Cook County sheriff’s deputies walked Jason Van Dyke out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Thursday, after his lawyers complained to a judge about protesters harassing the Chicago Police officer during his court appearances, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
The angry crowds that greeted Van Dyke ahead of his nearly monthly court visits had dwindled in the weeks since he first was charged in 2015 with murder in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald.
But lawyers for Van Dyke on Thursday told Judge Vincent Gaughan that a protester had accosted Van Dyke with a sign that read “16 shots”— a reference to the number of bullets Van Dyke fired at McDonald in October 2014— as the officer entered the courthouse last month.
Van Dyke’s attorney Dan Herbert said he was filing a motion asking Gaughan allow Van Dyke to stay home for future hearings in the case, or to have the cop use an entrance that would allow him to avoid protesters.
Herbert had made a similar request months ago, when Van Dyke was consistently drawing demonstrators.
Gaughan, who has kept a tight rein on proceedings in the case, had not ruled on that motion, and took no action Thursday other than delivering a short a short speech in the courtroom addressing spectators before starting the hearing.
After spending 30 minutes in chambers with lawyers for both sides, the judge gave another, longer admonishment to the public.
“I just want everybody in the courtroom to know that a judge has some duties required by the constitution, and by common sense and by civility,” Gaughan said after the meeting in chambers.
“Anybody compelled to come to a courtroom should not run a (gauntlet) where they’re insulted or intimidated, or even threatened. That’s not going to be allowed in this courtroom or on the outside of this courtroom or in this building. No matter what anybody’s charged with, or no matter what anybody’s done, they should not be compelled to undergo some type or harassment.”
But Carolyn Ruff said she missed the judge’s lecture. As Van Dyke walked out of the courtroom flanked by six sheriff’s deputies, Ruff held up a small, hand-written sign that read “16 shots” and held it toward Van Dyke as he headed toward an elevator.
Four deputies walked Van Dyke and his father to the parkway on South California Street, without incident.
Deputies also led Ruff back to court, where she received a stern rebuke from the judge, and was led out of the courthouse herself.
“It was really, really small. Couldn’t nobody really see it,” Ruff said of her sign outside the courthouse.
Ruff said she wasn’t trying to intimidate Van Dyke.
“I didn’t mean anything by Jason Van Dyke, because he’s history to us,” Ruff said. “Laquan McDonald will always be in our heart.”