Saturday, April 30, 2011

South Beloit video: Former police sergeant, chief and mayor charged

Video from an arrest, Part III_posterframe

ROCKFORD — Three former South Beloit officials face criminal charges for their roles in the 2008 arrest of a South Beloit woman.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato announced the charges Friday against former Police Chief Tom Fearn, former Sgt. Brad McCaslin and former Mayor Randy Kirichkow.

Fearn is charged with one count of aggravated battery, three counts of official misconduct, two counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of armed violence; McCaslin is charged with one count of insurance fraud, six counts of official misconduct, one count of aggravated battery, two counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of theft and two counts of armed violence; and Kirichkow is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of official misconduct.

Armed violence, a Class X felony, is the most serious of the charges, with a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

The charges come at the end of an 11-month investigation into a 2008 arrest video that shows a handcuffed woman being choked by Fearn after McCaslin applied a Taser to the back of her neck.

“Based on the conduct I had seen on the videotape, I thought it was appropriate an investigation be conducted and that the Illinois State Police conduct that investigation,” Bruscato said.

The woman, Veronica McIntyre of South Beloit, filed a $300,000 lawsuit Wednesday against the city of South Beloit, McCaslin, Fearn and South Beloit police officer Sandy Messenger, who was present at the time of the incident.

The video shows McCaslin twice apply his Taser to McIntyre’s neck while she is handcuffed to a bench inside the Police Department.

Moments later, Fearn is seen entering the room, putting on a pair of latex gloves. He grabbed McIntyre by the neck and shook her several times after bending her backward on the bench.

The video surfaced in 2010 after McCaslin threatened to sue the city over a suspension he had received in 2009 for attempting to void a friend’s speeding ticket.

McCaslin presented the video to Kirichkow and South Beloit trustees as part of his complaint.

The city negotiated a $70,000 settlement with McCaslin in April 2010 to resolve the threatened litigation, and McCaslin was required to return the video and keep its contents confidential. Half of the settlement came from the city’s insurance provider, which is why McCaslin was also charged with theft and insurance fraud.

Kirichkow, who was not present at the time of McIntyre’s arrest, is charged for not coming forward with information about the events.

“(The charges) involve his having knowledge of what went on May 8, 2008, and failure to report those matters to authorities,” Bruscato said.

Kirichkow’s attorney, Jerry Lund, said his client is no different from the South Beloit trustees and acting Police Chief Adam Truman who also were aware of the video’s contents, as well as other officers who witnessed the incident.

“If they are going to charge him, then charge everybody,” Lund said. “The mayor is no different from anybody else who is in that administration. ... The mayor didn’t do anything wrong here.”

Bruscato said charges would not be filed against Messenger, a Rockton police officer or a Winnebago County sheriff’s deputy who were all present during the arrest.

“There was no investigation concerning those officers; therefore, there is absolutely no expectation that there will be charges involving those departments or those officers,” he said.

The three were released on $10,000 bond, Bruscato said. They are all scheduled to appear in court May 11.

Reach staff writer Matt Williams at or 815-987-1389.

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