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Judge: Cops lacked cause to stop Chelios on DUI charge
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

Screen capture of the arrest of Chris Chelios in DuPage County.

 

Chris Chelios' Westmont Police Department booking photo

 

Chris Chelios

 

Chris Chelios

 

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Published: 2/10/201 11:41 AM | Updated: 2/10/2010 5:23 PM

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Hockey great Chris Chelios likely will beat a drunken-driving rap after a DuPage County judge ruled Wednesday police lacked probable cause to make the arrest.

The former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman - who now plays with the AHL's Chicago Wolves - was arrested after a 4 a.m. Dec. 28 traffic stop while traveling east on Ogden Avenue near Blackhawk Drive in Westmont.

Police accused Chelios, who was alone, of improper lane usage and speeding nearly 20 over the posted 35 mph limit in his black 2006 Ford F150.

But after watching the 15-minute police video, Judge Cary Pierce found insufficient evidence of impairment exists to merit the arrest. Defense attorney Terry Ekl said the ruling clears the way for him to formally request the misdemeanor be dismissed.

Outside of court, a contrite Chelios did not celebrate his legal victory.

"I understand the seriousness of this," the 48-year-old man said. "I am a responsible person. I have kids that are all driving. I've lost friends to (drunken driving)."

Chelios mentioned former Blackhawks defenseman and coach Keith Magnuson, who was killed while a passenger in a 2003 alcohol-related crash in suburban Toronto.

Chelios refused to submit to a breath test, but Westmont police accused him of having bloodshot glassy eyes, slurred speech, a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and of performing poorly on field-sobriety tests.

On the video, played in court, Chelios admitted he had "a couple" of drinks. He declined the police officer's requests to elaborate. Chelios swayed at one point while performing a balancing test, as well as improperly putting his foot down, but he noted his multiple knee surgeries.

Chelios did not mention his star status on the video, but he did try to convince the officer to let him walk the short distance home.

"Can't you just let me go home, please?" he asked. "I'm safe. I'm not a danger. I'm begging for a favor."

He was released that morning after posting $300 cash as bail. His driver's license was due to be suspended Friday for one year because of his refusal to submit to a breath test, which led to Wednesday's summary suspension hearing.

"There's got to be probable cause," Judge Pierce told prosecutor Bill Opal, "and I think you're just a little short."

The arresting police officer was not in court and did not testify. Chelios was stopped one block from his parents' home, where he is staying while with the Wolves. He maintains homes with his wife and four children in Detroit and Malibu, Calif.

"The case is over," Ekl said. "The evidence is as clear cut as it gets that Chris was not impaired. Police officers have a difficult job, but in this case, we're just thankful there was a fresh set of eyes."

Chelios, a native of Chicago, won three Stanley Cups, three Norris trophies and appeared in four Olympics representing the U.S. He played nine seasons with the Blackhawks during the 1990s after seven seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. The all-star defenseman also played with the Detroit Red Wings from 1998 through last season.

He signed with the Wolves in October 2009.