Charges Dropped Against DUI Cop

Family may pursue civil case

By Anthony Ponce
|  Friday, Jun 4, 2010  |  Updated 1:47 PM CDT
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Seething with rage, Maria Lagunas speeks out about the cop she blames for killing her cousin.

Rich Wineinger

Seething with rage, Maria Lagunas speeks out about the cop she blames for killing her cousin.

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Charges have been dropped against the Chicago Police Officer accused of killing two people during a drunken driving accident on Thanksgiving 2007. 

"Regrettably, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office today dismissed charges of Aggravated DUI and Reckless Homicide against Chicago Police Officer John ArdeleanCharges," a statement from Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez read.

John Ardelean, 36, was charged with four counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide after a supervisor said Ardelean smelled of alcohol when he saw him roughly two hours the crash that killed killed 22-year-old Miguel Flores and 21-year-old Erick Lagunas.

But after Cook County Judge Thomas Gainer Jr. ruled in April that evidence relating to his arrest must be thrown out because police had no probable cause to force him to take a breathalyzer test, prosecutors had no choice but to drop all charges.

"As tragic as this case is for the victims and their families, prosecutors have a legal and ethical obligation to only pursue cases in which there is sufficient evidence to meet that burden," Alvarez's statement read.  

The move puts an end to an up and down legal saga.

Ardelean was initially charged with  a misdemeanor.  But after video tape surfaced of the officer drinking in a River North bar just minutes before the accident, charges were upgraded to felony.

The case was then dismissed a month later by a judge who didn't think an expert witness was convincing enough.

Prosecutors reopened the case three months after that after video of Ardelean drinking aired on television.

Now that prosecutors have dropped charges, the case appears to be over, much to the chagrin of family members of the men who were killed.

They remain outraged and may pursue a civil case against Ardelean.

After hearing the decision, Maria Laguna, Erick's cousin,  said she doesn't blame the state's attorney's office or the judge, but the witnesses who she says lied to protect Ardelean.

"They covered each other up.  Now they say his rights were violated.  They were violated by his own police force," she said.  

She said the family is considering pursuing a civil case but said the ordeal has never been about money. 

"This is about justice for Erick," she said.

The Chicago Police Department says Ardelean remains on administrative leave and has been stripped of police powers.

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