A Cook County judge on Monday found a Chicago police lieutenant not guilty after he stood trial on accusations that he shoved a flashlight between a clothed teen’s buttocks during an arrest.
Lt. Wilfredo Roman, 46, was charged with felony counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct after Cook County prosecutors alleged he used unjustifiable force on a 17-year-old during his arrest for carjacking on Feb. 9, 2021. Before walking away from the teen, prosecutors alleged, Roman said, “That’s what you get for carjacking.”
His case was heard before Cook County Judge Joseph Claps during a bench trial that began Friday.
“Given the clothes he was wearing, the thickness and his lack of movement, that’s not possible,” Claps said, reading his verdict to a courtroom beefed up with extra security.
Roman, who has been a Chicago cop since June 2000, is currently relieved of his police powers. Police officers and family members who stood outside the courtroom gave a small cheer after learning of the acquittal, before being told to quiet down. Family members wiped away tears.
According to prosecutors, after carjacking a man at gunpoint and taking his Mazda, the 17-year-old and another teen were spotted by Roman, who radioed in to report that they had fled on foot and he was chasing them but could not get over a gate, prosecutors said.
Other officers caught the teen in an alley, where they said he tossed a handgun while trying to climb a fence, prosecutors said. While being handcuffed, prosecutors said the teen yelled at the officers that the handcuffs were too tight.
As the arresting officer adjusted the cuffs, Roman yelled at the teen to shut up, walked up to him from behind before shoving the flashlight, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors argued that the teenager was not resisting arrest when they said Roman battered him with the flashlight as retribution for the carjacking and a subsequent police chase. They argued that body camera video supported their position and that other officers on scene testified that the teenager was cooperating.
“The fact is, that’s not what you’re supposed to get for carjacking,” Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Fryska said during closing arguments.
Roman’s defense attorney James McKay, though, called the case “garbage” and countered that the teenager did not immediately come forward with the accusation. McKay acknowledged that there was contact between Roman and the teenager, but contended, in opposition to the prosecution, that it was necessary to subdue the teen who was resisting arrest.
“It’s a nudge, it’s a spanking. For the love of God, I’ve had nuns that treated me far worse,” McKay said.
McKay accused Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx of criminalizing “a legal arrest.”
“The burden of proof is not met by these young state’s attorneys,” McKay said. “I don’t blame them. I blame their boss.”
In delivering his verdict, Claps said the proceeding is not an “administrative disciplinary hearing” and cast doubt on the teenager’s testimony.
Roman is the second Chicago police Officer acquitted by Claps in recent months, after the judge found Officer Melvina Bogard not guilty in November in a 2020 on-duty shooting at the Grand Avenue Red Line station.
Bogard was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct for shooting and injuring Ariel Roman after a tussle at the station that was captured by cellphone video and went viral, spurring quick condemnation from community members and city officials.