Weed Dealer Wins Illegal Search-Seizure Lawsuit: Cops Indicted

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Weed dealer Joseph Sperling recently won a rare illegal search-seizure lawsuit against two Illinois police agencies. And for all his troubles, this confessed drug dealer got paid a cool $195,000.00 – as part of a settlement which resolved from a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit that Mr. Sperling filed in 2014, against Chicago narcotics officers, including a patrol officer employed by Glenview police department. Sperling’s Civil Rights lawsuit accused the officers of arresting him illegally on marijuana charges on June 6th 2013. City of Chicago and Village of Glenview settled the lawsuit in July 2014.

Chicago narcotics officers got trapped in their own web of lies and coverups when another Glenview officer’s video camera unexpectedly captured the plain clothes narcs breaking the law and violating Mr. Sperling’s Civil Rights against unlawful arrest, and the officers were also recorded illegally taking possession of the “pound of weed” and 3.8 grams of mushrooms that Sperling had hid in his car. Officer Pruente’s action upon Mr. Sperling undoubtedly constituted an arrest.

Chicago officers and the Glenview Illinois officer were subsequently indicted for lying about important legal facts surrounding Sperling’s drug arrest. They face up to five years in prison on each of the three related perjury charges.

police found evidence in weed dealer joseph sperling's car.
Police found evidence in Weed dealer Joseph Sperling’s car.

“The biggest casualty in the war on drugs is the truth,” Chicago civil attorney Jon Loevy, told a Tribune reporter. Loevy filed Sperling’s Civil Rights lawsuit against the police agencies.

The four officers, three Chicago officers and the Glenview officer were indicted by Cook County State Attorney’s Office on June 8th 2015. Felony charges of perjury, obstructing justice and official misconduct were handed down to Chicago Narcotics Police Sergeant James Padar and his fellow troops William Pruente, Vince Morgan, and Glenview police officer James Horn.

“The foundation of our criminal justice system rests on the concept of truthful testimony ,” said Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez. “We expect it from our witnesses and we demand it from our police officers,” Alvarez stated during a press conference while announcing the charges. All three Chicago officers were immediately suspended from duty and the Glenview police officer was later fired.

Criminal charges filed against the veteran officers made headlines across the state. Meanwhile the buzz around the courthouse among attorneys was – had the officers previously perjured themselves to make unlawful arrests in other drug cases?

When players in the dope game run afoul of dishonest police officers, the game carries extra risks.

“the ends justify the means,” said criminal defense attorney Steven Goldman who represented Joseph Sperling on the drug charge. “So because they get the bad guy off the street or the drugs out of their hands, everybody’s happy,” Goldman quoted in the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

“I just happen to be one of the lucky few that had a video that proved the officers were wrong,” Sperling said in a mild tone voice following the release of the video to the public.

A resident of Glenview, an affluent Chicago suburban community, Joseph Sperling’s background hardly fit the profile of a typical street-wise drug dealer. He graduated from Notre Dame High School in Niles Illinois. Previously employed as a delivery driver, Sperling attended Northeastern University College in Chicago.

Illegal Search-Seizure Lawsuits Not Often Pursued

Professor David Rudovsky.
Professor David Rudovsky.

When Joseph Sperling won $195,000,00 in damages from his illegal search-seizure lawsuit – legal scholars said the victory is rare, because most defendants don’t usually pursue such lawsuits due to lack of funds. If a case against a defendant was dismissed involving a bad search where drugs or guns were found, any sensible defendant is relieved and satisified the case is over, and no longer faces charges, Professor David Rudovsky told NewsBlaze.

“Why would a jury award money for damages to a criminal already proven to have committed a crime,” Penn State University Professor David Rudovsky, said during interview with NewsBlaze. Rudovsky, one of the nation’s leading Civil Rights and criminal defense attorneys co-wrote a popular law book titled: The Law of Arrest, Search And Seizure.

What citizens need to know is that by filing an illegal search lawsuit against police in federal court, and, if proven, the plaintiff is able to be awarded damages and attorney fees.

Under Section 1983 U.S.Code,” citizens are allowed to sue police in federal court as a result of an illegal search and arrest if the officer acted with malice under “color of law.”

