Chicago, IL- Three narcotics officers from Chicago and one officer from the nearby town of Glenview have been charged with lying under oath during a hearing in March 2014.
Glenview Officer James Horn, Chicago Sgt. James Padar, Chicago Officer William Pruente, and Chicago Officer Vince Morgan are facing felony charges of perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice. The charges were announced on Monday by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
The charges stemmed from court testimony given by officers regarding a June 2013 traffic stop in Glenview that led to a drug-related arrest. Joseph Sperling, a Glenview resident, was pulled over near his home by Pruente after failing to use his turn signal, according to Pruente’s testimony. Pruente also testified that he smelled marijuana from inside the car as he waited for Sperling to provide his license and insurance information.
Pruente then stated that Sperling admitted to having a small about of marijuana with him. Pruente said he ordered Sperling to step out of his car and stand next to the trunk. Close to a pound of marijuana in a backpack was in plain view in the backseat, according to Pruente’s testimony.
Pruente said that while the other officers stood watch, he performed a vehicle search and found the marijuana before handcuffing and arresting Sperling. Officers Horn, Padar, and Morgan each provided testimony to corroborate Pruente’s claims.
But as a fifth officer was providing similar testimony backing up the statements of Pruente, Sperling’s lawyer surprised the courtroom by showing a police video that Goldman had subpoenaed. The footage shown directly contradicted the testimony from all five officers.
The video, taken from a Glenview Police vehicle camera, showed that Pruente did not wait for Sperling to hand over his license as he had sworn under oath, but had immediately opened Sperling’s car door upon his approach by unlocking it through the driver’s side window and making Sperling step out of the car. The video also showed Sperling was frisked, handcuffed and led back to the police vehicle before police began searching his car.
A CBS Chicago news segment shows Pruente prompting Sperling to exit his vehicle:
A transcript of the March 2014 hearing quoted the judge as saying in the courtroom following the revelation, “All officers lied on the stand today. … All their testimony was a lie. So there’s strong evidence it was conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to come up with the same lie. … Many, many, many, many times they all lied.”
A fifth police officer involved in giving questionable testimony, Glenview Sgt. Theresa Urbanowski, has not been charged but is on paid leave.
Daniel Herbert, an attorney for Horn, was willing to acknowledge his client gave incorrect testimony but said that prosecutors have the burden of proving that the officers intentionally lied about a relevant fact of the case.
The cities of Chicago and Glenview paid $195,000 total to Sperling in a federal lawsuit settlement prior to the charges against the officers being filed.