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Anti-Military Lawyer In Court Tomorrow Today

Posted By Blackfive • [January 20, 2008]

[Update 01-20-08:  Transcript of proceedings is posted after the Jump]

[Updates are at the end of the post.  A Commenter is posting updates from court room. Grodner arrested, pled guilty, has 30 hours of community service and a $600 fine to be paid to the Semper Fi Injured Marine Fund.]

See this post for background - Anti-Military Lawyer Damages Marine's Car on Eve of Deployment

The court date is set for tomorrow, January 18th, at 1330 hours at the District 29 Court House on Belmont and Western.  Unfortunately, I can't be there, but I will post updates when I get them. 

Chicago Tribune's John Kass has two editorials on the case here and here.

This whole incident started and will end with one man - Jay Grodner.  I hope he does the right thing by the Marine.  This could all be over tomorrow...or not.

In case you were wondering, this case was brought to my attention and I tried, TRIED, to get anyone in the media to take the ball and run with it.  Offered exclusivity, contacts, photos, reports, etc.

For a variety of reasons, no one wanted it. 

So, as a resort of last measure, I posted it here at Blackfive (in the Bust Their Chops category) and emailed it to a few Marines I knew who would get the story out on their networks (thank you, Seamus, Jay and Joe).  After thousands of emails, hundreds of comments, many offers of support (financial and moral), a few threats, and finally media interest, this story was one of the first big blogosphere efforts of 2008. 

It got noticed everywhere.

Thank you to John Kass for covering the story.  If you are so inclined, send him a thank you message for covering the story fairly.

In the end, though, it was the military family that brought this story to national attention.  Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines - us doggies, squids, zoomies, and jarheads - that refused to let this abuse go unnoticed.  This is one of those times where we dropped the inter-service rivalry and stepped up for one of our own.

Civilian America rallied to our cause, too.  I can't tell you how many emails I received from civilians in support of Sergeant McNulty.  The reaction of Chicago Police and Firemen backing the Sergeant was astounding.  Tons, and I mean tons, of lawyers sent offers to work pro bono and messages of support and advice for the Sergeant.  I almost take back every negative thing I've said about their profession.

And, last...the most magnificent reaction was from the Viet Nam veterans.  It was the most intense response from them that I've witnessed in a long time.  I received more email - full of emotion and commitment - from Viet Nam vets that essentially said in various ways:

"We will not let what happened to us, happen to you, Marine."

I do not pretend to know what will happen tomorrow in court.  Attorney Jay Grodner had asked for a continuance so that he could bring in some hired guns.

But I do know that my brothers that fought in Viet Nam are right.

We won't let this happen to you, Sergeant McNulty.

Update 230PM:  As Commenter wp91 wrote:

The case was called at 13:33, and the Defendant did not show up. There were 2 heavy hitter State's Attorneys here to handle it. The Judge increased his bond to $20,000.00 or 10 percent cash, and put out a warrant for his arrest.

The Defendant called at 13:40 to say that he will be a half an hout late and was waiting for the media to leave. The Judge said in open court that if he does shows up he will be taken into custody, and if he doesn't he is fair game for any law enforcement agency that wants to pick him up. Will report further developments as warranted.

And I heard that Grodner was arrested upon showing up!

Update:  Source says Grodner pled guilty, will pay $600 to Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.  The judge gave Grodner a history lesson about the Marines and finished with explaining why Marines have each others' backs...

Update 01-19-08:  John Kass will have an article in the Sunday Tribune.  Here is the online version.  He was able to speak with Grodner.  Here's a taste of pure Kass:

Judge O'Malley had something to say. He looked out into his courtroom, at all those men who'd come to support a Marine they didn't know.

"You caused damage to this young Marine sergeant's car because you were offended by his Marine Corps license plates," said Judge O'Malley.

Grodner stood there, hands behind his back. He grasped the fingers of his left hand with his right, and held it there, so they wouldn't wiggle.

"You're probably also wondering why there was a whole crowd of people here, Mr. Grodner," said Judge O'Malley...

Go read the whole piece.

Update 01-20-08:  Transcript added below.  For what it's worth, the prosecutors were vets - Patrick Kelly was a Marine and Arunas Buntinas was a SF Officer (and a very good one too if he's the same guy I knew 20 years ago).

