Streamwood cop’s beating trial verdict expected Wednesday
BY KIM JANSSEN Staff Reporteremail@example.com
James Mandario leaves the Rolling Meadows Courthouse Tuesday with his wife, Sophie (far left) and his mother. Closing arguments concluded Tuesday in the trial of the former Streamwood police officer, accused in the caught-on-squad-car-video baton-beating
The fate of a former Streamwood cop who was videotaped beating an unarmed motorist 15 times with his baton during a traffic stop hung in the balance Tuesday night, with a Cook County judge promising to issue his verdict Wednesday afternoon.
Former Cpl. James Mandarino’s six-day bench trial came to a conclusion Tuesday morning, with prosecutors alleging the 42-year-old officer “lost control — he lost his discretion and snapped.” But defense attorneys claimed the victim provoked the beating and was only interested in making money from a lawsuit.
Mandarino was captured on his squad car video camera in the early hours of March 28 last year, beating a kneeling Ronald Bell on Bell’s driveway after pulling over Bell and his buddy Nolan Stalbaum for reckless driving.
Charged with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct — which could see him jailed for two to five years if convicted — Mandarino claims he was in fear of his life and was forced to beat an uncompliant Bell to protect himself,
But making his closing argument to Judge Thomas Fecarotta at the Rolling Meadows courthouse Tuesday morning, assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Mike Gerber said both the videotape and Mandarino’s own testimony showed “nobody raised a fist, nobody threw a punch and nobody had a weapon,” when Mandarino beat Bell.
Though Bell and Stalbaum — who Mandarino Tasered before turning on Bell — may have been drunk and obnoxious when they demanded to know why they had been stopped, that did not justify Mandarino’s aggression, Gerber said.
“There’s nothing aggressive about questioning a police officer, but maybe there is in Officer Mandarino’s mind,” Gerber said, acknowledging Mandarino had an exemplary 15-year police record before the beating but adding, “Nobody was going to question Officer Mandarino at 3:45 a.m. on a rainy night.”
Defense attorney Rick Beuke told the judge the 11-second beating turned Mandarino’s “life upside down,” claiming the Streamwood Police Department threw Mandarino “under the bus” by firing him after the incident.
Bell and Stalbaum’s claims that they had followed Mandarino’s orders during the stop were a “flat out pack of lies,” he said, saying a civil lawsuit the victims filed was “their golden ticket.”
“That’s what this is all about — money,” he said, urging Fecarotta to clear Mandarino.
The judge is due to issue his verdict at 2 p.m. Wednesday.