Last month in suburban Chicago, a routine evidentiary hearing took an unexpected turn when video from a police car was introduced disproving the testimony of 5 police officers.  Some called it a “Perry Mason” moment, referring to the popular court show that focused on an L.A. defense attorney.  The 5 officers had testified under oath that they arrested Joseph Sperling after he was pulled over for a traffic stop.  The officers said they smelled marijuana, searched the vehicle, and found nearly a pound of marijuana in a backpack.  Then they arrested him.  But, the Glenview police video showed that after Sperling was taken from his car, frisked, and handcuffed the vehicle was then searched.  Cook County Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn reprimanded the officers for “outrageous conduct” and granted a defense motion to suppress the search, which eliminated the basis for arrest and resulted in a  dismissal of the case against the 23-year-old.

Judge Haberkorn said, “All the officers on the stand lied today,” Haberkorn herself a former prosecutor was clearly taken aback, “…there is strong evidence it was [a] conspiracy…for everyone to come up with the same lie.”

The officers were put on desk duty pending internal affairs investigations.

The arrest of Sperling had come after Chicago narcotics officers, who were surveilling him, requested it.  They asked the local Glenview police to pull him over in a marked car.  The local officers found their reason when Sperling allegedly failed to use a turn signal.  Then, one of the officers testified, he smelled marijuana as he waited for his license and registration.  This gave the officer probable cause for a search.  Sperling testified that he was never asked for his license or registration.  The officer, supported by the false testimony of 5 other fellow officers, said he then ordered Sperling out of the vehicle and told him to stand by the trunk as they searched his car.  The video evidence shows that the search did not occur until after Sperling was arrested and placed in the police car without probable cause since the evidence was discovered after arrest.  The police said that the backpack was in plain view in the backseat of the car, but Sperling testified it was under the seat.

It turns out that the 5 officers merely arrested Sperling based upon the request from narcotics to do so, then searched for evidence.  But, knowing that this was not the lawful way to do things, invented a story to make their arrest sound lawful.  Then took the stand and lied to the judge.  If not for the video, which Sperling’s defense attorney Steven Goldman only got by subpoena, Sperling likely would have been convicted and jailed based upon the officers’ false testimony.

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