WONDER LAKE – A McHenry County judge next month will decide whether to suppress an alleged confession in the case of a Sycamore man charged in 2014 with smuggling more than 300 pounds of marijuana through a McHenry County airport.
A hearing on a motion to suppress statements made by 49-year-old Andrzej Hryniewicki, of the 27600 block of Hunters Lane, began Friday.
Hryniewicki was charged in November 2014 with multiple drug felonies, including marijuana trafficking, after police said he transported about
$1.12 million worth of marijuana in a private airplane that came from California and landed at Galt Airport in Wonder Lake.
His attorney now is fighting to keep Hryniewicki’s confession from being brought up during trial, claiming that he was beaten and coerced into making incriminating statements.
Prosecutors have denied that police beat Hryniewicki, and they said any injuries he had were from resisting the officers who arrested him.
“[Hryniewicki’s] contention that he was savagely beaten in order to produce a confession is farcial and unsupported by any evidence other than [Hryniewicki’s] own self-serving testimony,” McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Ladd wrote in a Dec. 8 court filing.
On Nov. 18, 2014, police began to monitor a plane leaving Sacramento, California, and heading toward Chicago, the Dec. 8 filing said. The plane was using a transponder that only intermittently reported its location, and it entered the wrong tail number into a fuel pump station, leading police to think the pilot was trying to lay low.
Officers later spoke with a witness who told them he had plans to meet Hryniewicki at a Walmart in Belvidere and drive with him to Galt Airport to get the marijuana, according to the Dec. 8 filing. A search of the hangar revealed nearly 320 pounds of marijuana.
Police hid inside the hangar on Nov. 19 and arrested the two men, but prosecutors and defense attorney Matthew Amarin continue to argue whether Hryniewicki’s arrest and subsequent police interview were justified.
During the arrest, Hryniewicki was hit in the head and knocked unconscious, Amarin said in his original request to suppress the statements. Although responding paramedics suggested he be taken to the hospital, law enforcement encouraged him to refuse treatment, Amarin said.
“While still at the scene, after beating Mr. Hryniewicki, law enforcement pressured [him] to cooperate and speak to them by threatening to arrest his wife and send his kids to foster care,” Amarin said. “After being physically assaulted and mentally coerced to speak to law enforcement, Mr. Hryniewicki agreed to speak with agents. He was then taken to an interview room at the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.”
Shortly after, Hryniewicki confessed to bringing drugs over the Illinois border, and said he had been hired as a smuggler by someone he know only as “Steve” to deliver marijuana between different areas, according to the Dec. 8 filing.
Amarin and representatives from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment Monday.
Some of Hryniewicki’s injuries were documented by different medical professionals.
A jail nurse noted a blood-stained bandage on his head and a swollen and bruised ear.
A Nov. 24, 2014, X-ray of his shoulder showed a torn joint that required surgery, according to medical records made public by his attorney.
An injury to Hryniewicki’s left leg was not treated while he was in jail, Amarin has said.
“After being released from custody, Mr. Hryniewicki followed up with [an] orthopedic doctor who advised he suffered a hamstring avulsion, where the hamstring is completely torn off the bone,” Amarin said. “This type of injury is only repairable by surgery if treated within two weeks of the injury. [He] is expected to live with this injury the rest of his life.”
A previous judge’s ruling blew holes in prosecutors’ case against Hryniewicki.
In November 2015, McHenry County Judge Michael Feetterer ruled that the search warrant for the airport hangar where the drugs were found did not establish probable cause, and any evidence collected could not be used against him. Hryniewicki was released on his signature.
Amarin’s attempts to reverse Feetterer’s rulings were unsuccessful.
Over the years, at least four judges have presided over the case. McHenry County Judge James Cowlin, who currently is overseeing the matter, is expected to announce his decision Feb. 23.