Honored DUI Cop Charged

Chicago Sun Times

3 officers Accused of Lying About Arrests

April 16, 2008

By Eric Herman, Criminal Courts Reporter / eherman@suntimes.com

Three Chicago cops – including one honored for arresting more drunken drivers than any other Illinois officer – face felony charges for allegedly lying about arrests they made.

John Haleas, who won accolades for making DUI arrests, is charged with official misconduct, obstruction of justice, and perjury in an April 9 grand jury indictment – as first reported on suntimes.com. He will appear in court on April 25.

"I'm going to deal with it in court," Haleas, 37, told the Sun-Times at his Northwest Side home Tuesday.

Charged separately are officers Michael Bernichio and Daniel Murphy, partners from the Chicago Lawn District who have been charged with official misconduct and other offenses. Haleas, Bernichio and Murphy each face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Haleas' lawyer Robert Kuzas defended the officer as a "very honorable man."

"I don't believe the state will be able to sustain the charges brought against him. And he's looking forward to vindicating himself," Kuzas said.

Prosecutors and a spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office declined to comment. Bernichio and Murphy could not be reached.

Haleas was honored three times by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists as the police officer with the most DUI busts in Illinois. But last October, the Cook County state's attorney's office dropped about 50 DUI cases in which Haleas had been the arresting officer and said as many as 500 cases could be in jeopardy.

A spokesman for the state's attorney's office said then that Haleas failed to follow proper procedures during an April 9, 2005, arrest witnessed by two prosecutors. The indictment focuses on the same arrest – of Edward Beck of the 5000 block of West Chicago Avenue. Charges against Beck were later dropped.

According to the indictment, Haleas falsely reported Beck failed a sobriety test. Haleas allegedly wrote false traffic citations, the indictment states, and lied about Beck taking the "one leg stand" test, the "walk and turn" test, and the finger-to-nose test. In fact, Haleas "did not administer any field sobriety tests," the indictment says. Prosecutors faced pressure to charge Haleas by April 9 of this year, since the offenses carry a three-year statute of limitations. Additional charges are possible, a source said.

Last year, Noe Martinez sued Haleas in federal court, claiming the officer arrested him before he even started his car. The suit seeks class-action status. "We have numerous plaintiffs against Haleas," said Martinez's lawyer, Michael Oppenheimer.

The charges against Bernichio and Murphy stem from a 2004 arrest in which they allegedly filled out police reports charging tow different men in the same incident.

Haleas is still on the police force but will be relieved of his police powers, said police spokeswoman Monique Bond. He had been on full duty until Tuesday. Bernichio and Murphy have already been stripped of their police powers, she said.