Top Former Prosecutors Exonerate Police Officer in Federal Court
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Chicago, November 19, 2010 – Ungaretti & Harris LLP announced today that Litigation Partners Michael A. Ficaro, former First Assistant Illinois Attorney General and former Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and Dean J. Polales, former Chief of the Special Prosecutions Section and Counsel to the United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, have won a defense victory in federal court for Chicago Police Officer Craig H. Swistowicz, who was acquitted today by a Federal Jury in Chicago.
The Government had charged that Officer Swistowicz, a 14-year veteran of the police force assigned to a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area federal task force, used unreasonable force in subduing a drug dealer after he was found to be concealing a fully loaded semi-automatic hand gun.
On September 13, 2007, Officer Swistowicz and other Chicago police officers, Cook County police and federal DEA agents engaged in a drug raid at an auto repair business, Atlas Towing, on Chicago’s south side. During the raid, Officer Swistowicz spotted a concealed .40 caliber handgun in the waistband of Jose Parra, one of the suspects on the scene. Swistowicz immediately brought Parra to the ground, took the weapon away, and handcuffed him.
Eleven kilograms of cocaine were recovered on the scene and a number of people in the building were arrested and subsequently convicted of drug trafficking and weapons offenses, including Parra.
In February, 2008, three of the offenders pled guilty and were sentenced to federal prison on drug conspiracy charges. Parra admitted to transporting the 11 kilograms of cocaine (which had a wholesale value of over $200,000) and taking part in drug operations on more than a dozen occasions over a long period of time. Although Parra was arrested on drug offenses, the Government only charged him with an “alien with a gun” offense. Parra pled guilty, and at his sentencing hearing in January 2009 he claimed that Swistowicz used unnecessary force during the arrest. The government subsequently obtained an indictment against Swistowicz.
“The Government was upside down in this case,” said Mr. Ficaro. “They chose to believe self-interested liars, drug dealers and felons as opposed to hard working, dedicated policemen.”
Other agents and officers present at the raid testified that Officer Swistowicz’s actions saved them from being shot that day. During the course of the trial the courtroom was packed with Chicago police officers and DEA agents there to show support for Officer Swistowicz.
“We thank the jury who listened intently to the evidence and carefully considered the instructions,” said Mr. Polales, “They did the right thing. The good guy [Officer Swistowicz} won.” The Fraternal Order of Police played a critical role in providing financial support for Officer Swistowicz. “Without the backing of FOP we could not have presented the expert testimony that was critical to the success of the defense,” said Ficaro and Polales.
About Michael A. Ficaro:
Mr. Ficaro is a highly acclaimed trial lawyer with extensive experience in all facets of litigation including administrative hearings, business licensing, business litigation, complex commercial litigation, class action plaintiff and defense, injunction practice, municipal law, shareholder disputes, tort actions, trust and estate litigation, as well as section 1983 plaintiff and defense litigation. He has extensive litigation and trial experience, including 100 jury trials, 1,000 bench trials, and over 300 grand jury investigations.
Before entering private practice, Mr. Ficaro served as First Assistant Attorney General of Illinois, Cook County Deputy State’s Attorney and Chief of Criminal Prosecution Bureau, and Special Assistant United States Attorney. He was appointed Special Prosecutor by the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court to investigate the State’s Attorney of Cook County and served as Director of Enforcement for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office where he was responsible for all enforcement actions on behalf of the State of Illinois. He has written brief and appellate arguments before the United States Supreme Court (Illinois v. Lafayette) and other various appellate courts.
Mr. Ficaro has been an adjunct professor at Northwestern University School of Law, Loyola University Chicago School of Law and The John Marshall Law School. He earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from DePaul University in 1969 and 1972, respectively.
About Dean J. Polales:
From 1983 until the fall of 2004, Mr. Polales served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He spent a 22 year career as a federal prosecutor investigating, coordinating and complex white-collar criminal cases in Chicago. and now focuses his work in the area of white-collar criminal defense, corporate compliance and internal investigations.
Notable trials prosecuted by Mr. Polales include the Racketeering cases: United States v. Michael Segal, Near North Insurance Brokerage, Inc. and Daniel Watkins and United States v. Albert Tocco and Clarence Crockett.
Mr. Polales has been an adjunct professor at Northwestern University School of Law, DePaul University School of Law and The John Marshall Law School. He earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Chicago in 1975 and 1979, respectively.
Jennifer C. Morrison