ST.CHARLES- There likely will not be a drunken-driving trial for Aurora Police Officer Ronald Hinterlong after a Kane County judge declared Tuesday that there was no probable cause for his arrest.
Sixteenth Circuit Judge James C. Hallock said that none of the testimony in the probable-cause hearing established conclusively that Hinterlong was impaired.
The hearing was held to determine if Hinterlong should have his driver's license suspended because of his refusal to take field sobriety tests from fellow Officer David Schmidt, who pulled Hinterlong over at dawn April 28 near Galena Boulevard and View Street on the West Side.
Hinterlong, 38, maintains that Schmidt harassed him because the arresting officer has problems with the defendant's brother, Aurora Police Sgt. Tom Hinterlong, and because the accused named Schmidt as a subject in the department's probe into racial profiling among its patrol officers. Schmidt denies targeting Hinterlong.
Hinterlong also told Hallock that the police department's General Orders were not followed in his arrest.
He said that a sergeant is required to arrest an officer if the sergeant suspects a crime has occurred and is also supposed to conduct the follow-up investigation into the officer's conduct, which is why he refused the tests from Schmidt.
Testimony indicated that Schmidt was given clearance by Commander Michael Gilloffo to make the arrest after two sergeants kicked the issue up the chain of command in an effort not to interfere needlessly with Schmidt's authority to make the arrest, a topic which also is covered in the General Order.
Hinterlong testified that, while he had about six drinks between about 10 p.m. April 27 and 4 a.m. April 28, he never was too impaired to drive, and he never drove more than 35 mph while eastbound on Galena Boulevard.
The defendant said he had left his home on the far West Side to return a set of keys to Sean Gorman, owner of the Tavern on the Fox bar in Aurora. Gorman, who has been a bartender for 26 years, visited Hinterlong and his wife for about an hour after the couple came home from their evening out about 4 a.m.
Two Aurora police officer's who were not involved in the arrest but talked to Hinterlong at different times during the evening testified along with Gorman that Hinterlong exhibited no obvious signs of intoxication. So did a civilian jail worker, trained in determining if someone might be impaired.
One of the officers was with Hinterlong for his night out; the other officer and the jail worker saw Hinterlong in jail while he was processed.
One of the two officers who arrived on the scene to back Schmidt up said he smelled alcohol on Hinterlong's breath and saw that he was upset.
A sergeant who reached the scene later said Hinterlong slurred his words and walked slower than normal but said that fatigue could have played a factor.
Other officers testified that Hinterlong sometimes slurs his words because of a slight speech impediment.
According to the police report, Hinterlong initially was stopped at 5:12 a.m. by Schmidt, who wrote in the report that he was doing paperwork in his squad while parked on Fordham Avenue, off Galena Boulevard, when he saw a Chevrolet Tahoe speed past him. Schmidt reiterated in testimony that he chased Hinterlong's vehicle for almost a mile, and that he hit 70mph and Hinterlong was still pulling away from him. Schmidt said Hinterlong then stopped, running a red light at Galena and View in the process.
In the report, Schmidt said Hinterlong drove away from him twice for short distances after his initial refusals to take sobriety tests, including a U-turn Hinterlong made the last time with two other officers in attendance.
Hinterlong said he moved his car three car lengths past View Street because he initially stopped near the center of Galena Boulevard and wanted to move out of the way. When he made the U-turn, he had wanted to drive himself home, but thought better of it before he went too far.
Schmidt said Hinterlong was extremely belligerent, using profanity and being generally uncooperative.
Hinterlong said he was upset because General Orders were not followed, and he wondered when a sergeant would arrive to take over.
Eventually, Hinterlong exited his car after the U-turn and went out onto Galena Boulevard. Schmidt led him back to the sidewalk, and the two talked further.
Hinterlong continued to refused the tests. The sergeant at the scene told Hinterlong he was under arrest, and he was taken to the station.
Hinterlong attorney David Camic questioned Schmidt about several DUI reports he had filled out recently , including one the same day as Hinterlong's that listed the same time of day. Schmidt said he sometimes works on completing one report before starting another, and that's why he might have put the same time on both.
Another Aurora police officer testified that he had come to the scene of a recent drunken driving arrest by Schmidt and observed the suspect successfully complete a field sobriety test that Schmidt wrote down as a failure on his report.
Hinterlong's next hearing is set for July 6, when it is expected that the judge will dismiss the case against him.
The impact of the ruling on the internal Aurora police investigation by the department's Office of Professional Standards is uncertain, though Lt. Greg Anderson said after the ruling that he came to the hearing to listen to both sides.
While the court is bound by reasonable doubt in any findings it makes, OPS only has to find culpability by the preponderance of the evidence. Hinterlong made a statement to the inquiry board last week.