Illinois man fought the law in Lake County — and won

2012-11-13T00:00:00Z 2012-11-13T21:50:06Z Illinois man fought the law in Lake County — and wonMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
November 13, 2012 12:00 am  • 

SCHNEIDER | Don Ray said he never picked a fight with police in this small south Lake County town, but ultimately he won.

And he did it in a fashion that few attempt and even fewer succeed at.

Ray, 57, of Bridgeview, Ill., recently represented himself in a Lake Criminal Court trial, winning an acquittal on a charge of resisting Schneider police officers.

Schneider police, who reportedly pulled over Ray for speeding in September 2011 but never produced radar or filed a speeding charge, did not return multiple Times calls seeking comment on the matter.

Ray said he still wonders why officers pulled him over and approached his vehicle — with guns drawn — in the dark evening hours of Sept. 16, 2011.

What followed were handcuffs painfully tightened down onto wrists still sore from a previous surgery, a search of his truck during which police accused him of having drugs in his truck and the impounding of his Ford F-150 custom-package truck, Ray said.

Ray also spent a weekend in Lake County Jail, during which he claims he was never told why he had been arrested or what charges he faced. Lake County court records show the charge of resisting law enforcement officers was filed Sept. 23, 2011, seven days after his arrest.

On the night of his arrest, Ray, an over-the-road trucker by trade, was driving north on U.S. 41 about 10:30 p.m., on his way home from a trucking safety convention in Kentucky.

In court transcripts of testimony from Ray's Oct. 1, 2012, trial, Schneider police officers Marshal Woodworth and Kevin Knight testified they activated their squad car's police lights and pursued Ray's F-150 after it passed their squad on U.S. 41 near the Huber Sod Farm.

Knight said they gauged that Ray must have been driving about 70 mph in a 60 mph zone, based on the speed of their squad car and that Ray had passed them, according to the transcripts.

The officers claimed Ray didn't immediately slow down or pull over, driving about eight miles into nearby Lowell before pulling over.

Ray claims he kept driving until he found a shoulder he thought was wide enough to safely pull over, noting he was driving on an unfamiliar rural road under extremely dark conditions.

But the officers claimed there were plenty of opportunities for Ray to have pulled over sooner. Knight testified the officers approached Ray's truck with their guns drawn because they considered it a "high-risk" stop, according to the transcript.

Aside from arguing about throwing a set of expensive keys with an automatic starter on the ground as police commanded, Ray claims he was cooperative with police after his stop. That contention is largely supported by the officers' testimony recorded in transcripts, though police claim he was argumentative. Ray said the only argument he gave police was complaints of pain he suffered from the tightening of handcuffs on his sore wrist.

A search of the truck yielded nothing illegal, but it was impounded after Ray was taken to jail that night.

Police alleged that when prompted by the officers to exit his vehicle, Ray got out of the truck with his pants down to his ankles. Ray said he often loosens his pants when driving for comfort and that police exaggerated the incident. He said his pants were fastened before exiting the truck.

Regardless of what exactly happened on the shoulder of U.S. 41, Ray was booked into the Lake County Jail, eventually was able to bond out and was able to retrieve his truck after a couple of days of legal paperwork.

Though he originally retained a Crown Point attorney, he said he eventually opted to read up on legal filings and represent himself, "because I know I didn't do anything wrong. There was nothing they had against me."

Following his Oct. 1 trial last month, Judge Sheila Moss seemed to agree, finding Ray not guilty of the charges in a brief Oct. 2 ruling. Moss offered no analysis of the case in court documents or transcripts and did not return Times calls seeking comment.

Ray, who is black, wonders how much of his ordeal occurred because he was a minority driving through town in a fancy truck.

"If they did this to me, how many other people get treated this way who did nothing wrong?" Ray said. "What happened here is wrong."

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