          1     STATE OF ILLINOIS )
                                  ) SS.
          2     COUNTY OF C O O K )

          3        IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS

          4             COUNTY DEPARTMENT-MUNICIPAL DIVISION

          5     PEOPLE OF THE STATE               )
                OF ILLINOIS,                      )
          6                                       )
                                    Plaintiff,    )
          7                                       )
                         -vs-                     ) CASE NO.
          8                                       ) 07-MC1-318441
                JAY GRODNER,                      )
          9                                       )
                                    Defendant.    )
         10
                         TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS held on
         11
                the 18th of January, 2008, before the HONORABLE
         12
                WILLIAM P. O'MALLEY, Judge of said court,
         13
                Branch 29, Chicago, Illinois.
         14
                APPEARANCES:
         15
                         HON. RICHARD A. DEVINE, STATE'S ATTORNEY
         16              OF COOK COUNTY, BY:
                         MR. PATRICK KELLY & MR. ARUNAS BUNTINAS,
         17              ASSISTANT STATE'S ATTORNEYS,

         18              Appeared on behalf of the People;

         19              MR. JAY GRODNER, THE DEFENDANT,
                         ATTORNEY AT LAW,
         20
                         Appeared Pro Se.
         21

         22
                XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, C.S.R.
         23     OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER
                69 WEST WASHINGTON, SUITE 900
         24     CHICAGO, IL 60602

                                       Page 1

          1          THE CLERK:  406-7, Jay Grodner.

          2          MR. KELLY:  Good afternoon, Your Honor.  For

          3     the record, Patrick Kelly, K-e-l-l-y, for the

          4     People.

          5          MR. BUNTINAS:   Judge, Arunas Buntinas, last

          6     name B-u-n-t-i-n-a-s, with State's Attorney's

          7     Office.

          8          THE COURT:  All right.  Mr. Grodner is not

          9     here.

         10               Would one of the sheriffs go out in the

         11     lobby to see if he's there?  Otherwise, I'm issuing

         12     a warrant for his arrest.

         13          THE SHERIFF:   Judge, there's no response in

         14     all the common places and the lobby.

         15          MR. BUNTINAS:   Judge, we're asking for a bond

         16     forfeiture warrant.

         17          THE COURT:  Bond forfeiture warrant $20,000.

         18     Wait around, Pat.  He'll probably wander in and

         19     I'll take him into custody.

         20          MR. KELLY:   Very well.  Thank you, Your

         21     Honor.

         22          MR. BUNTINAS:   Thank you, Judge.

         23          THE COURT:  This matter has been up before.

         24     He waltzed in the last time 15 minutes late.

                                       Page 2

          1     Okay.

          2                                    (WHEREUPON THE CASE

          3                                    WAS PASSED AND

          4                                    RECALLED.)

          5          THE COURT:  Recall Jay Grodner.

          6          THE CLERK:  Jay Grodner.

          7          THE COURT:  State.

          8          MR. KELLY:   Your Honor, I had a conversation

          9     with Mr. Grodner a couple moments ago on the

         10     telephone.  At about 1:40, he called and said that

         11     he was running late.  He would be here in about a

         12     half an hour.   He wanted an opportunity to give

         13     the press time to leave before he arrived.

         14          THE COURT:  Yeah.  Mr. Grodner  -- The message

         15     I got, which was relayed to my clerk from Mr. Kelly

         16     here, says that Mr. Grodner called at 1:40.

         17               Of course, he was suppose to be here at

         18     1:30.  He knows that since he showed up late, and I

         19     warned him about that the last time.  He says that

         20     he would be here in about a half hour.  He wanted

         21     the press to clear out.  He was told that a warrant

         22     was issued.

         23               So, for those of you in the press, you

         24     might want to know that.  But, the warrant should

                                       Page 3

          1     still stand.  Should Mr. Grodner appear in this

          2     courtroom, he'll be taken into custody.  Should he

          3     not appear, the Chicago Police Department can do

          4     whatever or execute that warrant.

          5          MR. KELLY:   Thank you, Judge.

          6                                    (WHEREUPON THE CASE

          7                                    WAS PASSED AND

          8                                    RECALLED.)

          9          THE CLERK:  406, line 7.  Jay Grodner.

         10          THE DEFENDANT:   Good afternoon, Your Honor.

         11          THE COURT:  Yeah, it is good afternoon.  It's

         12     2:00.  You were suppose to be here at 1:30.  The

         13     last time --

         14          THE DEFENDANT:   I apologize, Your Honor.

         15          THE COURT:  --   this matter was up, you

         16     showed up at 1:45.  I admonished you that the

         17     courtroom starts at 1:30.  The complaining witness

         18     last time was here at 1:30.

