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Jury awards $200,000 to Streamwood man, believing police faked charges
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/24/2010 5:05 PM

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A jury has awarded $200,000 to a 37-year-old Streamwood man who sued the village, saying police fabricated charges against him after a police canine sunk his teeth into him outside a party.

Streamwood officials say they'll appeal the Cook County jury's decision which came on March 19 following a three-day trial at the Daley Center.

The jury awarded Rodolfo Rivera $200,000 for malicious prosecution, agreeing with Rivera's attorneys that the charges filed against him were baseless.

However, the jury also absolved Streamwood police officer Alexander Vanderlinden of any wrongdoing during the arrest. They ruled he didn't order the dog, a German shepherd named Zarek, to attack.

The dog bit Rivera in the leg and groin outside a party hosted June 24, 2006 by Rivera's family. Police were responding to a 911 call about a fight on the 1700 block of McKool Street, a high-crime area, according to Emery.

Jackowiak said Rivera's family called police after an uninvited group crashed the party.

Rivera was among a group gathered outside the apartment complex around midnight when officers showed up. Streamwood police claim Rivera charged Officer Vanderlinden.

"The dog bit him, there's no question about it," said attorney Ellen Emery, who represented the village of Streamwood. "But the dog reacted as trained to protect the handler."

Rivera was initially charged with felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor aggravated assault and resisting a peace officer.

Those charges were "a false fabrication to cover up the vicious attack," said Lawrence Jackowiak, Rivera's attorney.

After Rivera's arrest, most of the charges - which were initially approved by the Cook County state's attorney's office - were thrown out. The only charge Rivera eventually faced was simple disorderly conduct for not placing his hands behind his back when asked.

The lawsuit, filed in April 2007, alleged Vanderlinden acted improperly.

Jackowiak said he is disappointed that Vanderlinden continues to work at the police department and wasn't disciplined. The dog, Zarek, also continues to serve.

"They failed to take any measures to hold Officer Vanderlinden accountable," Jackowiak said.

Streamwood attorneys must begin the appeal process by April 19.