Prosecution in police misconduct trial rests its case as defense denied motion for directed verdict

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Assistant special prosecutor Ron Safer addresses Judge Domenica A. Stephenson. The trial of Chicago police Officer Thomas Gaffney, former Detective David March and ex-Officer Joseph Walsh at Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/Pool)

Crusader Staff Report

The prosecution team in the police misconduct trial involving three officers rested their case Tuesday, December 4 before defense attorneys mounted an intense effort to get a directed verdict that would have cleared David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney. But Judge Domenica Stephenson denied their motion hours later, forcing the trial to continue in its second week.

It was the latest setback for defense attorneys, who last week were denied to keep a string of emails from examination by Stephenson, who will decide the fate of the three officers instead of a jury.

The three officers have been charged with allegedly conspiring to cover up the shooting of Laquan McDonald while protecting convicted murderer, and Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke. It’s the first-ever such trial in Chicago’s history, one that threatens to disrupt the code of silence that for decades has been a part of the department’s notorious culture.

For four days, the defendants watched as the prosecution team presented evidence that lacked the drama and intensity of the murder trial of Van Dyke two months ago, where he was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. Van Dyke is behind bars at the Rock County Jail some three hours west of Chicago. Van Dyke’s attorney has asked for his client’s conviction to be thrown out, and a new trial. Judge Vincent Gaughan will decide on that motion on December 14.

One of the highlights of this week’s proceedings was the presentation of an email that showed Ron Hosko, the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, asking Lt. Anthony Wojcik “Tony, any luck making the case go away?”

It was one of the final pieces of evidence presented by Special Prosecutor Patricia Holmes who said the email was proof of a coordinated effort by the three officers to protect Van Dyke by filing false police reports, that were later contradicted by a police dash cam video showing that McDonald was never a threat before he was brutally gunned down on October 20, 2014.

Hosko’s email, Hosko’s message to Wojcik, came several weeks after Wojcik and Sgt. Daniel Gallagher corresponded with Tom McDonagh, a Chicago officer who was working for the Fraternal Order of Police, about sending files in the case to Hosko. McDonagh flew to Washington D.C. to meet with Hosko so he could review copies of the police reports and the video of the shooting. When McDonagh returned to Chicago, he told Wojcik that Hosko’s lawyers are “are very excited about this case.”

Prosecutors said that reports “will help (Van Dyke’s) case immensely,” McDonagh wrote, according to prosecutors.

Other emails that prosecutors brought before Judge Stephenson show Wojcik and Gallagher, who oversaw March’s investigation of the McDonald shooting, misrepresented key facts about the early events in the McDonald shooting.

The trial was scheduled to continue Thursday, December 13 after defense attorneys were denied their request for a directed verdict, which would have ended proceedings and acquitted all three officers. Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors failed to present evidence that proved the officers worked together to lie about the shooting.

 

 

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