Five Chicago police officers’ testimonies concerning the discovery of nearly a pound of marijuana in a civilian’s car were proven false after police car footage was introduced to the case last month.
Last year, the Chicago narcotics officers who had Joseph Sperling under surveillance asked Glenview police to pull the 23-year-old over in a marked car. From this point forward, however, accounts differ.
As the officers’ version of the story went, Sperling was pulled over after he failed to use his turn signal. An officer testified that as he waited for Sperling to produce his license and registration, he smelled marijuana.
Four Chicago and Glenview officers’ testimonies supported the officer who stated that he then ordered Sperling to exit the vehicle and stand by the trunk as his car was searched, which led to the discovery of large quantities of marijuana in a backpack on the back seat of the car.
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The Glenview police footage, however, proves that events did not unravel in this neat of a manner.
Instead, the video shows that while officers did in fact search the car, they did so after removing Sperling from his car, frisking him and handcuffing him. It was only after Sperling was already sitting in the police car that officers searched his car.
Sperling has testified that, contrary to officers’ claims, he had used his turn signal, and that he was never asked to produce his license or registration. Furthermore, while officers claimed the backpack containing the marijuana was on the back seat of the car, Sperling said that it was under the seat.
At the March 31 hearing, Cook County Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn granted a defense motion to suppress the search, thereby eliminating the basis for Sperling’s arrest. Prosecutors dismissed the felony drug charges against Sperling.
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“All the officers lied on the stand today,” Haberkorn said. “So there is strong evidence it was conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to come up with the same lie.”
Steven Goldman, Sperling’s lawyer, managed to attain the video by issuing a subpoena to the Glenview police department.
If the video had not been produced in rebuttal at the suppression hearing, Goldman said that Sperling would likely have been convicted, and would have gone to jail.
All five officers were stripped of their police powers and were put on desk duty as their conduct was investigated. Three of the officers are from Chicago; two are from Glenview.
Sperling has filed a federal civil rights suit over his arrest.