Video shown in Ill. cop's baton-brutality trial

Ex-Streamwood cop James Mandarino is accused of unnecessarily beating motorist Ronald Bell 15 times with a metal baton

By Ashok Selvam
Chicago Daily Herald

CHICAGO — Attorneys for ex-Streamwood cop James Mandarino prolonged their assault on the credibility of two men accusing of him police brutality in the second day of his trial Wednesday.

The bench trial before Cook County Judge Thomas P. Fecarotta will resume this morning, and the judge could rule before the end of the day whether Mandarino, a 15-year police veteran, is guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct.

The charges stem from a March 28, 2010, traffic stop in which Mandarino is accused of unnecessarily beating motorist Ronald Bell 15 times with a metal baton.

Mandarino’s squad car camera recorded the altercation in front of Bell’s Streamwood home, and on Wednesday prosecutors played the 16-minute video that includes an 11-second clip in which he strikes Bell in the head, arm and neck. Prosecutors maintain the footage stands by itself and will lead to a conviction.

Also Wednesday, Nolan Stalbaum, who was Bell’s passenger that day, testified that the 42-year-old Mandarino and a second officer shocked him with a stun gun during the traffic stop that occurred as he and Bell returned from a union banquet and party in Carol Stream.

Mandarino’s defense said their client acted with proper protocol. His lead attorney, Rick Beuke, repeatedly noted Bell and Stalbaum have a pending lawsuit against the village of Streamwood.

"What do you want, an apology?" Beuke asked Stalbaum. "You’re trying to get money, aren’t you?"

Beuke said Stalbaum failed to come to Bell’s aid and was more concerned with hiding a beer from Mandarino.

But prosecutor Mike Gerber said Stalbaum went into Bell’s house to tell his sister-in-law, Sheila, to call 911. Gerber noted that Stalbaum had just had a loaded gun pointed at him by the officer.

"Did you think something would happen to you if you confronted him?" Gerber asked Stalbaum.

Stalbaum answered he was afraid.

Bell’s brother, Stacey Bell, also testified about what he said to Mandarino after coming out of the house and seeing the police officer attacking his brother.

"I told the officer I’m not a threat, but you don’t have the right to strike him, to beat him," Stacey Bell said.

Dr. Mona Lala, who treated Ronald Bell in the emergency room of St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates after the altercation, testified that it was possible the Streamwood man suffered a mild concussion.

But Mandarino attorney Ed Wanderling questioned the severity of Bell’s injuries, noting that no scans were made to determine if he had suffered a concussion.

Lala also said Bell smelled of alcohol and was intoxicated while being treated, even though Bell maintains he had only three alcoholic drinks the entire night leading up to the early morning traffic stop. Bell refused to cooperate with staff at first, Lala added, but later became cooperative as he received seven stitches to his ear.

Mandarino could face a maximum two to five years in prison if convicted of the charges.

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