WOODSTOCK – A judge convicted a veteran Algonquin police sergeant of domestic battery despite the alleged victim’s testimony that it never happened.
Wade Merritt, 46, of the Oakwood Hills area, will be banned from carrying a gun unless the conviction is overturned, said his attorney, William Hellyer. Merritt, who joined the Algonquin force in 1986, has been suspended without pay pending a June 17 termination hearing.
“Effectively, this will put him out of a job,” Hellyer said. “He can’t apply to be a police officer anywhere else.”
Hellyer said he had not discussed a possible appeal with his client Thursday evening.
Both Merritt and his wife of seven years denied that he hit her on the left side of her head hard enough that she fell to the ground March 4. Rather, Merritt’s wife testified that she wasn’t thinking clearly after having had a few drinks and not taking anti-anxiety medication for five days. She said she called police that night because she thought Merritt had been drinking behind her back.
“I was sick and tired of putting up with this drinking,” she testified Wednesday morning.
But Merritt’s 10-year-old son testified that he saw his father raise his hand and saw his stepmother lying on the hallway floor soon thereafter. He said his view of any impact was obstructed from where he was – kneeling in the bathroom with the door open. The boy had been ill and vomiting that evening.
A 9-1-1 recording played in court contained Merritt’s sobbing wife telling a dispatcher that Merritt had hit her on the side of the head and had threatened to kill her. She refused to tell the dispatcher where he worked as a police officer but said he had hit her before.
“He hasn’t done it for a couple of years, but tonight he’s out of control,” she said on the March 4 recording.
Before Judge Gordon Graham convicted Merritt of a single count of domestic battery, Graham said the son offered “almost a classic case” of collaborative evidence. Graham convicted Merritt of having “contact of an insulting and provoking nature,” but acquitted Merritt of a domestic-battery count alleging that he had caused “bodily harm.” He faces up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine when he is sentenced for the misdemeanor June 25.
Merritt had requested that a judge, not a jury, hear the evidence and determine the verdict in his case.
After hearing the verdict, defense attorneys said their client’s position as a police supervisor affected how prosecutors handled the case. They said Merritt maintained his innocence.
“Here’s a seasoned officer, decorated, and he’s never had any other problems,” Hellyer said. “... Why not get him some help rather than end his career.”
But Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally denied that Merritt’s profession influenced prosecutors’ decision to take the case to trial.
“The [negotiated settlement] offer that was provided was the same that would have been provided in any other case,” Kenneally said. “He exercised his constitutional right and rejected that offer.”