Four Cops Charged With Lying Under Oath In Drug Case
Updated 06/08/15 - 6:19 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Four police officers – three from Chicago, and one from Glenview – have been charged with felony perjury, for allegedly lying under oath in a drug case last year.
Dashcam video from a Glenview police squad car led to the charges against Chicago Police Sgt. James Padar, Chicago Police Officers William Pruente and Vince Morgan, and Glenview Police Officer James Horn.
The four officers testified against 23-year-old Joseph Sperling about a pound of marijuana being found in plain view in his car during a traffic stop in Glenview in June 2013. However, video shown during a court hearing last year proved the findings and the arrest did not take place the way the officers claimed.
At a March 2014 hearing, Judge Catherine Haberkorn called the officers' testimony "very outrageous," after the video revealed they were lying under oath. She said there was strong evidence of a conspiracy to lie on the stand.
The dashboard camera video shows police immediately handcuffing Sperling, and then placing him in the back of a squad car, before searching the car, and finding drugs.
That contradicts the officers' testimony that they saw a pound of marijuana lying on the back seat, in plain view, as soon as they approached the vehicle, and that was why Sperling was arrested.
All charges against Sperling were dismissed after the video was played in court.
There were five officers at the scene at the time of the arrest. A source said a fifth officer from Glenview was not charged, because the video was shown while she was testifying, and she changed her story on the stand to agree with the video, so there was no proof she lied on the stand.
Sperling successfully sued over his arrest, claiming Horn disabled his vehicle's recording devices at the request of one of the Chicago officers. However, another Glenview squad car was still recording the traffic stop. The city of Chicago and the village of Glenview settled the lawsuit for a combined $195,000.
"They said that, when they approached Joe, they asked him some questions, they asked him if he had drugs. According to the police, Joe said, 'Yes, we have drugs in the back.' According to them, they then took Joe to the back, searched the car – with his permission, according to the police – whereupon they saw the drugs lying in plain view," attorney Jon Loevy said last year, after the charges were dropped.
"If it could happen to me, it could honestly happen to anyone, and I just happen to be one of the lucky few that has a video that proves they [police] were wrong," Sperling said at the time.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez says the perjury charge against the four police officers is meant to send a message to everybody, not just the police.
"When we out you under oath, we expect that your testimony is going to be truthful," she said. "It needs to be truthful because you will be subjecting yourself to perjury charges."
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy says he endorses the charges and that, "At the end of the day our integrity is one of the most important things."
Dan Herbert, who's representing Officer Horn, says his client didn't lie and that, "There's a huge difference between mistaken testimony and perjury," he said.
Alvarez says it is "clearly perjury."
The four cops were released on a $10,000 I-Bond and are due back in court on July 6.
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