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Ex-Streamwood cop gets no prison time


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Updated: July 7, 2011 3:42PM

Former Streamwood cop James Mandarino avoided a prison term for the videotaped beating of an unarmed, non-violent motorist after a Cook County judge cited his previously unblemished police career.“How could I overlook the 15

½ years he’s put his life on the line for our community?” Judge Thomas Fecarotta said Tuesday as he rejected a jail sentence for the former officer.

Instead, Fecarotta placed Mandarino on probation for 30 months and ordered him to perform 150 hours of community service work for pummeling driver Ronald Bell with his baton following a traffic stop on March 28, 2010.

“Sending the defendant to the penitentiary, in my opinion, would be more about revenge and less about justice,” said Fecarotta, who earlier this year convicted Mandarino of aggravated battery and official misconduct charges.

Mandarino had faced up to five years in prison, though during his sentencing hearing he asked for probation.

“I regret that night ever occurred,” said Mandarino, 42, who was fired from his police job last June after being charged in the beating.

Mandarino hit Bell 15 times on the back, arm and head as the Steamwood man knelt in his driveway after a traffic stop that was captured by Mandarino’s squad-car video camera. The veteran cop testified during his trial that he feared for his life, contending the 28-year-old Bell and passenger Nolan Stalbaum became aggressive after he curbed their SUV.

The videotape showed Mandarino repeatedly striking a kneeling Bell, who did little but raise an arm to apparently ward off the blows. He received seven stitches in his head after the beating but suffered no permanent injuries.

In convicting Mandarino last March, Fecarotta said the video images convinced him the ex-cop was guilty of the felony charges.

“If a picture speaks a thousand words, this video speaks a million,” Fecarotta said then, telling Mandarino he wielded his collapsible metal police baton as “a deadly weapon.”

On Tuesday, Fecarotta said he balanced Mandarino’s actions that night with his long record as a police officer, which included no prior citizen complaints against him.

After the sentencing, Mandarino thanked his supporters — defense attorneys had submitted more than 80 letters written on his behalf — and praised the judge’s decision.

“This situation doesn’t define me as a man, as a husband, as a father,’’ said Mandarino, who is married with three children.

Bell wasn’t in court for the sentencing, but in a statement read by prosecutors, he said he still wrestles with anger and depression as a result of what he called an “unexpected, unexplained and unwarranted” attack.

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