Attorney Jon Loevy alleged in the lawsuit there was insufficient legal justification for officers to stop Sperling, arrest him, and search his vehicle which was done without probable cause. Those illegal actions, according to the lawsuit, violated Sperling’s Civil Rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as prescribed under federal law, Section 18 U.S. § Code 242.

The crack lawsuit further alleges the City of Chicago violated Mr. Sperling’s Rights by maintaining policies and practices which were the moving force driving the foregoing Constitutional violations.

At the request of NewsBlaze, police expert Rick Moreno reviewed the facts related to Mr. Sperling’s arrest. Moreno concluded: “Once those officers had all the information about this guy having dope in his car they needed a warrant,” Moreno explained.

But the narcs plotted a scheme disguised as a routine traffic stop to avoid obtaining a warrant.

“What they did in this case was a ‘wall off’ technique.” Moreno said.

“A ‘wall off'” … Moreno explained, “is a strategy most narcotics officers use to put a wall between the officer and the information provided by a snitch.”

“And if everything goes as planned,” Moreno pointed out, “the officer gets the dope without a warrant, they got the dope dealer and the snitch is protected.” Moreno is a former homicide and narcotics-gang investigator for Houston Police Department in Houston Texas. Moreno has worked many homicides and drug investigations related to the notorious Mexico Drug Cartels.

“If this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone,” said Joseph Sperling, then 23, during a press conference with reporters after the release of his video tape arrest.

Video Evidence Exposes Lies … Conspiracy And Police Coverup

chicago police narcotics unit tshirt.
Chicago Police narcotics unit tshirt.

On March 31st, 2014, Cook County Judge Catherine Haberkorn held a motion hearing filed by Sperling’s attorney, Steven Goldman, to quash the arrest indictment and suppress evidence recovered during the traffic stop whereby officers claimed Sperling failed to use a turn signal. Sperling admitted he owned the recovered drugs found in his vehicle that day, but denied failing to use a turn signal, and he also denied telling narcotics officers that he had drugs in his car.

Under direct questioning by a state prosecutor, narco officer William Pruente gave sworn testimony indicating that after police pulled Sperling over near Tall Tree Road in Glenview, the officers immediately smelled marijuana smoke while waiting for Sperling to show his driver’s license and insurance. Pruente further testified when officers smelled the marijuana this is when he ordered Sperling to step out of the vehicle and go stand at the rear of his Ford Taurus.

When defense attorney Steven Goldman asked the experienced narcotics officer if Sperling was handcuffed soon after he came out of the car, Pruente politely answered, “No, he was not handcuffed. He was not under arrest at that time.”

Chicago Narcotics Officers Sergeant James Padar, Vince Morgan and Glenview Police officers James Horn and Sergeant Theresa Urbanowski backed up Pruente’s story.

Then suddenly, while Sgt. Urbanowski testified, attorney Goldman informed the judge he needed to offer a video tape into evidence.

A moment of suspense filled the air.

Sergeant Urbanowski appeared surprised, so did the prosecutor.

Surprise Video Evidence

In a scene straight from “Law And Order” TV Show, a dramatic moment rarely seen in real-life courtrooms, the video evidence blew holes in the officers’ testimony. The video recorder had been mounted on Urbanowski’s dashboard inside her service vehicle at the scene which showed the officers lied to the judge about important facts related to Sperling’s arrest.

Here is what happened.

As Goldman patiently took Urbanowski back over the events she’d testified about, he played the recorder and asked her to describe the difference between her original testimony and what was happening on the tape.

The footage contradicted the testimony of each officer, specifically the fact espoused by narco officer William Pruente that Sperling had not been arrested nor put in handcuffs until officers eventually recovered the dope, and the alleged story by the narcotic officers that the drugs were in plain view.

The embarrassing contradictions which were pure lies told by the officers factored into the judge’s decision to determine whether officers had probable cause to arrest Sperling without a warrant and search his vehicle.

What the video actually showed was Narcotics Officer William Pruente walking up to Sperling’s vehicle, and he reached into the open window, unlocked the door, pulled Sperling out, handcuffed him, and led him to a patrol car where Sperling sat in the backseat.

As the video continued to play in court, it captured officers thoroughly searching Sperling’s four-door vehicle, and finally, drugs were recovered in a black duffel bag.

Goldman argued if the drugs had been in plain view on the front seat of Sperling’s car there was no reason for officers to search all over the vehicle.

Judge Haberkorn was livid.

