Chicago Police Sergeant Michael Vitellaro, aged 49, has been acquitted of charges of aggravated assault and felony official misconduct following an incident where he restrained a teenager with his knee while off-duty.
The charges against Vitellaro were a result of an incident in which he held a teenager in a prone position using his knee. Lawyers representing the teenager expressed disappointment with the verdict and stated their intention to pursue justice through civil courts.
The announcement of the verdict on June 16 elicited strong reactions from the legal teams involved. Attorneys Antonio Romanucci, Bhavani Raveendran, and Javier Rodriguez, Jr., who represent the teenager, criticized the outcome, claiming that Vitellaro had evaded criminal justice. They reiterated their commitment to seeking justice through civil channels.
In response, Vitellaro’s attorney, James McKay, Jr., issued a statement defending the verdict. McKay argued that the judge’s decision was based on the evidence presented in court and the relevant Illinois law. He dismissed narratives circulating on social media by individuals who were not present during the incident. McKay also raised doubts about the credibility of prosecution witnesses, asserting that Vitellaro’s actions were reasonable and non-forceful. He highlighted that the teenager did not sustain any injuries.
McKay emphasized the importance of understanding the law, the principles of presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof. He stressed that judges make their decisions solely based on the evidence presented in court and are unaffected by external factors such as social media commentary.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Paul Pavlus, who presided over the trial, acknowledged the video of the incident as “horrible” but noted that it did not provide a complete context of the events. Pavlus stated that he did not observe an out-of-control or enraged individual during the incident. CNN attempted to reach out to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for comment, but no response has been received at the time of reporting.
Vitellaro faced charges of felony official misconduct and aggravated battery following a video surfacing in August of the previous year, showing him kneeling on the back of a 14-year-old boy in Park Ridge. The incident occurred after Vitellaro received information that his son’s stolen bike was spotted near a Starbucks in the area.
According to a criminal complaint, Vitellaro waited in his car near Starbucks, hoping to identify the person responsible for the bicycle theft. When the teenager approached the bike, Vitellaro grabbed him, pushed him to the ground, and detained him by placing his knee on his back. However, video footage from Starbucks and nearby businesses indicated that the teenager was not the individual who had taken the bicycle.
Attorneys representing the teenager strongly criticized Vitellaro’s actions, describing them as excessive and an abuse of power. They expressed disappointment with Judge Pavlus’ ruling, as they believed Vitellaro’s conduct met the criteria for aggravated battery and official misconduct. The attorneys pledged to file a civil lawsuit in their pursuit of justice for their client.
This case has once again highlighted the ongoing dialogue surrounding police conduct and the use of force, underscoring the importance of accountability and transparency in law enforcement.