LYNWOOD | An attorney for a police officer who faces dismissal because his Lynwood squad car was stolen by a criminal suspect said Monday he will sue the village and its Police and Fire Commission if they go so far as to fire his client from his job.
Christopher Cooper said he believes Officer Joe Marigliano is a dedicated patrolman who was doing his job. Attorneys representing the Police Department said Marigliano committed a “lapse in judgment” during the Dec. 11, 2012 incident at the heart of the Police Commission trial that began Monday.
Cooper said that if the commission rules to fire Marigliano, “We will sue. The (Cook County) Circuit Court will reverse you. Officer Marigliano will be back in uniform. Then, (the village) will face a civil lawsuit for damages.”
On Monday, attorneys for Marigliano and the Police Commission argued for more than an hour before any testimony began. The two sides differed on whether Crete Police Chief James Paoletti should be permitted to testify on Marigliano’s behalf.
Cooper said he thinks Paoletti’s testimony would put Marigliano’s actions in a different context than attorneys for Police Chief Michael Mears describe them.
Timothy Lapp, whose law firm serves as village attorney for Lynwood municipal government, was skeptical.
“I don’t get the need for an ‘expert’ to tell us what a tendency is,” he said.
The commission voted 3-0 to restrict Paoletti’s appearance while officials are still trying to determine guilt against Marigliano, but said his testimony may become relevant if hearings proceed to a punishment phase.
Commissioners Colleen Hanson, Isaac Clark and Tom Lockton also voted to prevent village officials from bringing up any evidence of prior disciplinary actions taken against Marigliano. That issue was of concern to Cooper, who said he believes Lapp has shared such information with the commissioners – a charge Lapp denies.
Cooper wanted Lapp to recuse himself from the case – although Lapp refused.
“You’re sharing your bias with the commission,” Cooper said.
Insofar as the incident, accounts provided Mears’ attorney James Guisinger and Cooper hardly differed.
Marigliano was on duty Dec. 11 when he heard a fellow officer was trying to stop a suspect in the slashing of a woman in Chicago Heights. Marigliano arrived at a traffic stop at Lisa and Pattie lanes in Lynwood, and positioned his squad car so the vehicle being driven by the slashing suspect could not drive away.
When the suspect got out of his car and tried fleeing on foot, Marigliano got out of his squad car and chased him. Cooper says Marigliano was being a dedicated police officer.
But Guisinger said the officer erred by leaving his car door open and the engine running, and failing to use a lockout switch that would have prevented the suspect from doing what happened next – getting into the squad car and driving away.
Following a short police chase, the suspect was stopped and arrested, although the squad car being driven by Marigliano was “totaled,” Guisinger said.