An Illinois appeals court has overturned the felony convictions of a former Richmond police officer who allegedly kicked a handcuffed man in the face.
A McHenry County jury convicted Brian Quilici of mob action, official misconduct and obstructing justice in the February 2005 beating of Ryan Hallett outside a Fox Lake bar. Quilici already has served his two-year prison sentence, and this week, a jury issued Hallett a $450,000 verdict against Richmond in connection with Quilici’s alleged actions.
The appellate ruling, based largely on Judge Sharon Prather’s response to a question from jurors, means McHenry County prosecutors need to decide whether they will appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court or try Quilici again.
“We are considering our options,” State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi said. “We respect the court’s decision, but we’re disappointed.”
Meanwhile, Quilici considers the appellate court’s decision a vindication and is looking forward to a new trial, his attorney, Vincent Solano, said.
“He’s very excited,” Solano said. “He said, ‘Finally, when we get out of McHenry County and put it in the hands of the appellate court, we finally get some vindication.’ ”
The appeals court ruled that McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather did not provide jurors with a proper answer when they asked her during deliberations “does an off-duty police officer have the same authority as an officer on duty?”
Prather answered: “A police officer executing an arrest outside of his jurisdiction has no greater arrest powers than a private citizen executing a citizens’ arrest.”
The appeals court said Prather’s answer confused the jury and that, in fact, because Quilici was an officer in the same county as the town where the incident occurred, he did have arrest authority.
The appellate court also ruled that Quilici’s attorney should have been able to challenge his ex-girlfriend’s statements that she stopped seeing him because of the incident with Hallett. Quilici maintained that he broke off the relationship because the woman changed her mind about divorcing another man, but Prather refused to allow the woman to answer questions about that at the trial.
The appellate court ruled that the woman’s marital status was relevant to the trial.
Based on the appellate court’s decision, Solano said he hoped jurors would hear a second 911 call about the incident at a new trial.
He maintained that Quilici, and two other former police officers charged in connection with the fight, were hurt by a shoddy investigation by Fox Lake police. The other two, Jerome Volstad and Ronald Pilati, were convicted of multiple felonies only to have those convictions overturned by a McHenry County judge. They later accepted a misdemeanor plea bargain for attempted unlawful restraint.
“If you sat through the trial and you sat through the second trial with the other two defendants, there was a concerted effort by everyone we ever dealt with in McHenry County to conduct a witch hunt in this case,” Solano said. “And the reality is that if Fox Lake had done what it should have done in the first place, Ryan Hallett would have gone to prison and Brian Quilici would have received medals of honor.”
But Bianchi said he was not hesitant to try Quilici and believed the evidence showed he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Solano said he also planned to pursue a new trial in the federal civil rights case, in which jurors heard of Quilici’s criminal convictions.