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Seneca v. Board of Fire & Police Com'rs

MAY 31, 1966.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DONALD S. McKINLAY, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


This appeal comes from a judgment entered February 18, 1965, in the Circuit Court of Cook County affirming the findings of fact and the decision of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the Village of Lyons. It is the appellant's theory that the findings of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, hereinafter called the Board, were against the manifest weight of the evidence and that the proceedings conducted by the Board were not fair, reasonable and impartial.

The proceedings before the Board were held subsequent to a charge that the appellant had accepted $30 for not arresting Stephen Wagoner, age 20, and Jane Bormann, age 16, on a charge of disorderly conduct in a public park.

The first witness to testify at the hearing was Stephen Wagoner, one of the complainants. He testified that at about 10:00 p.m. on the night of March 5, 1964, he and his girl friend, Jane Bormann, were necking in his automobile in Cermak Park in the Village of Lyons. According to this witness, the appellant approached their car from the right side and asked for Wagoner's driver's license. The officer told them they were under arrest. The appellant then left the couple and went to his squad car which pulled up alongside Wagoner's automobile.

Wagoner said the policeman, whom he had identified as the appellant, was wearing "a policeman's uniform." The police car was described as a white car. "At the time I — the tail of it was pointed and I thought it was either an Oldsmobile or a Chevrolet." There was a second officer in the police car to whom another youth was talking, according to this witness. Wagoner could not hear any of the conversation between these two.

This witness testified that the appellant again came over to the right side of his car and told his girl friend to tell him to get out. Wagoner said the appellant told him that they would have to go to the police station and that both their parents would have to go down there and post bond for them. Then the appellant is reported to have said that Wagoner could post the bonds himself so that their parents would not have to go to the station. Wagoner said he was told that the bonds would be $200 each. "When I didn't have four hundred dollars on me and he asked me how much money I had on me, and I said I had sixty-two dollars. . . . Then Mr. Seneca . . . said, I will tell you what. I will give your driver's license back if you give me forty dollars. Then he said right after that he said, well, make it thirty. I said, okay." The policeman was paid with three-ten-dollar bills.

Wagoner testified that the appellant told him not to speak of the transaction to anyone including his girl friend. The couple then went back to town and notified the police of what had occurred. Each of the two wrote out a statement at the police station that night.

On cross-examination this witness stated that the park was dark at night and that there are no street lights there. He said he was nervous and upset when talking with the policeman and that he did not want to be arrested. He said he did not get the policeman's badge number and saw nothing on the policeman's uniform that indicated he was from the Lyons police department. The police car was described as being light in color.

The next time this witness saw the appellant was prior to a lineup held in the police station one or two days later. "We were going back to the Chief of Police's office. On the way I glanced in another office through a glass window and I saw Officer Seneca sitting in a chair there facing me. . . . There were other officers standing around the room. There were three or four officers in there." The witness said he identified the appellant to Mr. Klomann at this time though no one had told him that Officer Seneca was the man whom they suspected of accepting the bribe.

The next witness called was Frank Krall, a police officer for the Village of Lyons. He testified that on the night of March 5, 1964, Officers Robert Seneca and Anthony Misek were on duty. Theirs was the only car other than Krall's which was out that night. This witness further testified that the Village of Lyons had four police cars. Three of these cars were 1963 Chevrolets. Two of these cars are black, one a "kind of gold color," and the fourth car is a white, 1964 Chevrolet. This witness said he did not know if the other car on duty was the white car or a black one. He said the Lyons cars have a star on each side, the name Lyons and a patrol car number. He also said that some police cars of the neighboring villages could fit the description of being white with an insignia.

Officer Krall stated that the policemen of the neighboring villages would sometimes come in to Lyons if they had specific business to transact there. They usually informed the Lyons police department if they were going to be in Lyons, but to this witness' knowledge the Lyons police were not informed by any of the neighboring police departments that they were coming into the Village that night.

The complainant's girl friend, Jane Bormann, testified that a policeman came up to Stephen Wagoner and her the night in question. She said she saw the police car; that it was white with an insignia on it. Her testimony did not differ in any material respect from that of Stephen Wagoner except that she said she could not identify the policeman.

Officer Seneca took the stand in his own behalf. He said that on the evening in question he and Officer Misek were on Ogden Avenue giving tickets to speeders. The time on the last ticket was 8:35 p.m. He said that around 10:00 p.m. they went to a restaurant to get something to drink and eat. He said that they saw some trucks illegally parked and that they made the drivers move their trucks. They were at the Chicagoland Motel at this time, apparently the place where the truck drivers were staying. They got a call at the Motel telling them to return to the station.

When they returned to the station, the witness said, they emptied their pockets. The appellant said he had seven one-dollar bills in his wallet at this time. He denied being in Cermak Park the night in question. He said that he talked to the owner of the Chicagoland Motel the night the bribe is said to have been taken, but he did not ask the owner to come before the Board to corroborate his testimony. The other policeman in the car, Anthony Misek took the stand to corroborate Seneca's testimony. It was stipulated that Officer Schiefelbein would testify that he searched the two officers and their car and did not find three ten-dollar bills. ...

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