Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DUI – it seems anyone is capable of it, but do they show any remorse for it?

A pair of stories will pop up in the local news report this week involving driving under the influence of alcohol. Both involve public officials from south suburban towns who managed to get caught driving their cars after having imbibed alcohol.

One of those officials, Roel “Roy” Valle, who happens to be the elected village clerk of Lynwood, is suffering the ultimate ordeal. He has a court date scheduled for Wednesday for the criminal charges he faces – for which, if found guilty, he could go to prison. Considering that he’s 64 years old, any prison term regardless of length is going to dominate the rest of his life.

THE OTHER OFFICIAL is Harvey Police Chief Denard Eaves, who supposedly was seen driving his car after having spent some time last April at a bowling alley in nearby Dolton drinking beer. He doesn’t face charges for the actual driving while intoxicated. But he is the subject of a lawsuit that contends he used his police position to try to threaten and intimidate the people who tried reporting him for drunken driving.

I know many people are more offended by the predicament of Valle, who last month was arrested by Illinois State Police when he drove the wrong way on Illinois Route 394, hitting another car head-on and causing a chain reaction that hit a third vehicle that was nearby at the moment of impact.

A woman was killed in that auto accident, in which police say alcohol was involved. That woman had a husband and young children, who will now have to grow up without their mother. The fact that the woman’s family has filed a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in compensation isn’t going to make up for that fact.

There also is the fact that Illinois State Police took more than a week before making it known that charges of aggravated driving under the influence involving death and reckless homicide were filed against Valle – who had been a Lynwood elected public official (first a village trustee, then its clerk) for more than 20 years.

THE FACT THAT he also suffered some injuries in the auto accident have caused some of his court appearances to be delayed. Some people are going to want to believe that he’s getting some sort of special consideration because he’s a public official.

Yet this is a case that will move forward in due time. His court appearance in Markham on Wednesday is meant to be a preliminary hearing, although there is a chance Valle will learn that he has been indicted by a grand jury – superseding any criminal charges already filed.

My point being he is in the Cook County criminal justice system. Unless we learn some previously unknown fact that completely reverses our perception of this case, he will pay for what has happened.

Which is a lot more than we can say about Eaves of Harvey.

HE WAS DETAINED by police in Dolton following the incident on April 23, 2010, but no charges were ever filed.

It seems that it was one of Eaves’ own police officers who turned him in – calling 911 to report that he say his off-duty police chief driving erratically after having been at the bar.

That officer has since filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, claiming that Dolton police threatened him with arrest, and that Eaves himself has threatened the officer. His lawsuit claims he once received an anonymous note telling him, “Police Don’t Snitch on Police, You Dead Bitch.”

The officer himself has spent the past year on a medical leave of absence from his police post, and I would be surprised if he ever returns to that job.

I DON’T KNOW what Eaves’ blood-alcohol level was at the time of the incident. But the story described in this lawsuit (which seeks at least $75,000 in damages for the officer who needs to find a new line of work) is one of police officials covering up for each other, and demonizing the lone officer who tries to be honest about a moment of wrong-doing.

Among those named in the lawsuit are the then-chiefs of both the Dolton and Harvey police departments (Dolton’s chief has since moved on to a new position), the internal affairs commander of Harvey police who is supposed to be keeping his department’s officers honest, and the former inspector general of Dolton village government – none other than Robert Shaw; the one-time Chicago alderman whose brother, William, later became the south suburb’s village president. It sounds like a closed club – one that is meant to bolster each other and knock down anyone who might dare to look too closely at their flaws.

Which is why I cannot get totally outraged at the situation that occurred out of Lynwood. By the time this criminal case is closed, Valle likely will express some serious remorse for his actions, and probably will accept whatever punishment the court deems him worthy of.

I can’t say I see the same thing ever happening in the other case, where those police officers probably think they’re the victims, being picked upon by nosy people.


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