The woman who was beaten by a veteran Chicago police officer when she refused to serve him more alcohol at a local bar took the stand at his trial Monday.
Anthony Abbate, 40, pleaded not guilty to 15 felony counts of aggravated battery, official misconduct, intimidation, conspiracy and communicating with a witness. The state subsequently dropped a number of counts against the Chicago police officer, including some of the intimidation and official misconduct counts. The aggrevated battery and core official misconduct counts remain.
On Monday, Abbate and his attorney waived the right to a jury trial, opting instead to have Judge John Femming decide Abbate's fate in a bench trial. It’s possible that choice was made because video of the attack has been widely circulated online and replayed incessantly on newscasts, and Abbate feared he wouldn’t be able to get a fair shake from a jury.
Video footage from a tavern security camera shows a man -- thought to be Abbate -- bartender half his size by the hair while punching, kicking and repeatedly throwing her to the floor.
Abbate’s legal team is trying to convince a judge that what was caught on tape happened in self defense – that the bartender attacked him.
“We expect to show Karolina went after our client,” Abbate’s lawyer said. “He didn’t go after Karolina, she grabbed him and tossed him around like a rag doll.”
The bartender, Karolina Obrycka, suffered injuries to her head, ribs and arms and has filed a lawsuit against Abbate and the city of Chicago.
She was the first to testify at the trial. She admitted to twice pushing Abbate out from behind the bar when he approached her. She said that the second time she pushed him away, he erupted.
The videotape was also played in court, and at one point in her testimony, Obrycka stopped.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so tired of seeing him kick me, I can’t watch it.”
After the attack, Obrycka returned to work, but the video shows her nursing her injured neck and back, and removing clumps of hair that had been pulled out of her head.
The owner of Jesse’s Short Stop Bar, where the attack happened, also testified Monday. He said he put the surveillance system in just four days before the incident.
The trial is moving quickly and is expected to wrap up some time Tuesday.
Abbate hasn't worn a badge in more than a year, and Chicago police Superintendent Jody Weis has said he wants him fired, but in terms of the department's reputation, the damage has already been done.
In a separate videotaped attack, several other off-duty officers were charged and later acquitted of beating a group of businessmen at a bar in the West Loop. Their acquittal was the result of a bench trial, the same courtroom format Abbate has chosen.