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People v. Suriwka

NOVEMBER 4, 1971.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MAURICE W. LEE, Judge, presiding.


This appeal involves the conviction of four men, Lubomyr Suriwka, P.T. Demus, Roman Dziubynskyj and Teofil Kawka, for various offenses arising out of a melee in and around the rectory of St. Nicholas Ukranian Catholic Church in the City of Chicago.

The defendants contend that they did not understandingly waive a jury trial; that the trial court erred in giving greater credibility to testimony by clergymen than to laymen; that the conviction of one of the defendants for resisting arrest was not supported by the evidence, and that the conviction of another for disorderly conduct was based on an unconstitutional ordinance.

A large number of parishioners gathered outside the church and around the rectory at the conclusion of the eight o'clock mass on the morning of January 19, 1968. The defendants' brief gives the following explanation for the gathering:

"The crowd, which had assembled spontaneously, was a demonstration against the priests of the parish who had * * * changed some religious rite or ritual which would have otherwise taken place on this day. Water was to be blessed."

Although the demonstration may have been spontaneous, it appears that the priests of the parish anticipated trouble. They had notified the police department and several uniformed policemen were in the vicinity of the church.

Some of the demonstrators entered the rectory; some remained outside. The defendants, Dziubynskyj and Kawka were among those who entered and we will discuss their cases first.

A witness for the prosecution testified that these defendants led a crowd of women up the steps and into the rectory. Monsignor Peter Leskiw and Fathers Thomas Glynn and William Bilinsky were in the living quarters on the second floor. The apartment door was locked and bolted. The door began to splinter, the locks gave way and the door was smashed against the wall. The crowd, headed by Dziubynskyj and Kawka, burst into the room. The priests told the people that they had no right to break into a private home and asked them to leave, Glynn speaking to them in English and Leskiw in Ukranian. Instead, they advanced further into the apartment and into Leskiw's study.

The women carried bottles of water; they pushed at the priests and demanded that the water be blessed. Everyone was talking at the same time; Leskiw tried to calm them but could not. Glynn was not dressed in clerical attire and Dziubynskyj, who had a camera around his neck, raised it to take his picture. Glynn objected, put his hand toward the camera and, as he did so, Kawka struck him in the face with his fist. Leskiw stepped between the two men and held Kawka back. Glynn was stunned, blood spurted from his nose, his eye became black and he was later treated for damaged cartilage. Bilinsky attempted to telephone the police but he was pulled from the telephone, struck with a metal pitcher and doused with water. He knelt on the floor and prayed.

Policemen, who had to fight their way through the crowds on the rectory steps and upon the stairway leading to the second floor, came through the broken door and Dziubynskyj and Kawka started to leave the apartment. Leskiw shouted to the police to hold them and the two men were arrested.

Dziubynskyj testified that after attending the eight o'clock mass he followed fifteen to twenty-five people into the rectory. When he got to the second floor the door to the living quarters was open and people were in all the rooms. About fifteen were in the study with the three priests. He was in the rear of the crowd and asked a woman to stand aside so that he could take a picture. Glynn, who was about seven feet away, saw the camera, jumped at him, hit his camera, struck him between the nose and eye and knocked his glasses to the floor. He denied breaking through the door and said he did not see Kawka hit any priest.

Glynn testified that he did not strike anyone, Leskiw and Bilinsky corroborated him. Leskiw said he saw Glynn reach for Dziubynskyj's camera but did not know if he touched it. He also said he saw Dziubynskyj holding his glasses and heard him say they were broken but he did not know how they were broken.

Kawka admitted entering the apartment but he said the door was open and many women were already inside. He saw Glynn hit Dziubynskyj as the latter was trying to take a picture. He denied striking Glynn but admitted that he pushed him hard and forced him to the wall, and that Glynn's nose was bleeding right afterwards.

Two women who had been in the apartment testified for the defendants. One said that she accompanied Dziubynskyj into the building and that the second floor door was open when they arrived. She saw Glynn hit Dziubynskyj, whose glasses fell to the floor. The second woman, who said she preceded Dziubynskyj into the apartment, also said the door was ...

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