A 63-year-old CPA accused of jamming cellphone signals on a CTA Red Line train because he gets “annoyed” by commuters using their mobiles was ordered held in lieu of $10,000 bail Wednesday.
“Ah, cellphone police,” Judge James Brown said as Dennis Nicholl stood before him.
“Well, a self-proclaimed one,” Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Erin Antonietti responded.
Nicholl had received supervision for a similar incident in 2009.
That charge, however, was a misdemeanor.
Now, Nicholl is charged with one felony count of unlawful interference with a public utility for his alleged actions between the Loyola and Granville stops Tuesday.
“He’s pretty much in shock. He’s devastated,” Nicholl’s attorney, Charles Lauer, said following his client’s brief court appearance.
Lauer said Nicholl may have engaged in “anti-social behavior” because of his irritation of people using their cellphones on public transit but he had “no malicious intent.”
Nicholl takes the train to work everyday, Lauer said.
“He might have been selfish in thinking about himself,” the defense attorney said.
With help from CTA authorities and a 911 call, undercover officers observed Nicholl using the jamming device.
Authorities had been investigating complaints from passengers about cellphone reception on trains, according to police.
When they set up their surveillance, officers observed Nicholl, of the 1000 block of West Loyola Avenue, using an object that had five antennas, Antonietti said.
An officer who dialed a number noticed that his call had dropped and the police radio was also disabled by the cellphone jammer, Antonietti said.
Nicholl was arrested without incident and told officers he used the cellphone jammer because he was “annoyed” by people using their phones on the CTA, Antonietti said.
According to police, he told them he knows the device is illegal in the United States, and he had his shipped from overseas. A previous order had been confiscated at the border, he told officers.
Nicholl has his MBA and has worked as a CPA for the last 30 years, Lauer said. He currently works as a CPA for a medical college.
Nicholl is listed as a financial analyst/planner supervisor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
His siblings who were in court Wednesday declined to comment.