Chicago Warriors:Traffic Court

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Sally and her boyfriend, The Hammer, exited the Dan Ryan Expressway enroute to the Daley Center Traffic Court. Sal had a plan that would save his girl "big bucks" by not needing to retain a lawyer to represent her. This was to be Sally's first appearance to answer the DUI and other traffic charges. Normally a prudent person would have a lawyer present to answer such serious allegations, but Sal had a scheme in mind that he was confident would clear Sally of all charges.

They parked at an expired meter on the street, The Hammer liked to use his police sticker in the windshield to keep from getting parking tickets written on his vehicle. It was both unethical and illegal, but Sal figured that he was deserving of special treatment. They walked two blocks to the building on Washington Street, and as they made their way up to Room 402 Sal gave her last minute instructions.

"Remember, you have to demand that the judge hear the case today. With Joe dead, and Pete on administrative leave, there's no officer present to testify against you-no officer-no case. He has no choice but to dismiss the charges!"

"What if he refuses? "

"He can't, he has to hear it-it's your right as a citizen to have your case heard. Remember, be forceful about it and don't' forget to tell him that your insurance company has taken care of all of the damages. I'm tellin' you, it's open and're going to walk on this one."

It was nine o'clock and the courtroom was about half full of defendants, the other half were lawyers. The first cases that were called were those in which the defendants, all represented by attorneys, were requesting continuances. This is the normal sequence of events. The first couple of court dates are for the attorneys to file motions, either motions for continuance or perhaps even motions to dismiss. It's rare that in Major Violation/DUI Court a case is heard on the initial appearance.

The next group of cases involved those in which the lawyers had previous discussions with the prosecutor and both parties have agreed upon a plea. Generally a defendant will admit to a reduced charge, just to get a disposition on his case. He may admit to reckless driving, which carries a heavy fine and maybe thirty to sixty days license suspension, rather than plead to DUI which can mean his license can be taken for a year or more, depending on how many previous charges he may have had.

It was getting close to eleven o'clock and both Sally and The Hammer were becoming impatient. The Hammer walked up to the clerk. "Hey brother, how you doin'? "

Hammer pulled his police ID from his back pocket. "I'm Officer Rosato, 8th District; I'm here with my friend who has a DUI. I'm on mids man, any chance of her case getting' called pretty soon?'

The clerk, an elderly black gentleman with almost thirty years seniority in the Courts, took umbrage with The Hammer's approach.

"Sir, this area is off limits to the public; it's reserved for attorneys and officers. Please go back to your seat. Your friend's case will be called in the order that is most convenient to the judge."

Becoming indignant, The Hammer raised his voice, "Hey man, I told you, I am a cop. What's goin' on here?"

"Sir, I believe you when you say that you are an officer. However, you also told me that you are here with your friend, meaning that you are not here in an official capacity. Please return to your seat, this area is off limits to you."

At that moment the judge looked over to see what the commotion was all about. "Mr. Randolph, is there a problem there?"

"No sir, just this gentleman inquiring about a case."
The judge looked over at Sal..."Sir this is my courtroom, I don't appreciate interruptions. I have a full case load to get through. Unless you are either an attorney, or a police officer testifying in one of these cases you need to return to the seating area."

"Sir, I am a cop, that's what I'm trying to explain to this guy."

Now the judge was becoming very distracted. "For your information, that ‘guy' is a Clerk of the Court, one who has been in the service of the City of Chicago for thirty years. He is an invaluable part of this process, but more importantly, he is a dear friend of mine. I will not tolerate any disrespect toward him or this court. Are you testifying in a case today?"

"No your honor, I'm here with a friend."
"Then if you are not here testifying on behalf of the State, you need to clear this area immediately and go back to your seat. If you fail to obey, I will hold you in contempt and order the Sheriff to put you in a holding cell. Is that clear officer?"

"Yes sir."

"Good. Mr. Randolph proceed calling the rest of the docket."

"Yes your honor."

Two hours later, after the court had recessed for lunch, the clerk called Sally's case..."State of Illinois vs. Sally Ruggeri."

Sally wasn't feeling as confident as when they first arrived at the court this morning. Sal's big mouth had probably hurt her chances of ever getting any kind of break from this judge. With much trepidation, Sally put on her best face and approached the bench. She hoped that maybe the mini-skirt, low cut blouse, and spiked heels would make an impression on the judge-maybe distract him enough to make a call in her favor.

"Miss Ruggeri, you are charged with DUI and leaving the scene of an accident. How do you plead?"
"Well your Honor, the cops that arrested me aren't here so can I be dismissed?"

"Miss Ruggeri, I'm not interested in anything right now other than hearing how you plead to the charges-do you plead guilty or not guilty? Do you have an attorney ma'am?"

"No judge, my boyfriend said that I wouldn't need one because the cops aren't here to testify against me."
"Who is your boyfriend?"

Sal got up from the chair and made his way to the front. "That would be me judge."

"What is your name officer?"

"Sal Rosato, sir-8th District."

"Well Officer Roasato, do you have a license to practice law in the State of Illinois?"

"No your honor, but I've been to traffic court enough times to know that if there are no witnesses present to testify against the person charged, then the case must be dismissed."

"Counselor, what's the status on the arresting officer?"
The prosecutor looked at her case file and after several seconds of review answered. "Judge we received a call from 8th District Desk Sergeant Ed McNamara. The sergeant advised us that the officers involved in this arrest were recently involved in a shooting. The incident took one officer's life; the other is on routine administrative leave. Sgt McNamara requested a 30 day continuance so that the surviving officer could resume active duty."

"Counseler, inasmuch as these are extraordinary circumstances surrounding the testifying officer, I will grant that request by the State for a 30 day, no, make that a 60 day continuance. Mr. Randolph, set a date for two months from today. Miss Ruggeri in the meantime I suggest that you retain ‘competent' representation. My brief review of your file indicates a need for professional advice. As for you Officer Rosato, in the future if you cause any other disruption in my courtroom, I will most definitely hold you in contempt. That's all; see the clerk for your next court date."

On the drive home The Hammer was steaming like a lobster in a pot of boiling water. "Damn that judge...damn Mac. Now we're in it for the long haul. You're gonna have to get a mouthpiece, who knows how much the shyster will charge us."

"Don't you know anybody Sal?"

"Yeah, but not good ones...somebody that can represent you in front of that guy. Now he's going to be out for blood."

"I don't have the money for a lawyer, what am I going to do? The beauty shop hasn't been exactly pullin' in big money lately."

"I know...listen, I'll think of something. At least we've got a couple of months to get our act together."
"You know that judge is liable to take my license away..."
"Yeah, I know. Damn that Shannon... But if he's not around the next time your case comes up, then the judge has no choice but to throw it out."

Sal's evil mind kicked into overdrive for the remainder of the trip to the South Side. The Evil One found an opening in this mortal and was slowly planting seeds of hate and destruction. Satan found this one to be easier than Devil Man-this one was focused on one thing-Revenge.

"The thief (Satan) does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10).

      Next: Detective Robert Gusberti The Inquisitiion
Previous: Office Intervention

John Wills spent 2 years in the U.S. Army before serving 12 years with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). He left the CPD to become an FBI Special Agent, working organized crime, violent crime, and drugs.  John Wills is an author of Chicago Warriors: Midnight Battles in the Windy City published by

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