Officers' Bar Fight Trial Begins

The bench trial began Monday for three officers accused in a December 2006 beating at the Jefferson Tap and Grille in the West Loop.

The officers -- Gregory Barnes, Paul Powers and Jeffery Planey -- were indicted after surveillance video showed the fight, which involved four businessmen.  Prosecutors said the brawl left the victims with broken ribs and a broken nose.

In court Monday, the officers' attorneys said the businessmen were motivated by greed, wanting to sue the officers, the bar and the city.  The most injured plaintiff couldn't have been as badly hurt as he claimed, because surveillance video shows him waving his arms and being aggressive toward the officers, defense attorneys said.  They said he went back into the bar after the fight was over, and didn't see a doctor for four days.

Barnes and Powers are each charged with two counts of aggravated battery, while Planey was indicted on six counts of aggravated battery, five counts of misconduct and two counts of obstruction of justice.

The alleged victims were identified as Aaron Gilfand, his brother Barry Gilfand, Adam Mastrucci and Scott Lowrance.

The night of the fight, Planey waved off responding police and said, "Everything's been taken care of," prosecutors said.  They allege the victims were innocently playing pool when the officers barged in on their table and became hostile.

Barry Gilfand testified Monday, saying he was "mystified" as to why the officers came up to the pool table and started the fight.

The owner of Jefferson Tap testified Monday that she was called to her bar after the fight, and found at least one of the businessmen upset, bloodied and accusing her of hiring the off-duty officers. She said Planey "bullied" her fiance upon arrival, and on-duty officers outside wouldn't help her right away.  Her fiance also testified and backed up her story.

Planey's attorney has said his client did nothing wrong, and the so-called victims instigated the fight.  All three officers have pleaded not guilty.

The Jefferson Tap incident came in the wake of another widely broadcast beating involving a Chicago Police officer, Anthony Abbate, and an unarmed female bartender.

Together those incidents helped hasten the retirement of Chicago's top cop, Phil Cline.

The three officers are still on the force on desk duty, and they remain free on bond.  There was a sizeable group of officers at the back of the courtroom Monday in a show support for the defendants.

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