Victims Baffled Over "Open and Shut" Bar Fight Case - NBC Chicago

Victims Baffled Over "Open and Shut" Bar Fight Case

Surveillance video shows fight between officers, businessmen

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    Victims Baffled Over "Open and Shut" Bar Fight Case
    Chicago Police officers Jeff Planey, Greg Barnes and Paul Powers were indicted on battery charges after the fight.

    One of the men who was attacked and beaten at a bar two years ago said he has "no faith" in the justice system and that he fears law enforcement now that the three off-duty police officers accused of the crime have been found not guilty.

    "They attacked us maliciously from behind. We didn't even know anything was coming. It was all there on videotape," Aaron Gilfand said, describing the 2006 incident at the Jefferson Tap Bar & Grille. "What's the question? I couldn't believe (the verdict).

    But Cook County Judge Thomas Gainer Jr. in his bench trial verdict Tuesday didn't agree, and he said the state didn't do enough to convince him of a criminal act by any of the three officers, despite surveillance video showing part of the fight.

    "Everytime there's a fight in a bar, it doesn't mean a crime was committed," said defense attorney William Fahy.

    Jefferson Tap Fight Surveillance

    [CHI] Jefferson Tap Fight Surveillance
    Watch surveillance video of a 2006 fight between off-duty cops and bar patrons at the Jefferson Tap and Grille.
    (Published Tuesday, July 28, 2009)

    The officers -- Gregory Barnes, Paul Powers and Jeffery Planey -- were indicted on aggravated battery charges following the fight involving the four businessmen. Prosecutors said the brawl left the victims with broken ribs and a broken nose.

    Planey also was charged with official misconduct and obstruction of justice for allegedly sending reponding officers away from the scene.

    "They had a special priviledge the day it happened, and the 10 responding officers, or more, who showed up fled from this bar.  They didn't even go inside, despite three, multiple 911 calls and an alarm being sounded. When they saw who was involved, and they knew it was police, they turned their cars right around and got out of there," said Gilfand's attorney, Chris Smith.

    In court, the defense said that Planey was grieving the loss of a parent that night, and one of the men picked a fight over it, starting the violence.

    Aaron Gilfand, his brother Barry Gilfand, Adam Mastrucci and Scott Lowrance deny that claim.

    Chicago police in the courtroom started to clap as Gainer announced the verdict, but were quickly admonished by the judge

    "Don’t do it," he said. "Don’t."

    Applause resumed when Gainer left the stand.

    Following the verdict, prosecutors left court without commenting, but later said in a written statement that while they're disappointed with the verdict, they'll continue to investigate allegations of police misconduct and bring charges when appropriate.

    Gainer's ruling did not put an end to the case. The men who accused the officers of battery intend to pursue a lawsuit against the officers. And the judge's ruling won't deter the Cook County State's Attorney's Office from investigating allegations of police misconduct, and they may bring charges if appropiate.

    "We know from the video that there were crimes; multiple crimes," Smith said. "This case, that was open and shut as to who did what, with all the witnesses there, essentially the evidence wasn't even collected."

    It was one of two highly publicized cases in which off-duty Chicago officers were charged after incidents at taverns were videotaped.