The Illinois Secretary of State has suspended the driver's license belonging to an Illinois State Police officer accused of operating an undercover police vehicle and activating its lights and sirens while under the influence.
The suspension is the result of an Illinois Second District Appellate Court ruling that reversed the opinion of McHenry County Judge Mark Gerhardt. Following a March 2019 hearing, Gerhardt determined Crystal Lake police officers didn't have enough evidence to believe Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Matthew E. Konie was driving under the influence at the time of his Feb. 1, 2019 arrest. In its ruling, however, the higher court found Konie's behavior, the reported smell of alcohol on his breath, and his refusal to perform roadside sobriety tests altogether were enough for police to arrest the officer for suspected drunken driving.
According to an April 27 court filing by the Secretary of State's Office, Konie's license and driving privileges have since been suspended for a minimum of one year effective May 10, 2020.
"The issue before the trial court was not whether [Konie] was under the influence of alcohol, but whether the officers had probable cause to believe that he was," Appellate Justice George Bridges wrote in the ruling.
Konie was off duty when Crystal Lake police stopped his unmarked police vehicle for a traffic violation Feb. 1 in the area of Williams and Brink Streets. He and an unidentified passenger were on their way back to Lake in the Hills, where Konie lives, after an afternoon “downtown” with friends, he allegedly told police.
According to testimony and video played at the March hearing, Crystal Lake police officer Daniel Hulata stopped Konie for allegedly speeding and changing lanes without using his turn signal. Hulata also noted Konie had intermittently activated police lights and sirens on his vehicle – a silver Ford Explorer SUV with passenger license plates registered to "MRT Enterprises." After Konie struggled to pull over and put his car in park, he showed Hulata his police badge, but said nothing, according to police reports. He also struggled to end a phone call, having tried and failed four times to press the end button, court records show.
"When [Konie] did speak with Hulata, Hulata detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on [Konie's] breath," Bridges wrote. "Hulata testified that [Konie's] eyes were glassy, and his speech was slurred and very difficult to understand."
The Illinois State Police Department placed Konie on restricted duty immediately after his arrest, Illinois State Police Sgt. Jacqueline Cepeda said at the time. Konie remained an Illinois State Police employee Friday, having earned $133,400 in 2019 and another $78,300 so far this year, according to Illinois Comptroller data.
The officer's license was temporarily suspended after he refused to submit a breath test that would have determined his blood-alcohol content. The man's attorney, Patrick Walsh, successfully fought the suspension in McHenry County court, allowing the Illinois State Police officer to drive while the DUI charge against him was pending.
Walsh, whose office was closed Friday for the July Fourth holiday, could not immediately be reached for comment about the appellate court's ruling.
The case is expected to go to trial Sept. 18 in McHenry County court.