A former Joliet police officer is on trial this week over his videotaped 2012 beating of a woman at a Joliet motel.
A Will County jury acquitted Thomas O’Connor in 2013 for the force he used on Feb. 9, 2012, when he was called to Joliet’s Star Inn motel. A woman there, Shantique Jackson, had called police because her ex-boyfriend was in a room with another woman. Authorities point out the ex-boyfriend had a murder conviction.
But despite O’Connor’s acquittal, a federal grand jury charged him in 2016 with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. And Monday, he found himself on trial all over again in the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, facing a maximum prison sentence of 10 years if convicted.
O’Connor has previously testified that he punched Jackson as many times as necessary to get control of a chaotic situation. He is expected to testify again during this week’s trial, according to his lawyers. He is represented by Jeff Tomczak, Michael Ettinger and Alexander Michael.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Greening said O’Connor’s punches left Jackson with a bloody face, 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, the attorneys said.
Greening said that, after O’Connor arrived at the motel, Jackson’s ex-boyfriend made a comment that prompted her to run up and 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 in five seconds while she lay on her stomach, Greening said. Then, he flipped her face-up 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.
Greening told jurors they will see in the surveillance video that Jackson tried to protect herself, rather than resist.
“Look for her hands,” Greening said.
But Tomczak said O’Connor did exactly as he was trained. The lawyer suggested O’Connor was called to the motel as a ruse to get Jackson’s ex-boyfriend to open the door. He said there was no open space for taking Jackson to the ground, and he said it could have been dangerous for O’Connor to get into a fight between parked vehicles.
He also said O’Connor acknowledged that he punched Jackson when he filed his reports — before viewing the surveillance video.
Finally, Tomczak warned jurors that, “the video is hard to watch.”
“But it’s not the whole case.”