         19               I struck the warrant at that time that

         20     had previously been issued because the complaining

         21     witness was still here.

         22          THE SHERIFF:   Mr. Grodner, put your hands

         23     behind your back.

         24          THE COURT:   You were warned once.  I got a

                                       Page 4

          1     message that you were  --  you didn't want to come

          2     here because you wanted to wait for the press to

          3     leave.

          4               I don't run my courtroom that way.   You

          5     have no regard for the Court.  Bail is increased to

          6     $20,000.  Take him into custody.

          7               State, I'll either give him the eight-day

          8     date; or, you folks can talk to him and see if he

          9     wants to work something out.

         10          THE DEFENDANT:   We already have something

         11     worked out, Your Honor.

         12          THE COURT:  Take him into custody.   They can

         13     talk to him through there.

         14          THE SHERIFF:   Let's go, Mr. Grodner.

         15                                    (WHEREUPON THE

         16                                    DEFENDANT TAKEN

         17                                    INTO CUSTODY.)

         18          THE CLERK:  406, line 7.  Jay Grodner.

         19          THE COURT:  Mr. Grodner, I understand that you

         20     made some agreement with the State's Attorney's

         21     Office.

         22          THE DEFENDANT:   Yes, sir.

         23          THE COURT:  I told them that it was my

         24     intention to just give you the regular court date

                                       Page 5

          1     that I would for any other prisoner.

          2               They said that they have reached an

          3     agreement with you; and, so, I will attempt to

          4     dispose of your case today.

          5          THE DEFENDANT:   Thank you, Your Honor.

          6          THE COURT:  All right.   Mr. Kelly, what have

          7     you  --  Mr. Grodner, I understand that you're

          8     entering a plea of guilty  -- Let me see the

          9     file  --  to the charge of criminal damage to

         10     property.

         11               That you knowingly damaged the property

         12     of Michael McNulty; such property being a 2002

         13     black BMW, located at 7631 North Eastlake Terrace,

         14     without consent in that you rubbed along the

         15     passenger side of the vehicle causing scratches.

         16               Is that what you did?

         17          THE DEFENDANT:  (No response.)

         18          THE COURT:  Mr. Grodner, I'm talking to you.

         19     Is that what you did?

         20          THE DEFENDANT:   Yes.  Yes, we have a

         21     stipulation to the facts, --

         22          THE COURT:  Is that what you did; yes or no?

         23          THE DEFENDANT:   Without the "knowingly", yes.

         24          THE COURT:  Sir, I'm asking you did you

                                       Page 6

          1     knowingly cause damage to this car?

          2               If you say "no", then we'll set it down

          3     for a trial date.

          4          THE DEFENDANT:   Yes, Your Honor.

          5          THE COURT:  You did.  Thank you.

          6               You realize that I could sentence you to

          7     jail for up to one year.  Fine you $2500.  That by

          8     pleading guilty, you're waiving your right to a

          9     jury trial.  You're not going to have a trial at

         10     all.

         11               Do you understand that?

         12          THE DEFENDANT:  Yes, I do.

         13          THE COURT:  You're waiving your right to hold

         14     the State to the burden of proving you guilty

         15     beyond a reasonable doubt.  You're not going to be

         16     able to cross-examine witnesses and to present

         17     witnesses on your own behalf.

         18               Do you understand that?

         19          THE DEFENDANT:  Yes, I do.

         20          THE COURT:  Now, is there a stipulation to

         21     those facts contained in the complaint?

         22          THE DEFENDANT:   Yes.

         23          THE COURT:   Is that correct?

         24          THE DEFENDANT:   That's correct.

                                       Page 7

          1          THE COURT:  And, you have chosen to represent

          2     yourself; even though, I continued this case once

          3     for you to obtain an attorney.  Is that right?

          4          THE DEFENDANT:  That's right.

          5          THE COURT:  All right.  And,  --

          6          THE DEFENDANT:  My attorney  --

          7          THE COURT:  --   you are a licensed attorney

          8     in --

          9          THE DEFENDANT:   I am, Your Honor.

         10          THE COURT:  -- the State of Illinois; is that

         11     right?

         12          THE DEFENDANT:  Yes, I am.

         13          THE COURT:  All right.

         14          MR. KELLY:   Your Honor, the State would

         15     stipulate to the facts, also.

