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Officer gets felony charge in attack

March 22, 2007|David Heinzmann and Carlos Sadovi | Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — While an off-duty police officer was pummeling the petite bartender with his fists and feet in an attack caught on video, she said he kept shouting, "Nobody tells me what to do!"

Karolina Obrycka, who suffered injuries to her head, arms and ribs, told investigators she stopped serving alcohol to Anthony Abbate because he was drunk, fighting with other patrons and trying to buy rounds of drinks without any money.

In the video from Jessie's Short Stop Inn Tavern, shown on television around the nation, the 250-pound Abbate can be seen assaulting the 115-pound bartender.

Prosecutors charged Abbate, a 38-year-old tactical officer, with felony aggravated battery late Tuesday -- a week after Chicago police officials had quietly filed a misdemeanor battery charge. He remained in custody Wednesday.

Abbate has been stripped of his police powers and the department will move to fire him, said police spokeswoman Monique Bond.

Sources familiar with the investigation but who were not authorized to discuss it publicly said police had preemptively charged Abbate before the Cook County state's attorney's office had completed its investigation. Prosecutors immediately took steps to upgrade the misdemeanor charge after they learned about it.

John Gorman, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, would say only that "at the time of the arrest for [misdemeanor] battery, there was a lack of communication between Chicago police and the state's attorney's office. After the tape and the case was reviewed by our supervisors, it was decided this week to upgrade the case to [felony] aggravated battery."

When asked when prosecutors learned of the lesser charge filed by police, Gorman declined to comment.

But Terry Ekl, Obrycka's lawyer, said, "That's got a stench to it, the way the cops handled that part of it." Ekl said he was waiting to see how the investigation played out before filing a lawsuit.

Prosecutors reportedly were looking into whether other police officers threatened to arrest the victim and bar owner on trumped-up charges if they didn't drop the case.

Cook County Criminal Court Judge Raymond Myles set Abbate's bond Wednesday at $70,000. Abbate appeared at the hearing via closed-circuit television.

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