly toward Mirabella, who was in line paying for liquor.

“If these counts charged him (Mirabella) with being a jerk, there's no doubt he's guilty,” Telander said in March.

The charges stemmed from a July 22, 2019, case at the Jewel-Osco store at 125 Stearns Road. A cashier testified Mirabella was buying liquor around 9:30 p.m. and asked the cashier how old he was.

When the cashier replied he was 23, the victim asked Mirabella how old he was, the cashier testified. Mirabella replied “old enough to kick your (butt),” the cashier said.

The victim testified he was joking with Mirabella, and walked toward him to give him a pat on the back and say “Well, you have a good day.”

Mirabella testified he thought the bagger, who is almost a foot taller than Mirabella, was attacking him, and that he merely pushed the bagger away with his foot. The victim was kicked in the buttocks, and hit in the mouth, causing a cut lip.

On Wednesday, Mirabella told the court he would have acted differently had he known the victim had special needs. “I had no idea he was playing,” he said.

He said he “barely touched the victim.”

Mirabella's attorney, Tom Breen, said his client had been bullied in the past because of his short stature.

Assistant State's Attorney Nick Catizone, however, characterized Mirabella as “a powder keg. He is ready to go off at a moment's notice.”

The bagger attended special-education programs in school and after high school graduation, lives with his parents and does not drive.

Police recognized Mirabella from previous encounters, and arrested him at his house that night.

On a squad car audio recording, Mirabella repeatedly referred to the bagger with slurs that Telander said “are the kinds of things that tell me where your heart is.”

Mirabella pleaded guilty to reckless homicide for a crash he caused on I-88 in 1993 that killed a woman; he told police he had consumed three or four 16-ounce beers that night, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

He was convicted in 1987 of illegal transportation of open alcohol. He received court supervision in September 1987 on a DUI charge, and court supervision in 1991 in Madison County on a disorderly conduct charge.

He has a Cook County conviction for domestic battery to his mother.

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