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Hacker group targets Woodstock police sergeant

Veteran given 30-day suspension for sending inappropriate text, misuing equipment

Published: Friday, Dec. 6, 2013 4:10 p.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 9:57 p.m. CST

WOODSTOCK – An international hacker group caught wind of an ongoing scandal at the Woodstock Police Department and has launched an aggressive Twitter campaign to get a sergeant there fired.

On its Twitter page, Anonymous is asking its 1.8 million followers to call City Hall and the Woodstock Police Department and demand that action be taken against Sgt. Charles “Chip” Amati over allegations that he asked a young girl for “sexy pictures.”

Amati, a 24-year veteran of the department, was given a 30-day unpaid suspension after an investigation revealed he sent the inappropriate text message to a 12-year-old girl, and that he misused police equipment.

“I am completely convinced in my mind that it was not for sexually gratifying reasons,” Police Chief Robert Lowen said. “… I looked at all of the information from the [Illinois State Police] investigation – previous emails, texts back and forth. I’m convinced … this wasn’t an ongoing grooming situation.”

The Illinois State Police investigation also found Amati had misused LEADS – Law Enforcement Agencies Data System – to check the background of the girl’s mother, whom he had been dating. Misusing the system in Illinois constitutes official misconduct, a Class 3 felony punishable by two to five years in prison.

The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to pursue criminal charges against Amati.

Tweets about Amati began rolling in Friday morning. In some, a home address is listed. Others include his photo.

The phone numbers to City Hall and the Woodstock Police Department are in quite a few of the tweets. By 11 a.m., City Hall estimated it received about 50 calls from all over the country, while Lowen said the police department only received three calls and a handful of emails.

Some tweets, many of which have been retweeted – or shared – hundreds of times, have been ominous.

“FIRE CHARLES AMATI. If not, EXPECT US. #CharlesAmati,” one message read.

“… If he isn’t fired or punished in a more sensible manner we shall riot, in a polite way of course,” said another.

Other tweets were directed at Amati’s personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, which since have been deactivated.

Several messages called on the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office to further investigate the matter.

Anonymous is credited for throwing into the national spotlight a largely ignored rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. There, the group staged protests, and through its social media campaign, eventually the major news outlets began to take notice. Two teenage boys later were convicted of raping a girl who was too drunk to consent.

Despite the calls from Twitter, the Woodstock Police Department and City Hall stand by Amati’s punishment. Lowen maintains that Amati’s infractions were not grounds for termination.

Aside from firing Amati, City Manager Roscoe Stelford explained that 30 days was the most they could suspend the sergeant based on a state statute for non-home rule communities.

The matter went before an Oct. 28 closed door meeting of the Police and Fire Commissioners. The two-person board acted on a recommendation from the police chief and City Hall.

“He’s a 24-year, experienced officer with no disciplinary record at all,” Stelford said. “This is an isolated incident. There were no criminal charges brought against him, so in light of that, a 30-day suspension is all the city can impose.”

Earlier this week, Amati was removed as the department’s spokesman, and he previously was stripped of his position as LEADS coordinator. He remains in charge of the department’s records division.

Records show his current annual salary is $93,314, not accounting for overtime or lost revenue from his suspension.

Amati could not be reached for comment.

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