Chicago police sergeant acquitted of battery, misconduct for pinning teenage bike theft suspect
Jun 16, 2023, 4:26 PM
SKOKIE, Ill. (AP) — A judge found a Chicago police sergeant not guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct Friday in a case in which he pinned down a teenage boy and pressed a knee to his back when he suspected the boy of stealing his son’s bicycle.
Cook County Judge Paul Pavlus acquitted Sgt. Michael Vitellaro during a bench trial, local news outlets reported.
Vitellaro, who was off duty at the time of the July 1 altercation in suburban Park Ridge, said he was using proper technique to take down a suspect in the theft of a bike belonging to his son. The boy was 14 at the time.
Vitellaro’s son testified he left his bike unlocked at a library and later spotted it near a shop where his father detained the boy, who was holding the bike there.
The boy’s family and their attorney, Antonio Romanucci, provided video that allegedly showed Vitellaro grab him, pin his arms behind his back on the sidewalk and put a knee on his back.
“He’s taking my son’s bike,” the man is heard saying in the video.
The friends yell back, “No he’s not,” as they help pull the boy from the ground.
Vitellaro placed him in “an arm bar and forcibly pushed him towards the ground into a prone position” before kneeling on his back, according to court records.
Pavlus said he didn’t find the testimony of the boy or his friends who witnessed the confrontation believable, noting multiple times in his ruling that he believed the teens had changed their stories.
Pavlus said the actions of the group of boys amounted to “boys being boys, kids being kids.”
The state’s attorney’s office, Pavlus said, had not proven their case. While prosecutors had tried to portray Vitellaro as “out of control,” the judge said he saw no evidence of that.
Vitallero said he had no comment as he left the courtroom. His attorney, James McKay said, “Justice was done.”
“Sgt. Vitellaro and his family are very thankful that the judge did the right thing,” McKay said.
Romanucci’s firm issued a statement saying “Vitellaro escaped criminal justice today. … However, he will not be able to escape our pursuit of justice in the civil courts, and we plan on mounting a vigorous prosecution to bring him to justice.”
Vitellaro was relieved of his police days after the incident, and police have not announced any updates to an investigation into his actions.