         16          THE COURT:  There's a factual basis for the

         17     plea.  There's a finding of guilty --

         18          MR. KELLY:  May we read that into the record?

         19          THE COURT:   What?

         20          MR. KELLY:   May we read that into the record?

         21          THE COURT:   Read what?

         22          MR. KELLY:   The alleged facts in this case.

         23          THE COURT:   Yeah.  I did already, Pat; but,

         24     I'll read them again.  I'm more than happy to.

                                       Page 8

          1          MR. KELLY:   Thank you.

          2          THE COURT:   "That on December 1, at 7631

          3     North Eastlake Terrace, the Defendant, Mr. Grodner,

          4     knowingly damaged the property of Michael McNulty;

          5     such property being a 2002 black BMW, located at

          6     7631 North Eastlake Terrace, without consent

          7     rubbed along the passenger side of the vehicle

          8     causing scratches in violation of 720 5/21-1(a) of

          9     the Illinois Compiled Statutes, in the City of

         10     Chicago, County of Cook."

         11          MR. KELLY:   So stipulated, Your Honor.

         12          THE DEFENDANT:   So stipulated, Your Honor.

         13          THE COURT:   All right.  Finding of guilty.

         14               State, what was the agreement that you

         15     worked out with Mr. Grodner?

         16          MR. KELLY:   Subject to the Court's approval,

         17     we would recommend one year of Court supervision.

         18          THE COURT:  Social Services  --

         19          MR. KELLY:   Social Services.  Reporting for

         20     the payment of restitution only.  The restitution

         21     would be in the amount of $600, Your Honor.  That's

         22     to be paid on or before January 19, 2008.

         23               Those monies will be donated by Social

         24     Services to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

                                       Page 9

          1          THE COURT:  January 19th only gives him until

          2     tomorrow.  Is he able to pay it today?

          3          MR. KELLY:   That's my error, Judge.  I'm

          4     sorry.  The 25th.

          5          THE DEFENDANT:   2009?

          6          THE COURT:  January 25th?

          7          MR. KELLY:  That's the probation.  I looked at

          8     the wrong one.  It was January 25th of 2008.

          9               Will you be able to pay it by then?

         10          THE DEFENDANT:   Suppose to be six months.

         11          THE SHERIFF:   Put your hands behind your

         12     back.

         13          THE DEFENDANT:  Jesus Christ.

         14          THE COURT:  You're the Defendant, sir.  You're

         15     in custody.  You have to behave as such.

         16               Pat?

         17          THE DEFENDANT:  I'm trying to negotiate with

         18     Counsel, Your Honor.

         19          THE COURT:   I know.  Talk to him.

         20          MR. KELLY:   I'm sorry.  That's what I was

         21     told.  For the year.

         22          THE COURT:  Talk to him.

         23                                    (WHEREUPON THE

         24                                    ASSISTANT STATE'S

                                      Page 10

          1                                    ATTORNEY AND THE

          2                                    DEFENDANT HAD A

          3                                    DISCUSSION OFF THE

          4                                    RECORD.)

          5          THE COURT:  Hey, if there is no agreement,

          6     we'll set it down for trial.  I don't have any

          7     problem with that.

          8          MR. KELLY:  If we could just have one minute,

          9     Your Honor?

         10          THE COURT:  Sure.

         11          MR. KELLY:  I believe we have  -- still have

         12     an agreement, Your Honor.

         13          THE COURT:  All right.  When is he going to

         14     pay this money and what fund is it going to be

         15     directed to?

         16          MR. KELLY:   It would be directed to the

         17     Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, on College

         18     Boulevard, in Oceanside, California.

         19               It's a fund that's used to treat and

         20     rehabilitate Marines and other Service Members who

         21     were injured, either physically or psychologically,

         22     in the conflict between the United States and Iraq.

         23          THE COURT:   When is that going to be paid by?

         24          MR. KELLY:   January 25, 2008.

                                      Page 11

          1               Is that doable for you?

          2          THE DEFENDANT:   I don't know.  I wasn't put

          3     in the  -- It wasn't put  --

          4          THE COURT:   It has to be paid January 25,

          5     2008.

          6               What was the other part of the agreement?

          7     Anything else?

          8          MR. KELLY:   No, sir.

          9          THE COURT:   All right.

         10          MR. KELLY:   Am I missing anything?

         11          THE COURT:   One year  --  Any community

         12     service?  Any fees or fines?

         13          MR. BUNTINAS:   Judge, we're not asking that

         14     the Court waive the $50 per month probation fee  --

         15     or, Social Services fee.

