After two nights of testimony, suspended Glenview police Officer James Horn awaits a ruling from the village Board of Fire and Police Commissioners on Police Chief William Fitzpatrick’s request to fire Horn in connection with allegations he lied on the stand during a 2014 Chicago drug trial.
Horn, Chicago police Sgt. James Padar and Chicago police officers William Pruente and Vince Morgan have been charged in the criminal matter with felony perjury.
The charges stem from a June 2013 drug arrest in Glenview of resident Joseph Sperling and from Sperling’s March 2014 trial on charges from that arrest.
Horn was put on paid leave starting April 19, 2014, which was then changed to unpaid leave July 2, according to village officials.
During the second night of an administrative hearing at Glenview Village Hall, Horn’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, told the board that the assistant state’s attorneys prosecuting Sperling’s case never gave Horn the chance to see a Glenview squad car video that appeared to directly contradict testimony he gave during the trial.
Thus, Herbert said, Horn’s incorrect testimony was in part because he had not seen the video.
Herbert made the statements while questioning Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Dillman, who was also present at the hearing.
During the trial last March, Sperling’s defense attorney introduced the video, which shows a Chicago police officer walking up to the car, reaching through the open driver’s window, unlocking the door and having Sperling step out of the car. Sperling then was frisked, handcuffed and led to a squad car while his car was searched.
Those details from the video contradicted Horn’s and other officers’ testimony that the officer smelled marijuana in the car while waiting for Sperling to hand over his driver’s license and insurance, and the officer then ordered Sperling out of the car and found the marijuana inside a backpack on the back seat.
After viewing the video, Judge Catherine Haberkorn agreed to quash the search and arrest evidence, leading prosecutors to drop the felony charges against Sperling.
Dillman, one of two prosecutors involved in the Sperling trial the day the video surfaced, testified Tuesday before the police board that she wasn’t involved in the case before March 31, 2014. She said she prepared all the testifying officers, including Horn, for about 40 minutes and found all their recollections to be substantially consistent.
She told the board she had expected a defense motion to quash evidence during the trial to be based on what she called a “pretextual traffic stop,” or one that wasn’t made because of a real traffic violation. Dillman said she questioned Horn about the way he wrote his traffic stop report as part of her preparation and told Herbert she ultimately believed Horn.
But Dillman said she didn’t expect the video to appear in court. She said she didn’t recall asking whether there was any audio or video evidence, but said her office subpoenaed both Glenview and Chicago police and that Chicago police said there was no video.
Another witness Herbert questioned on Tuesday was Jeffrey Rogers, the village’s business process manager, whose department is in charge of sending subpoenaed information to prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Rogers testified that records show the video, shot from the squad car of former Glenview Sgt. Theresa Urbanowski, was requested by Sperling’s lawyer. Although evidence is normally sent to both the defense and the prosecution in such cases, that did not happen in the Sperling case, which was unusual, Rogers said.
Rogers said the video might not have been sent to prosecutors because his department’s records show the request designated a criminal court branch address with which Glenview officials were unfamiliar.
Herbert’s line of questioning to Dillman prompted objections from Fitzpatrick’s attorney, Jason Guisinger, who questioned its relevance to the termination hearing.
“Officer Horn made a mistake when he testified. It happens all the time,” Herbert responded. He said if the state’s attorneys had reviewed the video and given it to Horn, he would have been able to correct his testimony.
Fitzpatrick has not accused Horn of willful perjury, board Chairman Gino DiVito said.
“We’re not engaged here about the perjury charge,” DiVito said.
Rather, Fitzpatrick has accused Horn of making false or untrue statement that violated Glenview Police Department regulations, DiVito said. Horn also was accused of, among other things, failing to be properly prepared for court testimony, DiVito said.
Fitzpatrick’s motion asks for Horn’s termination on the grounds that he violated department regulations by making false or untrue statements, violated the constitutional rights of others and behaved with “conduct unbecoming a Glenview police officer.”
“That you say there was somehow a failing in the state’s attorney’s part that is responsible for the charges [Horn] is now facing? I don’t see that,” DiVito said.
Horn testified briefly on Tuesday, saying he is a 16-year veteran of the Glenview Police Department who has never received poor reviews or complaints. He said his 2014 court testimony was mistaken, and he agreed that it was based in part on discussions with the other officers involved in the traffic stop.
But Horn said it isn’t unusual for his memory be refreshed by such conversations, noting that in the Sperling case “it was a traffic response 10 months prior” to the court date.
“Did you believe when you testified, that it was a factual testimony?” Herbert asked.
“Yes, when I testified, that was what I believed had occurred,” Horn responded.
If he had seen the video before the trial, he would have testified differently, Horn said.
Horn’s hearing began Monday and included testimony from him and Fitzpatrick.
At that time, the board ruled that all testimony would be heard in open session, denying a motion from prosecutors to hear testimony in closed session. The board also denied their request that testimony be sealed until Horn’s criminal case is completed.
Herbert and Guisinger have until Aug. 4 to deliver closing briefs to the board, DiVito said.
Although he did not set a date for rendering a decision, DiVito said the panel has enough information to do so without waiting for transcripts of the hearing.
Written by Kathy Routliffe for Pioneer Press / Chicago Tribune