FRANKFORT, Ill. (STMW) — Police are using an unusual tactic to try to force a Mokena woman to tell a police commission how her cop ex-boyfriend hit, head-butted and choked her this past summer.
The 32-year-old woman refused to testify against the officer during a village disciplinary hearing last month, a move that prompted the police chief to seek a court order forcing her to talk.
If a judge signs the order and she still refuses to testify, the woman could be held in contempt by a judge.
“To be subpoenaed before an administrative board and threatened with contempt is extremely rare,” said Leonard Cavise, a DePaul University law professor. “They must really want this cop.”
Frankfort police Officer Donald Walsh, 29, of Monee, was arrested July 25 by Mokena police, who were called to the woman’s house around 3 a.m. by one of her children.
Police say the child likely saw Walsh shouting at the victim, demanding to see her cell phone, choking, hitting and head-butting her.
Walsh also pointed a gun at his head and put the gun in his mouth, police say.
Walsh, though, denied attacking his ex-girlfriend or threatening himself with the gun.
Walsh, who is on administrative leave without pay, is scheduled to appear in Will County court Nov. 13 on domestic battery charges.
The woman, who had a black eye, scratches, cuts and other injuries after the incident, was subpoenaed to testify at Walsh’s Oct. 10 disciplinary hearing before the Frankfort Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.
She told a lawyer for the village her name and address and confirmed that she had a previous relationship with Walsh.
Then she said, “Anything pertaining to the incident of that night, I’d like not to answer questions regarding to it. I plead the Fifth,” according to a transcript of the hearing.
Even though the lawyers for the village and commission told her she had to testify, that she was not in a criminal proceeding nor was at risk of incriminating herself — and therefore not protected by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution — the woman refused to talk.
Her family has been through enough, she said, adding she is a single mother and was doing what she felt was best for her children.
John Broihier, the attorney representing the police board, said if she refused to talk the village would obtain a court order forcing her to testify. He also said anything she said in police reports and 911 recordings was not admissible in the disciplinary proceeding.
“I’m disappointed you guys feel this way, and whatever you need to do is up to you and I apologize that I’m not going to be a quality victim, witness, whatever I am, but I’m just doing what I think is best for my kids, and I’m sure when you think about it later on today, you’ll understand,” she said, according to the transcript.
The village wanted her testimony too much to leave it at that. Frankfort Police Chief John Burica filed a petition to compel her to testify on Thursday.
“It’s important testimony,” said David Silverman, the attorney representing the village police force. “There’s been quite a bit of other testimony that’s already been presented, but we think her testimony is important.”
Silverman said if a judge grants the order and the woman still does not testify, the judge would decide whether she was in contempt and determine what penalties she would face.
If, ultimately, she does not testify at all, Silverman said he would likely ask the commission to decide Walsh’s discipline based on the testimony they have heard so far.
An attorney representing Walsh could not be reached for comment.
“Probably in 30 years I have encountered this one other time,” Broihier said. “It is rare.”
But it’s also legal, he said. The commission has the power to subpoena people, he said, and it can use the court to enforce the subpoena.
The witness in his other, similar case was easily swayed by the threat of a court order.
“I think once the person was threatened with the filing of complaint, I think they volunteered to testify without going through with it,” Broihier said.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)