Due to the way the police were acting, roaming around the property and testing doors to see if they were locked, Testa decided to record the incident for his own protection, to have a record of the event. (read Testa’s account of the incident)
“We documented over 65 discrepancies when comparing the police reports, police testimony and the videos,” said Testa. “Deputy Pomazal admitted over and over that she was ‘mistaken’ about the facts of the case. When asked if she had made any more mistakes in her police reports and testimony, she said, ‘I hope not.’ And still the judge chose to believe the police.”
Testa believes that the video evidence demonstrates that the police reports used to charge him with battery to a police officer resulting in bodily harm and resisting arrest were false. Despite this, Testa was convicted. Judge George Strickland doubled the sentence recommended by the State’s Attorney, and ordered Testa to write letters of apology to the police officers that attacked him, tased him, punched him in the head, knocked him out, and tried to regain entry into the house after he was already in custody.
This whole legal odyssey started because his son, Carl, had found a broken, first-generation iPod in a public bathroom. Carl had no idea who it belonged to. It was broken and he couldn’t get it to work. He pawned it for a parts value of $10. The Lake County State’s Attorney asked for an emergency ex parte hearing months later to charge Carl Testa with petty theft which included “mislaid property, failure to take reasonable measures to return to proper owner.”
Carl Testa was never notified of the charges, and was only alerted to the fact that he had any trouble with the law because he was receiving attorney solicitations in the mail. From such a benign incident, a mountain made out of a molehill, Vince Testa found himself tased, punched, arrested, tried and convicted—and he can’t make sense of any of it.
“I don’t know why the judge didn’t throw out the case against me,” said Testa. “It was pretty clear that the police weren’t telling the truth in their testimony. The video evidence showed that. I thought it was illegal for a prosecutor to elicit false testimony from witnesses, yet I believe she did that over and over.
"She couldn’t convict me of the stated charges, so she made up new charges at the end. Because my son, who was upset about the tasing, blurted that the video would be on You Tube, all of a sudden I was on trial for setting up the police to sue them. Well, my son also said, ‘Haven’t you guys ever heard of the f***ing Constitution?’ Why not focus that? In my appeal, I’ve asked my attorney to address these specific issues, as well as others.”
Testa’s defense attorney at trial had advised him that the outside video was not relevant to the charges against him, and the State used the fact that he didn’t show the outside video to make their case.
“The judge thought it was ‘interesting’ that I didn’t show the outside video, saying that I didn’t show it because it would prove that the police had told the truth,” says Testa. (see sentencing transcript) “The judge used the fact that I did not produce the outside video to accuse me and my whole family of setting up the police. People who want to set up a lawsuit for damages stage a slip-and-fall in a casino, or in a toy store, like the one my family owns,” Testa stated. “They don’t throw themselves in front of police with tasers, nightsticks and guns. Those accusations were really hurtful, not just to me, but my whole family. I had never been convicted of a crime in my life. I’m a businesses man. I’m a father and a grandfather. I’m a volunteer. My wife is a hard-working professional, and also a volunteer. I’m not the bad guy.”
As to why the outside video wasn’t shown, Testa says, “ When this all started I was outraged by the police reports. I kept telling my attorney, ‘Look what they said. I didn’t swear at them. I didn’t slam the door on them.’ He told me to forget about that, that it didn’t matter. He told me, ‘You weren’t charged with slamming the door. You were charged with battery and resisting arrest.’ Legally, I suppose he was right. I wasn’t charged with anything that happened outside, so the outside video wasn’t relevant to the charges.
"My attorney prepared to defend me against the charges that were listed, but then suddenly, at the very end, the State’s Attorney, Britta Peffer, made the case all about what happened outside and whether or not I slammed the door or swore at the police. By making these allegations, Judge Strickland has challenged me to produce the outside video. So here it is. Everyone can see it now. The outside video only shows that the police told a very different story than what actually happened, outside and inside. I can’t believe that the judge believed them.”
Regarding what happened inside and the charges that were filed against Testa, he is puzzled that he was charged with any crimes at all.
“View the video yourself,” said Testa. “Sgt. Jonites grabbed me. He pulled my hand toward his own chest and claimed that I had pushed him. In his police report he claimed that I pushed him with two hands, hard enough to cause bodily harm. I had my reading glasses in my hand the whole time. When I am tased you see them fall out of my left hand in pristine condition. I never touched Sgt. Jonites.”
Testa believes that Sgt. Jonites and his deputies committed official misconduct, not just for their actions at his home, but for filing police reports which he believes are not only false, but were prepared in collusion to convict him of a crime he did not commit. Sgt. Jonites has been accused of police misconduct before of this type, specifically in the case of Jerry Hobbs, a Zion man who was imprisoned in Lake County for five years for the murder of his daughter without a trial. DNA evidence exonerated Hobbs.
Hobbs has filed a suit against members of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, including Jonites, charging that they coerced a false confession from him in the murder of his daughter, while the real killer went on to murder again. (read the Jerry Hobbs lawsuit here)
On this site we have posted videos of the incident from inside his home and from his home surveillance cameras, police reports from the incident and transcripts from the court proceedings. Testa invites anyone who is interested in civil rights to review the documents and draw their own conclusions.
“I don’t expect anyone to care about this just because it happened to me,” Testa said. “What happened to me can happen to anyone. I believe that what truly angered the police in this situation was that I demanded to see a warrant and that I asked to call an attorney. In other words, I asserted what I thought were my Constitutional rights. I believe tragedies like these happen more often than anyone realizes. What I have is a video and documentation that others may not. Making this public will help raise awareness of these issues.
“From this experience we have learned that there are two laws in Illinois that need to be changed for the protection of the citizens of our state. We need to be able to videotape the police for our own protection, and when the police arrive at your door to serve a warrant, they should have that warrant with them.”
Testa encourages all who care about these issues to contact their state senators and representatives and demand these changes in the law.
In this country, documents are the currency of our rights. We citizens provide documents to prove who we are, where we live, that our cars our insured. We use documents to show that we have a right to be here, a right to be employed here, and the right to travel. Yet the police consider it a burden to prove that they have a warrant when they arrive at a person’s door for the sole purpose of serving that warrant.
PHOTO 1: "Moments before Vince Testa was tased at point blank range in the back by Deputy Ashley Pomazal of the Lake County Illinois Sheriff Police, his hands were up. If you look closely at the reflection in the planet picture, you will see the reflection of his wife, Kitty, holding the camera under her chin as she watched the police tase and attacked her husband. (Click here to see larger image) “I had my reading glasses in hand,” Vince Testa said, “Because I had expected that the police would bring a copy of the warrant.” It is important to note that the arrest warrant was related to a broken iPod that his son found in a public bathroom. Testa further states, “If I did not make this video recording, I would certainly be in jail.”
PHOTO 2: (CCTV Image): "Deputy Jakub Klatka has his hand on his gun outside the Testa’s living room window. The Testas could see him on monitors in their home. According to court records, he and Pomazal were there to serve a Failure to Appear Warrant on a petty theft charge. Klatka and Pomazal did not have a warrant with them and never advised the Testas that they were there to serve a warrant. (Note that the time is set incorrectly on the outside video camera. It is actually Jan 19 at 5:47 PM.)
In: Regional News
Tags: police, arrested, police brutality, U.S. constitution, fourth amendment
Location: Illinois, United States (load item map)
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