Lawyer says she didn’t try to interfere with case by allowing use of her cellphone
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org November 28, 2012 2:38PM
Attorney Sladjana Vuckovic was found not guilty Thursday of two counts of bringing contraband to a penal institution.
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:46PM
A lawyer who was slapped with a felony for allowing her murder-suspect client to use her cellphone while he was in a police interrogation room says she was only trying to do her job and never tried to interfere with the investigation.
“I’m just there to make sure my client knows his constitutional rights,” Sladjana Vuckovic, 44, testified at her trial at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Wednesday. “That’s it.”
Vuckovic was charged with bringing contraband to a penal institution after it was revealed that her cellphone was used while she visited with Timothy Herring Jr. at the Area 2 headquarters on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, 2010.
Herring, then a 19-year-old parolee, was eventually charged with the murders of Chicago Police evidence technician Michael Flisk and former CHA police officer Stephen Peters — a detail jurors in Cook County Judge Evelyn Clay’s courtroom were not told.
Vuckovic, a CTA lawyer, was on call as a volunteer for the First Defense Legal Aid when Herring’s brother rang the organization’s hotline and sought her help two years ago.
During cross-examination by assistant state’s attorney Thomas Mahoney, the Hyde Park-based lawyer was candid about why she felt comfortable giving Herring her cellphone.
“It’s been my experience that the police never give the person who is under arrest a phone call until after they are charged. . . .Theory is one thing, practice is another,” she said.
Officers at the Far South Side area never gave Vuckovic the green light to bring her cellphone in the interrogation room, she admitted but the attorney noted, “They didn’t tell me I couldn’t bring it in either.”
The 26 calls outside police presence could have been used by Herring to advance his own defense, prosecutors argued.
But Vuckovic said most of the calls were dropped or were harmless conversations Herring had with relatives.
“I said, ‘Call your friends and family and let them know you’re okay but do not talk about the case,’ ” Vuckovic said. “He never talked about the facts about the case.”