“This is very outrageous conduct,” the judge said. “All officers lied on the stand today … All their testimony was a lie.”

“There’s strong evidence it was a conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to come up with the same lie,” the judge said, disgustedly.

Charges were dismissed against Joseph Sperling.

Nationwide Police Perjury

Police perjury is a big time scheme, but it is a common problem throughout America’s Criminal Justice System. Some theories from experts indicate police perjury among dishonest officers is more about undermining “liberal laws” that allow criminals to walk free on technicalities.

“I’ve heard some police officers say in a social setting, ‘If (the defendant) is going to lie to beat the case, why can’t I lie too?'” Cook County Public Defender, and former prosecutor, Abishi Cunningham Jr., said in a news media interview.

“When police lie to make a case on someone, they are saying the criminal justice system doesn’t work … so I’m going to do it my way,” Attorney Annie Briscoe told NewsBlaze during a phone interview. Briscoe is a civil and criminal attorney based in Houston Texas.

Briscoe recited a drug case involving police illegal search of her client whereupon police recovered a sizeable amount of drugs off her client at apartments located on Broadway street in Southeast Houston. To justify searching Briscoe’s client, Houston police officers claimed he looked very similar to a fugitive they were hunting for.

With her client facing up to life in prison, Attorney Briscoe desperately went to work to convince Judge Denise Collins to throw out the charge based on illegal search-seizure by showing the court a photo of the actual fugitive the police claimed looked like her client and, to everyone’s surprise, the photo of the fugitive looked nothing like Briscoe’s client.

Judge Collins looked at the photo and dismissed the case against Briscoe’s client, calling him … “one lucky guy.”

“The law should be enforceable by way of truth and officers should not lie to enforce the law,” Briscoe said.

America’s “war on drugs” has benefited law enforcement agencies with extra monetary rewards based on the numbers of stops, searching citizens in high crime areas, and arrests.

Federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program has inspired state, city, county, and other enforcement agencies to compete for millions of dollars in funding to boost large numbers of drug arrests, no matter how minor the offense or how weak the evidence.

Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police Commissioner, previously wrote an excellent article for the San Francisco Chronicle that exposed how police conspire to lie under oath, and basically treat lying as normal as breathing air.

“Police perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace,” Keane wrote in his article.

Back in 2010, a New York City police officer named Adil Polanco told an ABC News Reporter that “Our primary job is not to assist anybody…’our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.'”

“You have to write somebody, arrest somebody, even if the crime not committed , the number’s there,” Polanco said.

When narcotics officers in Illinois lied on the witness stand against Weed Dealer Joseph Sperling it is conceivable to believe they hatched a scheme to bypass getting a warrant, so they could rack up another illegal drug war arrest. But they got caught lying!

“If they told the truth,” attorney Goldman said, “they would have had him.”

All four officers are scheduled in Cook County State Court later this year.

As an analyst and researcher for the PI industry and a business consultant, Clarence Walker is a veteran writer, crime reporter and investigative journalist. He began his writing career with New York-based True Crime Magazines in Houston Texas in 1983, publishing more than 300 feature stories. He wrote for the Houston Chronicle (This Week Neighborhood News and Op-Eds) including freelancing for Houston Forward Times.

Working as a paralegal for a reputable law firm, he wrote for National Law Journal, a publication devoted to legal issues and major court decisions. As a journalist writing for internet publishers, Walker’s work can be found at American Mafia.com, Gangster Inc., Drug War Chronicle, Drug War101 and Alternet.

Six of Walker’s crime articles were re-published into a paperback series published by Pinnacle Books. One book titled: Crimes Of The Rich And Famous, edited by Rose Mandelsburg, garnered considerable favorable ratings. Gale Publisher also re-published a story into its paperback series that he wrote about the Mob: Is the Mafia Still a Force in America?

Meanwhile this dedicated journalist wrote criminal justice issues and crime pieces for John Walsh’s America’s Most Wanted Crime Magazine, a companion to Walsh blockbuster AMW show. If not working PI cases and providing business intelligence to business owners, Walker operates a writing service for clients, then serves as a crime historian guest for the Houston-based Channel 11TV show called the “Cold Case Murder Series” hosted by reporter Jeff McShan.

At NewsBlaze, Clarence Walker expands his writing abilities to include politics, human interest and world events.

Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]