Streamwood Cop Beating Trial Begins - NBC Chicago

Streamwood Cop Beating Trial Begins

Squad car's dashboard camera recorded March 2010 incident



    Video from the Officer James Mandarino?s dashboard camera shows him abusing the motorist despite the fact the motorist appears to be complying with the officer, prosecutors say. (Published Friday, April 16, 2010)

    As the trial against a former Streamwood police officer accused of beating a man got under way Tuesday, the Cook County Circuit judge hearing the case was presented with two very different accounts of what was happening in the dash cam video which recorded the incident.

    James Mandarino, of Elgin, is charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct following the March 28, 2010 incident.

    The camera from Mandarino's squad car recorded the 41-year old officer repeatedly hitting 28-year-old Ronald Bell after a traffic stop.  Bell was left with a concussion and multiple bruises and ultimately needed seven stitches to close a gash on his ear.

    While prosecutors called the beating "brutal" and the baton strikes "repeated and relentless," they've not yet submitted the dash cam video as evidence in the case.

    The defense called it "an appropriate use of force."

    On the stand, Bell testified that he was scared, didn't know why he and his friend were pulled over and repeatedly asked Mandarino why he was being treated in that manner in front of his own home.

    But during his nearly three hours on the stand, Bell didn't score any points with Judge Thomas P. Fecoratta, who admonished him for repeatedly failing to answer questions from Mandarino's attorney.

    "I'm going to ask you for the last time to answer the question," Fecarotta said at one point.  "You're not trying. This is the last time I'm going to warn you." 

    He threatened to issue Bell a citation for contempt if he continued to fail to directly answer defense attorneys' questions.

    In their opening statements, Mandarino's defense team painted a different picture of the 3:45 a.m. incident. 

    They said Bell and another man, Nolan Stalbaum, 38 of Glendale Heights, disobeyed Mandarino's orders to get back into the car and that the two men were agitated, uncooperative, drunk and agressive.  Defense attorneys also said the neighborhood had seen a lot of gang activity and that, without backup, Mandarino was alone and in the face of danger.

    The defense team characterized Mandarino as a superb officer of impeccable character and who, for eight consecutive years, was rated "outstanding."

    Still, Mandarino was fired from the Streamwood Police Department three months later.

    Mandarino’s attorneys waived his right to a jury trial and instead asked for a bench trial, meaning Fecoratta will determine guilt and any appropriate punishment.  If convicted, Mandarino faces two to five years in prison.

    Bell is confident he'll prevail.

    "I just want justice to be served the right way.  I think my civil rights have been violated, and it was the wrong thing for him to do," Bell said Tuesday outside the Cook County Circuit Court building in Romeoville.

    Full Coverage:  Mandarino / Streamwood Beating