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Jury sent home in case of cop accused of fatally running over a teen cyclist

Richard W. Bolling (left) court January 2012.  |  Sun-Times Media

Richard W. Bolling (left) in court in January 2012. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 20, 2012 3:46PM

A Cook County jury weighing in on the fate of a Chicago Police officer accused of running over a teen bicyclist in a fatal drunken driving accident was sent home late Tuesday after failing to reach verdict after 5 1/2 hours of deliberation.

Richard Bolling, who took the stand in his defense Friday, is facing reckless homicide, aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of an accident charges for the May 22, 2009 wreck.

Bolling, 42, admitted he drank alcohol before getting behind the wheel of his Dodge Charger and sped off after slamming into Trenton Booker, 13, but denied he was drunk or immediately knew he hit the boy.

Bolling may not have woken up with the intention of killing Trenton or anyone else that early spring morning, but he still committed a crime, assistant Cook County State’s attorney Ashley Romito told jurors in her closing arguments Tuesday afternoon.

Bolling’s attorney, Thomas Needham, said that his client did not receive any favors when he was arrested blocks from the wreck at 81st and Ashland.

The 17-year Chicago Police veteran was willing to take the field sobriety tests and is heard in a squad car recording, saying, “Please, I’ll take it” when it was suggested he perform four exercises.

It was not his fault officers administered the field sobriety tests two hours after the wreck and gave him a Breathalyzer 4 1/2 hours later, Needham insinuated.

“Whoever was making the decisions when they should be done, it wasn’t Richard Bolling,” Needham said.

Prosecutor Peter Goutos disagreed, noting that in addition to the delay in the tests, arresting officers took Bolling to a restroom at a nearby gas station — a courtesy not given to most suspects.

And it was Bolling who willingly told the officers, “I’m the police” when he stepped out of his vehicle.

“Are you kidding me?” Goutos said of the idea that Bolling did not receive favorable treatment.

Bolling’s blood alcohol level registered at .079 — just a bit shy of the .08 legal intoxication level when he finally took the Breathalyzer. Had he been given the test sooner his blood alcohol level would have been between .124 or .169, according to Jennifer Bash, an Illinois State Police forensic toxicologist testifying for prosecutors.

Before closing arguments Tuesday afternoon, Needham presented Ohio-based forensic toxicologist Alfred Staubus who deemed Bolling’s Breathalyzer results as “scientifically unreliable,” partly because he was not given two consecutive tests.

Goutos said Bolling’s demeanor in the back of the squad car sharply contrasted his behavior when he testified last week.

“We’re not talking about fall-down drunk. We’re talking about impairment. ... On that [squad car audio] tape, you hear a drunk Richard Bolling talking to himself about his White Castle [that was left in the Charger] and the damage to his car while a child is dying, lying on the street,” he said.

Needham urged the jurors to note the inconsistencies of witnesses, some who saw Trenton pedaling northbound in the southbound lanes of Ashland before he was hit.

He also asked them to question why a pair of officers changed their stories on the stand and said Bolling failed a “walk and turn” field sobriety test when two years before, they wrote in police reports that he had passed all tests and was not intoxicated.

Bolling was speeding but he swerved when he saw Trenton and was trying to avoid a collision, Needham said.

“How can he be the cause of the accident that he is trying to avoid?” Needham asked.

The jury will continue deliberating Wednesday.

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