         16          THE COURT:   You are or you are not?

         17          MR. BUNTINAS:   We are not.

         18          THE COURT:   No.  The fees won't be waived.

         19          MR. BUNTINAS:   Right.

         20          THE COURT:   Are there any additional court

         21     fees and costs  --

         22          MR. BUNTINAS:   None, Judge.

         23          THE COURT:  --  that the State wants to asses?

         24          MR. BUNTINAS:   None, Judge.

                                      Page 12

          1          THE COURT:   All right.  Mr. Grodner, because

          2     the State has agreed to this, this is what I will

          3     sentence you to.  One-year Social Service

          4     supervision and that would terminate 1-16-2009;

          5     and, $600 restitution to be paid  --

          6          MR. KELLY:   May I interrupt the Court, Judge?

          7          THE COURT:   What?

          8          MR. KELLY:   The Defendant has indicated that

          9     he's going to need a month.  So, we're changing the

         10     agreement, if the Court will so allow, to February

         11     25th of '08.  One month.

         12          THE COURT:   Restitution to be paid 2-25-08.

         13               Mr. Grodner, you have 30 days to withdraw

         14     your plea.  That motion must be in writing.  It

         15     must allege any error you deem to have occurred

         16     during the course of these proceedings.  Otherwise,

         17     they'll be waived on appeal.

         18               Beyond that, you have 30 days to appeal

         19     that.  If you couldn't afford to hire a lawyer, pay

         20     for transcripts, we would provide them for you.

         21               I need a signed Jury Waiver.

         22                                    (WHEREUPON A JURY

         23                                    WAIVER WAS SIGNED BY

         24                                    THE DEFENDANT AND

                                      Page 13

          1                                    TENDERED TO THE

          2                                    COURT.)

          3               You're fortunate, Mr. Grodner, that you

          4     made that agreement with the State.  My

          5     understanding is that you caused damage to this

          6     young Marine sergeant's car because you were

          7     offended by his Marine Corps license plates.

          8               I'm going to tell you something, Mr.

          9     Grodner.  The Marine Corps license plates do not

         10     involve anything dealing with an ego.  The proceeds

         11     go to the Marine Corps Scholarship Fund, which

         12     provides scholarships for all children of all

         13     Marines and Navy Corpsmen that fight and aide the

         14     Marine Corps; and, a larger amount of money goes to

         15     scholarships for those who have lost their lives.

         16               You probably also wondered why there was

         17     a whole crowd of people here today, Mr. Grodner.

         18          THE DEFENDANT:   I don't want wonder.

         19          THE COURT:  That's because there is a little

         20     principle that the Marine Corps has and has had

         21     since 1775, when they had fought and lost their

         22     lives so that people like you could enjoy the

         23     freedom of this country; and, that is a little

         24     proverb that we follow: "That no Marine is left

                                      Page 14

          1     behind."

          2               So, Sergeant McNulty couldn't be here;

          3     but, other Marines showed in his stead.  Take him

          4     away.

          5          MR. KELLY:  Your Honor, lastly, the Defendant

          6     asked permission of the Court to be allowed to

          7     leave the State of Illinois periodically during the

          8     period of his supervision.

          9               We have no objection to that.

         10          THE COURT:  Mr. Grodner, you can leave the

         11     State of Illinois periodically if you comply with

         12     what the Social Services Department tells you to

         13     do.

         14               I'm telling you right now, if you violate

         15     any conditions of this supervision, you're going to

         16     jail for 364; and, you can count on that.

         17               Is everything filled out, Pat?

         18          MR. KELLY:  Yes, Your Honor.

         19          THE COURT:  Okay.

         20          MR. KELLY:  And, it has been  --  For the

         21     record, it has been shown to the Defendant.

         22               Your Honor, is there going to be a quash

         23     and recall order on the warrant?

         24          THE COURT:  The warrant has been stricken at

                                      Page 15

          1     the State's request.

          2          MR. KELLY:  Thank you, Your Honor.

          3          THE SHERIFF:   That's it?

          4          THE COURT:   Take him back.

          5          THE DEFENDANT:  Bond remains at $1,000

          6     recognizance, sir?

          7          THE COURT:  You're going to be released, sir.

          8          THE DEFENDANT:   Thank you.

          9                                    (WHEREUPON THOSE

         10                                    WERE ALL OF THE

         11                                    PROCEEDINGS HELD IN

         12                                    THE ABOVE-ENTITLED

         13                                    CAUSE.)

         14

         15

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                                      Page 16


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