That Woodstock Cop Was Suspended for 30 Days and… Something Tells Me This One Isn’t Over.

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Update, December 5, 2013: The NW Herald ran an updated story today reporting that Amati has seemingly been demoted.  I’ve posted more about it here.

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Every once-in-a-while I read some crime related story and think to myself, “Hmmm… I’m not sure we’re getting the whole story.”  When I say, “every once-in-a-while” I mean it happens every single day, actually.

That’s not a gripe about media coverage, either.  Our friends in the press can only report on the trash they’re given.  The people “giving” them the information are typically the police or prosecutors office, as well.  There’s only so much detail you can report on when all of the information you have comes from an intentionally vague police report.

That’s not what happened with this story on the Woodstock Police Officer suspended for misusing the police database and asking for “sexy pics” from a 12 year old.  The story still left me wondering if there’s not a lot more to both the story and the reasoning behind the punishment, though.  As reported by the Northwest Herald in a story written by Kevin Craver (kcraver@shawmedia.com):

Woodstock cop gets 30-day suspension for texts, database misuse

WOODSTOCK –  The Woodstock Police Department’s spokesman has been suspended for 30 days after an investigation into inappropriate texts to his former girlfriend’s 12-year-old daughter also revealed misuse of a state law enforcement database to look up the girlfriend’s criminal record.
Sgt. Charles “Chip” Amati, a 24-year veteran of the force, was suspended without pay for 30 days by the city’s Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, Police Chief Robert Lowen said Wednesday. But he will not face any criminal charges for either texting the girl or misusing the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System to check her mother’s background…

Because of the nature of the request for the pics and the fact that, “[m]isusing the system in Illinois constitutes official misconduct, a Class 3 felony punishable by two to five years in prison” there has been a fair amount of outrage, to say the least.  Amati has not only not been charged with a crime, he’s only been suspended 30 days.

Here’s the part where, for me, it gets weird:

Lowen said he asked the Illinois State Police to investigate on Aug. 23 after the mother came forward with the texts. State police subsequently discovered that Lowen had used the LEADS system to run her background, and submitted its findings to McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi’s office. Attempts to contact the state police’s press offices in Chicago and Springfield were not successful Wednesday.

I’ve underlined the parts I find most interesting.  People are outraged at the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office for not filing charges.  The interesting part to me is that Bianchi’s office didn’t do the investigation.  The ISP did.  I don’t want to read too much into the article, either, but it might be significant if the thrust of their investigation focused more on Amati’s use of LEADS than the pics, as well.

I’ve noted before that there is, at times, no greater way to get intimidated than to be a witness to potential police abuse.  This is pure speculation on my part, but if the ISP conducted this investigation in the same manner I’ve seen them investigate other allegations of police abuse, it’s possible that the the findings they’ve turned over to Bianchi’s office on the “sexting” issue didn’t leave Bianchi’s office much to prosecute.  You can read into that what you’d like- I really have no idea what actually happened.

So, I’m going to venture a guess that there’s a lot more going on with this case than meets the eye. What, exactly, I have no idea.  It’s just pretty clear that it’s not going away any time soon.  It could get interesting.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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