A former Joliet police officer has been acquitted — for the second time — of punching a woman repeatedly in a videotaped conflict at a motel.
A federal jury in Chicago took less than two hours Friday to reach its verdict on Thomas O’Connor. In 2013, a Will County jury also acquitted O’Connor in connection with the same Feb. 9, 2012 incident at Joliet’s Star Inn motel. A woman there, Shantique Jackson, had called police because her ex-boyfriend was in a room with another woman.
O’Connor faced different charges in the state and federal cases. In the recent federal case, he was accused of depriving her of her civil rights, and had faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
At trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Greening said O’Connor’s punches left Jackson with a bloody face, a broken nose and a scratched eyeball. Video of the early-morning incident was captured on the motel’s surveillance system, but there is no audio.
Greening said after O’Connor arrived, Jackson’s ex-boyfriend made a comment that spurred Jackson to kick him in front of O’Connor. In the roughly 40 seconds that followed, Greening said O’Connor punched Jackson 23 times.
O’Connor threw Jackson on the hood of a car and hit her 11 times while she lay on her stomach, Greening said. Then he flipped her onto the hood of another car and punched her 10 times. Finally, she said O’Connor took Jackson to the ground and hit her two more times.
O’Connor has said he punched Jackson as many times as necessary to control a chaotic situation.
Defense attorney Jeff Tomczak, who represented O’Connor along with Michael Ettinger and Alexander Michael, said he believes the jury focused on “the very dangerous situation that he was confronted with, alone, and the basic character of Tom O’Connor being a person who has always spent the majority of his life trying to help others. He really is a class guy.”
O’Connor testified in both cases.
Ettinger told the Sun-Times O’Connor “answered every question; he had no attitude.”
O’Connor resigned from the Joliet Police Department and is now a critical care nurse. Tomczak said O’Connor has no interest in going back to police work.
Contributing: Nader Issa