Chicago police officer appears in court on battery charges
BY DON BABWIN
Chicago off-duty officer accused of beating up female bartender
Prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor count Tuesday against a police officer accused of beating a female bartender in an attack videotaped by a surveillance camera, leaving him still facing a felony charge.
Twelve-year police veteran Anthony Abbate -- clean-shaven and wearing a charcoal-gray suit -- appeared before a judge for about 30 seconds as prosecutors dropped the charge of simple battery.
That count was filed after the 250-pound officer's arrest in the Feb. 19 beating of a 115-pound bartender at Jesse's Short Stop Inn on Chicago's northwest side while he was off duty. Prosecutors later upgraded the charges to felony aggravated battery.
''We reviewed it (and) we think this crime was a felony,'' said John Gorman, spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's Office.
An April 27 hearing was scheduled on the felony charge.
Abbate, 38, faces up to five years in prison if convicted, said Gorman.
The videotape, shown repeatedly around the country, shows a large man that police said was Abbate punching, kicking and throwing 24-year-old bartender Karolina Obrycka to the floor after she allegedly refused to continue serving him drinks. Obrycka, who immigrated to Chicago from Poland four years ago and has a 16-month-old son, suffered bruises to her head, neck, back and lower body, said her attorney, Terry Ekl.
The state's attorney's office and police also are looking into claims that Abbate and at least one other person threatened Obrycka and the owner of the bar, police have said.
Abbate has been placed on leave and police have said they intend to fire him.
Meanwhile, police Supt. Phil Cline has ordered an investigation into allegations that officers helped Abbate enter and leave the court building so he didn't have to face the media outside.
''Abbate deserves no special preferential treatment,'' said department spokeswoman Monique Bond, adding the actions of officers at the court building, attached to a police station, are ''being investigated.''
That investigation follows a department inquiry into whether officers acted inappropriately by apparently not handcuffing Abbate when they arrested him last week.
In a similar but unrelated case, the department is investigating allegations that six off-duty police officers assaulted four men in a bar. That incident also was captured on videotape, but police have declined to release the footage.